Temporary Premium Processing Suspension

USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions that are subject to the FY 2019 cap on April 2, 2018. FY 2019 cap-subject petitions received by USCIS from April 2 to April 6, 2018 will be considered in the H-1B visa lottery. Today, USCIS announced that it has temporarily suspended premium processing for all FY 2019 cap-subject petitions. During the temporary suspension, USCIS will reject any I-907 Forms requesting premium processing service associated with FY 2019 cap-subject H-1B petitions.

USCIS expects the suspension to last until September 10, 2018. FY 2019 cap-subject petitions that are still pending after September 10, 2018 may be upgraded to premium processing at that time.Premium processing will continue for H-1B petitions that are not subject to the FY 2019 cap. Such H-1B petitions include H-1B extension petitions and H-1B change of employer petitions.

USCIS explains that the temporary suspension will help the agency process long-pending petitions and reduce overall H-1B processing times. For more frequent updates, please visit our website and follow us on twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Australia Updates: Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa & Skilled Occupation List

As we are now well aware, the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa is scheduled to replace the Subclass 457 visa in March 2018. There will be 3 streams available under TSS, and they are as follows:

(1) Short-term stream: this is for employers to source genuine temporary overseas skilled workers in occupations included on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) for a maximum of 2 years (or up to 4 years if an international trade obligation applies); OR

(2) Medium-term stream: this is for employers to source highly skilled overseas workers to fill medium-term critical skills in occupations included on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) for up to 4 years, with eligibility to apply for permanent residence after three years; OR

(3) Labour Agreement stream: this is for employers to source overseas skilled workers in accordance with a labour agreement with the Commonwealth, on the basis of a demonstrated need that cannot be met in the Australian labour market and standard visa programs are not available, with the capacity to negotiate a permanent residence option.

NOTE: the Australian Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has confirmed that Labour Market Testing (LMT) exemptions based on occupation will NOT be available under the TSS visa.

However, LMT will not apply if it conflicts with Australia’s international trade obligations. For example, LMT exemptions will still apply if the worker nominated is a citizen/national of China, Japan or Thailand, or is a citizen/national/permanent resident of Chile, South Korea, New Zealand or Singapore.

In order to streamline processing of TSS and other temporary skilled work visas, measures are in place that include: a new standard 5-year sponsorship agreement period, a new streamlined renewal process for existing sponsors, and an automatic approval of lower-risk nomination applications lodged by accredited sponsors.

In addition, provisions are in place to assist with the transition to TSS visa. Notable provisions include:

  • All Subclass 457 nominations and visa applications lodged prior to TSS implementation will be processed under the current framework.
  • If a Subclass 457 nomination application is lodged without an associated 457 visa application being lodged before the commencement of TSS, it will effectively become “redundant” as Subclass 457 nominations cannot be linked to TSS visa applications. This applies even where the nomination has already been approved.
  • Employers who are already approved standard business sponsors for Subclass 457 will be immediately able to sponsor skilled overseas workers under the TSS visa program.
  • Subclass 457 visa holders who are to change occupations or need a new visa will be required to lodge a new TSS visa application and reference a new TSS nomination application.
  • Subclass 457 visa holders that will change employer after the implementation of TSS visa can have their new employer lodge a TSS nomination application and link it to the existing 457 visa.
  • Dependents will be able to lodge TSS visa dependent visa applications linked to pending 457 visa applications or linked to current 457 visa holders.

Skilled Occupation Lists 

Updates to the skilled occupation lists for both temporary and permanent skilled visas went into effect on January 17. These updates will only apply to applications lodged after January 17 and will not apply to pending applications. More details can be found directly at the DHA website at https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/work/work/2018-changes-of-eligible-skilled-occupations.

We can expect the next set of occupations lists to be published in March 2018. For more frequent updates, please follow us on twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Immigration Issues and Government Shutdowns

At midnight on Saturday January 20, 2018, the federal government went into a limited shutdown because Congress failed to pass an appropriations bill. As of the time of this email the Senate has voted to reopen the government through February 8, 2018. Although most agencies remain shut down today, we anticipate that they will reopen starting tomorrow.

The bill passed today will fund the government through February 8, 2018. Between now and then it is expected that Congress will take up some contested issues around immigration. Because these high-profile issues are at the forefront, we could see a series of short-term funding bills to keep pressure on both sides to negotiate a final resolution of these immigration issues. This could lead us to other shutdowns in the coming weeks.

We are monitoring this situation very closely. When there are shutdowns, it can harm those seeking immigration benefits. We are taking precautions to be sure the impact to our clients is minimal. For more frequent updates, please follow us on twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Preparing for H-1B Cap Season

H-1B cap season is nearly upon us, and it’s in your best interest to get a head start on preparing your petition to ensure a timely submission.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting H-1B applications for FY 2019 on April 2nd, 2018. The H-1B Regular quota is 65,000 visas, and the H-1B Master’s quota is 20,000 visas.

If more than 65,000 petitions are submitted during the first five days of the acceptance period, USCIS uses a lottery system to select applicants. The lottery system is conducted through a random, computer-generated process. The likelihood of the need for a lottery is high – for FY 2017, USCIS received 236,000 H-1B applications within five days of opening application acceptance, and 199,000 applications for FY 2018.

In the case of a lottery, USCIS handles it in two segments. First is the lottery for individuals qualifying for the 20,000 set aside for those with advanced U.S. degrees. Once that lottery is complete, any unselected in the advanced cap are put into the regular lottery of 65,000. USCIS will issue receipt notices on cases selected in the lottery. We expect to start seeing receipt notices toward the end of April, and more steadily through May. Unfortunately, USCIS does not begin issuing rejection notices on cases not selected in the lottery until most receipts have gone out, so there tends to be a period of uncertainty toward the end of May and into June.

USCIS has telegraphed that there will be a higher level of scrutiny on case review than we have seen in years past. We are aware of the areas of emphasis and will plan to prepare cases accordingly to reduce the number of requests for evidence and avoid denials.

For the greatest chance of obtaining an H-1B, the most important step is timely filing. In the weeks and months leading up to the April 2nd acceptance date, be sure to stay on top of all required paperwork. The attorney handling your case can help guide you through the process and keep you informed of everything that is needed before submitting. Setting aside a reasonable amount of time to get required forms completed thoroughly will save you plenty of stress come April 2nd.

Sam Adair Talks to Bloomberg BNA About the Travel Ban’s Impact on Businesses

Sam Adair was recently quoted in Laura Francis’s Bloomberg BNA article “More Uncertainty for Businesses Now That Travel Ban Allowed.” In the article, Sam explains how businesses and employers will be impacted by the Supreme Court’s decision to put President Trump’s travel ban into effect, and discusses which countries will be affected the most. “This is really the first of the travel bans that’s going to be allowed to take essentially full effect,” he says.

Click here to read the full article.

Supreme Court Rules to Allow President Trump’s Travel Ban to Take Full Effect

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has lifted the injunctions on President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which targets people from six countries, while legal challenges continue in lower courts. The 4th and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be holding arguments on the legality of the ban this week. What is not clear today is whether previous exemptions for those with a significant tie to the U.S. (through employment or immediate family members) would be applicable in this case. We will be providing updates here as they become available.  

Read our previous update for more information about the travel ban.

Sam Adair Speaks with Voice of America News on Greater Scrutiny of Nonimmigrant Work Visas

Sam Adair was recently quoted in Esha Sarai’s Voice of America article “Greater Scrutiny Set for Nonimmigrant Work Visa Renewals.” In the article, Sam discusses potential effects of the USCIS’s new policy that visa renewal applications must face the same scrutiny as the original applications.

“…I think what we’ll see is just an increase in the number of requests for evidence, an increase in the delays on the adjudication of these petitions, and really it’s going to just result in more costs for the employers who are filing these petitions,” Adair told VOA.

Click here to read the full article.

Sam Adair Talks to Daily Journal on Tightened Nonimmigrant Visa Scrutiny

 

Sam Adair was quoted in the following article, which appeared in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal on October 26, 2017.

US government tightens nonimmigrant work visa scrutiny

By Chase DiFeliciantonio

In a policy shift, the federal government announced that applications to extend certain work visas will now be scrutinized in the same way as the initial applications.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said the change would apply to certain nonimmigrant visas and is needed to combat fraud and protect U.S. workers.

According to Sharon Rummery, a spokesperson for the agency, the change was implemented Monday to comply with an executive order signed in April by President Donald J. Trump.

“The burden of proof is and should rightly be on the petitioner regardless of whether we’ve approved the request in the past,” Rummery said. “Our determination should be based on the merits of each case.”

Some business immigration attorneys decried the move as political and said it will create more work for them and increase expenses for their clients without real benefits.

Mitch Wexler, a Los Angeles- and Irvine-based partner at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Lowey LLP, wrote in an email that the change is unnecessary and counterproductive.

“[It’s] ridiculous for the agency to no longer give deference to its previous adjudications,” Wexler wrote. “They get no additional filing fees for RFEs [Requests for Evidence] and will introduce even more uncertainty into the workforce of the biggest U.S. employers.”

The immigration service can ask for more information about an application through a Request for Evidence when it believes and application lacks required documentation or evidence.

According to a news release from the agency, the previous policy deferred to the findings of an already approved application, as long as the key elements were unchanged and there was no evidence of a material error or fraud.

Rummery said the change was needed to verify nothing had changed between an initial application and an application for an extension, adding in an email that the previous policy was outlined in an April 2004 policy memo and added to in a subsequent August 2015 policy memo.

“We think this is going to result in an increase in delays and an increase in expenses for employers who are filing these extension applications for their employees,” said Sam Adair, a business immigration attorney and an Austin, Texas-based partner at Graham Adair Inc.

Adair said L-1 intracompany transfer visas, O-1 extraordinary ability visas, TN visas based on the NAFTA treaty, and H-1B nonimmigrant work visas could be affected by the change.

“This will be especially true in O-1 and L-1 applications when there’s a fair amount of subjective evidence that’s going to be required for those petitions,” Adair said, adding he was less concerned about increased scrutiny of H-1B visas because they require a more objective standard for evidence.

“This is very much in line with previous efforts by the administration on immigration,” Adair added. “It’s going to create additional uncertainty for people who are already here.”

Switzerland: Increased Work Permit Quotas for 2018

The Swiss Federal Council has released the following work permit quotas effective January 1, 2018:

 

Non-EU (European Union)/EFTA (European Free Trade Area) Nationals

  • B Permits: 3500 long term permits (an increase of 500);
  • L Permits: 4500 short term permits (no increase);

EU/EFTA Nationals

  • B Permits: 500 long term permits (an increase of 250);
  • L Permits: 3000 short term permits (an increase of 1000).

 

The above permits apply for assignments of greater than four months or 120 days. 

In light of the increased and consistent demands for work permits in Switzerland, the increase in quota levels may still not be enough to meet the demand.  Shortages are still expected towards the end of the next calendar year once the quota levels run low.

Please reach out to the attorney overseeing your case or Meg Jalandoni for advice on next steps, and follow us on Twitter for real-time updates as they become available.

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