USCIS has announced that starting February 19, 2019, it will resume premium processing service for all H-1B petitions (including change of employer or “port” petitions) filed on or before December 21, 2018.  Petitioners seeking to upgrade their pending H-1B petitions to premium processing must submit their request to the service center where the petition is pending.  In some instances petitions have been transferred to a service center other than the office where the petition was originally filed.  The premium processing request must be filed at the service center where the petition was transferred and a copy of the transfer notice must be submitted with the request.  If the premium processing request is sent to the wrong service center, USCIS will forward the request to the correct location.  However, the 15-day premium processing clock will not start until the premium processing request has been received at the correct center.  If a petitioner was issued a request for evidence (RFE) for a pending petition, it should include the RFE response with the premium processing request.  This follows last month’s USCIS announcement to resume premium processing for FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions filed in April 2018.  There has been no update, yet, regarding the availability of premium processing for this year’s cap-subject petitions, which will be filed in April 2019.

 

Earlier this week USCIS published its final rule introducing an online pre-registration process for H-1B cap petitions and changing the order of the two lotteries for visa beneficiaries.  In reaction to USCIS’s announcement, Law360 spoke with immigration practitioners, including Mayer Brown’s Paul Virtue, about the impact of these changes on employers and the business community.  Read more at Law360.

The Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) has posted a final rule regarding the H-1B cap selection process. The rule will be published in the Federal Register on January 31, 2019 and will go into effect on April 1, 2019.

The Final Rule

The posted rule is the final version of the proposed rule titled “Registration Requirement for Petitions Seeking to File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens,” which was published for public comments on December 3, 2018.  During the 30-day comment period, the proposed rule received over 800 public comments. Continue Reading Department of Homeland Security Posts Final Rule Regarding H-1B Cap Filings

Every January, employers go into high gear to prepare H-1B cap-subject petitions for filing on the first business day of April.  This year, employers must also monitor for potential regulatory changes to the filing process.  On December 3, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register titled “Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens.”  The 30-day public comment period closed January 2, 2019, and employers remain in wait for the impact to this year’s cap-subject filings.  While President Trump tweeted about H-1B changes that “are soon coming,” it is not clear whether they relate to the proposed rule.

The proposed rule seeks to accomplish two goals: streamline the H-1B selection and filing process by creating a pre-registration system, and increase the chances of selection for H-1B petitions eligible for the advanced degree exemption by reversing the order in which the cap lotteries are run.

US Citizenship & Immigration Services (the agency responsible for immigration benefits within DHS) received over 800 comments on the proposed regulation, including comments from the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Medical Association, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  The public comments criticize the proposed timeline and logistics, identify impacts stretching beyond immigration law, and suggest that the proposed rule may face court challenges if implemented:

Continue Reading Impact of Proposed H-1B Rule on Annual Cap Filings

USCIS announced today that it is expanding its temporary suspension of premium processing to include additional types of H-1B petitions such as change of employer petitions and amendment petitions. Currently, the suspension impacts only cap-subject H-1B petitions which continue to be adjudicated under regular processing.  Effective September 11, 2018, all other H-1B petitions will be subject to the same suspension except for the following: (1) cap-exempt petitions filed exclusively with the California Service Center because the employer is cap exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap exempt institution, entity, or organization; or (2) petitions filed exclusively with the Nebraska Service Center requesting continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer, with a concurrent request for either a visa notification (consular notification) or extension of stay.  This means that premium processing is suspended for H-1B change of employer petitions by which a foreign worker may transfer or “port” from one employer to another, as well as for H-1B amendments based on changes in employment such as job location changes.  The suspension is expected to last until February 19, 2018.

BREAKING NEWSUSCIS Reaches FY 2019 Cap

USCIS announced today, April 6, 2018, that it has reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2019, as well as a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the “master’s cap.”  Our Legal Update from April 5, 2018, included below, advises employers on how to prepare for the next stage – selection or rejection notices, and, for selected cases, potential RFEs.

LEGAL ADVISORY:  What Every Employer Needs to Know

The current administration has made US immigration policy a central focus of its “America First” stance, imposing de novo review of all visa petitions; refusing H-1Bs for an increasing volume of early-career IT workers; suspending expedited, premium processing options for H-1B filings; imposing record volumes of Requests for Evidence and audits on employers sponsoring H-1B and L-1 workers; and rolling out an aggressive fraud review process for IT staffing suppliers.  In a Legal Update, Mayer Brown’s Liz Stern, Max Del Rey, and Anthony Tran advise on how to proceed during this disruptive time, when employers must be more prepared than ever.

Read the Legal Update.

The demand for H-1B (specialty occupation) visas normally exceeds the annual 85,000 visa cap by two to three times, thus triggering a random lottery for the available visas. Existing United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations prohibit the filing of multiple H-1B visa petitions that are subject to the annual cap for the same individual by an employer or a “related entity,” unless the related entity filing is justified by a legitimate business need. The purpose of the regulation is to prevent employers from trying to increase their chances of winning the H-1B cap lottery by submitting multiple petitions for the same individual for substantially the same position.  The penalty for violation of the regulation is denial or revocation of all petitions for the common beneficiary.

Continue Reading USCIS to Crack Down on Multiple H-1B Petitions by “Related Employers”

For the second year in a row, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing for the upcoming fiscal year’s H-1B petitions, for which filings may be accepted as of April 2, 2018:

Starting April 2, 2018, USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 cap. We will temporarily suspend premium processing for all FY 2019 cap-subject petitions, including petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.

USCIS’s premium processing service guarantees 15 calendar day processing to those petitioners or applicants who choose to use this service, or USCIS will refund the Premium Processing Service fee. If the fee is refunded, the relating case will continue to receive expedited processing. Continue Reading USCIS Suspends Premium Processing for H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions Twelve Days before Annual Lottery Commences

With the filing window for H-1B petitions subject to the annual 65,000 cap fast approaching, employers should take certain steps to prepare for the heightened scrutiny placed on this visa category. The immigration priorities of the Trump administration include reform of the H-1B visa category, which allows US employers to employ foreign professionals in specialty occupations.  While changes by regulation are not imminent, policy and procedural changes can be swiftly introduced without advance notice.  Changes announced in 2017, along with current trends in petition adjudication, provide important lessons for employers seeking to utilize this visa category for their foreign work corps.

Continue Reading Will Your H-1B Cap Petitions Withstand Heightened Scrutiny by USCIS?