Quiet Change to STEM OPT Program Requires Immediate Action

USCIS quietly made a change to the STEM OPT program earlier this year. Without any formal announcement, the agency published a new restriction on the STEM OPT page of its website stating that employers may employ students under the STEM OPT program only if the employer will provide the practical training experience to the student at its own place of business. This is a sharp departure from previous interpretations of employer-employee relationships permitted under the STEM OPT program.

What this means for our clients:

If you have contractors working at your company under the STEM OPT program and you wish to continue to utilize their services, you must transfer the STEM OPT student to your employ and fill out a new I-983 training plan for the student to submit to their school at the earliest. It is particularly important that the transfer take place sooner rather than later if you have filed an H-1B cap case on the student’s behalf in this year’s H-1B visa lottery.

If you have questions about this, please contact Sam Adair. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

H-1B Cap Reached for FY 2019

USCIS has completed the random selection process for reaching the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption (master’s cap) for fiscal year (FY) 2019.

Between April 2nd and April 6th, USCIS received 190,098 H-1B petitions, including those counting towards the advanced degree exemption. USCIS received approximately 9,000 fewer petitions than were received for last year’s H-1B cap. The general statutory cap is 65,000 petitions, and the master’s cap is 20,000. USCIS randomly selected visas in the master’s cap category first, from which unselected petitions became part of the 65,000 cap lottery.

USCIS will continue to process cap-exempt petitions, as well as petitions for current H-1B workers to:

  • Extend stay in the U.S.;
  • Change employers;
  • Work concurrently in another H-1B position;
  • Change terms of employment.

USCIS will return unselected petitions with their filing fees. Current H-1B workers who have been counted towards the cap will not be counted towards the FY 2019 cap. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

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).

Big Changes in U.S. Immigration

Last night, President Obama announced some significant changes to U.S. immigration policy that will take effect in coming months.  Some of the items announced, such as suspending deportation proceedings for certain groups of people, will go into effect immediately.  Other aspects of the plan will require input from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the State Department, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among others, and will likely require changes to the current regulations.


The biggest takeaways, from a business immigration standpoint, from the President’s speech include:

1. ICE will work to “expand and extend the use of optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students.”

2. The USCIS will provide clearer guidance on adjustment of status (I-485) portability so that individuals with pending applications have greater career and job flexibility during the green card process.

3. The USCIS will look to provide EAD work cards and advance parole travel authorization to those who have approved I-140s with retrogressed priority dates.

4. The USCIS will allow H-4 spouses to seek Employment Authorization Documents if the H-1B holder is “on the path to lawful permanent resident status.”

5. The USCIS will issue more clear guidance with respect to what qualifies as “specialized knowledge” in the L-1B context in an effort to improve consistency and reinvigorate employers’ confidence in the visa status.

6. The USCIS and State Department are seeking a method and means to modernize the Visa Bulletin and allocation process to ensure that backlogs are reduced and the process is workable and usable for all intending permanent residents.

7. The USCIS will enhance the National Interest Waiver process to allow greater flexibility in adjudications and permit foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises to benefit the U.S economy.

8. The USCIS will create a parole system for “eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who do not yet qualify for a National Interest Waiver, but who: (1) Have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing; or (2) Otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.”

Graham Adair will monitor the development of these policies and changes in regulation as they work their way through the various government agencies.

November 2014 Visa Bulletin: India EB-2 Retrogression

As expected, increased demand in EB-2 category for India required the retrogression of the cut-off date from May 1, 2005 to February 15, 2005. In contrast, potential visa availability is expected for other employment-based categories in the upcoming months.


For example, EB-2 China’s cut-off date is expected to have a 3-5 week forward movement. EB-3 China, with a cut-off date of January 1, 2010 is expected to have a rapid forward movement.  The rapid advance of the cut-off date may result in a significant increase in demand for visas.  Meanwhile, EB-3 India has little movement at all.  Lastly, EB-3 Philippines is currently at the worldwide cut-off date of June 1, 2012, but increased demand may require “corrective” action later in the fiscal year.


For more information on the November 2014 Visa Bulletin, please visit: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-november-2014.html


If you have any questions about the visa bulletin or other immigration matters, please feel free to contact us at info@grahamadair.com.

October 2014 Visa Bulletin: Imminent Retrogression of EB-2 India

In the October 2014 visa bulletin, the cut-off date for EB-2 India is May 1, 2009. However, given current demand, the cut-off date for EB-2 India may retrogress as early as November. It is possible that the cut-off date may retrogress from May 1, 2009 to a date in early 2005. A major factor to the anticipated retrogression is attributed to the large volume of EB-3 to EB-2 upgrades in the preceding months.


Following our September 2014 Visa Bulletin alert, the maximum number of available EB-2 immigrant visas for India for FY 2014 was reached. EB-2 visas for India are “unavailable” until October 1, 2014. USCIS may accept and process EB-2 India cases with priority dates earlier than May 1, 2009. However, the cases cannot be acted upon until October 1, 2014.


In contrast, demand for employment-based and family-based visas for the Philippines continues to decrease. As a result, cut-off dates continue to advance in these categories. For October 2014, the EB-3 Philippines cut-off date is October 1, 2011.


For more information on the October 2014 Visa Bulletin, please visit: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/law-and-policy/bulletin/2015/visa-bulletin-for-october-2014.html


Graham Adair will notify our clients as soon as the new cut-off date for EB-2 India is released. If you have any questions about the visa bulletin or other matters, please feel free to contact us at info@grahamadair.com.

July Visa Bulletin: EB-2 Will Retrogress

For the first time in years, all countries will be subject to retrogression under the employment-based second preference category (EB-2). The U.S. Department of State just released the July 2012 Visa Bulletin, which continues to show India and China as “unavailable” for EB-2.  All other countries are showing an effective date of January 1, 2009, meaning retrogression of roughly two and a half years.


Graham Adair will be working with clients who have priority dates retrogressing on July 1 to be sure I-485 applications are filed with USCIS by June 29th.


Aside from India and China, we expect priority dates in the EB-2 category to become current again when the new fiscal year starts in October.  Until then, it appears that the Department of State is slowing down the number of eligible cases in order to meet the annual limit of employment-based green card applications.


Similar to recent past months, the EB-3 category did not see much movement, only advancing a few weeks in most cases.  The Visa Bulletin for July 2012 can be viewed at: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5630.html


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

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.

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

July 2011 Visa Bulletin: Significant Advancement for EB-2

The U.S. Department of State has issued the July 2011 Visa Bulletin.  There has been substantial forward movement in a number of categories, while other categories crept forward only slightly.  The good news is that most categories are currently moving in the direction of less retrogression.
The first preference category (EB-1) remains current for all countries.
The second preference category (EB-2) remains current for all countries, except for India and China.  EB-2 India and China moved from October 15, 2006 to March 8, 2007, a positive change of nearly five months.  Because these categories moved more than one month, it signifies a slight erosion of immigrant visa retrogression.
EB-3 did not experience the gains made by EB-2, with the exception being EB-3 Mexico, which actually moved a little more than 6 months, from December 22, 2004 to July 1, 2005.  EB-3 China moved 1.5 months from May 15, 2004 to July 1, 2004. The most lethargic category was EB-3 India, which moved 1 week from April 22, 2002 to May 1, 2002.  

In the June 2011 Visa Bulletin, the EB-3 category for the Philippines and “All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed” had an effective date of September 15, 2005.   These categories moved a disappointing three weeks to October 8, 2005.  Because it moved less than a month, it essentially means this category experienced more retrogression. 

The July 2011 Visa Bulletin can be viewed at:


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