As USCIS increases scrutiny of immigration filings, processing times for nearly all immigration categories has increased, as has the margin of error at agency service centers.  Liz Stern discusses changes within the agency, and how those changes are impacting employers and foreign nationals applying for US immigration benefits in a recent Law360 article.

On March 11, 2019, USCIS will publish a revised Form I-539 with an edition date of February 4, 2019. Effective March 11, USCIS will only accept the new I-539; all previous editions will be rejected.  In addition, the agency will introduce a new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status to change

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.
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On January 25, 2019, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency would reinstate premium processing for H-1B petitions filed last April under the FY 2019 annual quota (the “cap”), including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption (i.e., holders of US master’s degrees or higher). This reinstatement of premium processing is only available for pending petitions and will not apply to new submissions, as the FY 2019 cap quota has already been met.

The premium processing service permits employers to pay an additional fee of $1,410 to have an immigration benefit adjudicated within 15 days, and USCIS will return the additional fee to the employer if the benefit application is not timely adjudicated.
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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:


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In a recent Bloomberg Law article discussing what 2019 has in store on the immigration front, Liz Stern remarks on the changing landscape of business immigration as USCIS challenges and narrows the definition of the H-1B specialty occupation visa category.  Although comprehensive immigration reform is not likely, Stern anticipates more litigation as businesses become increasingly

Last week the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, published an article detailing a preliminary draft for a new immigration law in Germany.  Although the draft is not publicly available, the newspaper revealed that the new immigration law is set to be approved by Angela Merkel’s cabinet on December 19, 2018.  According to Süddeutsche Zeitung the

A federal judge has barred President Trump’s recent asylum ban, now forcing the administration to accept all migrants crossing the southern border who seek protection, rather than limit asylum requests to U.S. ports of entry. As of last evening, Judge John Tigar of the U.S. District Court of Northern California issued a temporary restraining order