Department of State September 2019 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the September 2019 Visa Bulletin, which the Department has indicated is currently in effect prior to the start of the month for EB-1 and EB-3 China , EB-3 India, and the entire EB-4/religious workers category (which will be unavailable for the remainder of the fiscal year). In addition, the Department announced that, although not listed on the September Visa Bulletin, the EB-3 category across all countries of chargeability has been made unavailable for September, effective immediately. D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the employment-based priority dates.

With respect to Final Action Dates, All EB-1 categories, except India and China, have advanced to October 1, 2017. EB-1 China has retrogressed to January 1, 2014, and the State Department has confirmed that EB-1 India has been unavailable since July and will remain so for the remainder of FY2019, which ends September 30th. With the exception of India and China, all other EB-2 countries of chargeability have advanced to January 1, 2018, while EB-2 China remained unchanged at January 1, 2017, and EB-2 India progressed by only 6 days to May 8, 2009. All EB-3 countries of chargeability besides India and China remained unchanged at July 1, 2016, while EB-3 China retrogressed from that date to January 1, 2014 and EB-3 India retrogressed to July 1, 2005.

EB-5 Non-Regional Center and EB-5 Regional Center final action dates are current with the exception of China, India, and Vietnam. EB-5 China and Vietnam both advanced one week to October 22, 2014, while EB-5 India advanced dramatically to September 1, 2017.

Application filing dates remain unchanged with the exception of EB-2 China, which progressed four months to June 1, 2017, and EB-5 China which has progressed one week to November 22, 2014.

As of today, August 20, 2019, USCIS has advised that in September 2019 it will accept adjustment of status applications for employment-based petitions based on final action dates and family-based petitions based on application filing dates for all categories except the F2A category, which may file based on final action dates.


Immigration Update: Preparing for Site Visits - STEM OPT Compliance Best Practices

In the 2016 regulations that expanded STEM OPT from 17 months to 24 months, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implemented additional integrity measures including provisions requiring employers and students to do periodic evaluations, SEVIS validations, and to notify schools of material deviations to STEM OPT training program. In addition, to enforce compliance with these new requirements, the regulations also allow the agency to perform site visits to employers who employ STEM OPT students to ensure that they are providing the structured, guided, and work-based learning experience outlined in the Form I-983 STEM OPT Training Plan. In light of recent reports that DHS has begun conducting site visits of STEM OPT employers, it is important that proactive steps be taken by all employers to ensure they are in compliance with all STEM OPT requirements.

We outline below best practices for ensuring STEM OPT compliance.

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D&S Immigration Update: New Public Charge Inadmissibility Rule

WHAT IS HAPPENING

Under a newly-published regulation that is expected to take effect on October 15, 2019, foreign nationals who have received certain federal public benefits or who are deemed likely to become dependent on the government will face additional scrutiny when applying for certain immigration benefits and may be found inadmissible to the United States as a result.

The new rule changes the standards used to determine whether an applicant for admission to the U.S. or for adjustment of status is “likely at any time to become a public charge” at any time in the future. To make this determination, USCIS adjudicators will consider factors including the individual's age, health, education and skills, in addition to their current assets, resources, and financial status and whether they have used any covered public benefits in the past. The new rule also changes the definition of “public charge” from a noncitizen who primarily relies on public benefits to a noncitizen who receives a specified public benefit for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period.

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Department of State August 2019 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the August 2019 Visa Bulletin, which is currently in effect prior to the start of the month given increased visa demand in July. D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the employment-based priority dates.

With respect to Final Action Dates, All EB-1 categories, except India, have retrogressed to July 1, 2016 and EB-1 India has retrogressed to January 1, 2015. With the exception of India and China, all other EB-2 and EB-3 countries of chargeability had been current but have now retrogressed to January 1, 2017 for EB-2 and July 1, 2016, for EB-3, EB-2 China progressed by 2 months to January 1, 2017, and EB-2 India progressed by only 8 days to May 2, 2009. EB-5 Non-Regional Center and EB-5 Regional Center final action dates are current with the exception of China, India, and Vietnam which are all retrogressed to October 15, 2014.

Application filing dates remain unchanged with the exception of EB-5 China which has progressed 2 weeks to November 15, 2014.

USCIS not yet has advised whether, in August 2019, it will accept adjustment of status applications based on final action dates or application filing dates.


Department of State July 2019 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the July 2019 Visa Bulletin. D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the employment-based priority dates.

With respect to Final Action Dates, EB-1 China progressed just under 3 months to May 8, 2017. All other EB-1 final action dates remain unchanged. EB-2 China progressed by 3 months to November 1, 2016 and EB-2 India progressed by only 5 days to April 24, 2009. All other EB-2 chargeability areas remain current. EB-3 Philippines progressed by 5 months to November 1, 2018. EB-3 India remained at July 1, 2009 and EB-3 China progressed just under 4 months to January 1, 2016. All other EB-3 areas of chargeability remain current, with the exception of the Philippines which was previously current but, this month, has retrogressed to November 1, 2018. EB-5 Non-Regional Center and EB-5 Regional Center final action dates are current with the exception of China, India and Vietnam. EB-5 China remains backlogged at October 1, 2014 and EB-5 Vietnam remains backlogged at October 1, 2016. In addition, EB-5 India is no longer current and is now backlogged to May 1, 2017.

Application filing dates for all EB-1 areas of chargeability remain unchanged. EB-2 India also remained unchanged and EB-2 China progressed 3 months to February 1, 2017. All other EB-2 application filing dates remain current. EB-3 China progressed 6 months to June 1, 2016 and EB-3 Philippines is now current. EB-3 remains current for all other areas of chargeability. Application filing dates for EB-5 Regional Center and Non-Regional Center remain current with the exception of China, which is backlogged at November 1, 2014.

USCIS not yet has advised whether, in July 2019, it will accept adjustment of status applications based on final action dates or application filing dates.

Please note that due to the unusual movement in several categories, D&S is working to confirm the information published by The Department of State this month is accurate.

DS-160 and DS-260 Applications Now Contain New Social Media Question

Following a 2017 Presidential Memorandum issued by the Trump Administration, which called for heightened screening and vetting of visa applicants, the Department of State has included a new question on forms DS-160 and DS-260, which are used for nonimmigrant and immigrant visa applicants at U.S. consulates respectively, which ask about social media use. The question requires applicants to list all social media platforms they use and include associated handles used by applicants for those platforms during the 5-year period preceding the date of the application.

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Department of State June 2019 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the June 2019 Visa Bulletin. D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the employment-based priority dates.

With respect to Final Action Dates, EB-1 China remains backlogged at February 22, 2017. EB-1 India has retrogressed over 2 years to January 1, 2015. All other EB-1 categories progressed by just over 1 month to April 22, 2018. EB-2 China progressed by 6 weeks to August 1, 2016 and EB-2 India progressed by only 3 days to April 19, 2009. All other EB-2 chargeability areas remain current. EB-3 Philippines progressed by 5 months to November 1, 2018. EB-3 India remained at July 1, 2009 and EB-3 China progressed modestly to September 15, 2015, respectively. All other EB-3 areas of chargeability remain current. EB-5 Non-Regional Center and EB-5 Regional Center final action dates are current with the exception of China and Vietnam, which are backlogged at October 1, 2014 and October 1, 2016 respectively.

Application filing dates for all EB-1 areas of chargeability remain unchanged. EB-2 India also remained unchanged and EB-3 China progressed 2 months to November 1, 2016. All other EB-2 application filing dates remain current. EB-3 workers across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged, except for EB-3 Philippines which progressed by 3 months to January 1, 2019. Application filing dates for EB-5 Regional Center and Non-Regional Center remain current with the exception of China, which is backlogged at November 1, 2014.

USCIS has advised that, in June 2019, it will accept adjustment of status applications for employment-based petitions based on final action dates and family-based adjustment of status applications based on application filing dates.


Department of State May 2019 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the May 2019 Visa Bulletin. D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the employment-based priority dates.

With respect to Final Action Dates, EB-1 China and EB-1 India remained backlogged at February 22, 2017. All other EB-1 categories progressed by 1 month to March 1, 2018. EB-2 China progressed by 6 weeks to May 15, 2016 and EB-2 India progressed by only 4 days to April 16, 2009. All other EB-2 chargeability areas remain current. EB-3 Philippines progressed by 3 months to June 1, 2018. EB-3 India and EB-3 China progressed modestly to July 1, 2009 and August 22, 2015, respectively. All other EB-3 areas of chargeability remain current. EB-5 Non-Regional Center and EB-5 Regional Center final action dates are current with the exception of China and Vietnam, which are backlogged at September 22, 2014 and September 22, 2016 respectively.

Application filing dates for EB-1 India and China held at October 1, 2017 and all other EB-1 categories progressed 3 months to September 1, 2018. EB-2 India remained unchanged and EB-3 China progressed 2 months to September 1, 2016. All other EB-2 application filing dates remain current. EB-3 workers across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged, except for EB-3 Philippines which progressed by 3 months to October 01, 2018. Application filing dates for EB-5 Regional Center and Non-Regional Center remain current with the exception of China, which is backlogged at October 8, 2014.

As of today, April 16, 2019, USCIS has not advised whether, in May 2019, it will accept adjustment of status applications for employment-based petitions based on final action dates or application filing dates.


USCIS Completes the H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for FY2020

USCIS has confirmed that they have received a sufficient number of petitions projected as needed to reach the congressionally-mandated H-1B Cap (including the U.S. advanced degree exemption or “Master’s” cap) for Fiscal Year 2020. USCIS previously announced on April 5 that it had received enough petitions to reach the congressionally mandated H-1B regular cap of 65,000.

USCIS received 201,011 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began on April 1, 2019.

USCIS will begin to reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions (with the exception of fees for cases rejected as prohibited multiple filings).

USCIS Reaches FY 2020 H-1B Regular Cap

USCIS has confirmed that they have received a sufficient number of petitions projected as needed to reach the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa “regular” or “Bachelor’s” cap for Fiscal Year 2020.

USCIS will next determine if they have also received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, the “Master’s” cap.

As a reminder, the agency recently implemented a new rule amending the regulations governing the H-1B cap. Under the new rule, USCIS runs petitions through the lottery process by first selecting all individuals through the regular cap of 65,000 visas and then selecting the projected number of petitions needed to reach the advanced degree exemption through the second lottery among only U.S. advanced degree holders who were not selected in the regular cap lottery. The agency has stated that this new order in which the lottery is run will likely increase the probability of selection for H-1B advanced degree beneficiaries.

Once both caps have been met, USCIS will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions (with the exception of fees for cases rejected as prohibited multiple filings).

USCIS Releases Guidance on Premium Processing for FY2020 H-1B Cap Petitions

Today USCIS officially announced that Premium Processing will be available for this year’s H-1B cap petitions. However, USCIS will be implementing premium processing in a two-phased approach, depending on whether the petition is being filed with a request for Change of Status or whether the petition is being filed for Consular Notification.

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Department of State April 2019 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the April 2019 Visa Bulletin. D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the employment-based priority dates.

With respect to Final Action Dates, EB-1 China and EB-1 India remained backlogged at February 22, 2017. All other EB-1 categories progressed by 1 month to February 1, 2018. EB-2 China progressed by 3 months to April 01, 2016 and EB-2 India progressed by only 3 days to April 12, 2009. All other EB-2 chargeability areas remain current. EB-3 India and EB-3 China progressed to June 22, 2009 and August 1, 2015 respectively. All other EB-3 areas of chargeability remain current. EB-5 Non-Regional Center and EB-5 Regional Center final action dates are current with the exception of China and Vietnam, which are backlogged at September 15, 2014 and August 22, 2016 respectively.

Application filing dates for EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 workers across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged, except for EB-2 China which progressed by 2 months to July 01, 2016, EB-2 India which moved to June 1, 2009, and EB-3 Philippines which progressed by 4 months to July 01, 2018. Application filing dates for EB-5 Regional Center and Non-Regional Center remain current with the exception of China, which is backlogged at October 8, 2014.

As of today, March 14, 2019, USCIS has not advised whether, in April 2019, it will accept adjustment of status applications for employment-based petitions based on final action dates or application filing dates.


USCIS to Resume Premium Processing for all H-1B Petitions Effective March 12, 2019

Today USCIS announced that effective Tuesday, March 12, 2019, Premium Processing Service will resume for all H-1B petitions. Premium processing service was previously suspended by USCIS back in March of 2018 for all FY2019 cap cases and in August 2018, it expanded and extended the suspension or more types of H-1B petitions. Since then, the Service has been incrementally restoring premium processing Service with the full restoration beginning March 12, 2019.

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USCIS To Resume Premium Processing Service for H-1B Petitions Filed on or before 12/21/2018

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that it will resume premium processing service on Tuesday, February 19, 2019 for all H-1B petitions filed on or before December 21, 2018.

As a reminder, USCIS previously announced that premium processing would resume for FY2019 cap-subject petitions beginning on January 28, 2019. Today’s announcement further expands the use of premium processing service to all other H-1B petition types filed on or before December 21, 2018.

USCIS notes that the premium processing requests must be sent to the service center currently handling the pending H-1B petition. It also states that the petitioners who have received requests for evidence (RFEs) should include the RFE response with their premium processing upgrade requests.

The announcement confirms that the previously-implemented suspension of premium processing service will remain in effect for H-1B petitions that were filed on or after December 22, 2018 until agency workloads permit premium processing service to resume for these cases.

D&S will continue to monitor the H-1B premium processing suspension and provide updates as they become available.

Department of State March 2019 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the March 2019 Visa Bulletin. D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the employment-based priority dates.

With respect to Final Action Dates, EB-1 China and EB-1 India progressed by two weeks to February 22, 2017. All other EB-1 categories progressed by 1 month to January 1, 2018. EB-2 China progressed by 3 months to January 01, 2016 and EB-2 India progressed by only 3 days to April 9, 2009. All other EB-2 chargeability areas remain current. EB-3 Philippines progressed by 4 months to December 1, 2017. EB-3 India and EB-3 China progressed to May 22, 2009 and July 08, 2015 respectively. All other EB-3 areas of chargeability remain current. EB-5 Regional Center is currently unavailable. EB-5 Regional Center final action dates are current with the exception of China and Vietnam, which remain backlogged at September 8, 2014 and July 15, 2016 respectively.

Application filing dates for EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 workers across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged, except for EB-2 China which progressed by 6 months to May 01, 2016 and EB-3 Philippines which progressed by 5 months to March 01, 2018. Application filing dates for EB-5 Regional Center and Non-Regional Center remain current with the exception of China, which remains backlogged at October 1, 2014.

As of today, February 15, 2019, USCIS has advised that in March 2019 it will accept adjustment of status applications for employment-based petitions based on final action dates and family-based petitions based on application filing dates.

DHS Releases Final Rule Amending Regulations Governing H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released an advanced copy of the Final Rule titled “Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap Subject Aliens” that changes the order in which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, and implements an electronic registration process for H-1B cap petitions. The rule will go into effect on April 1, 2019. However, USCIS stated that the registration requirement will be suspended for the fiscal year 2020 cap season to enable the Service to ensure full functionality of the system.

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USCIS To Resume Premium Processing Service for FY2019 H-1B Cap Cases on 1/28/2019

Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that it will resume premium processing service on Monday, January 28, 2019, for still-pending FY2019 H-1B cap petitions. USCIS’s announcement notes that petitioners who have received requests for evidence (RFEs) for pending FY2019 cap petitions should include their RFE response with their premium processing upgrade requests.

The announcement further states that the previously implement suspension of premium processing service will remain in effect for remaining categories of H-1B petitions until agency workloads permit premium processing service to resume.

D&S will continue to monitor the H-1B premium processing suspension and provide updates as they become available.

Department of State February 2019 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the February 2019 Visa Bulletin. D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the employment-based priority dates.

With respect to Final Action Dates, EB-1 China and EB-1 India progressed to February 8, 2017. All other EB-1 categories progressed by 2 month to December 1, 2017. EB-2 China progressed by 2 months to October 01, 2015 and EB-2 India progressed by only 5 days to April 6, 2009. All other EB-2 chargeability areas remain current. EB-3 Philippines progressed by 5 weeks to August 1, 2017. EB-3 India and EB-3 China progressed to April 22, 2009 and July 01, 2015 respectively. All other EB-3 areas of chargeability remain current. EB-5 Regional Center is currently unavailable. EB-5 Regional Center final action dates are current with the exception of China, which remains backlogged at September 1, 2014, and Vietnam, which progressed by 15 days to June 15, 2016.

Application filing dates for EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 workers across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged, except for EB- 2 China which progressed by over one month to November 01, 2015 and EB-3 Philippines which moved by two months to October 01, 2017. Application filing dates for EB-5 Regional Center and Non-Regional Center remain current with the exception of China which remains backlogged at October 1, 2014.

As of today, January 14, 2019, USCIS has not advised whether in February 2019 it will accept adjustment of status applications for family and employment-based petitions based on final action dates or application filing dates.


Department of State January 2019 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the January 2019 Visa Bulletin. D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the family and employment-based priority dates.

With respect to Final Action Dates, all EB-1 chargeability areas progressed by 3 months. EB-2 China progressed by 1 month to August 1, 2015 and EB-2 India remains backlogged at April 1, 2009. All other EB-2 chargeability areas remain current. EB-3 Philippines progressed by 1 week to June 22, 2017. EB-3 China and EB-3 India remain backlogged at June 8, 2015 and March 1, 2009 respectively. All other EB-3 areas of chargeability remain current. In light of the pending sunset of the regional center program set to occur December 21, 2018, EB-5 Regional Center is currently unavailable and EB-5 Regional Center final action dates are current with the exception of China, which progressed by 10 days to September 1, 2014 and Vietnam which progressed by 1 month to June 1, 2016.

Application filing dates for EB-1 and EB-2 workers across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged. EB-3 China progressed by 1 month to January 1, 2016 and EB-3 India progressed by 3 months to April 1, 2010. EB-3 Philippines remains backlogged at August 1, 2017. Application filing dates for EB-5 Regional Center and Non-Regional Center remain current with the exception of China which remains backlogged at October 1, 2014.

As of today, December 14, 2018, USCIS has advised that in January 2019, it will accept adjustment of status applications for family and employment-based petitions based on the Dates for Filing charts.


USCIS Publishes NPRM Outlining H-1B Lottery Pre-Registration Process

WHAT’S HAPPENING

Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) titled “Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens” that will implement an electronic pre-registration process for H-1B cap petitions wherein a full H-1B petition would be submitted only after acceptance in the pre-registration lottery. The change stems from directives in the April 2017 “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, which call for reforms to the H-1B visa program to ensure that H-1Bs go to the “most-skilled” and “highest-paid” foreign workers. The rule is aims streamline the H-1B lottery process and increase the probability of selection for H-1B beneficiaries who possess a U.S. master’s or higher degree.

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