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.

 

New Rule – All Employment Based I-485 application will have Interviews

Recently USCIS issued a new rule stating that all employment based green card applications will be subject to interview starting on October 3, 2017.  Just this week AILA members and the Ombudsperson for USCIS had a Stakeholder Call to discuss the new rule. Here are the details that came out of this call:

  •  All EB applications are subject to the new rule INCLUDING NIW and EA applications.
  • Any I-485 filed prior to March 6, 2017 (the date of the EO “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” the root of this new requirement) are NOT subject to the new rule.  Those cases will still be subject to random interviews, but only about 5% of cases are so selected.
  • The Service Centers will still adjudicate the I-140’s and the local offices have been instructed not to readjudicate the I-140s however they are allowed to evaluate the evidence used to support the I-140 for accuracy and credibility.  We will have to see how this plays out in real life.
  • Once the Service Center adjudicates the I-140, the file will be sent to the National Benefits Center (NBC) to determine if all documents for the I-485 are present.  If there is no medical, this is when an RFE will be sent out for the medical (and, considering that there will be longer processing times for everything, it may be wise to not submit the medical until an RFE is issues).
  • Surprisingly, USCIS does not feel that timelines will be significantly lengthened due to this requirement.  According to USCIS employment based I-485s are only about 17% of the Field offices caseload.  We will have to see how this plays out in the real world.
  • The top field offices that will be most affected are: San Jose, San Francisco, Newark, New York, Houston, Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
  • In most cases families will be interviewed together.

As we learn more information we will certainly let you know.  Please do contact us with any questions on how you may be impacted.

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.

August Visa Bulletin: EB-1 backlogs for India and China, EB-2 Backlogged for Everyone

UnknownThe August 2016 visa bulletin was released by the Department of State yesterday.   It features backlogs for ALL countries in the EB-2 category and other changed.  However, readers should understand, that while certain countries (India and China) have regular backlogs in the EB-2 category, those for other countries in the EB-2 category and those in the EB-1 category are  temporary.  I will discuss this more in depth below as we  look at the specifics of the Visa Bulletin:

Family Based Applications

F2A (spouses and children of permanent residents):  No movement

F4 (siblings of US citizens): No movement

F1 (unmarried sons and daughters of US Citizens):  The priority date for most countries moved forward about 2 months to May 22, 2009.  The exceptions are Mexico (no change) and the Philippines (moved forward 1 month to March 22, 2005)

F2B (unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents):Not much movement.  Most countries moved forward about 1 month to January 8, 2010.  The exceptions are Mexico (no movement) and the Philippines (moved forward 2 months to Sep. 15, 2005)

F3 (married sons and daughters of US Citizens):  Almost no movement, except the Philippines moved forward about 2 weeks to March 15, 1994

Work Based Applications

EB1:  As discussed in previous blog posts, there was always a change of a backlog, and it has occurred.  India and China are backlogged to January 1, 2010.  This will be a TEMPORARY backlog, however.  These dates will become current again on October 1, 2016. The beginning of the new fiscal year.  Every other country remains current.

EB2:  Worldwide is backlogged to February 1, 2014.  Again, this is temporary and will become current again on October 1, 2016 the beginning of the new fiscal year.  China remained unchanged at January 1, 2010 and India moved forward very slightly to November 15, 2004

EB3: Worldwide numbers moved forward about 2 weeks to March 15, 2016.  China, again, remained unchanged at Jan. 1, 2010 and India, again, moved forward slightly to November 8. 2004.  The Philippines also moved forward in this category about two months to May 15, 2009.

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.

July 2016 Visa Bulletin and Check-In with DOS

Unknown.jpegThe Department of State (DOS) released the July visa bulletin recently and Charlie Oppenheim, the person at the DOS who is in charge of the visa bulletin also updated the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association on what further movement or backlogs can be expected in the near future.

For family based cases, there was not much movement at all.  Below is a table showing the movement.

Family Based All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed China – Mainland Born India Mexico Philippines
F1 2 Months 2 Months 2 Months 2 Weeks 1 month
F2A 1 Week ! Week ! Week None 1 Week
F2B 2 Weeks 2 Weeks 2 Weeks None 1 Month
F3 None None None None 1 Month
F4 1 Month None None None 1 Month

For employment based, there was also not a lot of movement.  Again, the movement and new dates are listed below:

 

Employ.

Based

All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed China – Mainland Born India Mexico Philippines
1st C C C C C
2nd C None (Jan 1, 2010) 1 Month (Nov 1, 2004) C C
3rd 2 Weeks (Mar 1, 2016) None (Jan 1, 2010) I Month (Oct 22, 2004) 1 Month (Oct 22, 2004) 3.5 Months (Feb 15, 2009)

In terms of future movements, we will look at family based categories first.

FB4- China: For China, the FB-4 category just recently retrogressed and will remain at its current date through July, and perhaps through the rest of the fiscal year (it will depend on usage for FB-1 through FB-3).  However it will return to the prior cut off date by November of this year.

FB-4 India:  Similar to FB-4 China, FB-4 India recently tracked the FB-4 Worldwide final action date until it retrogressed in June. However, unlike FB-4 China, the final action date for FB-4 India will definitely remain at January 1, 2001, through September. Mr. Oppenheim predicts that FB-4 India will advance to the former July 2003 cutoff date early in the next fiscal year, but expects that recovery to happen more slowly than for FB-4 China. Mr. Oppenheim anticipates that the FB-4 India date will reach late 2002 for October, and may fully recover to July 2003 by the end of the calendar year.

Moving on to employment based categories:

EB-2 and EB-3 China:   There will be no forward movement in these categories for the rest of this fiscal year (the fiscal year ends on September 30, 2016).  We will have to see what the new fiscal year brings, but hopefully there will be forward movement shortly after the new fiscal year.

EB-2 and EB-3 India:  There may be some moderate movement forward in September, but it depends (see next category)

EB-2 Worldwide:  It is looking increasingly likely that this category will become unavailable in September.  However, since the new fiscal year begins October 1, they will, again, become current on that date.

EB-1 for India and China:  Similar to EB-2 Worldwide, these categories will most likely become unavailable in September but go back to current in October.

If you have any questions leave a comment below or send me an email.  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.

May 2016 Visa Bulletin Released

The visa bulletin for May 2016 was released and there has been very little movement.  I have included some highlights below followed by the actual charts.  Please note that, for this month, USCIS has indicated that they will be using the final action dates for both employment and family based cases, so these are the only charts we will discuss.

Family Based:

  • F1:  Everywhere moved forward by about 2 months.
  • F2:  Forward movement of about 1 month.
  • F3:  Forward movement of about 2.5 months.
  • F4:  Forward movement of about 1 week.
  • F5:  No movement

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 4.17.53 PM.png

 

Employment Based:

  • EB-1:  Current everywhere
  • EB-2:  China – no movement, still at Sept. 1, 2012; India – Slight movement to Nov. 22, 2008 (about 1 month); The rest of the world is current
  • EB-3:  China – No movement, still at August 15, 2013; India – Slight movement to Sept. 1, 2004 (about 1 week); The reset of the world is at February 15, 2016 which is the same as last month.

Screen Shot 2016-04-26 at 4.18.05 PM.png

Please let us know if you have any questions about the above charts.  And, as always, please remember that this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

Self-Sponsored Green Cards: What are your major findings?

Nobel-PrizeInvariably when working with scientists it becomes apparent that USCIS’s definition of your “most important” work and our client’s definition of their “most important” work are very different.  This leads to issues over what findings should be discussed in the memo and highlighted for the USCIS officer to review.  Scientists, for good reason, feel that the findings with the most scientific merit should be discussed most prominently.  However, this is often not the correct direction to go if you want USCIS to approve the application.

First, it must be remembered that the US officer reviewing the application is not a scientist.  They do not understand, nor will they be able to understand, what is “important” in a scientific way.  They can only determine importance through the other evidence presented in the application.  So, in short, it can accurately be said that USCIS is NOT concerned with the scientific merit of a finding, but rather, is concerned with the “objective evidence” for a finding that shows it has scientific merit.   While this may sound similar, it is very different.  Findings that have just been published, for example, will have very little, if any, objective evidence to back them up.   Other findings may be very important to the field, but, for some reason or another, very little objective evidence of this importance exists.  In both these cases, discussing other findings with more objective evidence, even if they are not as “important” based upon their scientific merit, would be the better way to present the case for the best chance of approval.

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.