USCIS Announces Initial H-1B Count

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has just announced that it received approximately 17,400 H-1B petitions under the regular H-1B cap of 65,000, and that around 8,200 have been counted toward the 20,000 advanced U.S. degree cap. This means that USCIS continues to accept applications for initial H-1B status a week after the H-1B filing season opened up on April 2nd.

 

This seems to be a reflection of the economy as it continues its slow improvement. Last year, after one week USCIS had received 5,900 H-1B petitions under the regular cap and 4,500 under the advanced U.S. degree cap.  Graham Adair projects that the regular H-1B cap will be exhausted sometime this summer.

Projected EB-2 Retrogression

A recent announcement from the State Department makes it clear that EB-2 immigrant visa retrogression for nationals of India and mainland China is coming with the May visa bulletin.  Charlie Oppenheim, Chief, Immigrant Visa Control & Reporting in the State Department, provided further information on priority date movement in the EB-2 category for China-mainland born and India.  He has indicated that the May 2012 visa bulletin will contain a priority date of August 15, 2007 for China and India in the EB-2 category. With the April 2012 visa bulletin listing the priority dates for EB-2 India and China at May 1, 2010, this is a very significant slide backwards.

 

Graham Adair anticipates that the EB-2 priority dates will advance again fairly rapidly in October 2012 when the new fiscal year starts and the new immigrant visa numbers become available.  However, for the remainder of the fiscal year, we do not expect to see priority dates advance in any significant way for India and China.  Therefore, it will be important for applicants whose priority dates became current over the past few months to file their applications for adjustment of status before the end of April.

Employer Alert on Site Visits

Site visits to employers sponsoring H-1B petitions have been increasing recently as USCIS continues to implement changes in response to its H-1B Benefit Fraud Analysis report from September 2008.  As site visits become more common, employers need to become familiar with what to expect and the topics and questions that may be raised by the inspector.

 

The California Service Center (CSC) advised employers that inspections typically check the work location listed on the I-129 petition.  (For employees who work offsite or at multiple locations, an itinerary should be provided in the petition.)  In  ddition to speaking to a company representative – typically the signatory of the  etition – and the beneficiary, the inspector may also ask to review documents related  to the petition and take photos of the worksite.

 

In practice, we have had inspectors:

  • Verify the information submitted with the petition, including supporting documentation submitted by the petitioner, based on a checklist prepared by USCIS;

  • Verify the existence of a petitioning entity;

 

  • Take digital photographs;

 

  • Speak with organizational representatives to confirm the beneficiary’s work location, employment workspace, hours, salary and duties; and

 

  • Speak with employees to confirm job details contained in the I-129 petition.

 

Furthermore, we have had inspectors request general information about other H-1B petitions pending or in process with the employer.  These requests have been made in person, by phone, and by email.

 

Site inspectors will report the results of their site inspections to the Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS).  An FDNS Officer will review the information and determine whether an official inquiry should be made.  If so, the FDNS will provide an Immigration Services Officer (ISO) with a Summary of Findings (SOF), which may decide to request additional evidence from the petitioner or initiate denial or revocation proceedings.  When indicators of fraud are identified, the FDNS Officer may refer the case to ICE for criminal investigation.

 

If your company is contacted about a site visit, contact your Graham Adair attorney for guidance.

USCIS Updates Case Processing Times

Today, the four USCIS regional offices have issued updated processing times.

The most noteworthy changes are with regard to the processing times for H-1B petitions at the California and Vermont service centers.  Until today, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) website had listed processing times for new H-1B petitions and H-1B extensions at two months.  In practice, we were seeing a much longer wait for approvals.

The California Service Center now shows an effective date of October 27, 2011, or slightly less than four months, for all H-1B petitions.  The Vermont Service Center is even further behind, with an effective date of October 2, 2011.

Other non-immigrant case types, including L-1s, TNs, Os, Ps, E-1/2s, and H-2A/Bs have not seen changes in processing times over the past several months.

 

On the immigrant visa side, the Nebraska Service Center continues to list processing times for I-140s and I-485s at 4 months.  This includes EB-1 petitions for Extraordinary Ability and Outstanding Researchers.

 

The Texas Service Center is taking longer to adjudicate I-140s and I-485s, with listed processing times of June 29, 2011 and April 3, 2011, respectively.  This means that applicants for Lawful Permanent Status can expect to wait about ten and a half months.

 

To view the processing time of other case types not discussed here, please visit:

https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplay.do;jsessionid=cab8BH8TCZBdC

__________________________________________________________________

* Please note that the processing time for an I-485 only applies to applicants whose priority dates are current.

February 2012 Visa Bulletin: EB-2 Jumps a Full Year

This afternoon the U.S. Department of State published the February 2012 Visa Bulletin, showing significant movement in the EB-2 category for nationals of both India and China. The priority dates jumped forward a full year, from January 1, 2009 to January 1, 2010. This marks the second month in a row for significant movement in the EB-2 category.  Between the last two months, the EB-2 category has advanced nearly 2 years. This movement in priority dates will open the floodgates for many individuals to file for U.S. lawful permanent residence status starting on February 1.

 

Again, like last month, the EB-3 category did not see any significant movement in the new visa bulletin; there continues to be significant retrogression for all nationalities in the EB-3 category. The priority date for nationals of China in the EB-3 category moved forward from October 15, 2004 to December 1, 2004. For Indian nationals in the EB-3 category, the priority date moved forward a meager seven days to August 15, 2002. For all other nationalities in the EB-3 category, the priority date advanced 21 days to February 22, 2006.

 

Graham Adair will be working with clients who have priority dates that will become current on February 1, 2012 to ensure that their cases are ready to file and to keep their permanent residence process moving forward.  There is some concern that the recent monumental advancements could result in a visa bulletin surprise wherein
priority dates move back significantly.  Therefore, it is important to file as close to February 1 as possible.

 

If you have any questions about this bulletin or its impact, please feel free to contact us at: info@grahamadair.com.

 

The Visa Bulletin for February 2012 can be viewed at: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5630.html

January 2012 Visa Bulletin

In the recently published January 2012 Visa Bulletin there has been significant movement in the EB-2 category for nationals of both India and China. The priority dates jumped forward from March 15, 2008 to January 1, 2009. This is the most significant progress seen in recent months. This movement in the priority date will open the door for more individuals and allow them to finally obtain their goal of U.S. lawful permanent residence status.

 

Unfortunately, the EB-3 category did not see any significant movement in the new visa bulletin and there continues to be significant retrogression for all nationalities in
the EB-3 category. The priority date for nationals of China in the EB-3 category moved forward from September 8, 2004 to October 15, 2004. For Indian nationals in the EB-3 category the priority dated moved forward a meager seven days to August 8, 2002. For all other nationalities in the EB-3 category the priority date advanced 15 days to February 1, 2006.

 

Graham Adair will be working with our clients who have priority dates that will become current on January 1, 2012 to ensure that their cases are ready to file and to keep their permanent residence process moving forward. If you have any questions about this bulletin or its impact please feel free to contact us at:  info@grahamadair.com.

 

The Visa Bulletin for January 2012 can be viewed at: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5630.html

H-1B Cap Met

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it received sufficient petitions to exhaust the FY2012 H-1B cap as of Tuesday, November 22nd. Cases properly filed and received before Tuesday the 22nd will be accepted and processed to adjudication. Cases received on Tuesday will be subjected to a computer-generated random selection process. Cases not selected in the lottery will be rejected and filing fees returned. No announcement has been made yet on how many petitions will be subjected to the random selection, nor how many numbers are available for those cases.

It should benoted that even if postmarked on or before Tuesday the 22nd, cases not physically received by USCIS by that date will be rejected and filing fees returned.

The FY2013 H-1B cap will open on April 1, 2012. Cases approved for FY2013 will not become effective until October 1, 2012, which is when the new fiscal year begins. Employers wishing to employ individuals who missed the FY2012 cap will need to ensure continued U.S. work authorization through at least September 30, 2012, to keep them on payroll until an H-1B can be obtained.

There are a number of options available to those who missed the H-1B cap. For specific guidance, please contact Graham Adair: info@grahamadair.com.

L-1 Blanket Visa Applications Consolidated to Chennai

The U.S. State Department has announced that effective 12/1/2011 the U.S. consulate in Chennai, India will become the only consulate in India authorized to process blanket L-1 visa applications. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and U.S. Consulates in Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad will no longer accept or process applications for this visa category. The blanket L category includes specialized knowledge professionals, executives and managers. The other consulates in India will continue to process L-2 applications and individual L-1A and L-1B petitions. Applicants who have applied for L-1 status through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and have an approval notice in their name will continue to be able to process their visa application at other consulates in India.

Companies should be aware of processing times in Chennai in determining anticipated start times for blanket L transfers.  Visa appointment wait times in Chennai are relatively short right now, around 3 days.  However, with this consolidation and during summer travel months and holidays, there is potential for a significant increase in wait times. If you have any questions please contact your attorney at Graham Adair for further information.

H-1B: Advanced Degree Cap Met

Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that 20,000 petitions have been counted toward the 20,000 advanced degree H-1B cap.  This 20,000 set aside is for individuals with U.S. masters, doctorate or other post-baccalaureate degrees.  This means that remaining cap-subject H-1B petitions will be counted against the regular cap of 65,000 regardless of the education level, assuming at least a bachelor’s degree.

As of today, 46,200 H-1B petitions have been counted against the regular cap, leaving approximately 18,800 H-1Bs left.  It should be noted that 6,800 are set aside for citizens of Chile and Singapore.  However, unused numbers from this pool are made available for the H-1B cap in the following year.  Historically, only a small percentage of these 6,800 H-1Bs are used.

While a large portion of the H-1B cap remains, demand could increase as fewer and fewer H-1B numbers are available.  Last year was similar, with only a small percentage being used week by week.  But when USCIS announced that fewer than 10,000 H-1B numbers remained, the filing of new H-1B petitions surged and the cap was exhausted faster than many had anticipated.

USCIS Case Processing Times

Today, the four USCIS regional offices have issued updated
processing times
.

Nebraska Service Center

Under the bi-specialization initiative, the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) processes I-140 petitions for immigrant workers and I-485 green card applications, as well as derivative work and travel authorization benefits (EAD work document and advance parole travel authorization).

PERM-based I-140 petitions continue to have a processing time of 4 months. I-140s for Multinational Managers, Outstanding Researchers and those with Extraordinary Ability are taking about 6 months. This is especially problematic for Multinational Manager petitions, which remain ineligible for premium processing service.

I-485 applications for employment-based adjustment of status* continue to be processed in about 4 months’ time.

The processing times of applications for EAD work authorization and advance parole (AP) travel authorization remain at 3 months. The concern here is related to those who filed I-485 applications in the summer of 2007 when all priority dates became current, and whose priority dates then retrogressed. Applications to extend EAD and AP can only be filed 4 months in advance. With a processing time of 3 months, any delay in filing could result in a gap of work and travel authorization.

Texas Service Center

The Texas Service Center (TSC) is the other regional processing center that handles I-140 petitions for immigrant workers and I-485 green card applications, as well as derivative work and travel authorization benefits.

The processing time for I-140s has continued drift from target timeframes. Most PERM-based I-140s are taking more than 8 months, and cases for Skilled Workers are listed at nearly 11 months. Cases for those with Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Researchers and Multinational Managers are processing as follows:

  • Extraordinary Ability: 10 months
  • Outstanding Researcher: 9 months
  • Multinational Managers: 8 months

The processing time for employment-based I-485 applications* is also falling further behind, with a listed date of January 18, 2011 (8 months). Derivative employment (I-765) and travel (I-131) benefit applications are still taking 3 months.

California Service Center

From an employment-based immigration perspective, the California Service Center (CSC) primarily processes non-immigrant petitions.

The processing time for most I-129s has remained on target over the past several months. H-1Bs, TNs and E-1/2s, are taking about 2 months. L-1s and H-2A/Bs are being processed within a 1-month timeframe, while petitions for O and P status are listed at a 2-week turnaround.

Applications for employment authorization for L-2 dependent spouses have a processing time of 3 months.

Vermont Service Center

The Vermont Service Center (VSC) is the other regional processing center that focuses on petitions for non-immigrant employment-based cases.

For employment-based cases, VSC’s processing times mostly mirror CSC’s processing times. The exception is Trade Nafta (TN) professional cases, which are taking around 4 months.

To view the processing time of other case types not discussed
here, please visit
: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplayInit.do.

______________________________________________________________________________

* Please note that the processing time for an I-485 only applies to applicants whose priority dates are current.

 

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