The Department of Labor has provided some updates for the fourth quarter of the Fiscal Year 2014 (July 1, 2014 to September 30, 2014) 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 (Fourth Quarter, 2014 Fiscal Year)
According to the report, during the quarter, there were 21,559 new cases received (an increase of 3% from the same period in the prior year), 15,401 certified (notable decrease over the previous quarters), 1,065 denied (decrease, but in proportion of the rate of new filings) and 1,035 withdrawn (about the same as the prior quarter).
There are 59,901 applications pending as of September 30, 2014 with approximately 60% in analyst review stage (slight decrease), 30% under audit review (slight increase) and 9% on appeal (slight decrease. It is interesting to note that there were no cases reported in supervised recruitment — we believe that this may be incorrect reporting, because there are supervised recruitment cases right now at DOL.
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 fourth quarter, there were approximately 37,000 prevailing wage determination requests filed — of those, 31,738 were for PERM cases (increase of 3% compared to prior year’s period), 1,558 were for H-1B cases (decrease of 14%) and 3,357 were for H-2B cases (decrease of 40%). In terms of activity, 36,247 prevailing wage determinations were issued during the fourth quarter and the pending load has remained steady over the past quarters to about 14,619.
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. Even then, there were 93,796 H-1B LCA filings in the fourth quarter. During the quarter, there were 90,367 LCAs certified for 178,352 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 (2,390 out of 100,620 determinations) and the main reasons remain (1) FEIN mismatch or failure to verify before LCA filing or (2) prevailing wage tracking number issues.
The fourth quarter of the FY2014 shows increase in the number of DOL filings in a number of categories. It is interesting to see that the rate of PERM prevailing wage requests has been going up over the past two quarters, which is likely to translate into a higher number of PERM filings and, as a result, increase in 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. We will continue monitoring DOL processing metrics and report any notable developments and trends. Please visit us again or subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to ensure that you obtain this and related immigration-related news and announcements.No comments
Our office handles a substantial number of H-1B work visa petitions for a variety of U.S. employers and we often share our direct experiences with the H-1B work visa program. This article is intended to share our experience and the current trends with respect to H-1B work visa petitions where there is a change in the job location once the H-1B work visa petition has been approved and during its validity term. The lack of clear, direct and consistent guidance by USCIS makes it ever more important to carefully analyze a particular H-1B change in job site situation to avoid H-1B status disruption and/or revocation.
The Problem – H-1B Workers Changing Job Locations
Many companies, and especially IT consulting companies who hire H-1B workers and place them at third-party client sites, are well familiar with this situation. It is very common for these H-1B workers to change projects, end clients or simply to relocate to a different client site during their H-1B validity period (which is 3 years most often). In such cases, the question arises, What should be done to ensure that the H-1B employer and employee remain in compliance with the relevant H-1B regulations?
There is fair amount of confusion among H-1B employers and workers with respect to their obligations when there is a change in the work location. Below we discuss what is the currently recommended approach and also recent USCIS developments in this area.
The Law: Material Change in Terms of Employment Requires H-1B Amendment
The relevant regulations are fairly clear — 8 CFR 214.2(h)(2)(i)(E) states:
The petitioner shall file an amended or new petition, with fee, with the Service Center where the original petition was filed to reflect any material changes in the terms and conditions of employment or training or the alien’s eligibility as specified in the original approved petition. An amended or new H-1C, H-1B, H-2A, or H-2B petition must be accompanied by a current or new Department of Labor determination. In the case of an H-1B petition, this requirement includes a new labor condition application.
Also, petitioners are required to notify USCIS immediately if the terms and conditions of the H-1B petition “may affect eligibility”. 8 CFR 214.2(h)(11)(i)(A) (emphasis added) states:
The petitioner shall immediately notify the Service of any changes in the terms and conditions of employment of a beneficiary which may affect eligibility under section 101(a)(15)(H) of the Act and paragraph (h) of this section. An amended petition on Form I-129 should be filed when the petitioner continues to employ the beneficiary.
In this context the question arises, Does a change in the place of employment only, without any additional changes in the terms of employment (salary, title, duties) constitute a material change and/or whether such change “may affect eligibility” for H-1B?
The LCA/H-1B Amendment Guidance Evolution
In the past, some H-1B employers have been able to rely on unclear guidance by USCIS as to whether a new LCA for a new jobsite location requires an amendment. For example, in an October 23, 2003 Letter from Efren Hernandez III, Dir., Bus. and Trade Branch of USCIS, Mr. Hernandez specifically expresses guidance that H-1B amendment is not required where the H-1B worker is placed at a new location as long as there is an LCA for this new jobsite. Over the past years, however, this guidance has been slowly and gradually superseded by a more strict interpretation of the H-1B regulations.
However, in California Service Center discussions from 2011, some of which were prompted by a number of “Notice of Intent to Revoke” notices, it became apparent that the California Service Center started to consider a change in the job location a “material change” and, as a result, requiring an H-1B amendment to be filed. According to the California Service Center, as of August 10, 2011, “it is the position of [California Service Center] Counsel that an amended H-1B petition should be filed if an LCA is filed after approval of an H-1B petition.”
As a result of the lack of clear guidance from USCIS headquarters, the California and Vermont Service Centers (the two service centers responsible for H-1B) had adopted their own and different approaches. California took the more stringent position that a new LCA due to change in the jobsite is a material change requiring amendment, while Vermont had been more lenient in this interpretation. This has caused many employers to rely on the relaxed Vermont treatment and proceed for an LCA only when an H-1B worker changes jobsites. Even during the last few years, our recommendation had been to err on the side of caution and consider filing an H-1B amendment with USCIS at all times, even for Vermont Service Center H-1 cases.
Change in Job Location Requiring a New LCA Is Material Change and Requires H-1B Amendment Filing
Recent trends coming from the Vermont Service Center and from recent Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) indicate that USCIS may be adopting a more uniform and more stringent approach to handling H-1B petitions with a job location change. This means that USCIS is adopting the California Service Center approach of requiring H-1B amendment for each LCA jobsite change. For example, in a non-precedent AAO decision dated as of July 23, 2014, USCIS explicitly overruled the 2003 Hernandez letter and took the position that the Vermont Service Center properly revoked an H-1B petition where there was a jobsite change and LCA without an H-1B amendment filing.
Based on recent trends we see in both the California and Vermont Service Center H-1B cases, it is becoming clear that the best approach to H-1B compliance in change of worksite situations is to consider a new LCA and an H-1B amendment filing before the beginning of the new worksite placement.
We understand that the H-1B amendment filing incurs an additional cost but this cost of compliance should be compared to the possibility of H-1B revocation and the significantly higher monetary and business opportunity cost of H-1B status and business relationship disruption in the event of H-1B audit or revocation proceeding.
We are aware that USCIS is working on official guidance on this topic which would, hopefully, provide more clear guidance applicable to both service centers. Unfortunately, there is no known or anticipated release date. In the meantime, based on recent developments and trends we see, we are recommending 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. 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.No comments
While few, if any, of our clients and readers will be planning major celebrations, October 1st is an important date as it marks the beginning of the new government fiscal year. This has some immigration implications for many folks — for example, H-1B cap petitions are becoming effective and the quotas for green card visa numbers are being reset for the new fiscal year.
Approved H-1B Cap Petitions (and Change of Status) Becoming Effective
October 1st is the earliest starting date for an H-1B petition filed in April under the annual cap. As a result, almost all H-1B cap petitions have a starting date of October 1.
Notes for H-1B Employers. Employers who have sponsored H-1B cap cases and have received approvals with change of status can now employ their workers on H-1B status. In fact, such H-1B employers must provide employment to H-1B beneficiaries whose status was changed to H-1B on October 1st — not offering employment and pay may cause issues due to possible benching without pay claims.
If the H-1B cap petition was approved on the basis of “consular processing” (no I-94 card issued as part of the approval), then H-1B employers will need to have their workers either (a) obtain H-1B visa stamp at a US Consulate abroad and travel to the U.S. on H-1B status or, if the worker is in the US, (b) file for a change of status to H-1B from within the U.S. and wait for an approval before H-1B employment can legally start.
Notes for H-1B Workers. Workers who have received H-1B cap approval with change of status (I-94 card attached to the bottom of H-1B approval notice) should understand that on October 1 their status in the U.S. would automatically change to H-1B and they would be expected to start (or continue) working for the H-1B employer to maintain valid status. In certain situations, for example holders of L-1 or L-2 status, or if the worker is not ready to start employment, the fact that the status would change automatically to H-1B on October 1 is a significant problem. For example, L-1 holders will have to stop working for their L-1 employer and start working for their H-1B employer. Our office can help analyze this situation and provide solutions or suggestions – a phone consultation is a quick and effective way to do so.
As noted above in the employer’s section, if the H-1B cap petition was approved with “consular processing” (no I-94 card), then the H-1B worker will either need to enter the U.S. using H-1B visa or apply to change status from within the U.S.
Annual Visa Number Quotes Reset – Green Card Approvals to Continue
Another important aspect of the new government fiscal year starting on October 1st is the fact that the annual green card visa numbers will reset. At this time this is most important to EB-2 India green card applicants who were affected by the visa unavailability announcement earlier in September. As of October 1, we expect USCIS to continue to issue approvals of pending I-485 cases for EB-2 India nationals with current priority dates (but note the anticipated major EB-2 India cutoff date retrogression later in the fall).
Green card applicants in the remaining green card categories – both family- and employment-based -should not see much difference because of October 1st. Generally, the beginning of a new fiscal year allows the government to allocate a new set of visa numbers for the entire fiscal year but depending on the demand and the pending applications for each category, the government makes different decisions as to how to allocate these numbers and how to advance or retrogress the cutoff dates.
The new government fiscal year has some possible (and sometimes important) implications to many H-1B employers and workers, in addition to a significant number of EB-2 India applicants. 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.No comments
This year’s busy H-1B cap season included many H-1B employee candidates who hold F-1 status and who are employed in the U.S. pursuant to F-1 optional practical training (OPT) status. Out of these F-1 visa holders, many rely on the OPT cap-gap rule to continue working in the U.S. after the post-April 1st expiration date of the OPT and for as long as the H-1B cap petition is not denied or rejected by USCIS. However, the OPT cap-gap rule allows OPT extension only until September 30th, leaving possibly some H-1B candidates in a period of unauthorized employment.
F-1 OPT Cap-Gap Employment Authorization Valid Only Until September 30th
Due to this year’s heavy H-1B visa demand, it is likely that USCIS may not be able to adjudicate all H-1B petitions by September 30th. As a result, there are likely to be many cases where the F-1 OPT holder is taking advantage of the OPT cap-gap rule to work after the post-April 1st OPT expiration date based on the pending H-1B petition. Many F-1 students in this situation, however, are not aware that the OPT cap-gap rule applies only until September 30th and if the H-1B cap petition remains pending beyond September 30th, the F-1 holder would no longer be eligible to work in the U.S. under the OPT cap-gap rule (stay in the U.S. is likely to be authorized for as long as the H-1B cap petition seeking change of status to H-1B remains pending).
Am I Affected By This Rule and Am I In Danger of Losing Employment Authorization?
The first step for an F-1 OPT candidate for an H-1B cap visa is to understand whether he or she is affected by this situation. If (1) the candidate’s F-1 OPT expiration date was after April 1st but before September 30th, if (2) H-1B cap petition is still pending decision with USCIS, and (3) if the H-1B cap petition was filed requesting change of status, then it is likely that the F-1 candidate may be in danger of losing OPT cap-gap work authorization if the H-1B petition remains pending beyond September 30th.
Early Premium Processing Upgrade May be Needed to Avoid Interruption of Employment Authorization
In those cases where the H-1B cap petition seeking change of status remains pending beyond September 30th, the F-1 OPT cap-gap rule does not permit employment and the F-1 holder will have to stop working as of October 1st and wait until the H-1B petition is approved (or risk violating his or her F-1 status by engaging in unauthorized employment).
To avoid the possibility of a period of lack of employment authorization and disruption at the workplace, we recommend that candidates and their employers consider a premium processing upgrade of their H-1B petition as soon as possible in order to force USCIS to make a decision within 15 days. Please note that USCIS may request additional evidence or RFE (especially if they have not already done so) on the H-1B petition in which case the employer would have to respond to the RFE and then the government would have another 15 days to provide a response.
It is September 30th and My H-1B Petition is Still Pending – What Should I Do?
Most importantly — stop working — because the OPT cap-gap employment authorization ends on September 30th if the H-1B petition is still pending as of that date. If a premium processing upgrade has not been done, it may be a good idea to do so in order to minimize the period without employment authorization and so that the candidate can get back to work as early as possible. Please also consider contacting us for a consultation.
For those affected by the OPT gap-cap rule with a pending H-1B petition we recommend premium processing upgrade as soon as possible to minimize periods without employment authorization and disruption of employment. A timely and properly-filed premium processing upgrade even in late August stands a good chance to allow uninterrupted OPT gap-cap, followed by H-1B, employment authorization.No comments
The Department of Labor has provided some updates for the third quarter of the Fiscal Year 2014 (April 1, 2014 to June 30, 2014) 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, 2014 Fiscal Year)
According to the report, during the quarter, there were 20,173 new cases received (significant increase of 15% from the same period in the prior year), 21,076 certified (notable increase over the previous quarters), 1,504 denied (increase, but in proportion of the rate of new filings) and 1,097 withdrawn (slight increase over previous periods).
There are 55,427 applications pending as of June 30, 2014 with approximately 61% in analyst review stage (slight decrease), 28% under audit review (slight increase) and 10% on appeal (slight increase). It is interesting to note that there were no cases reported in supervised recruitment — we believe that this may be incorrect reporting, because there are supervised recruitment cases right now at DOL.
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 35,000 prevailing wage determination requests filed — of those, 31,719 were for PERM cases (increase of 9% compared to prior year’s period), 2,016 were for H-1B cases (decrease of 9%) and 1,298 were for H-2B cases (decrease of 10%). In terms of activity, more prevailing wage determinations were issued in Q3 compared to prior quarters – 36,247 and the pending load has decreased to 14,308 applications (down by 8%).
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. Even then, there were 101,629 H-1B LCA filings in the third quarter. During the quarter, there were 99,876 LCAs certified for 155,524 positions (one LCA can include more than 1 position).
According to DOL, 100% of the LCAs are processed timely within seven days of receipt (last year’s period metric was 99%). The rate of LCA denial is fairly low (3,156 out of 110,562 determinations) and the main reasons remain (1) FEIN mismatch or failure to verify before LCA filing or (2) prevailing wage tracking number issues.
The third quarter of the FY2014 shows increase in the number of DOL filings in a number of categories. It is interesting to see that the rate of PERM prevailing wage requests has been going up, which is likely to translate into a higher number of PERM filings and, as a result, increase in 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. We will continue monitoring DOL processing metrics and report any notable developments and trends. Please visit us again or subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to ensure that you obtain this and related immigration-related news and announcements.No comments
In a policy memorandum dated July 11, 2014, USCIS has provided some guidance and clarifications as to the applicable standards for adjudication of H-1B petitions for nurses. While USCIS continues to maintain the position that most nurses may not qualify for an H-1B due to the fact that a bachelor’s degree is not normally requires, the policy memorandum highlights specific situations and factors which would help a determination that a specific nursing position is specialized enough to warrant an H-1B. We welcome this (overdue) policy memorandum as it provides a clearer guidance as to which types of nursing positions may qualify for an H-1B work visa.
Background of H-1B for Nurses
Most of our readers are aware that the H-1B visa classification allows a U.S. employer to petition for a temporary worker in a specialty occupation (normally, a position requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher). The government has taken the position that most registered nurse (RN) positions do not qualify as a specialty occupation because such positions do not normally require a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in nursing (or its equivalent) as the minimum for entry into those particular positions. There are some situations, however, where the petitioner may be able to show that a nursing position qualifies as a specialty occupation. For example, certain advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) positions normally require a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in a specific specialty as the minimum for entry into these particular positions.
As a result, there has often been ambiguity as to whether a specific nursing position would qualify for an H-1B work visa or not. Our office, for example, has handled variety of nursing H-1B cases and so far the success factor has been a showing of advanced or highly-specialized nursing requirements.
The Policy Memorandum Recognized Shift Towards Employers Increasingly Requiring Nurses with Bachelor’s Degree or Higher
The policy memorandum reiterates the general position that nursing positions do not normally require a bachelor’s degree and, as a result, would not fit within the scope of the H-1B work visa. At the same time, however, the policy memorandum makes an important recognition that the private sector in the U.S. is increasingly showing a preference for “more highly educated nurses.” The policy memorandum goes on to make a specific distinction that certain nursing positions would actually meet the “specialty occupation” definition and would qualify for H-1B. This is an important step towards recognizing H-1Bs for nurses.
At the same time, the policy memorandum also specifies that advance practice registered nurse (APRN) positions use skills, experience and knowledge which are consistent with the “specialty occupation” standard and for APRN nursing positions, an H-1B should be approved. Specific (but not complete) examples of APRN occupations cited in the policy memorandum which should qualify for H-1B are Certified Nurse-Midwife, Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist, Certified Nurse Practitioner and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
The policy memorandum also includes some suggestions on the type of factors to be presented and considered when adjudicating an H-1B application for a nurse-type position. In addition to normal employer and industry practices, the adjudicator may consider advanced certification requirements, ANCC Magnet recognition status, clinical experience requirements, training requirements and wages relative to others in the position. This kind of list with suggested factors/evidence is very helpful in preparing a strong H-1B work visa application for a nursing position.
We welcome this policy memorandum as it provides an overdue clarification of the H-1B standards as they apply to nursing positions. The policy memorandum recognizes shifts in the private industry marketplace where more and more nurses perform more complex skills and more and more employers seek nurses with advanced level of skills and education. The arguments and factors outlined in the policy memorandum should provide more clarity and, hopefully, certainty in the H-1B application process for employers who are seeking to sponsor an H-1B work visa for a nurse.
We are happy to consult employers who are considering filing for H-1B petitions for nurses. Our office focuses its practice on employment-based immigration matters and we have handled a variety of immigration cases for hospitals, medical facilities and similar health-care related employers. Please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics. If our office can be of any help, please feel free to contact us.No comments
Last week we reported on the announcement of the proposed rule which would allow certain H-4 dependent spouses to apply for and obtain work authorization. Our article generated tremendous interest and feedback from clients and readers but at that time we did not have the actual proposed rule so we could not answer any specific questions about the details and the mechanics of the process, if or when, it becomes part of the regulations. The text of proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register and now we are able to provide more details and analysis of the proposal.
Proposal for Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses
First, we should highlight and reiterate that at this point this is only a proposed rule. Until and unless this rule becomes part of the relevant regulations, there would be no framework and possibility for H-4 spouses to apply for work authorization.
Proposed Rule. DHS is proposing to allow employment authorization to certain H–4 dependent spouses of principal H–1B nonimmigrants who are in the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment. Eligible H-4 spouses would spouses of H–1B nonimmigrants if the H–1B nonimmigrants are either the beneficiaries of an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I–140) or have been granted an extension of their authorized period of admission in the United States under the section 106(a) and (b) of American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21). Section 106(a) and 106(b) of AC21 allow H-1B status extension of the H-1B nonimmigrant is the beneficiary of a PERM Labor Certification or an I-140 petition which has been pending for more than 365 days.
Rationale Behind the Proposed Rule. By proposing employment authorization for certain H-4 spouses, DHS believes that this proposal would further encourage H–1B skilled workers to remain in the United States, continue contributing to the U.S. economy, and not abandon their efforts to become lawful permanent residents, to the detriment of their U.S. employer, because their H–4 nonimmigrant spouses are unable to obtain work authorization. This proposal would also remove the disincentive for many H–1B families to start the immigrant process due to the lengthy waiting periods associated with acquiring status as a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
H-4 Children Not Included. It should be noted that the proposed rule explicitly states that H-4 dependent children will not be eligible for EAD under this proposed rule.
Mechanics of the Proposed H-4 Spouse EAD Application Process
The proposed rule would add eligible H-4 spouses to the list of nonimmigrants eligible to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD). The application will be filed using the current Form I-765, together with filing fees, photos and supporting documents to establish eligibility for this new class of EAD.
EAD Validity and Extensions. As with most other EAD classes, employment would be authorized only after the EAD has been approved and only during the validity of the approved EAD document. The proposed rule mentions that USCIS is considering that such EADs will be issued with validity of up to two years, recognizing that even if USCIS were to issue a longer EAD validity period, it cannot exceed the applicant H-4 spouse’s H-4 status validity period. Extensions can be filed up to 120 days in advance of expiration of the current EAD term (and assuming continuing H-4 status and extension eligibility) and EAD extensions can be (and perhaps should be) filed together with H-4 status extensions.
Documentation of Eligibility. Since the EADs under this proposed rule would be issued only to a limited set of H-4 spouses, the EAD application would require enhanced documentation to show eligibility. The proposed rule mentions that in addition to the application form, fee and required passport photos, the EAD application would seek evidence that the H-1B nonimmigrant spouse is beneficiary of an approved I-140 petition or has PERM Labor Certification or I-140 petition filed more than 365 days prior; in addition to evidence of the applicant’s H-4 status validity and duration.
Rulemaking Process Timeline – When Would This Rule Become Effective?
The proposed rule is now subject to public review and comment. This comment period is scheduled to end on July 11, 2014 (see the rule text for information on how you can submit comments to this proposed rule – anyone can do so). Once the comment period closes, DHS would review the comments and either revise the rule in response to concerns or seek to publish a final rule. The final rule, once published, will have a future effective date.
At this time it is not clear if or when this rule would become effective — but it is unlikely that H-4 spouses would be able to file EADs before the summer’s end. Please stay tuned to our website or newsletter for more updates on the timeline and the effective date for this rule over the next couple of months.
We welcome DHS’s publication of the proposed rule and we believe that many eligible H-4 spouses would benefit from a permission to work while waiting for their spouses’ green card to be approved (several years in some cases). However, we would like to again caution that these are only the proposed (and not the final) rules. Our office will monitor this process over the next weeks and provide additional updates, including estimates and actual dates of when such EAD applications can be filed.
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.No comments
Many of our readers are aware that as of April 7, 2014, USCIS had received a sufficient number of H-1B cap-subject petitions to fill the annual H-1B quota. All cap-subject new H-1B petitions received by USCIS on or after April 7th have been or are currently in the process of being rejected and sent back and our office is starting to field a number of inquiries from candidates who were either not selected under the H-1B cap or were not able to file on time as to what are the alternatives to H-1B. We are happy to provide an overview of the more common H-1B alternative visa options and our office is happy to provide a more individualized case analysis.
The H-1B Cap Season Numbers
This year there were 172,500 applications filed, for the 85,000 available H-1B cap visas, resulting in a simple calculation of about 50% chance that an application will be selected for processing under the H-1B cap. This is in comparison to last year’s cap, fiscal year 2014 (FY2014), when there were 124,000 applications for the same number of H-1B cap visas. This 40% increase in the H-1B cap demand this year compared to last year’s was evident early in the year and while our office had a great rate of H-1B cap acceptance, well exceeding the average of 50%, there are nonetheless H-1B candidates who were not accepted for processing under the H-1B cap.
As a result, some employer and prospective employees who wanted to take advantage of the H-1B program this year are unable to do so — either because they were unable to file between April 1st and 7th or because their application was not picked by the H-1B lottery. We seek to provide some alternatives which may be available.
Alternatives to H-1B Cap Petitions
Now that the H-1B quota has been reached, we are receiving an increasing number of inquiries by both cap-subject employers and prospective employees about the alternatives for work authorization between now and October 1, 2015, when the new fiscal year’s H-1B quota would begin (as a reminder, April 1, 2015 is the earliest a cap-subject H-1B application can be filed). We describe some of the most common H-1B visa alternatives. Note that the list is not intended to exhaust all possible visa types and scenarios pursuant to which an employee may be legally employed. Our goal is to list some of the common options for the benefit of our clients and readers. We are happy to discuss individual cases as part of our initial consultation.
A number of employers may qualify to be cap-exempt and are allowed to file for H-1B petition at any time. A cap-exempt employer is (1) an institution of higher education, (2) related or affiliated to a higher education institution nonprofit entity, or (3) nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization. Please see our cap-exempt H-1B employer guide. As a result, many educational institutions, non-profit and research organizations may qualify to file cap-exempt H-1Bs. We are happy to help evaluate whether an employer can qualify to be cap-exempt.
O-1 or P-1 Extraordinary Ability Visas
O-1 and P-1 visas are generally reserved for individuals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts (including the television and motion picture industry), education, business, or athletics. By definition, not many individuals qualify for one or both of these visa types, but where possible, an application for O-1 and/or P-1 should be prepared in lieu of H-1B. In addition to being able to obtain work authorization pursuant to these visa types, an O-1 and/or P-1 approval may establish the basis for the subsequent application for an EB-1 category permanent residency. Please contact us if you would like our help in evaluating your O-1 and/or P-1 visa case.
L-1 Intracompany Transferee
The L-1 visa type allows multinational companies who have presence abroad to transfer their employees from their overseas offices to their U.S. office (or to establish a new U.S. office). This visa type is a good option for foreign employers seeking to establish or boost their U.S. presence and for foreign nationals currently employed abroad. Foreign nationals who are currently in the U.S. generally will not qualify for L-1 visa. An added benefit to the L-1 visa is that family members are entitled to a work authorization pursuant to L-2 status.
TN for Canadian and Mexican Professional Workers
An option available to certain Canadian and Mexican nationals in certain occupations is the TN visa classification. It is available to citizens of Canada and Mexico who would be employed in the U.S. in one of the designated occupations. The TN visa is not subject to a cap and can be obtained fairly easily either by applying at the border (for Canadians) or by filing a petition with USCIS. Please see more information on the TN visa classification.
E-1/E-2 Treaty Trader or Investor
The E-1/E-2 visas allow nationals of countries with which the U.S. has trade treaties to invest an amount in the U.S. and receive an E-1 (treaty trader) or E-2 (treaty investor) visa. See a list of treaty countries.
The E-1 treaty trader visa is suitable if the foreign national has a multinational employer who is willing to transfer them, and the company has significant trade between the foreign country and the U.S. The employee must also have skills which are essential to the operation of the company trade. Dependents of E-1 visa holder are eligible for work in the U.S.
The E-2 treaty investor allows foreign nationals to invest (preferably) a substantial amount in the U.S. and obtain an E-2 visa to be able to manage and direct their investment. The amount required for investment generally varies depending on the industry (the so called, proportionality test) with more capital-intensive industries requiring more significant investment for E-2 application. Dependents of E-2 visa holders are eligible to apply for work authorization.
H-1B Program Changes by Congress Possible, Although Timing is Uncertain
It has become a pattern that after every H-1B cap season ends, resulting in a high number of disappointed employers and employees who did not make it under the lottery, there is increased talk about raising the H-1B cap limit. There are proposals and much talk here in Washington, DC about this kind of a chance in the H-1B program; however, as of this time, there is no proposal or law which would become law any time soon. As we have done in the past, our office would continue to monitor and report on any developments relating to relief to H-1B employers and workers, so stay tuned.
Wait and File on April 1, 2015 for the FY2016 Cap
For some of our clients, waiting until April 1, 2015 to file a new cap-subject H-1B petition may be the best (or only?) option. The H-1B visa type, although subject to some requirements, is a fairly common visa type for which many qualified employees are eligible. As of now, and assuming any proposed immigration reform is not enacted by then, the FY2016 H-1B cap is expected to be the same as it was for the FY2015 fiscal year – 65,000 H-1B visas (plus 20,000 for holders of U.S. master’s degrees).
Upcoming Webinar on H-1B Cap Alternatives
We would like to take this opportunity to invite you to our next webinar, scheduled for May 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm eastern time where our attorneys will have a more in-depth discussion of this year’s H-1B cap and, specifically, these visa alternatives. Registration and participation is free — please submit your free registration soon as there is a limit on the number of seats we can accommodate.
Our office will continue to monitor developments relating to the H-1B program, this and next year’s caps and the immigration proposals. In the meantime, please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics. If our office can be of any help with any of the H-1B visa alternative options, please feel free to contact us.No comments
Over the past few weeks (and months, really), there has been some chatter about a possible change in the regulations to allow certain H-4 spouses to apply for and obtain work authorization. In a press release today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that the proposed rules are to be published for review and comment very soon. Under one of the proposed rules, H-4 spouses would be allowed to request employment authorization in cases where the H-1B worker spouse has already started their green card process. Similarly, certain E-3, H-1B1 (Chile and Singapore) rules are being changed to allow such workers to continue to remain in the US.
Proposed Rule Would Allow Employment Authorization to Spouses of H-1B Workers Who Have Started Green Card Process
According to DHS, this proposed rule will amend existing regulations to allow H-4 dependent spouses of certain principal H-1B workers to request employment authorization.
Under current rules, the H-1B work authorization given to a worker does not extend to H-4 status dependents. The change proposed by DHS would allow H-4 dependent spouses of certain H-1B nonimmigrant workers to request employment authorization, as long as the H-1B worker has already started the process of seeking lawful permanent residence through employment.
Eligible individuals would include H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B workers who:
- Are the beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
- Have been granted an extension of their authorized period of stay in the United States under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21) (more articles on AC21) as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. AC21 permits H-1B workers seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit.
Proposed Rule Would Allow E-3, H-1B1 and CW-1 Workers More Flexibility to Remain in the U.S.
Another proposed rule change would enhance opportunities for certain groups of highly-skilled and transitional workers by removing obstacles to their remaining in the United States. It would affect workers in specialty occupation nonimmigrant classifications for professionals from Chile and Singapore (H-1B1) and Australia (E-3), as well as Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island (CNMI)-Only Transitional Workers (CW-1).
Under current regulations, employers of workers in E-3 (Australia), H-1B1 (Chile or Singapore), or CW-1 status must generally file a petition requesting the extension of the employee’s status well before the initial authorized duration of status expires.
Specifically, the change to the regulation would regulation would:
- Update the regulations to include nonimmigrant high-skilled specialty occupation professionals from Chile and Singapore (H-1B1) and from Australia (E-3) in the list of classes of aliens authorized for employment incident to status with a specific employer,
- Clarify that H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants are allowed to work without having to separately apply to DHS for employment authorization.
- Allow E-3, H-1B1 and CW-1 nonimmigrant workers up to 240 days of continued work authorization beyond the expiration date noted on their Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, while the extension request is pending.
Important Note: Proposed Rules Are Not Law (Yet)
We would like to caution our clients and readers that this is only the initial step in the process of the change in the rules. These are only the proposed rules. The proposed notices will be published soon (we will provide an update once they are) for the public review and comment period. After the comment period ends, DHS will review and consider comments made by the public and consider whether to change the proposed rules in any way. Only once the final rule has been released and published by DHS would these rules become the law.
As a result of this rulemaking process, it may be months before these rules go into effect. There may be an additional period to allow USCIS to adjust their systems/processes to accept the new employment authorization benefit which is proposed to certain H-4 spouses.
We welcome DHS’s announcement of the proposed rules and we believe that many H-4 spouses would benefit from a permission to work while waiting for their spouses’ green card to be approved (several years in some cases). However, we would like to caution that these are only the proposed (and not the final) rules. Our office will monitor this process over the next weeks and provide updates, including links and analysis of the actual proposed rules, when they are published.
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.No comments
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced earlier this afternoon that, as of today, April 7th, they have received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the annual H-1B cap for the 2015 fiscal year (FY2015). According to USCIS, they have received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed for beneficiaries with U.S. master’s degree and more than the 65,000 general H-1B cap petitions. As a result, any cap-subject H-1B petitions received by USCIS after April 7, 2014 will be rejected.
The Lottery Process
USCIS will use a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as the “lottery”) for all FY 2015 cap-subject petitions received between April 1 and April 7, 2014. The agency will conduct the selection process for advanced degree exemption petitions first. All advanced degree petitions not selected will be part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit. Due to the high number of petitions received, USCIS is not yet able to announce the exact day of the random selection process. Also, the total number of petitions received is not yet known due to the large volume of applications.
Petitions Not Selected under the Lottery Will Be Returned With Filing Fees
Petitions accepted for filing but not selected under the lottery will be returned to the petitioners together with the filing fees (unless there were duplicate filings by the same employer for the same beneficiary, in which case no fees will be returned).
Petitions which are selected under the lottery will be issued receipt notices and will be put in a processing queue. Due to the heavy demand this year, we expect the H-1B processing times to be somewhat long. Petitions filed under the premium processing service will start to be processed on April 28 and this is when the 15-day premium processing clock will begin.
H-1B Cap-Exempt Petitions Still Accepted
It should be noted that USCIS continues to accept cap-exempt H-1B petitions. These are petitions generally filed by universities and non-profit research organizations (read more about cap-exempt employers). Also, H-1B extensions and H-1B transfers are cap-exempt.
The FY2015 H-1B cap was reached, as anticipated during the first week it was open. The reasons for the high H-1B demand this year may be caused by the improving economy. Another reason may have been the self-fulfilling prediction by USCIS in March that they expect that the cap would be reached during the first week.
We will continue providing updates on the FY2015 H-1B cap season, including filing statistics, as they become available. In the meantime, please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics. If our office can be of any help, please feel free to contact us.No comments