November 2017 Visa Bulletin Released

UnknownThe Department of State released the November 2017 visa bulletin.  This bulletin includes some modest forward movement in most categories.

Family Based Immigrant Visa Numbers

USCIS has allowed people to base the filing of the Adjustment of Status applications on the Dates for Filing.  However those dates have not changes since last month.  As most people who file family based applications are not in the US, and the Final Action Dates have changed somewhat, I will discuss those dates below.

FB1:  Most countries moved forward a month to January 22, 2011.  Mexico also moved forward  a month to April 1, 1996.  The Philippines did not move from January 1, 2007.

FB2A:  All countries moved forward 1 month to November 15, 2015 except Mexico which moved forward a month to November 1, 2015

FB2B:  Most countries moved forward about 1 week to November 15, 2010.  The only exceptions were Mexico, which also moved forward about 1 week to July 22, 1996 and the Philippines which did not move from January 1, 2007

F3:  Most countries moved forward about 1 month to August 15, 2005.  Mexico moved forward about two weeks to May 8, 1995 and the Philippines moved forward about 1 week to March 1, 1995

F4:  Most countries moved forward about two weeks to May 22, 2004.  Mexico moved forward 1 week to October 8, 1997.  India moved forward about three weeks to October 22, 2003.  The Philippines moved forward about 1 week to June 8, 1994.

Employment Based Immigrant Visa Numbers

According to USCIS, all flings must use the Final Action Dates.  Therefore, all below dates are based upon that chart.

EB-1:  Remains current for all countries

EB-2:  Current for most countries except:  India, which moved forward about 1 month to October 8, 2008; and, China, which also moved forward about 1 month to June 15, 2013.

EB-3:  Most countries are current except: India, which did not move from October 15, 2006; China which forward about 1 month to  February 1, 2014; and, the Philippines, which moved forward about 1 month to January 15, 2016

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

 

EB1 for China and India Backlogging in June, 2017

Unknown.jpegThe June, 2017 Visa Bulletin was released and the biggest change is that both India and China are now backlogged in EB-1 category.  Below are all the changes and further information about this new backlog.  We are also including updates from Charlie Oppenheim from the Department of State on projected future movements for the various immigrant visa categories.

Employment Based Immigrant Visas

EB1:  India and China Backlogged to January 1, 2012.  All other countries Current.  The reason for this backlog are several fold.  First, India and China have already used up about one half of ALL immigrant visas for the EB1 category already.  Second, there has been high usage in EB-4 and EB-5 categories.  Normally, all left over visas from EB-4 and EB-5 will roll over to the EB-1 category (and down to EB-2 if applicable.  However, because of the high usage in those categories, there are no visas to roll over.  Lastly, there has been significantly high demand in the EB-2 category for India and China, which prompts more people from those countries to file EB-1 applications if they can.  At this point, Charlie is very hopeful that India and China will go Current in this category again come October 1, 2017, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

EB2:  China moved forward about a month to March 1, 2013 and India moved forward a little more than 1 week to July 1, 2008.  All other countries are Current.  Right now India and China are both limited to their per country allocation in this category (approximately 2, 810 immigrant visas).  Both are expected to use up their allocations by the end of the fiscal year.  Additionally, worldwide EB2 will backlog by July or August (at the latest) but note, it will go current again come October 1, 2017.

EB3: China held steady at October 1, 2014, India moved forward about 2 months to May 15, 2005 and the Philippines moved forward about four months to May 1, 2013.  All other countries moved forward 1 month to April 15, 2017.  For China, Charlie is keeping it steady on October 1, 2014 for as long as possible.  China may backlog at some point, but Charlie is not certain.  Worldwide demand in this area is fairly steady so it should keep up as it has all year.  India is expected to move forward steadily in this category as long as Worldwide demand, and especially Mexico demand remains as low as it has been.

Family Immigrant Visas

Not much to say here, most categories moved forward about 1 week to 1 month, no more than that.  The only indications that Charlie gave were that F4 (Brothers and Sisters of Citizens) may move forward more significantly this fiscal year.  If you are waiting for that category keep an eye on it in the coming months.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

February 2017 Visa Bulletin Released

unknownThe February 2017 visa bulletin was released by the Department of State yesterday.  Below is a summary of the changes.

Family Based Application:

F1:  Most countries moved forward about 1 month to 1.5 months (except the Philippines, which moved forward about 2 months).  This means that most countries are now at February 22, 2010. The exceptions are Mexico (May 8, 1995) and the Philippines (December 1, 2005).

F2A: This category actually retrogressed one month across the board.  All countries are now at April 15, 2015 except Mexico which is at April 1, 2015.

F2B: Most countries moved forward about 1 month to July 8, 2010.  Mexico moved forward only about 3 weeks to May 8, 1995. The Philippines stayed at April 9, 2006 (no movement forward or backward).

F3: Most countries moved forward about 2.5 weeks to March 22, 2005.  Mexico stayed at December 15, 1994 (no movement) and the Philippines moved forward only 1 week to September 8, 1994.

F4: There was movement forward for all countries in varying degrees.  China had the biggest movement forward (2 months) to January 22, 2004.  India moved forward about 1 month to June 15, 2003.  Mexico had the smallest movement (1 week) to May 22, 1997.  The Philippines moved forward about 2 weeks to June 22, 1993.  All other areas moved forward about 2 weeks to February 8, 2004.

Employment Based Application:

EB-1:  Still current across the board.  NOTE: Charles Oppenheim has stated that there is increased usage for this category and he may have to retrogress some countries (China and India) in the near future.

EB-2:  Current for all countries except India and China.  India did not have any movement staying at April 15, 2008.  China moved forward 1 month to November 15, 2012.  NOTE:  Charles Oppenheim did indicate increased usage across the board (especially for China and India) and did indicate there may be a need to retrogress ALL countries in the coming months.

EB-3:  Most countries moved forward to October 1, 2016.  The exceptions were China, which moved forward about 3 weeks to October 1, 2013, India, which moved forward about 1 week to March 22, 2005 and the Philippines, which moved forward almost 3 months to October 15, 2011.  NOTE:  Again, Charles Oppenheim did indicate increased usage and the possibilities of retrogression.

 

We will update you when the next visa bulletin is released or if Charles Oppenheim updates his predictions as to the movement of these visa categories.  Please contact us with any questions.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

India and China heading towards EB-1 Backlogs – November Check-In With Charlie Oppenheim on Visa Availability

Unknown.jpegThe American Immigration Lawyer’s Association recently met with Charlie Oppenheim of the Department of State about the upcoming year and what the trends look like in terms of immigrant visa availability.  Here is what Charlie said in regards to employment-based visas:

EB-1:

First, in terms of EB-1 Employment-based visas, India has ALREADY surpassed its country allocation for EB-1 visas and is currently using visas otherwise allocated to other countries.  China, while not quite as bad, is also coming close to using all its allocation.  This means that both India and China will be backlogged in the EB-1 category, and probably relatively soon.  EB-1 demand for all other countries is not as great, and there should be no backlogs for All other countries in this category

EB-2 and EB-3:

The final action date for EB-3 China is approximately ten months ahead of the EB-2 China final action date. This has actually been the case for the last few years and tends to spur greater demand for EB-3 China based on requests to “downgrade” from EB-2 China by filing a new I-140 petition based on an existing certified EB-2 labor certification.   Forward movement of the China EB-3 date has been limited because of the expected significant influx of “downgrade” demand, which resulted in retrogression in earlier years. If such demand fails to materialize in the coming months the date will begin to advance at a faster pace.

EB-2 India continues to receive significant demand, which Charlie attributes to EB-3 upgrades.Charlie hopes that this final action date will get into 2009 at some point this fiscal year, but  does not yet have a sense as to how quickly that might occur. There continues to be significant demand for EB-2 Worldwide, and if that continues, it will leave little, if any, otherwise unused numbers to reallocate to EB-2 India. In past years, EB-2 India has often benefitted from the addition of thousands of otherwise unused numbers not required for use by other countries. In terms of EB-3 India numbers, Charlie expects India to hold in January, advance up to one week in February, and hold again for a month or two before advancing modestly again.

Demand has also not abated for EB-2 Worldwide/Mexico/Philippines, causing Charlie to speculate that a date will be imposed no later than July. Charlie has been waiting for some time for demand to be generated in EB-3 Worldwide, which Charlie has been waiting for some time for demand to be generated in EB-3 Worldwide, which has generally been current for more than a year. Charlie is watching demand very closely, and though he has started to see an increase, it is unclear whether this demand will be sustained.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

Final Rule Published by USCIS – Clarifies H-1B Cap Exemptions, Grace Periods for Non-Immigrant Visas, Retention of Priority Dates, and More

USCIS has just issued its final rule to  amend and add to its regulations regarding highly skilled worker.  These are the same changes I discussed about 1 year ago when USCIS issued a draft rule on these issues.  They have now been adopted.  Below is a summary of the provisions of this new rule.  Please note the effective date of the new rules is January 17, 2017.

I have divided the summary into two parts: those provisions that I feel make major changes to current law and those provisions that, while they do make changes, the changes are not as major.

First, lets look at the major revisions, the ones that will make major changes to current practices:

H-1B Cap Exemptions: USCIS clarified and codified its definition for two cap-exemptions. First, it defined who qualifies for a cap-exemption when they are working “at” a cap exempt location even though the employer for who they work is not cap-exempt. The new regulation states that the H-1B is cap exempt if the employee is performing a majority of their duties at the cap-exempt location and such job duties directly and predominately further an essential purpose, mission, objectives or functions of the cap-exempt organization.

Second, USCIS clarified its definition of “related or affiliated nonprofit entity” plus added one additional ground (currently only institutions that are connected or affiliated with an institute of higher education through shared ownership, that are operated by an institute of higher education, or that are attached to an institute of higher education as a member, branch, cooperative or subsidiary). The new definition also includes entities that have entered into a formal written affiliation agreements with institutes of higher education. The agreement must establish an active working relationship with the institution of higher education for the purposes of research or education, and it must establish that one of their primary purposes is to directly contribute to the research or education mission of the institution of higher education.

Revocation of Approved I-140s: USCIS amended its regulations so that I-140 applications that have been approved for 180 days or more will no longer be subject to automatic revocation because the employer requests it, or because the employer goes out of business. Those I-140s will remain valid for priority date retention and for extending H-1Bs past the six year maximum. However, unless the I-485 was filed and remained pending for at least 180 days before the withdrawal request or the employer went out of business, the I-140 cannot be used to file an I-485 or have it approved as the underlying offer of employment is no longer valid. If the I-485 had already been filed and remained pending for 180 days prior to the withdrawal request or the company going out of business, the applicant can still use the I-140 for 204(j) portability purposes (showing an offer of employment that is in the same or similar category). If that is not possible, a new I-140 would have to be filed in order to obtain an adjustment of status.

Retention of Priority Dates: As stated above, USCIS changed its regulations relating to retaining the priority date of an I-140. For those applications that require a labor certification, the filing date of the labor certification (or the I-140 in the case of Schedule A case) is the priority date for those I-140s. USCIS would clarify that the priority date for all other I-140s is the date it is properly filed with USCIS. Furthermore, USCIS would clarify that the priority date could be retained on any I-140 except if the I-140 is denied (or otherwise not approved), or if the approval is revoked based upon fraud/misrepresentation. If the employer subsequently withdraws the application or if the employer goes out of business, the priority date will be retained. This is true regardless of how long ago the I-140 was approved (i.e. it applies if it was approved yesterday or 2 years ago). In other words, the 180 day rule above does NOT apply to priority date retention.

Non-Immigrant Grace Periods: USCIS already has in place a provision that allows for a person entering the US on an H-1B to come up to 10 days before the start date, and to get an additional 10 days after the expiration of their H-1B (it is important to remember that currently, these extra 10 day periods MUST be included on the I-94 when you enter, they are not automatic). This will be extended to L-1, E-1, E-2, E-3 and TN visa statuses as well. In addition, these statuses would also receive a one-time, up to 60 day grace period if the employment is terminated prior to the end date on the I-94. The actual grace period time would be the SHORTER of 60 days, or the amount of time left until the expiration of the current I-94. During this period the person would still be considered in status and could file a new H-1B, L, E or TN applications (as listed above) or an application to change status. The above grace periods are also extended to dependent family members.

Eligibility for EAD in Compelling Circumstances: USCIS amended its regulations to allow EAD issuance to certain non-immigrants (those who have an approved I-140 and are in the US in E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, O-1 or L-1 status) if there exists compelling circumstances. The EAD would be valid for 1 year, and could be renewed as long as the compelling circumstances remained, and the priority date is within 1 year of the current cut-off date. In addition, if the person has a priority date that has already passed (so there is an immigrant visa available) and is more than 1 year beyond the posted date, they would be ineligible for either an initial or renewed EAD. In terms of defining compelling circumstances, USCIS will not do so. They do give certain examples, however. The four examples give are: Serious illness or disability that significantly changes employment circumstances (has to move to a new area for treatment, etc.), employer retaliation, other material harm to worker (such as on an H-1B in a industry specific job, company goes out of business, industry does not exist in home country, so lack of job would cause hardship), or Significant Disruption to Employer.

H-1B licensing Requirements: USCIS amended the regulation to reflect that, those applying for an H-1B in an occupation that requires licensing will be able to get the H-1B approved (for up to 1 year) prior to receiving the license if they can show that they have the application pending, or the application has been denied because they do not have a social security number or employment authorization and that the ONLY reason they cannot get the license is because they cannot get a social security number and/or they do not have employment authorization. USCIS will also allow approval in cases where the applicant does not have a license if the state in which they are practicing allows such persons to work under the supervision of a licensed practitioner. However, USCIS will review these cases to ensure that the duties will still be specialty in nature.

EAD Processing: USCIS is making two changes here. First, they will allow automatic extension of EADs (up to 180 days) and work authorization incident to status in cases where the applicant is seeking renewal of their EAD, files the application prior to the expiration of the old EAD, files the application in the same category in which it was initially granted AND either they continue to be employment authorized incident to status beyond the expiration period or they are applying for renewal in a category that does not first require adjudication of an underlying application. In addition, for I-9 purposes, they would amend the regulations to show that an expired EAD and an I-797 receipt notice would be sufficient to show employment eligibility. USCIS states that this would apply to those seeking to renew their EAD based upon: refugee or asylum status; a grant TPS; a pending I-485, as well as additional categories. It specifically does NOT apply to H-4s applying for work authorization – as their grant depends upon the maintenance of H-1B status of the underlying H-1B Principal. The second proposal would eliminate the 90 day processing period for EADs now required in the regulations for I-485 applicants.

Next are the provisions that, while important, do not represent as much of a change to existing policy.

3 and 1 year extensions of H-1B:  First, USCIS codified a couple of long standing USCIS policies in relation to AC21 and the granting of additional H-1B time past the six year maximum. For the three year renewals (allowed to those with an approved I-140 who are unable to file an I-485 based upon visa backlogs) USCIS is codifying that the three year extension can be renewed in three year increments for as long as the visa backlog exists. They are also codifying that the extension is available to those both in the US and outside the US, and to those currently in H-1B status and those not in H-1B status but who previously held H-1B status.

They are also codifying that any employer (not just the one who filed the I-140) can request the extension and that the extension is ONLY available to the principle beneficiary of the I-140, not dependents.  For the 1 year renewals, available to those whose green card process has been ongoing for 1 year or more, they are codifying similar provisions (available to those currently in the US and those outside the US and those in and not in H-1B status at the time the renewal is filed and it is only available to principle beneficiary).  In addition, they would codify that the denial or revocation of an underlying petition is not considered a final action (thus stopping the ability to get the 1 year renewals) until the time for appeal has elapsed, or, if an appeal is filed, the appeal is finalized – but an expired PERM would not be grounds to get an extension.

Lastly, a beneficiary must seek to get their permanent residence within 1 year of the visa becoming available or the extension is not longer available to them.

Job Portability:  USCIS codified that, once the I-140 is approved and the I-485 has been pending for at least six months, the adjustment of status can be approved if the underlying employer continues their sponsorship OR if you provide a new letter of employment from a new employer (or through self-employment) in a same or similar occupation.

In addition they are extending this to cases where the old employer has gone out of business.  USCIS will also define “same” and “similar” in a manner consistent with their latest memo on this issue.

H-1B Portability:  USCIS codified that those in H-1B status can begin working for a new employer upon the filing of the new H-1B application, that such ability is ONLY available to those in the US in H-1B status, and that you can file subsequent H-1B portability applications and begin working for those employers prior to approval of  the other underlying H-1B application.

Counting H-1B time:  USCIS codified the ability to recapture time outside the US. Anytime spent outside the US, regardless of the reason or the amount of time, can be recaptured at the end of the six year H-1B period. The burden of proof is on the applicant to show that they were out of the US during that period (passport stamps, etc.).

Whistleblower Protections: USCIS instituted certain protections for whistleblowers (those who alert the government to certain to illegal activities of their employers).

 

Please do let me know if you have any specific questions.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

December Visa Bulletin: Baby Steps

unknownDOS released the December Visa bulletin and there are only some modest moves forward, as detailed below.  Unfortunately, USCIS has not yet stated if they will still allow the Dates for Filing to be used to determine when you are able to file the adjustment application.  We will update you once USCIS releases that information.  Below we will go through each category in detail

Family Based Applications:

F1Final Action Dates: Moved forward about 2 months to December 1, 2009 for All Other Countries, India and China.   Mexico only moved forward about 1 week to April 15, 1995 and the Philippines moved forward about 1 week as well to September 15. 2005. Dates for Filing: No movement

F2A: Final Action Dates: Everyone moved forward about 1 month to February 22, 2015 (February 15, 2015 for Mexico).  Dates for Filing:  No movement.

F2B: Final Action Dates: All countries moved forward about three weeks to May 8, 2010 except Mexico which moved forward about 1 week to October 15, 1995 and the Philippines which moved forward about 2 weeks to March 1, 2006. Dates for Filing: No movement

F3: Final Action Dates: All countries moved forward about one month to February 15, 2005 except Mexico and the Philippines, which moved forward about 1 week to December 8, 1994 and to August 15, 1994 respectively . Dates for filing: No movement.

F4: Final Action Dates: All other countries moved forward about three weeks to December 22, 2003.  China moved forward two months to October 1, 2003.  India moved forward only about 2 weeks to April 1, 2003.  Mexico moved forward only 1 week to May 15, 1997.  And the Philippines moved forward about 2 weeks to May 22, 1993. Dates for filing: No Movement.

Employment Based Applications:

E1:  Current for everyone

E2: Final Action Dates: Current for everyone except India and China.  China moved forward about 2 months to September 22, 2012.  India moved forward about 3 months to February 1, 2008.

E3:  Final Action Dates: Most countries stayed the same at  July 1, 2016.  China moved forward about 2.5 months to July 1, 2013.  Since China E3 is ahead of China E2, expect this to backlog at some point. India moved forward about 1 week to March 15, 2005 and the Philippines moved forward 2 months to June 1, 2011.

Employment Dates for Filing:  Same as last month – Current across the board EXCEPT:

E2:  China is at March 1, 2013 and India is at April 22, 2009

E3: China is at May 1, 2014 and India is at July 1, 2005

October 2016 VIsa Bulletin: Forward Movement for All

unknownThe Department of State released the visa bulletin for October 2016 recently. Below is a summary of movement and changes.

Family Based Immigrant Visa Numbers

F1 – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of US Citizens: This category moved forward about 1 week to September 22, 2090 for every country except Mexico (which moved forward 1 week to April 1, 1995 and the Philippines (which moved forward 1 week to August 1, 1995).

F2A – Spouses and children of Permanent Residents: All countries moved forward around 1 month, Mexico moved forward about 3 months to December 1, 2014. And the rest of the World moved forward about 5 weeks to December 22, 2014

F2B – Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Permanent Residents: Most of the world moved forward about 5 weeks to March 15, 2010. Mexico moved forward only 2 weeks to October 1, 1995 and the Philippines moved forward 1 month to January 1, 2006

F3 – Married Sons and Daughters of US Citizens: Most of the world moved forward about 3 weeks to December 22, 2004. Mexico moved forward about 1 week to November 22, 1994 and the Philippines moved forward about 3 weeks to July 8, 1994

F4 – Brothers and Sisters of US Citizens: China moved forward 4 months to May 1, 2003. India jumped just over 1 year to December 1, 2002. Mexico moved forward a couple weeks to May 1, 1997. The Philippines moved forward about 6 weeks to April 15, 1993. The rest of the world moved forward about 1 month to November 1, 2003

Predictions for coming months:

There should be forward movement on all categories in the next several months of about 2-6 weeks.

Employment Based Immigrant Visas

EB-1: As stated previously, this became current for everyone for October.

EB-2: Again, as we stated previously this became current for Worldwide numbers, Mexico and the Philippines. It moved forward to February 15, 2012 for China and to January 15, 2007 for India.

EB-3: Moved forward 1 month for Worldwide and Mexico to June 1, 2016. China jumped forward to January 22, 2013 (putting the EB-3 category ahead of the EB-2 for China). India Moved forward about 1 month to March 1, 2005 and the Philippines moved forward about 5 months to December 1, 2010.

Predictions for the Coming Months:

For EB-2s the Department of State sees China and India moving forward about 3 months (maybe 4 months for India) in the coming months. Worldwide and Mexico should remain current.

For EB-3s, they still feel that for the Worldwide numbers, demand may cause them to backlog (however this did not occur at all last year, and they thought it would then as well), but we will have to see. For China, EB-3 should move forward about 3 months. It will move forward only about 1 week for India and about 3 weeks for the Philippines.