Articles Posted in Work Visas

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If you are an F-1 student with an H-1B petition that remains pending with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and your “cap-gap” employment authorization is only valid through September 30, 2018, you may risk accruing unlawful presence if you continue to work on or after October 1, 2018.

What is a “cap-gap”

You are in “cap-gap” status if you are an F-1 student who is the beneficiary of a timely filed H-1B cap subject petition with USCIS, and you are seeking a change of status from F-1 student to H-1B on October 1st, October 1st being the requested start date of H-1B employment.

A “cap-gap” is used to fill the gap between the end of a student’s F-1 status and the beginning of potential H-1B status. To avoid any gap in status, USCIS extends the validity period of both the student’s F-1 status and current employment authorization, but only until September 30.

The “cap-gap” period begins when an F-1 student’s status and employment authorization expires.

Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing

USCIS has temporarily suspended premium processing services for cap-subject petitions to prioritize the adjudication of cap-gap petitions filed by students, however USCIS does not guarantee that it will adjudicate these petitions in a timely manner by October 1st. Students with a cap-gap H-1B petition that remains pending on or after October 1st are no longer authorized to continue working under the cap-gap regulations.

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the coming months. 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.

EB-1 Worldwide: this category is not expected to advance until January 2019. Time will tell whether this category will become current during the next year.

EB-1 China and EB-1 India: Also expected to experience forward movement until January 2019. A cutoff date for this category will continue through the next 12 months.

EB-2 Worldwide: This category is expected to remain current until at least the foreseeable future.

EB-2 China: is two months behind EB-3 China, which may prompt EB-2 applicants to downgrade.

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If you are a citizen of Canada or Mexico and you are interested in working in the United States temporarily, the TN visa may be right for you.

Under 8 CFR 214.16, Citizens of Canada or Mexico may seek temporary entry under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to engage in business activities at a professional level.

This section of the law defines business activities at a professional level as “undertakings which require….at least a baccalaureate degree or appropriate credentials demonstrating status as a professional in a profession set forth in Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA.”

What are business activities at a professional level?

A citizen of Canada or Mexico may perform prearranged business activities for a United States entity, meaning that the Canadian or Mexican citizen must have a pre-arranged employment agreement to perform professional services in the United States. TN applicants may not enter with the intent to establish permanent residence in the United States. TN visa applicants may only remain in the United States to fulfill their pre-arranged employment agreement and depart after that period has ended. The TN visa is issued for an initial period of 3 years, with one-year extensions granted thereafter if necessary.

The following table outlines professions authorized for TN Visa purposes:

Appendix 1603.D.1 (Annotated)

– Accountant – Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or C.P.A., C.A., C.G.A., or C.M.A.

– Architect – Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license. 2

2 The terms “state/provincial license” and “state/provincial/federal license” mean any document issued by a state, provincial, or federal government, as the case may be, or under its authority, but not by a local government, that permits a person to engage in a regulated activity or profession.

– Computer Systems Analyst – Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma 3 or Post Secondary Certificate 4 and three years’ experience.

3 “Post Secondary Diploma” means a credential issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education, by an accredited academic institution in Canada or the United States.

4 “Post Secondary Certificate” means a certificate issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education at an academic institution, by the federal government of Mexico or a state government in Mexico, an academic institution recognized by the federal government or a state government, or an academic institution created by federal or state law.

– Disaster relief insurance claims adjuster (claims adjuster employed by an insurance company located in the territory of a Party, or an independent claims adjuster) – Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims; or three years experience in claims adjustment and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims.

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BREAKING: The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be publishing a final rule in the Federal Register tomorrow August 30, 2018, increasing the premium processing fee charged by the agency by 14.92 percent.

According to USCIS the increase in the fee accounts for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index. The last time that the filing fee for premium processing was updated to account for inflation was in the year 2010.

The adjustment in the fee will bring the premium processing fee to $1,410 instead of $1,225. The final rule states that the ruse will become effective 30 days after publication in the federal register which would fall on September 30th of this year. Any applications postmarked on or after September 30th will need to include the new $1,410 filing fee instead of the previous filing fee.

DHS has authorized the fee increase without notice and comment, because according to DHS it is “unnecessary.” The government cites 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B) and INA section 286(u), 8 U.S.C. 1356(m) as authority to adjust the fee without notice or public comment.

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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.

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In this post, we would like to keep our readers informed about Visa Bulletin projections for the month of October. 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 for the month of October.

EB-1 Worldwide: It is expected that heavy demand in this category will prevent this category from becoming current in October. Previously, it was believed that EB-1 Worldwide would become current on October 1st, but this will no longer be the case according to current projections. EB-1 China and EB-1 India will have earlier final action dates than the EB-1 Worldwide category, which are expected to fall in the month of October. It is projected that the EB-1 categories will not move forward until about December or 2019.

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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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