USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions

USCIS has announced that it will resume premium processing this Tuesday, March 12, 2019 for all H-1B petitions. This is the final step of a 3-stage reinstatement of premium processing for H-1B petitions. After the nearly 6-month suspension, which started last August, USCIS first began accepting premium processing on cap-subject H-1B petitions filed last year. Then last month it reinstated premium processing for any H-1B petition filed prior to December 21, 2018.

USCIS’s policy on premium processing suspensions began a year ago in April when it announced that cap-subject H-1B petitions could not be filed with premium processing. It then extended and expanded the suspension in August 2018 to include all H-1B petitions.

It remains to be seen if USCIS will be able to honor premium processing requests on the cap-subject H-1B petitions that will be filed starting April 1. Considering the many backlogged H-1Bs that will certainly interfile premium processing requests, we expect that USCIS will receive thousands of requests in the coming days. Coupled with that is the recent announcement that H-4 EADs will likely be going away soon and the new biometrics requirements for dependent spouses, so many of those corresponding H-1B extensions will likely be filed with premium processing as well.
USCIS’s rate hike on premium processing requests, from $1225 to $1410, is now in effect, so any new requests should be accompanied by the higher fee.
For further guidance or case-specific questions, please contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

USCIS Announces It Will Resume Premium Processing For H-1B Petitions Filed On Or Before Dec. 21, 2018

USCIS has announced that it will resume premium processing this Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 for all H-1B petitions filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018. If you requested premium processing service and received a transfer notice for a pending H-1B petition, then you must submit a premium processing request to the service center now handling the petition. If your petition was transferred and you send your premium processing request to the wrong 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.

Remember to include a copy of the transfer notice with your premium processing request to avoid delays. If you received a request for evidence (RFE) for a pending petition, you should also include the RFE response with the premium processing request.

USCIS has been slowly reinstating premium processing for H-1Bs, which started on Jan. 28, when USCIS resumed premium processing for FY 2019 cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption. However, the temporary suspension of premium processing remains in effect for applicable H-1B petitions filed on or after Dec. 22, 2018.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

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Swiss-based Employers intending to hire British Citizen Workers could face Quota Restrictions from March 20, 2019

If the UK opts for a disorderly withdrawal from the EU in respect of BREXIT and no agreement is reached on immigration arrangements between Switzerland and the UK, then the current practice of Swiss-based employers hiring British citizen workers without quota restrictions in Switzerland will be disrupted.

To prepare for the above scenario in respect of BREXIT, the Swiss Federal Council intends to allocate separate work permit quotas to British citizens from March 30, 2019. The quotas, to be released quarterly, are slated to include 2100 B long-term permits and 1400 L short-term permits, which would be applicable from March 30 to December 31, 2019.

British citizens who relocate to Switzerland for work for the first time would be subject to the above quota restrictions as well as the Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration (similar to Non-EU/EFTA nationals). Swiss-based employers would thus need to take into consideration the work permit quota contingency for British citizen work-arrangements in Switzerland (and also determine alternatives where work permit quotas are not available).

On a positive note, British citizens already legally residing in Switzerland would remain protected under the Agreement on Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), and thus, the quota would not necessarily apply to them.

Where a withdrawal agreement on immigration arrangements is reached between the UK and Switzerland, a transitional period would ensure that the AFMP would continue to apply for an extended time, such as until the end of 2020. During this transitional period, Swiss-based employers would be able to continue hiring British citizens without the above noted quota-restrictions as new bilateral agreements are formed between Switzerland and the UK.

For the present time being it is uncertain whether or not there will be a BREXIT deal and whether a withdrawal agreement will be reached between the UK and Switzerland in respect of immigration arrangements. Swiss-based employers should plan accordingly and stay apprised of developments in this regard.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

USCIS to Publish Revised Form I-539 and New Form I-539A

The USCIS recently announced that it has revised its Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The new form will be available on the USCIS website on March 11, 2019. After that date, the USCIS will only accept the revised version of Form I-539.

Form I-539 is used for dependents of an H-1B visa applicant, who is changing visa status, or for dependents extending their current H-4 status.

Starting March 11, 2019, USCIS will ONLY accept the revised Form I-539 with an edition date of February 04, 2019. USCIS will reject a Form I-539 dated December 23, 2016 or earlier, and it appears that there is no grace period.

On March 11, 2019, it will also publish a new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Form I-539A replaces the Supplement A provided in previous versions of Form I-539. Form I-539A can only be submitted with Form I-539; it cannot be filed as a standalone.

According to the USCIS website, the revised Form I-539 will include the following significant changes:

  • Every co-applicant included on the primary applicant’s Form I-539 must submit and sign a separate Form I-539A, which will be available on the USCIS’s Form I-539 webpage on March 11, 2019. Parents or guardians may sign on behalf of children under 14 or any co-applicant not mentally competent to sign.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometric services fee, except certain A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants as noted in the new Form I-539 Instructions to be published on March 11, 2019.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice, regardless of age, containing their individual receipt number. The biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the primary applicant’s address. Co-applicants who wish to be scheduled at a different ASC location should file a separate Form I-539.
USCIS will reject any Form I-539 that is missing any of the required signatures or biometrics fees, including those required for Form I-539A.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Finland Immigration Strongly Recommends EU Registration for British Citizens

As Brexit negotiations continue, the Finnish Immigration Service has advised that British citizens currently residing in Finland complete the process of EU Registration as soon as possible in order to retain their right of residence in Finland. This registration is required for British citizens who stay in Finland for longer than three months.

British citizens who have resided legally in Finland for a minimum of five consecutive, uninterrupted years may apply for a Certificate of Permanent Residence as an EU citizen.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

New USCIS H-1B Cap Regulation Will Go Into Effect April 1, 2019

Today, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published the final rule announcing a change in how the agency will handle the selection process for H-1B applications that are filed under the cap starting April 1, 2019. USCIS also announced that the implementation of the electronic pre-registration process will be delayed until further notice, and will not go into effect this year.

What is changing this year?
Beginning this year, USCIS will first conduct the general lottery drawing for all cases eligible for the 65,000 available H-1B visas. Once that lottery has been completed, USCIS will conduct the selection process for H-1B petitions eligible for the U.S. advanced degree lottery.  According to data from USCIS, this could lead to an increase of up to 16% in the selection of cases for individuals with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university.

What is not changing this year? 
There will be no electronic preregistration process for H-1B petitions this year. The process will likely be implemented in the future, but not until testing and vetting has taken place.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Status of EU Citizens in Event of a “No Deal” Brexit

The UK government has released details on the status of EU citizens after March 29, 2019 in the event of a “No Deal” Brexit. EU citizens and their family members who are already UK residents by March 29, 2019 will be able to apply for Settled or Pre-Settled status, and will need to register by December 31, 2020. Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Iceland, and Norway citizens will also need to apply for Settled or Pre-Settled status after March 29, 2019.

EU citizens entering the UK after March 29, 2019 will be able to enter, but will need to apply for a Leave to Remain through the Home Office for European Temporary Leave to Remain if they intend to stay longer than 3 months. This temporary leave will be valid for up to 36 months, and will cover both work and study, however it will not be extendable, and will not lead to settlement. After these 36 months, EU citizens who intend to stay in the UK to work or study will need to qualify under the new immigration scheme.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Premium Processing Resumes for FY 2019 H-1B Cap Petitions

On Monday, January 28, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will resume premium processing for all fiscal year (FY) 2019 H-1B cap petitions. This includes petitions eligible for advanced degree exemption. If a petitioner receives a request for evidence (RFE), they should include their response to the RFE with their request for premium processing. Premium processing for all other types of H-1B petition is still temporarily suspended, and USCIS will announce when the suspension is lifted.

What is premium processing?
Premium processing guarantees a processing time of 15 days for H-1B petitions. If certain action has not been taken within that 15 day window, the petitioner’s premium processing fee is refunded and the petition continues on an expedited processing track.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

France’s New Immigration Law Increases Restrictions on Intra-Company Transfers

Employers of foreign workers in France should take note of increased restrictions placed on Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Work Permits (Secondment) pursuant to the implementation of France’s 2018 Asylum and Immigration Law, which will go into effect on March 1, 2019.

The ICT Work Permit (Secondment) provides an avenue of mobility for an employee from a company outside of France to be transferred to a company in France that belongs to the same corporate group.

Under the 2018 Asylum and Immigration Law, restrictions on the ICT Work Permit (Secondment) will be increased as follows:

  • Assignee must have at least six (6) months of seniority within the group companies outside of France (comparison: changed from at least three (3) months);
  • The maximum time period for the corresponding residence permit is three (3) years and such residence permit is nonrenewable (comparison: previously the nonrenewable aspect for residence permits was not clearly stated); and
  • For an assignee to undertake a follow-up secondment, there must be a cool-off period of at least six (6) months where the assignee has resided outside of France (comparison: previously there was no cool-off period requirement).

Employers of foreign workers in France should identify which current and potential employees may be affected by the increased restrictions in respect of ICT Work Permits (Secondment) and plan accordingly.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

UK: Public Test Phase of EU Settlement Scheme Goes Live and Fee Removed

The first public test phase for the EU Settlement Scheme went live on January 21, 2019.

At present, eligible applicants only include (i) EU citizens who have a passport embedded with a biometric chip; and (ii) non-EU family members who have UK residence cards embedded with biometric chips.
Irish citizens may apply during the current phase, but are not required to do so. Citizens of Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Iceland (and family members) cannot apply until a later stage.

Eligible applicants must use the EU Exit: ID Document Check App on an Android smart device to check their biometric chip embedded passport or UK residence card. If the biometric chip is damaged or defective, the respective applicant may send identity documents to the Home Office for inspection. Upon the EU Settlement Scheme being fully rolled out, the EU Exit: Document Check App will then become optional and applicants can choose to post identity documents to the Home Office instead of using the app.

In respect of applications, the Home Office will work to verify eligibility for settled or pre-settled status by cross-checking residency in the UK according to National Insurance numbers, HMRC, and/or DWP records. Where documentation is insufficient to confirm eligibility, uploading of additional supporting documentation may be permitted within limits.

In related news, in a recent speech at the House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May stated that when the EU Settlement Scheme is rolled out in full on March 30, 2019, the UK government will waive the application fee. Further, for EU citizens who have already applied during the pilot phase, fees paid will be reimbursed. The intent of these changes is to remove financial barriers for EU citizens seeking to stay in the UK.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative.

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