Labor Immigration Law

United States Labor Immigration Law News and Analysis

Current PERM Processing Times (July 9, 2015)

Our office handles a substantial number of ETA Form 9089 – Permanent Labor Certification (“PERM”) applications and we are closely monitoring the current PERM processing times not only for the benefit of our clients but also to be able to predict longer-term trends in PERM processing.

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has provided an update on the current PERM filing and processing statistics in addition to the processing dates as of July 9, 2015.

Current PERM Processing Times

The processing times report by DOL for this month suggests slight increase in the PERM processing times compared to the last couple of months.    Regular PERM cases should take around seven months.

The processing times, as reported by DOL, are as follows:

  • Regular processing: December 2014.  DOL is processing PERM applications with priority dates of December 2014.  This report suggests that the processing times remain largely unchanged.   Accordingly, regular PERM processing times should be around seven months.   Our office has experienced PERM approvals consistent with this timeline and we can confirm it.    The PERM processing times have increased over the last few months – from around five to seven months — we hope that DOL will be able to change this trend and decrease their regular PERM processing times over the next months.
  • Audited applications: March 2014.  DOL is processing PERM audits which have a priority date (date of filing of the PERM application) of March 2014.  This processing times report indicates that DOL is working more aggressively on decreasing the (already long) PERM audit backlog.    Accordingly, audited PERM applications are processed approximately 15 months after the initial PERM was filed and the priority date established.
  • Appealed applications (requests for reconsideration to the Certifying Officer):May  2015.  DOL is processing PERM appeals (requests for reconsideration to the certifying officer) which were appealed in May 2015.  There is an increase in this metric – only a few months ago it used to take 30-45 days to hear from the Certifying Officer.  Now, it may take 2 to 3 months to hear from the Certifying Officer after a PERM case is denied and a request for appeal is sent to the Certifying Officer.
  • “Government error” appealed applications. DOL has indicated that PERM appeals in this category are reviewed on a 30-45 day timeline.   However, after filing an appeal, DOL does not make an indication whether a PERM appeal is accepted to be processed under the  “government error” queue or under the regular appeal queue.   As a result, DOL has indicated that the only way to know whether a PERM appeal has been accepted for processing under the “government error” queue is to wait for 45 days for response.  If the PERM appeal is reviewed within this time, this would be an indication that a PERM appeal has been accepted (and reviewed) under the “government error” queue.  If no response is received 45 days after filing of a PERM appeal, then this should be an indication that the PERM is pending under the regular appeals queue.

Conclusion

The July 2015 PERM processing times report shows that the PERM processing times are largely unchanged but the PERM audit processing times are decreasing.     e are hopeful that DOL will be able to work on reversing this trend and start bringing the PERM processing times down over  the next months.

Our office has developed a great practice handling PERM filings and/or audit/appeal responses so please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help you.  Also, we will continue monitoring the PERM processing times and analyze any updates.  Please visit us again or subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to ensure that you obtain this and related immigration-related news and announcements.

PERM, H-1B and Prevailing Wage Case Processing Statistics from the Department of Labor (FY2015 Q3)

The Department of Labor has provided some updates for the third quarter of the Fiscal Year 2015 (April 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015) on their processing of PERM, H-1B LCA and prevailing wage determination cases and we are happy to share them with our clients and readers.

DOL Processing Statistics (Third Quarter, 2015 Fiscal Year)

PERM

According to the PERM case report, during the quarter, there were 20,289 new cases received (an increase of 5% from the prior quarter and almost exactly the same number of filing compared to the third quarter of the year prior), 16,890 certified (slight decrease over the previous quarter), 2,151 denied (significant increase of more than double compared to prior quarters based on comparable number of applications)  and 1,029 withdrawn (about the same as the prior quarter).

There are 63,097 applications pending as of June 28, 2015 which is largely unchanged compared to recent quarters .   Out of these cases, approximately 68% are in analyst review stage (increase by several percentage points), 22% under audit review (significant decrease, from 30% six months ago) and 9% on appeal (slight increase).

CILG Comment:  while these numbers indicate that the rate of filings and approvals remains more or less unchanged, the percentage of cases in audit stage has dropped significantly while the rate of denial has doubled.   This suggests that DOL is putting more effort on clearing audit cases and subsequently denying more PERM applications.

Prevailing Wage Determinations

The prevailing wage report provides some detailed breakdown of the rate of filings in addition to details about top employers, top occupations and top areas.   During the third quarter, there were approximately 39,000 prevailing wage determination requests filed — of those, 35,658 were for PERM cases (increase of 16% compared to prior year’s period), 1,771 were for H-1B cases (decrease of 7%) and 1,422 were for H-2B cases (increase of 31% year-over-year).     In terms of activity, 30,164 prevailing wage determinations were issued during the third quarter and the pending load has increased from 16,958  during the prior quarter to 23,528 in the third quarter of FY2015 which also represents an increase of 64% compared to the prior year’s period.

CILG Comment:   we are seeing a notable increase in the rate of prevailing wage filings, especially for PERM cases which is likely to result in a higher number of PERM applications and, ultimately, longer PERM processing  times.   Additionally, the number of prevailing wage applications pending at DOL is significantly higher, which suggests longer prevailing wage request wait times.

H-1B/LCA

The H-1B/LCA report also provides a breakdown in the rate of filings, in addition to some details about the top LCA filers and the top positions and geographic areas.    Since this quarter fell entirely outside of the H-1B cap filing season, the number of LCA filings is lower compared to other quarters during the year, and especially Q2 of 2015.  Even then, there were 115,837  H-1B LCA filings in the third quarter, noting a significant decrease from the almost 300,000 LCAs filed during the second quarter of the year (due to the H-1B cap season).   However, compared to the same period of last year, there is a fifteen percent increase in the number of LCA filings.   During the quarter, there were 114,984 LCAs certified for 223,859 positions (one LCA can include more than 1 position).

According to DOL, 100% of the LCAs are processed timely within seven days of receipt.     The rate of LCA denial is fairly low (2,678 out of 126,307 determinations) and the main reasons remain (1) FEIN mismatch or failure to verify before LCA filing  or (2) prevailing wage tracking number issues.

Conclusion

The third quarter of the FY2015 shows a significant increase in the number of DOL filings in a number of categories.  Perhaps most notable is increase in the PERM denial rate, likely as a result of DOL’s efforts to decrease the share of PERM cases in audit stage.   Similarly, the PERM prevailing wage requests and the overall number of pending prevailing wage applications pending rose significantly over the prior year period, signaling continued strong rate of upcoming PERM filings and possibly longer prevailing wage processing times.   Thus, in turn, is likely to translate increase in the PERM case processing times.    We are hopeful that DOL would continue to work on decreasing its load and processing times, especially for the PERM cases (see the most recent PERM processing times report).

We will continue monitoring DOL processing metrics and report any notable developments and trends.      Please visit us again, contact us, or subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to ensure that you obtain this and related immigration-related news and announcements.

USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on Simeio H-1B Compliance When Changing Worksites

The April 9, 2015 AAO decision In Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC (PDF copy) put many H-1B employers (mainly those who place H-1B workers at third-party worksites) in a position to scramble and assess their current level of compliance with the H-1B regulations, as they would be interpreted by USCIS in accordance with the Simeio Solutions decision.      Earlier, on May 27, 2015, USCIS issued a draft policy memorandum attempting to provide some widely-anticipated guidance on when an H-1B is required together with a deadline of August 19, 2015 for compliance.    However, in a July 21, 2015 Policy Memorandum, USCIS has provided an amended (and what we believe would be the final) set of instructions as to how USCIS would treat H-1B petitions where the employee changes worksite locations.

Our Analysis of the In Matter of Simeio Solutions Decision

Very shortly after the AAO decision came out on April 9, 2015, our office provided a very thorough analysis of the AAO decision – including some historical background, pre-Simeio enforcement trends, together with detailed analysis of the decision.    We invite our readers to read our analysis for more details and background.    We also conducted a highly-attended webinar on the decision and a public archive is available.

Quick Overview of the May 27, 2015 Draft Policy Guidance

In an attempt to provide more clarity with respect to the best compliance approach and in reaction to the Simeio decision, on May 27, 2015, USCIS issued Draft Guidance on When to File an Amended H-1B Petition after the Simeio Solutions Decision which became effective as of the date of publication even while it was under public comment period.  One of the main goals of the draft guidance was to (1) provide clarification on when an H-1B amendment is required and when it is not required and to (2)  establish a 90-day grace period, until August 19, 2015, for H-1B employers to take the necessary steps to become compliance (file LCA and H-1B amendments).

We discussed and analyzed the May 27, 2015 Draft Guidance and you can read our analysis here.

The July 21, 2015 Final Policy Memorandum

In a Policy Memorandum, dated July 21, 2015, with subject “USCIS Final Guidance on When to File an Amended or New H-1B Petition After Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC”, USCIS seeks to provide ultimate and final set of instructions as to when an H-1B amendment must be filed and what are the compliance steps for employers, especially for H-1B cases where the change of employment occurred at various times before and after the Simeio decision on April 9, 2015.

The Policy Memorandum essentially confirmed the Simeio decision that an H-1B amendment is required when there is  a change in the worksite location but also provides some explicit guidance as to when an H-1B amendment is not required.     This section of the final Policy Memorandum tracks the May 27, 2015 draft version.

The Policy Memorandum also goes into detail as to how USCIS would treat compliance by H-1B employers and sets different period during which H-1B change of worksite location will be treated differently in terms of compliance.   More on this in detail below.

First, When is an H-1B Amendment Required?

An H-1B employer must file an amended H-1B petition if the H-1B employee changed or is going to change his or her place of employment to a worksite location outside of the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or an “area of intended employment” (as defined at 20 CFR 655.715) covered by the existing approved H-1B petition, even if a new LCA is already certified and posted at the new location.   In other words, doing an LCA only for the changed worksite location is not sufficient – an H-1B amendment filing prior to beginning work at the new worksite location is required.

Once the amended H-1B petition is filed, the H-1B employee is allowed to start working at the new worksite location.   The employer can (but does not have to) wait for the H-1B amendment decision before the H-1B employer can start work at the new worksite location.

Practical Tip.

From practical standpoint, the requirement to have the H-1B amendment filed before the new worksite location placement begins means that the H-1B amendment process should be initiated at least 2-3 weeks (for LCA certification, preparation, signing and filing of the H-1B petition) before the anticipated starting date for the new worksite location placement.     Often third-party client requirements require much faster starting date and this H-1B amendment preparation time should be considered carefully.      Another practical consideration is that an H-1B amendment for a third-party worksite placement requires documentation of the third-party client – letters, contracts, and similar documents – which are often difficult or slow to get.

When is an H-1B Amendment NOT Required?

Helpfully, the Policy Memorandum has clarified when an H-1B amendment is not required.

The New Worksite Location is Within the Same MSA.  If the new worksite location is within the same MSA or area of intended employment a new LCA is not required and, by extension, no H-1B amendment is required.    It is important to note that the H-1B employer must still post the original LCA in the new worksite location within the same MSA or area of intended employment.

Short-term Placements.   Under certain circumstances, an H-1B employer may place an H-1B worker at a new job location for up to 30 days and, in some cases for up to 60 days (where the employee is still based at the original location), without having to obtain a new LCA for the short-term placement location (20 CFR 655.735).  In these situations, the H-1B employer does not need to file an amended H-1B petition (assuming there are no other material changes to the terms of the H-1B petition).

Non-worksite Locations.  If the H-1B worker is only going to a non-worksite location and there are no other material changes to the H-1B petition, no H-1B amendment is required.   According to USCIS, a “non-worksite location” is:

  1. when the H-1B worker is going to a location to participate in employee developmental activity, such as management conferences and staff seminars;
  2. the H-1B worker spends little time at any one location; or
  3. the job is “peripatetic in nature,” such as situations where their primary job is at one location but the H-1B worker occasionally travels for short periods to other locations “on a casual, short-term basis, which can be recurring but not excessive  (i.e., not exceeding five consecutive workdays for any one visit by a peripatetic worker, or 10 consecutive workdays for any one visit by a worker who spends most work time at one location and travels occasionally to other locations).” 20 CFR 655.715.

Final Simeio Compliance Guide – Grace Period and Safe Harbor for Compliance

The guidance described above as to when an H-1B amendment is required when changing worksite is clear enough.   When it comes to how USCIS will handle Simeio compliance before and after the decision and the subsequent USCIS guidance, this is where it gets a little bit more complicated.    Below is our attempt to distill and simplify the guidance in a more user-friendly way.

If the H-1B Worksite Change Happened On or Before the April 9, 2015 Simeio Decision.   For H-1B petitions where the worksite change happened before April 9, 2015, USCIS has indicated that they will not pursue new adverse actions (e.g., a denial or a revocation).    Adverse actions initiated or completed before July 21, 2015 (the date of the Memo) will remain valid.   Essentially, USCIS will not reopen H-1B cases denied or revoked over the past three months due to non-compliance with Simeio and USCIS will not retract active attempts to deny or revoke an H-1B petition due to non-compliance with Simeio.   But for those H-1Bs where the worksite change happened before April 9, 2015 and are otherwise in compliance, USCIS is saying that they will not take new adverse action.

If the H-1B Worksite Change Happened After April 9, 2015 and Before August 19, 2015.   In this situation, USCIS provides a safe harbor compliance period until January 15, 2016 for employers to file an H-1B amendment and become compliant.   H-1B amendments filed before the January 15, 2016 safe harbor period deadline will be considered timely.   After the safe harbor period ends, any H-1B petitions where the worksite change happened after April 9, 2015 will be out of compliance and subject to adverse USCIS action (including for the H-1B worker to be considered to be in violation of H-1B status).

Practice Tip.

If, during the January 15, 2016 safe harbor period, an H-1B employer is facing a request for evidence or revocation proceeding on an existing H-1B petition where there was change in the worksite, filing a new H-1B amendment and providing USCIS with information about the newly-filed H-1B amendment petition should allow the petition to avoid revocation (assuming there are no other issues).

At the same time, if there is a change to the terms of a pending petition, including worksite change, USCIS will not entertain amendments to a pending petition.   Instead, a new H-1B amendment will have to be filed.

If the H-1B Worksite Change Happened After August 19, 2015.  This is when USCIS will expect all H-1B petitioners to file H-1B amendment or new petition before an H-1B worker starts working at the new worksite location.    No grace periods or safe harbor applies.

Practice Tip.

For H-1B workers who are considering changing worksites, it may be slightly more beneficial to do so before August 19, 2015.   The reason is that the worksite change before August 19, 2015 will be considered to be within the safe harbor and the H-1B employer will, based on this Policy Memo, have until January 15, 2016 to file the H-1B amendment (but it must be filed).

Post-Simeio Compliance Guide for H-1B Employers (and Workers)

Review Worksite Location and Change History.  We urge H-1B employers to carefully analyze the work locations of their H-1B workers and to confirm when such worksite locations changes have occurred (especially from early 2015 until the present time) in order to determine the next course of compliance action.      Employers should also keep in mind the January 15, 2016 safe harbor deadline.   Current cases facing adverse USCIS action (notice of intent to deny or revoke, RFEs, etc.)  may have a solution during the safe harbor period.

H-1B Amendment is Denied. If the H-1B amendment is denied but the underlying petition is still valid, the H-1B worker may be able to return to the worksite covered in the underlying H-1B petition and continue to be in valid H-1B status.    For many H-1B workers it may not be possible to return to a client where the project and the contract have ended, but this may help some folks.

H-1B Amendment Pending and Worksite Location Changes Again.    As noted above in this article, USCIS will not permit the terms (worksite location) of a pending H-1B petition to be revised while the petition is still pending.   But USCIS will allow another H-1B amendment petition to be filed when an earlier H-1B amendment petition remains pending if there is another change in the H-1B worker’s job location.      This is often referred to as “bridging” of applications.  There are risks in some cases – for example, if the H-1B status (I-94 card) has expired, a denial of an H-1B petition may cause all successive requests for H-1B status to be denied even if the H-1B petition is approved.    See Memorandum from Michael Aytes, Acting Director of Domestic Operations (December 27, 2005).

Travel Abroad While H-1B Amendment is Pending.    It may be possible to travel outside and reenter the US while an H-1B amendment is pending.    The rules are set forth in the June 19, 2001 AC21 Memorandum by Michael Cronin.  The Cronin memorandum sets up certain conditions which may allow entry into the US based on a pending H-1B petition under the provisions of AC21.   While this kind of entry is possible,  we caution that there are specific requirements and also validity of status limits so we urge H-1B workers to consider their situation and options carefully before assuming that they can enter the US.

Conclusion

We would like to iterate clearly that based on recent developments and on the final Policy Memorandum,  the requirement is that H-1B amendment petitions be filed when there is a change of job location all the time and before the placing the H-1B worker at the new jobsite.     Also, employers should evaluate their H-1B workers’ case files to determine whether there are cases which need to be brought into compliance before August 19, 2015.

We are also happy to work with our clients to make a comprehensive compliance plan for prompt and cost-effective LCA/H-1B compliance.    H-1B employers who routinely place workers at third-party worksites should consider making such LCA/H-1B compliance plans.   Contact us to allow us to evaluate your needs and provide suggestions for compliance planning.

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments, or if we can be of any assistance with analyzing or filing H-1B petitions, including amendments.

Capitol Immigration Law Group Recognized for Excellence in Employee-Based Immigration – USA

We are thrilled and honored to be chosen for the 2015 Global Mobility and Immigration Awards by Acquisition International and be recognized with an Award for Excellence in Employee-Based Immigration – USA.

Firms included in the 2015 Global Mobility, Immigration and Logistics Awards list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers.   The criteria for this award, according to Acquisition International, includes ”
“rigorous research and judging process that has seen our dedicated and experienced in-house team investigate in great detail, all nominations, all supplied third-party information, your sector, the global business landscape and, of course, your business itself and the great work you have done over the past 12 months.”      The 2015 Global Mobility, Immigration and Logistics program is focused firmly on the industry leaders who have performed at a consistently high level and delivered, on a daily basis, truly exceptional results over the past year.

“We are so proud to be recognized internationally for our legal capabilities and client service.  Leading a client-friendly, forward looking immigration law firm is a passion project for us and this award will serve as a good motivation to maintain high standards for our immigration services.”

– Aleksandra Michailov, Managing Attorney at Capitol Immigration Law Group PLLC

About the Capitol Immigration Law Group PLLC

The Capitol Immigration Law Group is a boutique law firm in Washington, DC specializing in corporate and business immigration and providing immigration and compliance services to clients who seek to hire and retain the best talent from a global workforce pool and who seek to remain in compliance with the ever-changing immigration regulations. For more information, visit www.cilawgroup.com or follow @cilawgroup on Twitter.

USCIS: H-1B Premium Processing Available Again Effective Immediately

USCIS has just announced that effective today, July 13, 2017, they are resuming accepting Form I-907 premium processing service requests for all H-1B petitions.     Previously, in mid-May, USCIS had announced that they are suspending the premium processing service for certain H-1B extension or transfer petitions until July 27, 2015 and we are glad to see that USCIS has been able to resume the premium processing service two weeks earlier than planned.

Background of the H-1B Premium Processing Suspension

The premium processing service for certain H-1B petitions (those requesting extension of stay – most notably, H-1B extensions and H-1B transfers) was suspended between May 26, 2015 and July 13, 2015 in order to accommodate the spike in the demand and number of H-4 Spouse EAD filings after the program opened on May 26th.

USCIS Statement on Resuming Premium Processing

This is USCIS’s statement from today,

We previously announced on May 19, 2015, that premium processing service would be suspended for Form I-129 H-1B extension of stay petitions from May 26, 2015 to July 27, 2015. The temporary suspension allowed us to implement the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses final rule in a timely manner and begin adjudication of applications for employment authorization filed by H-4 nonimmigrants under the new regulation. Premium processing remained available for all other types of Form I-129 H-1B petitions during the temporary suspension.

We have closely monitored our workloads and have determined that we can resume premium processing service for H-1B extension of stay petitions on July 13, 2015.

Conclusion

We are delighted to see that the premium processing service has been reinstated.     While we applaud USCIS’s intent on making sufficient resources available to the H-4 Spouse EAD program, we have seen a number of cases where the suspension of the premium processing service had created (sometimes severely negative) consequences to both H-1B employers and employees.       We now anticipate a (hopefully, short) wave of H-1B upgrade filings.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any help in connection with this unanticipated H-1B premium processing disruption and of service.    We are also assisting many H-4 Spouse EAD applicants and we are happy to offer information and a quote of our H-4 Spouse EAD filing services.   Please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics.

August 2015 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India Remains Unchanged, EB-3 India Advances Notably while EB-3 China Faces Major Retrogression

The U.S. State Department has just released the August 2015 Visa Bulletin which is the eleventh Visa Bulletin for the FY2015 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the lack of any movement in EB-2 India, the notable forward movement in EB-3 India and the major retrogression in EB-3 China.

Summary of the August 2015 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based (EB)

Below is a summary of the August 2015 Visa Bulletin with respect to the employment-based categories:

  • EB-1 remains current across the board.
  • EB-2 for ROW, Mexico and Philippines are all current.    EB-2 India remains unchanged at October 1, 2008.  EB-2 China moves forward by two and a half (2.5) months to December 15 2013.
  • EB-3 ROW and Mexico advance by three and a half (3.5) months to July 15, 2015.   EB-3 Philippines is available again but with a cutoff date of June 1, 2004.   EB-3 China  retrogresses substantially by about seven years (!) to June 1, 2004 while EB-3 India  advances (significantly by its standards) by four (4) months to0 June 1, 2004.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW and Mexico advance by three and a half  (3.5) months to July 15, 2015 while Philippines is available with a cutoff date of June 1, 2004.    Other workers China moves back by about two years back to January 1, 2004 while India  advances by four (4) months to June 1, 2004.
  • EB-5 China remains unchanged at September 1, 2013.

Summary of the August 2015 Visa Bulletin – Family-Based (FB)

Below is a summary of the August 2015 Visa Bulletin with respect to some family-based categories:

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India move forward by one (1) month to November 1, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico remains unchanged at November 15, 1994 and FB-1 Philippines also remains unchanged at March 15, 2000.
  • FB-2A moves forward again — this month the forward movement is by five (5) weeks to December 15, 2013 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It moves forward by five (5) weeks to November 1, 2013  for Mexico.

EB-3 China Major Retrogression

Many of our EB-3 China readers and clients will be alarmed by the significant retrogression in the EB-3 China category.    The reason behind this sharp retrogression is the significant demand and number of filings under the EB-3 China category over the last few months as the dates were moving forward.   As a result, and in order to allocate the available green card visa numbers over the remainder of the fiscal year (September 30), the Department of State has decided to move back the dates significantly to essentially stop the rate of new EB-3 China filings.

It is our expectation that once the new fiscal year begins with the October 2015 Visa Bulletin the cutoff dates for EB-3 China will return to their July 2015 levels  (September 2011).

EB-2 India Unchanged – Is Any Forward Movement Likely for the Rest of the Fiscal Year?

After several months of nice forward movement during the beginning and the middle of this fiscal year, this month’s Visa Bulletin lack of movement in EB-2 India, together with last month’s lack of any movement  would be disappointing to many EB-2 India applicants who were hoping for 2009 or 2010 cutoff dates by the end of the fiscal year.

EB-2 India applicants with a priority date earlier than October 1, 2008 can now move forward with their applications (or expect approvals if they have already filed their I-485 applications).    Over the last few months, in our Visa Bulletin reports we have been cautioning that the rate of forward movement is slowing down, suggesting that it may eventually stop or even retrogress.      The fact that the Department of State is not advancing EB-2 India over the last couple of months is a strong indication that they have sufficient applications on file to use the available visa numbers for the remainder of the fiscal year.

During a recent report Mr. Charles Oppenheim has also reported that he does not expect that there would be many EB-2 ROW spillover numbers which he can allocate to EB-2 India towards the end of the fiscal year; as a result, it appears likely that there may not be any additional forward movement in EB-2 India until the October 2015 Visa Bulletin.

EB-5 China Cutoff Date

Based on significant demand in the EB-5 category from Chinese nationals, the Department of State had introduced a cutoff date for EB-5 China over the last few months.   The cutoff date for this month remains unchanged at September 1, 2013.

Current Priority Date?

Our office stands ready to assist in the applicable process to take advantage of a current (or close to current) priority date.   Those applicants whose priority dates are current as of the August 2015 Visa Bulletin may be eligible to process their (and their family members’) I-485 Adjustment of Status applications from within the U.S. or process their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if our office can help you take advantage of this (very time-sensitive for some) opportunity to file I-485 applications.    We are also happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application.

Further Updates and News

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about the August 2015 Visa Bulletin.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.

USCIS Starts Issuing Approvals and Production of H-4 Spouse EAD Cards

One of the most frequent questions our office gets since and even before May 26, 2015 when the H-4 Spouse EAD filing window opened has been, “How long would it take to get the H-4 Spouse EAD approved?”    Because the H-4 Spouse EAD is a brand new program and especially due to the really high anticipated volume of H-4 Spouse EAD applications, we have not been able to provide a firm answer.    USCIS had indicated that their goal would be to issue EAD approvals within 90 days of filing.      But as our office is starting to receive H-4 Spouse EAD approvals and notifications of approvals, we are starting to get at least some preliminary idea of the processing times. Read more

Visa Bulletin Updates from Mr. Charles Oppenheim (June 2015)

Our office closely monitors not only each monthly Visa Bulletin but also any developments and updates from here in Washington, DC which may give us some idea on upcoming movements and surprises.   Our goal is to share any and all credible information with our clients and readers in order to allow proper planning and to set expectations as realistically as possible.

Mr. Charles Oppenheim, who is the Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division at the U.S. Department of State and the person who prepares and publishes the monthly visa bulletin, has provided some thoughts and his expectations for the upcoming few months’ Visa Bulletin movements.    These comments are as of June 12, 2015.

EB-2 Worldwide (ROW)

Mr. Oppenheim reiterated that there has been a significant increase in the demand of visa numbers in this category with demand far in excess of the historical patterns of the previous five months.    As an example, Mr. Oppenheim indicated that there was 80% demand increase from February to March 2015 and demand increased more than 100% between February and April 2015.     Despite this significant increase in demand in EB-2 ROW visa numbers, it is not expected at this time that there will be a cutoff date for this category and it is likely to remain current.

EB-2/EB-3 India

As a result of the significant forward movement in EB-2 India earlier this year, additional forward movement for the next few months is unlikely mainly due to EB-3 to EB-2 upgrades.  Additionally, because demand for EB-2 ROW has more than doubled unexpectedly over the past few months, EB-2 India cut-off date had to be held steady in the July 2015 Visa Bulletin. Unless there is a significant decline in EB-2 ROW demand, Mr. Oppenheim does not anticipate any forward movement in EB-2 India for the rest of this fiscal year (September 30).

EB-3 India is expected to continue to advance by one to two weeks per month.  This has been the recent trend over the past several months.

EB-2/EB-3 China

Demand in EB-2 China has been steady and gradual forward movement is expected over the next several months.     The EB-3 China cut-off date is expected to remain the same through the rest of the fiscal year (September 30).

EB-5 China

EB-5 China is expected to continue to advance,very likely as far as November 2013 towards the end of the fiscal year.

EB-3/Other Workers Philippines

After the category became unavailable in the July 2015 Visa Bulletin, it is expected to remain unavailable for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Conclusion

Mr. Oppenheim’s comments are extremely helpful to get a sense of the visa cutoff dates over the next few months.   Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can review your case, answer any questions or schedule a consultation.

We also invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.

Current PERM Processing Times (June 1, 2015)

Our office handles a substantial number of ETA Form 9089 – Permanent Labor Certification (“PERM”) applications and we are closely monitoring the current PERM processing times not only for the benefit of our clients but also to be able to predict longer-term trends in PERM processing.

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has provided an update on the current PERM filing and processing statistics in addition to the processing dates as of June 1, 2015.

Current PERM Processing Times

The processing times report by DOL for this month suggests slight increase in the PERM processing times compared to the last couple of months.    Regular PERM cases should take around seven months.

The processing times, as reported by DOL, are as follows:

  • Regular processing: November 2014.  DOL is processing PERM applications with priority dates of November 2014.  This report suggests that there is a slowdown in the processing times for regular PERM cases.  Accordingly, regular PERM processing times should be around seven months.   Our office has experienced PERM approvals consistent with this timeline and we can confirm it.    The PERM processing times have increased over the last few months – from around five to seven months — we hope that DOL will be able to change this trend and decrease their regular PERM processing times over the next months.
  • Audited applications: December 2013.  DOL is processing PERM audits which have a priority date (date of filing of the PERM application) of December 2013.  This processing times report has remained more or less consistent over the last few months.    Accordingly, audited PERM applications are processed approximately 18 months after the initial PERM was filed and the priority date established.
  • Appealed applications (requests for reconsideration to the Certifying Officer): April  2015.  DOL is processing PERM appeals (requests for reconsideration to the certifying officer) which were appealed in April 2015.  There is an increase in this metric – only a few months ago it used to take 30-45 days to hear from the Certifying Officer.  Now, it may take 2 to 3 months to hear from the Certifying Officer after a PERM case is denied and a request for appeal is sent to the Certifying Officer.
  • “Government error” appealed applications. DOL has indicated that PERM appeals in this category are reviewed on a 30-45 day timeline.   However, after filing an appeal, DOL does not make an indication whether a PERM appeal is accepted to be processed under the  “government error” queue or under the regular appeal queue.   As a result, DOL has indicated that the only way to know whether a PERM appeal has been accepted for processing under the “government error” queue is to wait for 45 days for response.  If the PERM appeal is reviewed within this time, this would be an indication that a PERM appeal has been accepted (and reviewed) under the “government error” queue.  If no response is received 45 days after filing of a PERM appeal, then this should be an indication that the PERM is pending under the regular appeals queue.

Conclusion

The June 2015 PERM processing times report shows that the PERM processing times are increasing over the last couple of months.   We had noticed gradual increase in the PERM processing times earlier in the year and it appears that this trend of gradual increase in the processing times continues.      We are hopeful that DOL will be able to work on reversing this trend and start bringing the PERM processing times down over  the next months.

Our office has developed a great practice handling PERM filings and/or audit/appeal responses so please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help you.  Also, we will continue monitoring the PERM processing times and analyze any updates.  Please visit us again or subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to ensure that you obtain this and related immigration-related news and announcements.

July 2015 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India Remains Unchanged; EB-3 Philippines Unavailable

The U.S. State Department has just released the July 2015 Visa Bulletin which is the tenth Visa Bulletin for the FY2015 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the lack of any movement in EB-2 India and EB-3 China and that EB-3 Philippines is unavailable.

Summary of the July 2015 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based (EB)

Below is a summary of the July 2015 Visa Bulletin with respect to the employment-based categories:

  • EB-1 remains current across the board.
  • EB-2 for ROW, Mexico and Philippines are all current.    EB-2 India remains unchanged at October 1, 2008.  EB-2 China moves forward by four (4) months to October 1, 2013.
  • EB-3 ROW and Mexico advance by six (6) weeks to April 1, 2015.   EB-3 Philippines is unavailable.   EB-3 China  remains unchanged at September 1, 2011 while EB-3 India  advances by only one (1) week to February 1, 2004.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW and Mexico advance by six (6) weeks to April 1, 2015 while Philippines is unavailable.     Other workers China remains unchanged at January 1, 2006 while India  advances by only one (1) week to February 1, 2004.
  • EB-5 China advances by four (4) months to September 1, 2013.

Summary of the July 2015 Visa Bulletin – Family-Based (FB)

Below is a summary of the July 2015 Visa Bulletin with respect to some family-based categories:

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India move forward by one (1) month to October 1, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico remains unchanged at November 15, 1994 while FB-1 Philippines moves forward but by only two (2) weeks to March 15, 2000.
  • FB-2A moves forward again — this month the forward movement is by five (5) weeks to November 8, 2013 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It moves forward by five (5) weeks to September 15, 2013  for Mexico.

EB-2 India Unchanged – Is Any Forward Movement Likely for the Rest of the Fiscal Year?

After several months of nice forward movement, this month’s Visa Bulletin lack of movement in EB-2 India may be disappointing to many EB-2 India applicants who were hoping for 2009 or 2010 cutoff dates by the end of the fiscal year.

EB-2 India applicants with a priority date earlier than October 1, 2008 can now move forward with their applications (or expect approvals if they have already filed their I-485 applications).    Over the last few months, in our Visa Bulletin reports we have been cautioning that the rate of forward movement is slowing down, suggesting that it may eventually stop or even retrogress.      The fact that the Department of State is not advancing EB-2 India this month is an indication that they have sufficient applications on file to use the available visa numbers for the remainder of the fiscal year.    However, as we are getting into the final two months of the fiscal year, it is possible to see additional forward movements in the August and September 2015 Visa Bulletins to accommodate any additional visa numbers who may be made available from other preference categories.

EB-2 China Advances Significantly; EB-3 China Moderate Forward Movement

EB-2 China continues to advance this month.  This month’s forward movement of 4 months, combined with last couple of months’ movements, are among the more significant movements in EB-2 China for some time.   EB-3 China, on the other hand, seems to experience significant demand and, as a result, there is no movement this month.

We had noted in our earlier Visa Bulletin alerts that the demand in EB-3 China is expected to rise with the forward date movement and it now seems that the Department of State is trying to moderate the demand by keeping the date steady.

EB-3 Philippines Unavailable

The significant demand in EB-3 for Philippines has caused the Department of State to move back the date significantly over the last few months and this month they are making this category “Unavailable.”   This means that there are no visa numbers available for EB-3 Philippines during July 2015.  This means that the government cannot authorize any visas for this category — no green card approvals are likely and no new I-485 adjustment of status applications can be filed (regardless of the priority date).

EB-5 China Cutoff Date

Based on significant demand in the EB-5 category from Chinese nationals, the Department of State had introduced a cutoff date for EB-5 China over the last few months.   The good news is that this month’s Visa Bulletin moves forward the cutoff date by four months to September 1, 2013.

Current Priority Date?

Our office stands ready to assist in the applicable process to take advantage of a current (or close to current) priority date.   Those applicants whose priority dates are current as of the July 2015 Visa Bulletin may be eligible to process their (and their family members’) I-485 Adjustment of Status applications from within the U.S. or process their immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if our office can help you take advantage of this (very time-sensitive for some) opportunity to file I-485 applications.    We are also happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application.

Further Updates and News

We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics.  We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about the July 2015 Visa Bulletin.  Finally, if you already haven’t, please consider our Visa Bulletin Predictions tool which provides personalized predictions and charts helping you understand when a particular priority date may become current and what are the movement patterns.

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