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.

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

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

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.

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.

 

USCIS Updates Case Processing Times

Today, the four USCIS regional offices have issued updated processing times.   On the employment-based immigrant visa side, the major changes in the current report are primarily with I-140 and I-485 processing times. In May, USCIS reported that the Nebraska Service Center[i] was processing most I-140 petitions in 4 months and that the Texas Service Center was taking about 8.5 months.[ii] According to today’s report, I-140s are now taking 6 months in Nebraska and about 10 months in Texas.

While Texas’ processing time on I-140s has drifted, it has improved significantly on its processing of I-485s. Instead of the 9-month processing time reported in May, the Texas Service Center is now reporting a 4 months to a final decision. Nebraska continues to process I-485 applications in 4 months.[iii]

Applications for EAD work authorization and Advance Parole travel authorization continue to take 3 months for adjudication.

On the non-immigrant visa side of the employment-based process, the processing time for most I-129s, including H-1Bs, TNs, H-3s and E-1/2s, is 2 months.  At the California Service Center,[iv] L-1s and H-2A/Bs are being processed within a 1-month timeframe, while petitions for O and P status are moving at a scalding 2-week pace. The Texas Service Center is processing L-1 petitions at a slower 3.5 month rate.

To view USCIS’s processing time reports, please visit: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/processTimesDisplayInit.do.


[i] Under the bi-specialization initiative, the Nebraska and Texas service centers processe 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).

[ii] With the exception of Multinational Manager petitions, I-140s are eligible for premium processing. Premium processing requires an additional $1225 government filing fee and requires USCIS to take action on the case in 15 calendar days or less.

[iii] The processing time for an I-485 application only applies to those whose priority dates are current.

[iv] Under the bi-specialization initiative, and from an employment-based perspective, the California and Vermont service centers process I-129 petitions for non-immigrant workers.

USCIS Updates Case Processing Times

Processing times posted on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) website have recently not been completely reflective of actual processing times.  USCIS has advised the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) that much of this is due to technical limitations.  Specifically, the software used to collect this information cannot perform real-time reporting.  The concern is that inquiries to USCIS cannot be made until the case is 30 days past normal processing times.  Compounding the problem is the fact that the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) cannot take a referral to the adjudicating service center until the case is 30 days past the “real” processing time.  So petitioners may be submitting inquiries on cases that appear outside of normal processing times, according to the timeframes listed online, but NCSC might not be able to take the referral because the case is not 30 days beyond the “real” processing time.  This can have a significant impact on planning ahead and meeting fluctuating business needs.

In response to AILA’s raising of this concern, USCIS is scheduled to begin a pilot test of a new Enterprise Performance Analysis System (ePAS) that is intended to facilitate more timely data collection and reporting.  The new ePAS system is designed to collect data on a daily basis.  A new Standard Management Analysis Reporting Tool is also being introduced to provide next-day reporting capabilities of data collected by ePAS.

 

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).

All I-140 petitions continue to have a processing time of 4 months.  This includes petitions sponsoring Outstanding Researchers, those with Extraordinary Ability, and Multinational Managers.

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

The processing times of applications for EAD work authorization and advance parole (AP) travel authorization remain at a troubling 3 months.  The concern here is for 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

For employment-based immigration cases, the Texas Service Center (TSC) is the other regional processing center that focuses on 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 to drift backwards at TSC.  Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Researcher and Multinational Manager cases, as well as I-140s for those in the employment-based second and third preference categories, are now taking an estimated 8.5 months.

The processing time for employment-based I-485 applications* is also falling further behind, with a listed date of September 6, 2010, or nearly 9 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, including H-1Bs, TNs and E-1/2s, is 2 months.  L-1s and H-2A/Bs are being processed within a 1-month timeframe, while petitions for O and P status are moving at a blistering 2-week pace.

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 L-1 intracompany transfer cases, which are taking around 3 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.

USCIS Announces Initial H-1B Receipt Numbers

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has just announced that it has received approximately 5,900 H-1B petitions under the regular H-1B cap of 65,000, and that around 4,500 have been counted toward the 20,000 set aside for those with advanced U.S. degrees.  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 1st.  This seems to be a reflection of the economy as it continues its slow improvement. 

It is interesting to note that fewer H-1B numbers have been accounted for during the first week of this cap-filing season than were received during the same timeframe last year.  However, considering that H-1B numbers for last year’s H-1B cap were available through most of January, it is logical that fewer H-1B petitions were stockpiled for an April 1st filing.

Last year’s H-1B cap for FY2011 also experience much lower demand, with H-1B numbers being available until January 26, 2011 – the FY2011 cap opened on April 1, 2010. The lower demand of the past two years is in stark contrast to the FY2009 H-1B cap when 133,000 H-1B petitions were received within the first two days of filing.  Again, the usage of H-1B numbers appears to be in direct correlation with the health of the economy.

In light of the announcement today, H-1B petitions will continue to be accepted by USCIS.  If the 20,000 set aside for those with advanced U.S. degrees is exhausted first, H-1B numbers for these applicants will be taken from the regular cap of 65,000.  On the day USCIS determines that sufficient petitions have been received to meet the annual limit, a random selection lottery will be conducted for all cases received on that day. Cases not selected in the lottery will be rejected.

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