23 July 2020

Green Card and EAD Production Delays and How to Contact the Ombudsman’s Office for Assistance

In June 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reduced its capacity to print secure documents, including Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) Cards, aka Green Cards, and Employment Authorization Documents (EAD). The printing delay came after USCIS ended a contract with an outside company responsible for printing these cards. According to USCIS, it intended to hire federal employees to replace the contractors, but its financial situation resulted in a hiring freeze that has impacted the printing of these secure cards. Continue reading

6 July 2020

ICE Modifies Temporary Exemptions for F-1 and M-1 Students Taking Online Courses During the Fall 2020 Semester

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)  previously implemented a temporary exemption regarding online courses for the spring and summer semesters in order to ease the online class restrictions for those in the United States on a student visa. This policy permitted F-1 students to take more online courses than normally permitted by federal regulation to maintain their non-immigrant status during the COVID-19 pandemic because many schools moved to online courses.

SEVP has now announced modifications to these temporary exemptions for F-1 and M-1 students who are taking online classes due to the pandemic for the fall 2020 semester. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will publish the procedures and responsibilities in the Federal Register as a Temporary Final Rule.

The modified temporary exemptions for the fall 2020 semester will now include the following: Continue reading

22 June 2020

President Trump Issues Executive Order Expanding Entry Restrictions to Include H-1B Workers Through 2020

On Monday June 22, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order suspending entry into the United States of certain temporary foreign workers. The suspension is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on June 24, 2020 and will expire on December 31, 2020 (and may be continued as necessary).

Non-Immigrant Visa Categories the Suspension Applies To:  Continue reading

30 September 2019

USCIS Will No Longer Accept Current Editions of These Important Forms if Postmarked on or After October 15, 2019

As a result of the final rule on the public charge ground of inadmissibility, effective October 15, 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will no longer accept current editions of the following forms if postmarked on or after October 15, 2019:

The new form editions of the identified forms have been revised to reflect the final rule on Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds.  Unless otherwise instructed by USCIS at a later date, expect that the submission of these form editions on or after the specified date will result in rejection or denial of the application or petition.

The major issue now is that USCIS has not yet published the final versions of these revised editions. Although USCIS has published draft versions of these new form editions, we do not know how similar the draft versions will be to the final product. We will be following this closely and updates will be provided once available.

Direct: 713-457-5703

Email: krystal@rnlawgroup.com

5 June 2019

OFLC Announces Electronic Filing of Prevailing Wage Requests in FLAG

On June 4, 2019, The Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) announced the roll-out of the electronic filing of Prevailing Wage Requests in the Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) system. The FLAG system is being developed to improve customer service and modernize the administration of foreign labor certification programs. FLAG is designed to replace OFLC’s current iCERT System and will serve as the new application filing and case management system for all foreign labor certification programs.

FLAG System Implementation for Form ETA-9141 – Application for Prevailing Wage Determination 

  • Beginning Monday, June 10, 2019, OFLC will accept online submissions of the Application for Prevailing Wage Determination in the FLAG System covering all visa programs, including PERM Labor Certification. As of June 10th, stakeholders will no longer be able to submit Prevailing Wage Determination applications using the iCERT System. 
  • If Prevailing Wage Determination applications were submitted through the iCERT System before 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time June 10, 2019, the OFLC’s National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) will continue to process those applications and stakeholders will still be able to access their iCERT System accounts to check the status of applications and obtain Prevailing Wage Determinations.

OFLC has provided instructional videos to help stakeholders create and manage a FLAG System account and to prepare the Prevailing Wage Determination application for submission to the NPWC. To view these instructional videos, please visit the Prevailing Wage Program page on the FLAG System at https://flag.dol.gov/. New videos will be posted Friday, June 7, 2019.

OFLC has also provided an estimated timeline for the ability to file applications electronically in FLAG for H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 programs (e.g., ETA-9035): https://flag.dol.gov/

17 May 2019

USCIS Completes Data Entry of Fiscal Year 2020 H-1B Cap Subject Petitions

USCIS announced today that it has completed data entry for all fiscal year 2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in the computer-generated random selection process (lottery), including those selected under the U.S. advanced degree exemption. USCIS will now begin returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected in the lottery and will issue an announcement once all petitioners are notified. Due to the volume of filings, USCIS cannot provide a definite time frame for returning petitions that were not selected.

Please note that USCIS may transfer some H-1B cap-subject petitions between the Vermont Service Center and the California Service Center to balance the workload. If your case is transferred, you will receive notification in the mail. After receiving the notification, please send all future correspondence to the center processing your petition.

11 April 2019

USCIS Completes H-1B Lottery for FY2020 & Confirms that the Master’s Cap Has Been Reached

USCIS  has completed the H-1B cap random selection process. On April 10, 2019, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process, “lottery,” to select enough H-1B petitions to meet the 65,000 congressionally-mandated regular cap and the 20,000 masters cap, under the advanced degree exemption, for fiscal year (FY) 2020. After completing the lottery for the regular cap, USCIS also determined that it had received enough petitions projected as sufficient to meet the master’s cap.

USCIS also announced that it received 201,011 H-1B petitions during this filing period, which began April 1st. This is an increase from FY 2019, where USCIS received 190,098 H-1B petitions during the filing period!

As per the new H-1B regulation, USCIS first conducted the lottery for H-1B cap-subject petitions submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may have been eligible for the master’s cap. USCIS then selected a number projected to reach the master’s cap from the remaining eligible petitions.

We should begin to see receipt notices trickle in over the next few weeks. If you receive a receipt notice, this means your H-1B petition was selected in the lottery. If your petition is selected, it will be reviewed by a USCIS Officer. An Officer can send an approval (yay!), or a Request for Evidence. If your petition was not selected, USCIS will reject and return those petitions with filing fees, unless the petition is found to be a duplicate filing.

7 April 2019

USCIS Reaches FY 2020 H-1B Regular Cap

On April 5th, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it received a sufficient number of petitions needed to reach the 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year (FY) 2020. USCIS stated that it will next determine whether it received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap.

The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not prohibited multiple filings (please see my previous post: New Policy Memo Warns Against Multiple H-1B Cap Filings for the Same Beneficiary)

I will provide further updates here regarding the master’s cap, when available.

Quick Reminders: 

  • Starting this year, USCIS will reverse the order of the H-1B lottery for the regular and master’s cap. The lottery will first be run for all H-1B cap-subject petitions filed, including those eligible for the master’s cap. USCIS will then run the lottery for the master’s cap by selecting a sufficient number of remaining eligible H-1B petitions needed to reach the master’s cap.
  • USCIS will offer premium processing in a two-phased process during the FY 2020 cap season in order to better manage requests without completely suspending the process as the agency did last year. The first phase will include FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status and the second phase will include all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions. For specific details, please see my previous post: USCIS Announces a Two-Phased Approach for Premium Processing of FY 2020 H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions.

 

19 March 2019

USCIS Announces a Two-Phased Approach for Premium Processing of FY 2020 H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) made its annual announcement regarding the start date for the upcoming H-1B cap season.  Specifically, USCIS stated that it will begin accepting fiscal year (FY) 2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions on April 1, 2019, and will reject any FY 2020 cap cases filed before April 1st. An additional announcement was made regarding premium processing for H-1B cap-subject petitions. USCIS will offer premium processing in a two-phased process during the FY 2020 cap season in order to better manage requests without completely suspending the process as the agency did last year. The first phase will include FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status and the second phase will include all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions. Continue reading

11 March 2019

Premium Processing is Back for ALL H-1B Petitions

Premium Processing is back for ALL H-1B Petitions! USCIS will resume premium processing on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. USCIS notes the following:

  • If you have received a transfer notice for a pending H-1B petition, and you are requesting premium processing service, you must submit the premium processing request to the service center now handling the petition. A copy of the transfer notice should be included with your premium processing request. Failure to do so can lead to delays.
  • If you received a Request for Evidence (RFE) for a pending H-1B petition, you should also include the RFE response with the premium processing request.
  • If your petition was transferred and you send your premium processing request to the wrong service center, USCIS will forward it to the petition’s current location. However, the premium processing clock will not start until the premium processing request has been received at the correct center.

Here is a timeline of the premium processing debacle: Continue reading