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Today's Date: December 10, 2013
 

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U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing to Amend its Regulations related to certain Employment-based Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visa Programs to retain EB–1, EB–2, and EB–3 Immigrant Workers and to Improve these Visa Programs

DHS is seeking public comments on a proposed rule to amend its regulations related to certain employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs. These proposed changes do not take effect with the publication of the notice of proposed rulemaking. Instead, they would take effect on the date indicated in the final rule when the final rule is published in the Federal Register.

The proposed amendments would provide various benefits to participants in those programs, including: improved processes for U.S. employers seeking to sponsor and retain immigrant and nonimmigrant workers, greater stability and job flexibility for such workers, and increased transparency and consistency in the application of agency policy related to affected classifications. Many of these changes are primarily aimed at improving the ability of U.S. employers to hire and retain high-skilled workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and who are waiting to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs), while increasing the ability of such workers to seek promotions, accept lateral positions with different employers, change employers, or pursue other employment options.

The following specific changes have been listed in the proposed rule.

  • Clarify and improve longstanding agency policies and procedures implementing I-140 portability
  • Increase the ability of beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions (I-140 petitions) to further their careers by accepting promotions, making position changes with current employers, changing employers, and pursuing other employment opportunities.
  • Improve job portability for certain beneficiaries of approved I-140 petitions by limiting the grounds for automatic revocation of petition approval.
  • Clarify when individuals may keep their priority date to use when applying for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence, including when USCIS has revoked the approval of their approved I-140 petitions because the employer withdrew the petition or because the employer’s business shut down.
  • Allow certain high-skilled individuals in the United States in E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, or O-1 nonimmigrant status to apply for one year of unrestricted employment authorization if they:
    • ​Are the beneficiaries of an approved I-140 petition,
    • Remain unable to adjust status due to visa unavailability, and
    • Can demonstrate that compelling circumstances exist which justify issuing an employment authorization document.
  • Clarify various policies and procedures related to the adjudication of H-1B petitions, including, among other things, extensions of status, determining cap exemptions and counting workers under the H-1B visa cap, H-1B portability, licensure requirements, and protections for whistleblowers.
  • Establish a one-time grace period, during an authorized validity period, of up to 60 days for individuals holding E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1 or TN nonimmigrant status whenever their employment ends so that they may more readily pursue new employment and an extension of their nonimmigrant status.
  • Provide for the automatic extension of the validity of certain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for an interim period upon the timely filing of an application to renew such documents. At the same time, in light of national security and fraud concerns, DHS is proposing to remove regulations that provide a 90-day processing timeline for EAD applications and that require the issuance of interim EADs if processing extends beyond the 90-day mark.

These proposed rules are complex and require a consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer. If you have any questions, our attorneys are here to answer your questions!  We can be reached by phone at 703 230 6800 or by email at attorney@immigrationonline.com.  Contact us today for these and all other immigration-related issues!

USCIS recently began transferring certain casework from the Vermont Service Center (VSC) to the California Service Center (CSC) and Nebraska Service Center (NSC) to balance workloads. The CSC will now process Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

How You Will Be Affected If We Transfer Your Case

If USCIS transferred your case, USCIS will send you a transfer notice. Your original receipt number will not change, and the transfer will not delay the processing of your case except for the additional time needed to physically mail/transfer the file.

How to Track the Status of Your Case

You can check your case status at Case Status Online by entering your receipt number. You can also sign up to receive automatic case status updates by email.

If you do not receive a decision on your case within the published processing time, you may submit an inquiry using e-Request or by calling the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 800-375-5283 of USCIS.  If USCIS sent you any notice (such as a Request for Evidence), please read the notice carefully and follow the instructions provided.

If you move while your case is pending, you must inform USCIS of your address change. You may file a change of address on USCIS website or by calling the NCSC. It is important that you notify USCIS of any address change as soon as possible, so that you continue to receive notifications from USCIS.

On December 18, 2015, the President signed into the law the omnibus Appropriations Bill for 2016. This Public Law 114-113, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (Act), became effective from December 18, 2015.

Some of the immigration-related issues include:

Business Immigration:

The bill extends the EB-5 Green Card Visa Programs (through investment of $1,000,000; or $500,000 in high unemployment or rural area, or Regional Center);  Conrad 30 J-1 waiver program; Special Immigrant Religious Workers, and E-Verify programs through the end of FY2016;

The Act increases the H-1B and L-1 fees for certain petitions by $4000 and $4500 respectively for companies with more than 50 employees where 50% or more of the employees hold H-1B or L-1 status. The Act provides:

  • the combined filing fee and fraud prevention and detection fee required to be submitted with an application for admission as H-1B, including an application for an extension, shall be increased by $4,000 for petitioners that employ 50 or more employees in the United States if more than 50 percent of the applicant’s employees are in H-1B or L1 status.
  • the combined filing fee and fraud prevention and detection fee required to be submitted with an application for admission as L-1, including an application for an extension, shall be increased by $4,500 for petitioners that employ 50 or more employees in the United States if more than 50 percent of the applicant’s employees are in H-1B or L1 status.

​(These increased fees must be paid on initial petitions, transfer petitions and extension petitions as well. These fees are authorized for ten years, running through September 30, 2025; and the funds generated by these fees will be split between the 9-11 programs and the Biometric Entry-Exit program.

The bill also makes certain changes to the H-2B program by providing:

  • Flexibility for H-2B workers in the seafood industry regarding when they can start working;
  • Use of private wage surveys;
  • Definition of “seasonal” as ten months;
  • Limitations on the Department of Labor’s ability to implement some aspects of the interim final rule; and
  • Exempting H-2B returning workers from the 66,000 annual cap for FY2016.

Visa Waiver Program: The bill includes the House-passed bill reforming the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which contains categorical exclusions for nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan, as well as people who travel to those countries.

These legal changes are complex and require a consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer. If you have any questions, our attorneys are here to answer your questions!  We can be reached by phone at 703 230 6800 or by email at attorney@immigrationonline.com.  Contact us today for this and all other immigration-related issues!

 
   
   
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