275,000 H-1B Cap Cases Registered

On April 1, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received?approximately 275,000 submissions for H-1B applications in the electronic lottery that was conducted at the end of March.? They reported that 46% of applications?were for individuals who hold advanced U.S. degrees. This was an increase of approximately 74,000 cases over the number that was received?last year in the H-1B cap.

 

In total numbers, this means that beneficiaries had less than a 31% chance of selection. Cases filed under the advanced U.S. degree cap had a higher chance, although we don’t know the total number of these applicants so we cannot say for sure what the likelihood of success was. We estimate that the chances of selection for cases filed under the advanced U.S. degree cap was somewhere between 40% and 50%.

 

It seems that the lower cost threshold of $10 per registration lowered the barrier to entry enough to result in a surge of submissions.

 

Registrations that have not been selected will be held in reserve. Between March 31, 2020 and Oct. 1, 2020, in the event that USCIS needs to select registrations from the reserve to meet the H-1B regular cap and the advanced U.S. degree cap, it may select from registrations held in the reserve to meet such allocations.

 

Graham Adair will be checking unselected cases regularly until USCIS sends out rejection notices. If you have any questions, please contact your Graham Adair representative.

USCIS Suspends Premium Processing Due to COVID-19

Effective March 20, 2020, USCIS cited staffing concerns due to COVID-19 in announcing it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions until further notice. The suspension applies to the following categories:

 

  • I-129: E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1A, L-1B, LZ, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1, R-1, TN-1 and TN-2.

 

  • I-140: EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3.

 

Premium processing will remain suspended for all FY 2021 H-1B cap petitions.

 

USCIS will process any previously accepted premium processing (Form I-907) requests, but will not be able to send notices using pre-paid envelopes. Petitioners who have filed Form I-129 or Form I-140 via premium processing but have not received any agency action within the 15-calendar-day period will receive a refund.

 

Premium processing requests that were mailed before March 20, 2020, but accepted after this date, will be rejected. USCIS will send an announcement once premium processing is available.

 

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

USCIS Implements New H-1B Registration Requirement

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Friday that it had completed a pilot program to test its new H-1B registration system. We previously reported, that USCIS has been pushing to implement this new process for the upcoming H-1B lottery season. Because of the new technology and potential for issues, USCIS had decided to not implement the registration requirement for the H-1B cap that was run earlier this year. However, USCIS determined that the testing phase was sufficiently successful for implementation in the upcoming FY2021 H-1B cap.

 

Therefore, companies seeking to file H-1B petitions in this year?s H-1B lottery must first pay the required fee and provide basic company information, as well as information about each beneficiary to be included in the electronic lottery.

 

The registration process will go from March 1 through March 20. The lottery selection process will then be run on those electronic registrations. Only those with selected registrations will be eligible to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. USCIS plans to continue running a separate lottery for those with advanced U.S. degrees as part of this registration system.

 

There are still many uncertainties with how this system will work, including the impact it will have on those individuals who need ?cap-gap? coverage to continue working. Graham Adair will be reviewing the potential H-1B cases for our clients and providing specific advice on H-1B cap strategy for this coming fiscal year.

 

In the coming days, USCIS will post additional instructions along with key dates. We will continue to provide updates as they become available. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

 

RELIEF Act Introduction Brings Both Senate Immigration Bills To Standstill

The?journey?of H.R.1044/S.386 through the Senate hit another roadblock as S.2603, the?Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families (RELIEF) Act,?was brought up for a vote by unanimous consent. At least one senator objected, blocking the unanimous consent fast-track and stalling both bills for the time being. A unanimous consent vote on H.R.1044/S.386 was originally expected to be held on Thursday, October 17th.

The RELIEF Act was introduced to address the massive green card backlog, with the goal of eliminating the backlog over five years. Building on S.744, the 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, the bill would clarify spouses and children of Legal Permanent Residents as immediate relatives and exempt ?derivative beneficiaries? of employment-based petitions from the annual caps that contribute to the backlog. It would also protect children who qualify based on a parent?s petition from ?aging out? while waiting for approval, helping to keep families together.

We will continue to monitor developments and share updates as more information becomes available. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter (@GrahamAdairLaw).

Plan to Terminate H-4 Work Permit Program Delayed, DHS Seeks to Put Lawsuit on Hold

A memo from the U.S. Department of Justice, dated 9/16/19, has indicated that anticipated changes to the visa program which has allowed H-4 visa holder spouses of H-1B workers to obtain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) will not be issued until the spring of 2020 at the earliest. The plan to eliminate the work authorization for H1-B spouses was formally introduced in February of 2019, with a proposed rule from USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization.? The new regulations, currently under federal review, were initially expected to be published this year.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is?currently hearing a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the H-4 EAD rule. The suit was filed by anti-immigration group Save Jobs USA, arguing that the DHS had no authority to issue the initial H-4 EAD rule, which was introduced in 2015. DHS lawyers maintain that the suit should be put on hold due to the ongoing efforts by the administration to?rescind the program. According to the?memo??…DHS?s intention to proceed with publication of the H-4 EAD proposed rule remains unchanged. At this point, DHS has informed counsel that it believes the earliest possible publication date for that rule would be in spring 2020. Although that timeframe is aspirational, DHS believes that the September 27, 2019 oral argument should be removed from the calendar and postponed??

We will continue to monitor developments and share updates as more information becomes available.?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 Proposes New Rule on H-1B Registration Fee Requirement

On Wednesday September 4, 2019, USCIS published a?proposed rule?in the Federal Register that would require payment of a $10 fee from all petitioners filing a H-1B cap-subject petition. The rule would apply to each?registration submitted for the selection process, and is expected to be applicable to 2021 fiscal year cap filings. The 30-day public comment period is now open, with comments due 10/4/19 via mail or the Federal eRulemaking?Portal:?www.regulations.gov.

The new fee, which was excluded from the original January 2019?final rule?that introduced the new online registration requirement, is expected to result in a marginal increase in costs for selected selected petitioners, and a?cost savings for both unselected petitioners and the government. This is one in a series of steps toward implementing the new electronic registration system for H-1B filing. Details remain to be released about the new process,?which will be in place for the April 2020 H-1B filing season.

We will continue to monitor developments and share updates as more information becomes available.?If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your Graham Adair representative. For more frequent updates,?please follow us on?Twitter?(@GrahamAdairLaw).

Staffing company compensates employees for H-1B program violations after investigation

Login Consulting Services Inc., a Southern California-based staffing and recruitment company, has paid $58,815 after an investigation by the Department of Labor found the company to be in violation of the H-1B program. Investigators discovered that the company had illegally charged visa fees to the employee, “benched” the worker, and paid another worker below the guaranteed hourly rate established in the Labor Conditions Application they had submitted.

?Employers who wish to hire guest workers must fully familiarize themselves with the H-1B foreign labor certification program. The program is there to help American companies find the highly skilled talent they need when there is a shortage of U.S. workers,? said Wage and Hour Division District Director Kimchi Bui, in Los Angeles, California. ?The resolution of this case demonstrates our commitment to safeguard American jobs, level the playing field for lawabiding employers, and ensure no one is being paid less than they are legally owed.”

Per the Department of Labor, “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has established an email address dedicated to enable individuals (including both American workers and H-1B workers who suspect they or others may be the victim of H-1B fraud or abuse) to submit tips, alleged violations, and other relevant information about potential H-1B fraud or abuse. Individuals also can report allegations of H-1B violations by submitting Form WH-4 to the Division.”

H-4 Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders Face Work Ban

The federal government expects to publish a rule this month that will remove the authorization to work from around 100,000 spouses of H-1B visa holders. Husbands and wives of H-1B visa holders have been allowed to work since 2015.

First proposed by Homeland Security in 2017, the rule has been repeatedly delayed. The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has yet to issue approval of the rule, but has until June 20 to review it. Publication of the rule triggers a public-comment period, which can last from a typical 30-60 days to upwards of 180 days.

News outlets that have spoken with H-4 holders have expressed uncertainty as to whether they will remain in the U.S. or leave, along with their families. In addition to public opinion, the rule may face legal challenges, as pushback can be expected from the many companies that benefit from the H-1B program and face the loss of top talent.

We will continue to monitor updates of this development.