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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Department of State December 2018 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the December 2018 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 1.5 months to July 1, 2015 and EB-2 India progressed by 1 week to April 1, 2009. All other EB-2 chargeability areas remain current. EB-3 China progressed by 1 week to June 8, 2015 and EB-3 India progressed by 2 months to March 1, 2009. All other EB-3 chargeability areas remain current. EB-5 Regional Center and Non-Regional Center China progressed by a week to August 22, 2014 and EB-5 Regional Center and Non-Regional Center Vietnam progressed by 3 months to May 1, 2016. All other EB-5 Regional Center and Non-Regional Center chargeability areas remain current.

Application filing dates for EB-1 workers across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged. EB-2 China progressed by 2.5 months to September 8, 2015. All other EB-2 areas of chargeability remain unchanged. Application filing dates for EB-3 China progressed by 4 months to December 1, 2015, EB-3 India progressed by 3 months to January 1, 2010. 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, November 14, 2018, USCIS has advised that in December 2018, it will accept adjustment of status applications for family and employment-based petitions based on application filing dates.


Department of State November 2018 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the November 2018 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 remain unchanged. EB-2 China has progressed by 1.5 months to May 15, 2015, while EB-2 India remains the same. EB-2 across all other areas of chargeability remain current. Likewise, EB-3 Philippines progressed by 7 days to June 8, 2017 and the rest of the EB-3 categories remain unchanged. EB-5 Non-Regional Center is current across all areas of chargeability with the exceptions of China, which remains retrogressed at August 15, 2014, and Vietnam, which has progressed by 1 month to February 1, 2016. Similarly, EB-5 Regional Center is now current across all areas of chargeability with the exceptions of China, which remains retrogressed at August 15, 2014, and Vietnam, which has progressed by 1 month to February 1, 2016.

Application filing dates for all Employment Based categories across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged.

With respect to family-based filings, F1 Worldwide, China and India have progressed to June 22, 2011, while F-1 Mexico remains unchanged and F-1 Philippines progressed to February 1, 2007. All F2A chargeability areas have progressed to September 15, 2016. F2B Worldwide, China and India have progressed to January 1, 2012, with F2B Mexico and F2B Philippines progressing by less than a month to June 8, 1997 and June 1, 2007 respectively. F3 Worldwide, China and India has progressed less than a month to July 8, 2006, while F3 Mexico and F3 Philippines remains unchanged. F4 Worldwide and China have progressed by about 1 month to March 22, 2005. Similarly F4 India has progressed to June 1, 2004. F4 Philippines has progressed by about 1 week to June 15, 1995. F4 Mexico has progressed to February 8, 1998.

Application filing dates for all Family Based categories across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged.

As of today, October 11, 2018, USCIS has not advised whether, in November 2018, it will accept adjustment of status applications for family and employment-based petitions based on final action dates or application filing dates.


FY2020 Diversity Visa Lottery Opens at 12 noon (EDT) On Wednesday, October 3, 2018

WHAT'S HAPPENING

The Fiscal Year 2020 Diversity Visa lottery (DV-2020), which makes 50,000 green card numbers available each year to nationals of countries among six different geographic regions with low rates of immigration to the U.S., will be open for entries beginning noon Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on Wednesday, October 3, 2018, and will close for entries at noon Eastern Standard Time (EST) on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Eligible individuals who wish to participate in the program must apply in advance of the November 6th deadline and are encouraged to do as close to October 3rd as possible as heavy demand may result in website delays. No late entries or paper entries will be accepted.

Read More

Administration Aiming to Restrict Green Card Eligibility for Those on Public Aid

On Saturday, September 22, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) formally announced that it intends to introduce a notice of proposed rulemaking titled “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” to amend the regulations governing “public charge” determinations for individuals applying for U.S. permanent residence (“green cards”). In the notice DHS states that the proposed rule is intended to provide a standard for determining whether an applicant for a green card is likely at any time to become a public charge (e.g., that they will be unable to financially support themselves while in the U.S.) and seeks to provide a more comprehensive framework under which the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will consider public charge inadmissibility.

Read More

Department of State October 2018 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the October 2018 Visa Bulletin. D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the family and employment-based priority dates.

Final action dates for EB-1 China and EB-1 India have progressed by 4.5 years to June 1, 2016. All other EB-1 areas of chargeability have progressed by 8 months to April 1, 2017. EB-2 China and EB-2 India have each progressed by a little over 2 years to April 1, 2015 and March 26, 2009 respectively. EB-3 China has progressed by 7 months to June 1, 2015, while EB-3 India has progressed by 6 years to January 1, 2009. EB-3 Philippines has progressed by 7 months to June 1, 2017. Other Workers China remains unchanged, while Other Workers India has progressed by 6 years to January 1, 2009. EB-4 El Salvador/Guatemala/Honduras remains unchanged, while EB-4 Mexico has progressed by approximately 8 months to October 22, 2016. Certain Religious Workers are now unavailable across all areas of chargeability, as is EB-5 Regional Center. EB-5 Non-Regional Center China has progressed by 1 week to August 15, 2014 and EB-5 Non-Regional Center Vietnam has progressed by approximately 1.5 years to January 1, 2016. All other Employment Based categories across all areas of chargeability are now current.

F1 Worldwide, China and India have progressed to June 1, 2011, while F-1 Mexico and F-1 Philippines remain unchanged. Likewise, F2A Worldwide, China and India have progressed by 1 month to August 22, 2016, and F2A Mexico and F2A Philippines have progressed to August 1, 2016 and August 22, 2016 respectively. F2B Worldwide, China and India have progressed by 3 weeks to November 22, 2011, with F2B Mexico and F2B Philippines progressing by less than a month to May 15, 1997 and May 15, 2007 respectively. F3 Worldwide, China and India has progressed by 1.5 months to June 15, 2006, while F3 Philippines has progressed by 1 week to June 8, 1995. F3 Mexico remains unchanged. F4 Worldwide and China have progressed by about 1 month to February 15, 2005. Similarly F4 India has progressed to May 1, 2004. F4 Mexico and F4 Philippines have progressed by about 1 week to January 22, 1998 and June 8, 1995 respectively.

Application filing dates for EB-1 China and EB-1 India have retrogressed to October 1, 2017 and EB-1 for all other areas of chargeability has retrogressed to June 1, 2018. EB-2 China has progressed by 2.5 months to June 15, 2015 but EB-3 China has retrogressed by approximately 4 months to August 8, 2015. EB-3 India has progressed by 4 months to October 1, 2009, as has Other Workers India. All other Employment Based categories across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged.

Application filing dates for F1 Mexico have progressed to October 8, 1998. F2B Mexico has progressed by approximately 2 weeks to June 22, 1997. F3 Worldwide, China and India have progressed by nearly 4 months to January 8, 2007, while F3 Mexico has progressed by approximately 2 months to December 22, 1998. Similarly, F3 Philippines has progressed by more than 1 year to June 1, 1997. F4 Worldwide, China and India have progressed by 1 month to June 1, 2005, while F4 Mexico has progressed by 3 weeks to June 22, 1998, and F4 Philippines has progressed by 4 months to April 8, 1996. All other categories across all areas of chargeability remain unchanged.

As of today, September 13, 2018, USCIS has not advised whether, in October 2018, it will accept adjustment of status applications for family and employment-based petitions based on final action dates or application filing dates.


USCIS Extends and Expands Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing

USCIS announced that it will be expanding the temporary suspension of premium processing for H-1B petitions.  As, background on March 20, 2018, USCIS announced that it was temporarily suspending premium processing service for cap-subject H-1B petitions for FY2019. At that time, the Agency indicated that premium processing service was expected to  resume for these petitions on September 10, 2018.

Today, however, USCIS announced that premium processing for H-1B cap petitions will not resume on September 10th and, rather, USCIS will be expanding the suspension to apply to other H-1B petitions, including petition amendments and change of employer requests filed on or after September 11, 2018. The update also suggests USCIS might refund premium processing fees and proceed with standard process for cases filed before the new suspension becomes effective but which remain pending beyond this date.  Premium processing service will remain available to H-1B extension requests where there is no change in the petitioning employer as well as to petitions filed by certain qualifying cap-exempt non-profits and research organizations.

For impacted cases filed during the suspension, note that USCIS will still review and consider expedite requests if they meet the agency’s standard Expedite Criteria. However, expedited processing does not guarantee a certain processing timeline and is entirely discretionary.

USCIS has stated that it expects this expanded premium processing suspension to continue until February 19, 2019 and D&S will closely monitor this.  

USCIS Dials Back New Policy Limiting STEM OPT to In-House Employment

Earlier this year, USCIS updated its STEM OPT website with a more narrow interpretation of the STEM OPT regulations, indicating that all STEM OPT training must take place on-site at the employer’s place of business, thereby limiting an employer's ability to place STEM OPT workers at third-party worksites.  However, the STEM OPT website has once again been updated and USCIS appears to have scaled back this new interpretation. The most recent update removed the the pertinent language from the earlier update which suggested that off-site placement, including placement at a client site, was prohibited. The website now clarifies that employers are not prohibited from placing F-1 workers on STEM OPT at third-party worksites provided that a bona fide employer-employee relationship exists and all other STEM OPT training obligations are met.

More specifically, the updated guidance makes clear that, where an employer and the F-1 student working pursuant to STEM OPT have a valid employer-employee relationship, and that same employer provides the practical training experience and signs the STEM training plan, third party placement would not be prohibited under the STEM OPT regulations.

Employers and employees should continue to ensure all training and reporting obligations are met and F-1 students are reminded that status violations or a failure to maintain their status will result in the accrual of Unlawful Presence under USCIS’s new policy.

Department of State September 2018 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the September 2018 Visa Bulletin.  D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the family and employment-based priority dates.  

EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Worldwide will no longer be current in September, retrogressing to June 1, 2016, January 1, 2013, and November 1, 2016 respectively. They are expected to become progress or become current again at the start of the new fiscal year in October.  EB-1 China remains unchanged, EB-2 China retrogressed more than 2 years to January 1, 2013, and EB-3 China progressed 4 months to November 1, 2014. EB-1 India remained unchanged, EB-2 India retrogressed more than 2 years to January 1, 2007, and EB-3 India retrogressed 6 years to January 1, 2003.  EB-5 regional center and non-regional center filings remain current except for China and Vietnam, both of which progressed one week to April 8, 2014.

Application Filing Dates remain unchanged across all areas of chargeability for September 2018, with exception of F2B Worldwide, China and India, which progressed over 2 years from January 8, 2012 to March 22, 2014.

As of today, August 9, 2018, USCIS has not advised whether, in September 2018, it will accept adjustment of status applications for family and employment-based petitions based on final action dates or application filing dates.

 

USCIS Delays Implementation of NTA Policy Memo

USCIS has announced that the Policy Memorandum (PM) titled “Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens”  which directs USCIS to issue Notices to Appear (NTAs) when denying certain applications for benefits has been temporarily suspended in order to allow for the issuance of operational guidance regarding implementation of the new policy.

USCIS did not provide a timeline for when the NTA Issuance policy will ultimately become effective and D&S will continue to monitor this situation closely.

UPDATE: On September 26, 2018 USCIS announced that it would be rolling out implementation of the NTA Policy Memo starting on October 1, 2018, after which time USCIS may issue NTAs on denied status-impacting applications, including but not limited to, Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

USCIS has indicated that it will send denial letters for status-impacting applications that ensures applicants are given adequate notice when an application for a benefit is being denied. If applicants are no longer in a period of authorized stay, and do not depart the United States, USCIS has stated that it may issue an NTA.

USCIS has further stated that the NTA Policy Memo will not be implemented with respect to employment-based petitions and humanitarian applications and petitions at this time. Existing guidance for these case types will remain in effect.

USCIS Grants Adjudicators Full Discretion to Deny Filings Without Issuing a Request for Evidence

Today, Friday, June 13, 2018 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted a policy memorandum (PM) that provides USCIS adjudicators full discretion to deny an application, petition, or request without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) when required initial evidence was not submitted or the evidence of record fails to establish eligibility.

Read More

Department of State August 2018 Visa Bulletin Summary

The Department of State has released the August 2018 Visa Bulletin.  D&S provides a Monthly Summary of the family and employment-based priority dates.  

The EB-1 category has retrogressed by more than two years to May 1, 2016 for all areas of chargeability with the exception of EB-1 China and EB-1 India, which remain unchanged. EB-2 China has progressed by 2 months to March 1, 2015. EB-3 China has progressed by 1.5 years to July 1, 2014, while EB-3 India and Other Workers India have progressed by 2 months to January 1, 2009. EB-4 India and Certain Religious Workers India have retrogressed by just under 2 years to February 8, 2016. All other categories remain unchanged across all areas of chargeability.

Application Filing Dates remain unchanged across all areas of chargeability for August 2018.

As of today, July 13, 2018, USCIS has not advised whether, in August 2018, it will accept adjustment of status applications for family and employment-based petitions based on final action dates or application filing dates.

 

USCIS Policy Memo Expands USCIS's Ability to Place Foreign Nationals in Removal Proceedings

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) recently issues a new Policy Memorandum (PM) titled Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens.”  This new guidance stems from the January 25, 2017 Executive Order “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” and it seeks to expand the instances in which USCIS must issue Notices to Appear (NTAs) when denying certain applications for benefits, such as requests for extensions of status, changes of status, and adjustment of status.  

Read More