Articles Posted in Work Visas

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Earlier this year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) suddenly changed the regulations governing the Optional Practical Training Program (OPT). According to the USCIS website, a U.S. employer who has hired an international student under the STEM OPT program may not assign, or delegate training responsibilities to a non-employer third party such as a consulting company. This policy change has proven controversial since its sudden appearance on the USCIS website during the month of April. The policy greatly restricts the employment of international students and exposes “noncompliant” students from being found inadmissible to the United States for a 5-year period or more and makes such students subject to deportation.

Per the USCIS website:

“…a STEM OPT employer may not assign, or otherwise delegate, its training responsibilities to a non-employer third party (e.g., a client/customer of the employer, employees of the client/customer, or contractors of the client/customer). See 8 C.F.R. 214.2.(f)(10)(ii)(C)(7)(ii) and 2016 STEM OPT Final Rule (pp. 13042, 13079, 13090, 13091, 13092, 13016).”

A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas seeks to challenge this new provision on the ground that USCIS unlawfully began implementing this new policy change, in contravention of federal law.

According to the lawsuit, ITServe Alliance v. Nielsen, USCIS circumvented federal procedural rules which require public notice and the opportunity for public comment, before such a federal policy is put in place. The lawsuit alleges that since the sudden appearance of these additional terms and conditions of employment, USCIS has unlawfully issued hundreds of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs), without first following the formal rulemaking process mandated under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

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Return of Unselected H-1B Petitions

H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the fiscal year 2019 visa lottery have been returned to unlucky applicants. If you filed a petition between April 2 and April 6 and you did not receive a receipt notice for your application, you will be receiving your returned petitions in the mail by August 13. If you do not receive a returned petition by this date, you should contact USCIS.

Updated NTA Policy

On June 28th USCIS issued a policy memorandum providing updated guidance for the referral of cases and issuances of notices to appear (NTAs) in cases involving inadmissible and deportable aliens. The policy memorandum outlines the Department of Homeland Security’s priorities for removal as well as guidelines for referring cases and issuing NTAs.

Under the updated policy the following classes of aliens are prioritized for removal, aliens who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal,” as well as alienswho, regardless of the basis for removal:

(a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;

(b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;

(c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;

(d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;

(e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;

(f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or

(g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security”

Today, USCIS announced that it is postponing implementation of this policy guidance because operational guidance has not yet been provided to immigration officers. The policy memorandum gave USCIS 30 days to implement proper protocols for NTA issuance consistent with the updated policy memorandum. We will notify our readers once we receive information about when the NTA policy will be implemented.

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A new report by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) released this month indicates that the number of H-1B denials and Requests for Evidence (RFEs) increased significantly during the fourth quarter of 2017 which began on July 1, 2017, following the implementation of Presidential Executive Order “Buy American, Hire American” in April 2017. Among other things, the Executive Order targeted the H-1B visa program calling on the Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to suggest reforms to the H-1B program and “ensure that H-1B visas are awarded the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.” Data obtained from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates that “the proportion of H-1B petitions denied for foreign-born professionals” applying for H-1B visas, “increased by 41% from the 3rd to the 4th quarter of FY 2017, rising from a denial rate of 15.9% in the 3rd quarter to 22.4% in the 4th quarter.”

The NFAP also discovered that the number of requests for evidence issued during the 4th quarter of fiscal year 2017 “almost equaled the total number issued by USCIS adjudicators for the first three quarters of FY 2017 combined (63,184 vs. 63,599).”

The number of requests for evidence “more than doubled between the 3rd and 4th quarter of FY 2017, rising from 28,711 to 63,184.”

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Indian Nationals

According to the report, “USCIS adjudicators were much more likely to issue a Request for Evidence for applications for Indians than for people from other countries.” For example, “In the 4th quarter of FY 2017, 72% of H-1B cases for Indians received a Request for Evidence, compared to 61% for all other countries.” Data over the years confirms that applications filed by Indian nationals result in higher rates of denials and requests for evidence, not just for H-1B applications but also for L-1 visa applications.

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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a new policy memorandum that will have wide ranging implications for immigrants. Beginning September 11, 2018, USCIS will use their discretion to deny an application, petition, or request filed with USCIS without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID), if insufficient evidence is sent with the initial filing of the application or if the evidence provided does not establish the applicant’s eligibility for the benefit requested.

The new policy memorandum “Issuance of Certain RFEs and NOIDs; Revisions to Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapter 10.5(a), Chapter 10.5(b)” supersedes the 2013 policy memorandum titled “Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny” which previously governed an officer’s discretion to deny an application, petition, or request without first issuing a request for evidence. Previously, the 2013 memo required requests for evidence to be issued where the initial evidence was unsatisfactory or did not establish the applicant’s eligibility for the benefit requested.

As of September 11, 2018, USCIS now has the power to deny petitions lacking initial evidence without sending a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny to cure the defect. This is bad news for applicants of immigrant and non-immigrant visa types, because applicants who have not provided sufficient evidence to USCIS to establish that they are eligible for the benefit requested can be denied without having the opportunity to cure the defect.

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the month of May and June. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin including discussion of current trends and future projections for immigrant preference categories.

Below are the highlights of those trends and projections:

Check-in with DOS’s Charlie Oppenheim: May 2018

Employment Based Categories

For the month of May, the following categories remained steady with no changes in the final action dates:

  • EB-1 China and India
  • EB-2 India
  • EB-3 China and Philippines
  • EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and
  • EB-5 China

Categories that experienced some forward movement included:

  • EB-2 China to move forward one month to September 1, 2014
  • EB-3 India to advance three months to May 1, 2008
  • EB-3 Other Workers—China to move forward one month to May 1, 2007
  • EB-4 Other Workers—India to move forward about 3 months to May 1, 2008
  • EB-4 Mexico to advance 5 weeks to October 22, 2016

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On behalf of our Law Office, we would like to wish you a safe and Happy Memorial Day as you spend it with your loved ones. We would like to extend a thank you to our service men and women and their families this memorial day weekend. May God bless you and the United States of America.

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Congratulations to those of our readers who won the H-1B visa lottery for fiscal year 2019. If your checks were not cashed between April 1 and May 3, unfortunately you were not selected in the lottery for the upcoming fiscal year. Thankfully our office has prepared a helpful guide that will help you explore alternative options to the H-1B visa by clicking here.

Our office continues to receive receipt notices for petitions that were selected in the lottery. As of the month of May our office has enjoyed a 66.66% success rate for petitions filed under the Master’s cap, and a 41.37% success rate for petitions filed under the Regular Bachelor’s cap, well above the national average of 35%.

If you have received a receipt notice, please keep in mind that premium processing services, for all FY 2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher, are suspended until September 10, 2018.

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TPS Blunders: DHS Announces Termination of TPS Designation for Nepal, with a Delayed Effective Date of 12 months

The Department of Homeland Security has formally decided to terminate the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for the country of Nepal. According to a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security, the TPS designation for Nepal will officially terminate on June 24, 2019, giving nationals of the country of Nepal a period of 12 months to make an orderly departure from the United States or seek alternative legal means to remain in the United States, for those who are eligible.

The TPS designation for the country of Nepal had been in place since 2015, following a deadly earthquake that forced many to leave the country while the government focused on reconstruction efforts. According to CNN, roughly 9,000 Nepalese immigrants had been living in the United States under TPS protection.

According to Secretary Nielsen the decision was made after it was determined that the conditions in Nepal no longer required the designation to continue. According to DHS, “the disruption of living conditions in Nepal” caused by the 2015 earthquake “have decreased to a degree that they should no longer be regarded as substantial, and Nepal can now adequately manage the return of its nationals.”

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What are some alternatives to the H-1B visa?

So, you’ve applied for the H-1B visa, and by now you are well aware that the cap has been reached. You may be wondering what you will do if you are not selected in the lottery. Have no fear, we have you covered on your Plan B.

In this post, we breakdown the alternatives to the H-1B visa that allow foreign nationals to live and work in the United States.

1. The O-1 “Extraordinary Ability” Visa:

This visa type is for aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, athletics, motion picture, television, or arts industries who have received national and/or international acclaim in their field. An alien on an O-1 visa may live and work in the United States for a period of up to three years.

In order to be eligible for this visa type you must demonstrate that you are an alien of extraordinary ability in your field. Applicants must hold an advanced degree (at least a master’s) to demonstrate a high level of expertise in their field, and have received international or national acclaim in their fields as evidenced by awards and other international or national recognitions received. Individuals who are leading experts in their fields, and have written extensively in their fields, receiving notoriety for their publications are also great candidates for the O-1 visa. Membership in prestigious professional associations which require outstanding achievements from members are extremely helpful when applying for the H-1B visa, as well as evidence of scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions that are considered of major significance in the field.

2.TN Visa for Mexican and Canadian Nationals

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canadian and Mexican nationals may apply for a TN visa to live and work in the United States. To be eligible the TN visa applicant must work in a profession approved under the NAFTA program for a U.S. employer. Dependent spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can live in the United States under a derivative TD visa.

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Great News! Today, USCIS announced that the computer-generated selection process has been completed to select the H-1B petitions necessary to fulfill both the general cap and master’s cap for this H-1B season. The randomized lottery was completed yesterday April 11, 2018.

This H-1B season, USCIS received 190,098 H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year 2019 during the filing period that began on April 2nd. During Fiscal Year 2018, USCIS received 199,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period and completed the randomized lottery on the same day (April 11th).

USCIS will now begin the process of rejecting and returning all petitions that were not selected during the randomized lottery. As in previous years, USCIS completed the selection process for the master’s cap first, and all unselected master’s cap petitions were then placed in the random selection process for the general cap, giving master’s cap applicants a greater chance of being selected. In previous years, our office began to receive rejection notices for applicants that were not selected from mid to late June.