Articles Posted in STEM

work-2317806_1920

Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! We kick off the start of a brand-new week with some important immigration updates.


USCIS Expands Premium Processing Service to E-3 Petitioners


We are happy to report that beginning February 24, 2021, petitioners filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, who are requesting a change or extension of status to E-3 classification, will be able to take advantage of premium processing service to expedite processing of their petition. The filing fee for premium processing service for E-3 petitions is $2,500.

What is premium processing?

Premium processing provides expedited processing for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker and I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers. The main benefit of this service is a guaranteed 15-calendar day processing time for all those who take advantage of it.

When does the 15-calendar period begin?

The 15-calendar day period begins when USCIS properly receives the current version of Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, at the correct filing address noted on the form.

Once the I-907 is received, USCIS either issues an approval notice, denial notice, notice of intent to deny, or request for evidence within the 15-calendar day period.

Is premium processing available for other petitions?

At the moment premium processing service is only available for I-129 and I-140 petitions. However, H.R. 8337 proposed expanding premium processing service to other types of applications in the future including applications to change or extend nonimmigrant status, applications for employment authorization, and other types of benefit requests.


USCIS Introduces Flexibilities for Certain Students Filing Form I-765 for OPT


We are happy to report that on February 26, 2021, USCIS announced new flexibility policies for certain foreign students who have not received receipt notices for Form I-765 petitions for OPT as a result of USCIS delays.

USCIS has stated that the agency has been experiencing delays at certain lockboxes and has not been able to issue receipt notices for certain Form I-765 applications for optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students in a timely manner.

As a result, USCIS will provide the following flexibilities to assist certain applicants for OPT who have been impacted by the delays.

Continue reading

smile-5621670_1920

The nation awoke with a new President of the United States, and although President Joe Biden has been in office for less than one day, his administration is already planning sweeping immigration reforms and policy changes that will unfold throughout the coming months.

This is just the start of President Biden’s plan to reverse the numerous damaging policies and executive orders passed by the Trump administration during the past four years.

This morning, the White House issued a press release outlining President Biden’s commitment to modernize the U.S. immigration system by way of a legislative bill that will be introduced before Congress in a matter of days.

The new bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, proposes to overhaul the current immigration system to more effectively manage and secure our country’s border.

According to the Biden administration, the purpose of the bill is to “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system….” providing “hardworking people who enrich our communities every day and who have lived here for years, in some cases for decades, an opportunity to earn citizenship.”

The bill will prioritize family reunification, address root causes of mass migration from Central America, and among other things ensure that the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution.

Most importantly is the bill’s commitment to create a path to citizenship for eligible undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers and essential workers who have been on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continue reading

blogging-guide-K5DY18hy5JQ-unsplash-scaled

Welcome back to Visalawyerblog! In today’s post, we discuss a newly released final rule announced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on January 7, 2021.

The new rule entitled “Modification of Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking to File Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions,” will modify the H-1B cap selection process, amend current lottery procedures, and prioritize wages to ensure H-1B visas are awarded only to the most highly skilled foreign workers according to a new wage level selection process.

According to USCIS this new rule will only affect H-1B cap-subject petitions. It will be enforced against both the H-1B regular cap and the H-1B advanced degree exemption beginning March 9, 2021 (its effective date).

The final rule is scheduled to be published on January 8, 2021, however an advance copy has already been posted in the Federal Register for review.

Click here to view the advance copy.


When does the final rule become effective?


The final rule will become effective 60 days after its date of publication in the Federal Register (falling on March 9, 2021).


What are some of the highlights of this new rule?


The USCIS final rule creates a wage-based selection process for H-1B registrations, instead of a randomized computer generated process which is currently in place.


Ranking by Wage Level


DHS will amend regulations governing the process by which USCIS selects H-1B registrations for the filing of H-1B cap-subject petitions by generally first selecting registrations based on the highest Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) prevailing wage level indicated on the petition, where the proffered wage equals or exceeds the relevant Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and area(s) of intended employment, beginning with OES wage level IV and proceeding in descending order with OES wage levels III, II, and I.

The proffered wage is the wage that the employer intends to pay the beneficiary.

Continue reading

nesa-by-makers-IgUR1iX0mqM-unsplash-scaledWe are very happy to announce that yesterday July 14, 2020, the Trump administration backed down and agreed to cancel a new set of federal guidelines that would have required international students to attend classes in-person during the upcoming Fall 2020 semester.

As you may be aware, on Monday July 6th U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a news release with new modifications that would have applied to international students in the United States, and those awaiting their visas abroad. The announcement prohibited international students from taking courses entirely online during the upcoming semester. It stated that students enrolled in schools with only online instruction would not be issued visas, and CBP would not permit these students to enter the United States. In addition, students already in the United States, who had enrolled in an online program, were given two options, transfer to another school with a hybrid or in person curriculum or depart the United States.

Shortly after these measures were announced, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on behalf of all international students affected by the new guidelines. The universities requested an emergency hearing to block the government from enforcing these measures. That hearing was scheduled to take place yesterday morning, but in a surprising turn of events, just before the hearing was getting started, the judge announced that the government had agreed to rescind its policy and would no longer require students to attend in-person classes in order to remain in the country.

kae-ng-PZw1B7JFW5w-unsplash-scaled

We continue to have good news for international students. As you already know, on July 8th Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) filed a lawsuit to stop the government from enforcing new guidelines on international students that would prohibit them from taking online classes during the Fall semester, despite increasing coronavirus cases nationwide. The new guidelines announced by the federal Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) would refuse visas to students in schools that plan to teach classes fully online this fall and would bar these students from entering the country. Students already in the United States enrolled in schools teaching online classes would need to leave the country or transfer to a school with in-person instruction to keep their visas.

Since the Harvard-MIT lawsuit was filed, Northeastern university has joined the fight. In addition, many other universities across the United States have rallied together in support of their students, including the University of California school system, Princeton, Cornell, John Hopkins University, and the University of Pennsylvania. These institutions have filed amicus briefs supporting the Harvard-MIT lawsuit and/or filed lawsuits of their own in district court.

On July 9th Attorney General Xavier Becerra also filed a lawsuit on behalf of the State of California against the Trump administration to stop the government’s new policies from going into effect.

Like the state of California, many more states are expected to file their own lawsuits in the coming week.

Continue reading

donald-trump-5146401_1920

New rumors are yet again circling regarding the possibility of a future executive order banning the entry of certain non-immigrants from the United States. An official speaking on condition of anonymity has fueled these rumors divulging information that the Trump administration is getting ready to issue a new executive order that would temporarily suspend the entry of L-1, H-1B, H-2B, and J-1 non-immigrants for a period lasting several months.

A copy of the executive order has allegedly been leaked to the media; however, our office has not been able to find a draft copy of such an order. It is also important to note that even if a version of the executive order has been leaked, the official version of a future executive order banning non-immigrants might look substantially different.


What is being said about the potential executive order?


The order is rumored to suspend the entry of L-1, H-1B, H-2B, and J-1 non-immigrants for a temporary period lasting several months.

Like previous executive orders suspending immigrant and non-immigrant entry, the order will contain numerous exceptions, although these exceptions have not yet been made clear. We believe exceptions will likely apply to essential workers such as health professionals, those working to mitigate the effects of COVID-19, and essential workers in food-related industries.

As it relates to J-1 visas, it is rumored that only summer workers, camp counselors, trainees, and interns will be impacted, not medical physicians.

TAKEAWAY: If you have a valid L-1, H-1B, H-2B, or J-1 non-immigrant visa and you are abroad, you should consider returning to the United States as soon as possible.


Who will the order likely impact?


The order is rumored to impact only those in L, H, and J non-immigrant status outside the United States, however, the Trump administration is considering adding regulatory changes to the order that would impact OPT students and new H-1B applicants in the United States. This includes provisions that would end the STEM OPT program, and provisions tightening H-1B visa requirements to narrow the definition of “specialty occupation,” require higher wages, and increase H-1B filing fees.

TAKEAWAY: STEM OPT applications and extensions should be submitted as early as possible to avoid a negative impact.

Continue reading

joakim-honkasalo-DurC25GdOvk-unsplash-1-scaled

A brand-new bill called the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2020 (S. 3770) sponsored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has recently surfaced. As you might have already guessed, the bill seeks to make changes to the current H-1B and L visa programs to reduce fraud and abuse within the H-1B and L visa programs, provide protections for American workers, and enforce stricter requirements for the recruitment of foreign workers. The H-1B visa program is aggressively targeted in this new piece of legislation.


Proposed Changes to the H-1B visa program


First, as it relates to the H-1B visa worker program, the bill proposes changes to existing wage requirements.

The law would require employers to pay the highest wage from three categories:

1) the locally determined prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of employment

2) the median average wage for all workers in the occupational classification in the area of employment; or

3) the median wage for skill level 2 in the occupational classification found in the most recent OES survey.

Second, the bill would make changes to current law and require U.S. employers seeking to hire H-1B workers to publish job postings on a website established by the Department of Labor. After filing the labor condition application, the employer would be required to post the job on the website for at least 30 calendar days. The job posting would have to include a detailed description of the position, including the wages and other terms and conditions of employment, minimum education, training, experience, and other requirements for the position, as well as the process for applying for the position.

Third, all H-1B employers would be required to prove that they have tried to recruit American workers for jobs offered to H-1B workers. Under current law, only H-1B dependent employers (those with more than 50 full time employees of which at least 15% are H-1B employees) are required to recruit American workers for H-1B positions. This would be a drastic change in the law creating additional burdens for U.S. employers seeking to hire foreign workers with specialized skills.

Continue reading

donald-trump-4921211_1280

On May 7th just days after the President signed his controversial April 22nd executive order limiting the immigration of certain aliens to the United States for 60 days, Republican senators rallied together to urge the President to pass more immigration restrictions—this time targeting nonimmigrant foreign workers.

Republican Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Josh Hawley of Missouri fired off an impassioned plea to the President asking him to suspend all new guest worker visas for a period of 60 days, and certain categories of new guest worker visas for at least the next year until unemployment levels have returned to normal.

In their letter, the Senators justified their request stating that, “the United States admits more than one million nonimmigrant guest workers every year, and there is no reason to admit most such workers when our unemployment is so high.” The letter continued “given the extreme lack of available jobs for American job-seekers as portions of our economic begin to reopen, it defies common sense to admit additional foreign guest workers to compete for such limited employment.”

The Senators praised the President for passing the April 22nd proclamation but said that more needs to be done because guest worker programs “remain a serious threat to the U.S. labor market’s recovery.”

The Senators said that exceptions to the 60-day suspension should be rare and limited to time-sensitive industries such as agriculture and issued only on a case-by-case basis when the employer can demonstrate that they have been unable to find Americans to take the jobs.

Continue reading

john-schnobrich-520019-unsplash

Today, November 30, 2018, the United States Department of Homeland Security announced a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to impose a registration requirement for H-1B petitioners seeking to file an H-1B petition on behalf of beneficiaries under the regular cap and advanced degree exemption.  An unpublished version of the proposed rule has been made available in the federal register.

Under the proposed rule H-1B Petitioners would be required to electronically register with USCIS during the designated registration period, in order to file a H-1B cap-subject petition on behalf of a foreign worker. In addition, DHS is proposing to change the order in which H-1B cap-subject registrations would be selected to meet the annual H-1B regular cap and advanced degree exemption. This change would increase the odds of selection for H-1B beneficiaries who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution.

Under the proposed rule, all petitioners seeking to file an H-1B cap-subject petition on behalf of a foreign worker would be required to submit to a mandatory registration process. Only those whose registrations are selected, would be eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition during the associated filing period.

The mandatory Internet-based registration process for petitioners seeking to file H-1B petitions for beneficiaries to be counted under the regular cap or advanced degree exemption, would begin before April 1st, in advance of the period during which H-1B petitions can be filed for a new fiscal year. An H-1B cap-subject petition would not be considered properly filed unless the petition is based on a valid registration selection for that fiscal year.

Continue reading

charles-deluvio-456501-unsplash
During March of this year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the temporary suspension of premium processing services for all fiscal year 2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions requesting an exemption from the general cap. USCIS announced that the suspension would last until September 10, 2018, in order to reduce H-1B processing times for long-pending petitions.

Temporary Suspension to Continue through February 19th

Recently, USCIS announced that the agency will be extending the temporary suspension until February 19, 2019.