Labor Immigration Law

United States Labor Immigration Law News and Analysis

News Alert Articles

Visa Bulletin Updates and Predictions from Mr. Oppenheim (March 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 March 13, 2015.

EB-2/EB-3 China

The significant retrogression in EB-3 China in the April 2015 Visa Bulletin has essentially put an end to the EB-3 China “downgrade” trends which saw many EB-2 China applicants downgrade their case to EB-3 in order to take advantage of the more favorable EB-3 China cutoff dates.    With the retrogression in EB-3 China we see a more “natural” positioning of the EB-2 and EB-3 China cutoff dates.

While our office has been helping a number of EB-2 China applicants downgrade to EB-3 in order to take advantage of the dates over the past few months, we have always cautioned that this kind of downgrade is not for everyone and that over long-term, EB-2 China would still be the better category for ultimately the fastest green card approval.

If demand in EB-2 China does not increase significantly as a result of the April 2014 forward movement, it is expected to see another notable forward movement in EB-2 China in the next month or two.

EB-5 China

Retrogression is likely to occur no later than June 2015.

EB-2 India

EB-2 India has advanced significantly over the last two months – 16 months in the March 2015 Visa Bulletin and eight months in the April 2015 Visa Bulletin.    On top of this, Mr. Oppenheim expects that India would advance at a steady pace for another couple of months before a possible slowdown towards the end of the fiscal year (which ends September 30, 2015).    We read this to mean that forward movements of about 4-6 months per Visa Bulletin are likely over the next one to two months.

EB-3 India

Unfortunately, Mr. Oppenheim cannot share much good news as he expects EB-3 India to move by one to (possibly) two weeks per month.   The reason is that there is a significant amount of preadjudicated EB-3 India I-485 applications (more than 9,100) with a priority date before January 1, 2005 (when the annual limit is 2,875 immigrant visas).   Therefore, we expect very slow forward movement in EB-3 India.

EB-3 ROW, Mexico and Philippines

After the notable forward movement in April, Mr. Oppenheim expects that there will be more significant forward movement in the May Visa Bulletin.   Great news for EB-3 applicants from these countries.

While it is not expected that EB-3 ROW would become current any time soon, it is likely for this category to get into 2015 – which means that this category will be close to current and, in effect, for many, by the time candidates obtain PERM and I-140 approvals, they may already be current and be able to file their I-485 adjustment applications.    We call on all EB-3 applicants to either start their PERM applications soon or, for those who  have applications underway, to be ready to take advantage of a possible current priority date over the next few months.

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.

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April 2015 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India and China Continue to Advance Notably; EB-3 China Significant Retrogression

The U.S. State Department has just released the April 2015 Visa Bulletin which is the seventh Visa Bulletin for the FY2015 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the significant eight-month forward movement in EB-2 India and the seven-month forward movement in EB-2 China.    EB-3 also moves forward nicely with the notable exception of EB-3 China which goes back by 9 months.

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

Below is a summary of the April 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 moves forward significantly by eight (8) months to September 1, 2007.  EB-2 China moves forward by seven (7) months to April 1, 2011.
  • EB-3 ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by four (4) months to October 1, 2014.   EB-3 China retrogresses by about nine (9) months back to January 1, 2011 (from October 22, 2011) while EB-3 India  advances by only one (1) week to January 8, 2004.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by four  (4) months to October 1, 2014.   EB-3 China remains unchanged at August 15, 2005 while EB-3 India  advances by one (1) week to January 8, 2004.

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

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

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all remain unchanged at August 1, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by one (1) week to November 1, 1994 while FB-1 Philippines remains unchanged at February 1, 2005.
  • FB-2A moves forward again, but by not as much – it moves forward by five (5) weeks to August 1, 2013 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It also moves forward by six (6) weeks to July 8, 2013  for Mexico.

Another EB-2 India Significant Forward Movement But By Not as Much as Last Month

This month’s Visa Bulletin brings another significant forward movement in EB-2 India of eight months; however, it is not as significant as the forward movement in last month (April) visa bulletin (of sixteen months).  Overall, however, EB-2 India has advanced by two years over the last two months so this is certain a good sign.       EB-2 India applicants with a priority date earlier than September 1, 2007 can now move forward (or expect news, hopefully approval) with their applications.

The Department of State had indicated that EB-2 India may move forward by four to six months per Visa Bulletin over the next few months so we expect the forward movement in EB-2 India over the next few months to be similarly moderate.

EB-2 China Advances while EB-3 China Retrogresses Significantly

While EB-2 China advances nicely by seven months in this Visa Bulletin, EB-3 China moves back by almost ten months to January 1, 2011.   This retrogression is caused by the high number of EB-3 China filings over the last weeks and months, caused by the rapid advancement in the EB-3 China date over the recent months.    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 “sees” sufficient demand to stop the rate of filings by moving back the cutoff date.

It is important to note that EB-3 China applicants who have a cutoff date which is current now and who would no longer be current as of April 1 to consider filing their I-485s immediately (if they are in the US) or take other steps to take advantage of the current priority date.   EB-3 China candidates who have a priority date between October 22, 2011 and January 1, 2011 will be affected — please contact us for a consultation and analysis of your personal case situation.

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 April 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 April 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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Notes from USCIS Conference Call on H-4 Spouse EAD; Recording Available for Download

Our office just completed participation in the very-busy USCIS conference call to discuss and answer questions about the upcoming H-4 Spouse EAD rule.   We are happy to share our immediate notes and reactions from the call to our readers.   We also have upcoming engagement options for our attorneys to provide more information and answer further questions about the process.

Our Notes from the H-4 Spouse EAD Conference Call

I-140 Petition from Former Employer.   One of the biggest questions about the H-4 Spouse EAD rule was answered – according to the panelists from USCIS, an approved I-140, even from a former employer, would permit an H-4 Spouse EAD when the H-1B spouse has started working for a new employer and the new employer has not obtained an approval of the new I-140.     This is great news and was one of the biggest unanswered questions about the rule.

However, the panelists specifically indicated that a withdrawn I-140 petition by the former employer means that there is no longer “approved I-140″ and, as a result, there is no longer H-4 Spouse EAD eligibility.

Concurrent I-539 and -765 Applications Allowed.   H-4 Spouse EAD applications (on Form I-765) can be filed concurrently with I-539 and even I-129 petitions, when the circumstances permit.    It is expected that in many cases both the I-539 and the I-765 applications will be adjudicated at the same time.

H-4 EAD Validity.   The term of H-4 Spouse EAD card validity is expected to be the same as the underlying H-4 status.   The EAD will be valid from the date of approval until the H-4 status expiration date.    But a valid EAD is required at all times to work – so proper planning for the extensions of status and EAD is key.    The H-4 Spouse EAD will be valid for employment with any employer and there is no requirement that an H-4 Spouse EAD holder be employer at all times.

EAD Is Not a Travel Document.   The EAD itself would not permit travel to the U.S.  An H-4 spouse who has an EAD will need an H-4 visa stamp in order to travel back to the U.S.   The EAD only allows employment during its validity period.

Mechanics of the Application Process.   New Form I-765 with instructions will be released over the next days or few weeks.  The application will be filed on paper (no electronic filing, at least for now) and must include full documentation of eligibility.   In cases where certain documents are not available, providing as much relevant information as possible is key in order to allow USCIS to look up information about a case.   The application does not anticipate (for now) having to do biometrics – instead, the application will request submission of photos.

Unanswered Questions.   There were a few questions about some fairly complex situations which USCIS took under advisement and we should expect more information in future USCIS communications about the H-4 Spouse EAD rule.    Our office will certainly provide more information about once we have any news.

Opportunities to Learn More and Discuss With Our Attorneys

To accommodate the great demand of clarification and create a public forum for this, our attorneys will be conducting series of Q&A events focuses solely on the H-4 Spouse EAD rule, as follows:

  • Online Chat – Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 3:00 PM EST – free online chat session with Capitol Immigration Law Group attorneys to discuss the H-4 Spouse EAD rule and answer questions about the rule.    Attend the live chat session.
  • Webinar – Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 1:00 PM EST – free webinar with a more detailed and formal presentation and discussion of the rule, its criteria, mechanics, requirements and challenges.   Register for the free webinar (space is limited).

USCIS H-4 Conference Call Recording

For those who were not able to attend the call but wish to hear a recording, please follow this link.

Conclusion

We will continue to provide information on this rule as it becomes available.     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.    We can also provide a quote for the attorney service for filing the H-4 Spouse EAD.

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H-4 Spouse EAD Rule – Online Chat and Webinar Q&A Opportunities

Since the H-4 Spouse EAD rule announcement yesterday, our office has been receiving a number of questions and inquiries about the rule.  the rule.  For example, many people are interested to know whether the approved I-140 petition, which is one of the eligibility factors, must be from a current employer or it can be from a former employer.    Our office has been analyzing the full rule text and comments and we have been utilizing our resources to gather more information about this and other questions regarding the rule.

To accommodate the great demand of clarification and create a public forum for this, our attorneys will be conducting series of Q&A events focuses solely on the H-4 Spouse EAD rule, as follows:

  • Online Chat – Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 3:00 PM EST – free online chat session with Capitol Immigration Law Group attorneys to discuss the H-4 Spouse EAD rule and answer questions about the rule.    See the archived chat transcript.
  • Webinar – Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 1:00 PM EST – free webinar with a more detailed and formal presentation and discussion of the rule, its criteria, mechanics, requirements and challenges.   See the archived webinar.

In the meantime, our office will continue to post articles on our website and newsletter on this and related topics.     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.

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Final H-4 Spouse EAD Rule Announced – Becomes Effective May 26, 2015

After months of waiting and anticipation, USCIS has finally announced that effective May 26, 2015, USCIS will begin accepting applications for I-765 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications by certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.

Who is Eligible to Apply for EAD?

H-4 spouses who are eligible for the EAD under this rule are:

  • spouses of H–1B workers if the H-1B worker is a beneficiary of an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I–140);  or
  • spouses of H–1B workers if the H-1B worker has 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 worker is the beneficiary of a PERM Labor Certification or an I-140 petition which has been pending for more than 365 days.

It should be noted that the rule explicitly states that H-4 dependent children will not be eligible for EAD under this rule.

Mechanics of the H-4 Spouse EAD Application Process

The 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 ($380 as of the date of this article), photos and supporting documents to establish eligibility for this new class of EAD.

Earliest Filing Date.   The earliest date USCIS will accept EAD applications pursuant to this rule is May 26, 2015.    Applications filed before this date will be rejected.       However, applications can be prepared in advance and our office will be happy to do so for a timely filing as soon as the filing window opens on May 26, 2015.

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  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.

Concurrent H-4 Status and H-4 EAD Applications Permitted.    The rule allows specifically for the concurrent filing of I-539 applications seeking to either change to H-4 status or to extend H-4 status together with the I-765 EAD application.   This is great news because it allows for the concurrent processing of an H-4 status with a work permit application.    Without the concurrent filing option, an H-4 applicant would have to wait for the H-4 status to be approved, and then file a separate EAD application and wait for another 2-3 months for the actual work authorization.     In cases where this is possible, we encourage concurrent filing of the I-539 H-4 status application and the I-765 EAD applications.

Documentation of Eligibility.   Since EADs under this rule would be issued only to a limited set of H-4 spouses, the EAD application would require enhanced documentation to show eligibility.    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.

Full Text of the Rule

For those of our clients and readers who want to dig into the rule, it can be accessed online.

More Information and Opportunity to Ask Questions

Our office will be holding a free webinar on this rule, its requirements and challenges.   The webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, March 3rd at 1 pm eastern time.   Please register early to claim your spot – registration and attendance are free but space is limited.

H-4 Spouse EAD Attorney Service Filing Quote

Our office has been monitoring closely this rule since it was announced in May 2014 and we are ready to start accepting applications for filing on or after May 26, 2015.     If you would like one of our attorneys to review your case and provide a free and no-obligation quote for our services, please complete this brief request H-4 Spouse EAD attorney quote form.

Conclusion

We welcome DHS’s publication of the new H-4 spouse EAD 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).

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.

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How to File an H-1B Cap Petition When the Current Degree is Still in Progress?

DiplomaAs the H-1B cap filing season is well underway and as the filing day of April 1st is approaching fast, a common question by H-1B employers or H-1B candidates is whether an H-1B cap petition can (or should) be filed when the foreign national employee is still completing their degree program and when the degree will not be completed by April 1st.   The short answer is that while the H-1B regulations require a degree be completed in order to be used for H-1B filing, there are ways to use previous or partially-completed degree to qualify for the H-1B cap.   This option becomes increasingly important as we are facing a situation where, due to high demand, many H-1B candidates will not be selected under the H-1B cap lottery and being able to file a few times, over two or three H-1B cap seasons, becomes a critical advantage.

Background:  Supporting H-1B Employee’s Degree Must be Completed by April 1st

The general rule with respect to using educational degrees for H-1B cap filings is that a degree must be completed before April 1st in order for this degree to be usable to qualify its holder for H-1B work visa filing under the H-1B cap.   USCIS has clarified that they would accept degrees as completed when all of the courses and degree requirements have been completed by April 1st and that the only outstanding item remaining is the actual graduation ceremony (which is usually later in the spring, most often in May).

While it is possible that some degree requirements can be completed by April 1st (in which case the degree can be used to qualify for the H-1B cap), most often a degree is not completed by April 1st.  In this kind of situations, the foreign national (and their employer) does not normally consider the possibility of an H-1B cap filing.  However, there are ways in which this can be done, thereby increasing the attempts an H-1B cap petition can be filed, selected under the cap and ultimately approved.

H-1B Cap Filing Based on Prior or Partially-Completed Education

Even when the degree is not completed by April 1st, all is not lost.    An H-1B petition normally requires that the position require a bachelor’s degree or higher and that the foreign worker have such a degree.   So, if a master’s degree student is working on completing their master’s degree but the degree requirements are not completed by April 1st, and assuming the undergraduate degree is related to the offered position, the H-1B employer can still file a cap H-1B petition on behalf of the foreign national.   Yes, the H-1B cap will have to be under the general (65,000 visas) cap as opposed to the master’s (additional 20,000 visas) cap; but it still allows a filing and an extra shot at the cap lottery.

Additionally, USCIS accepts work experience in lieu of missing education.  Three years of relevant experience can be used to supplement each missing year of education.  So if an foreign worker has three years of completed education but at least three years of related work experience, it may be possible to make an equivalency argument for a bachelor’s degree.   This may even allow a foreign student who is pursuing their bachelor’s degree in the U.S. and who has at least three years of relevant experience to make a case for H-1B cap filing on April 1st.

Conclusion

With the high anticipated demand during the H-1B cap season and the anticipated lottery, it becomes increasingly important for H-1B employers and their H-1B visa candidates to take advantage of any available opportunity to increase their chances to ultimately get selected under the H-1B cap.  Being able to file under more than once, in two or three, H-1B cap lottery iterations becomes one of the key (and sometimes overlooked) ways to boost one’s chances.

We are hopeful that this article would allow at least some H-1B employers and workers to evaluate the opportunity of filing for H-1B under this year’s cap even if the degree is still in progress and will not be completed by April 1st.    Our office has grown as a leading practice in H-1B petitions and other employment-based immigration matters so please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help you in any way.    Please visit us again or subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to ensure that you obtain this and related immigration-related news and announcements.

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March 2015 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India Advances Significantly by Sixteen Months; EB-3 Advances But More Slowly

The U.S. State Department has just released the March 2015 Visa Bulletin which is the sixth Visa Bulletin for the FY2015 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the significant (16-week) forward movement in EB-2 India and the continued forward movement in the EB-3 preference category (even though some slowdown is noticeable).

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

Below is a summary of the March 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 moves forward significantly by sixteen (16) months to January 1, 2007.  EB-2 China moves forward by four and a half (4.5) months to September 1, 2010.
  • EB-3 ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by five (5) months to June 1, 2014.   EB-3 China advances by seven (7) weeks to October 22, 2011 while EB-3 India  advances by only one (1) week to January 1, 2004.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by five (5) months to June 1, 2014.   EB-3 China remains unchanged at August 15, 2005 while EB-3 India  advances by one (1) week to January 1, 2004.

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

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

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all move forward by only one (1) week to August 1, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by three (3) weeks to October 22, 1994 and FB-1 Philippines moves forward by three (3) weeks to February 1, 2005.
  • FB-2A moves forward again  – it moves forward by six (6) weeks to June 22, 2013 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It also moves forward by one (1) month to May 22, 2013  for Mexico.

Another EB-2 India Significant Forward Movement

Most people who follow closely the movements in the Visa Bulletin with respect to EB-2 India were surprised last month when the Department of State announced that EB-2 India would move forward by four to six months per month over the next several months.   This month’s Visa Bulletin brings another (good for EB-2 India) surprise – the forward movement this month is of sixteen months, to January 1, 2007.    EB-2 India applicants with a priority date earlier than January 1, 2007 can now move forward (or expect news, hopefully approval) with their applications.

We continue to anticipate significant forward cutoff date movements for the next few  months – by four to six months per Visa Bulletin.

EB-3 Continues to Move Forward Significantly

Another notable and important development in the March 2015 Visa Bulletin is the continued notable forward movement in the EB-3 categories.    Most of the EB-3 categories have advanced by five months, with EB-3 China moving forward by only seven weeks.     This should be welcome news to many EB-3 applicants (except EB-3 India where the forward movement is only of one week) who may be eligible for I-485 filings or processing of their immigrant visas at the U.S. Consulates abroad.    We are happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application to those EB-2 India and EB-3 applicants (and other) who are seeing an advancing and current (or soon to be current) priority date.

While it appears that the rate of forward movement in EB-3 is decreasing, it should be noted that these categories have been advancing rapidly over the last few months and some slowdown should be expected.

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 March 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 March 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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H-1B Work Visa Cap Season Is Underway – Opens for New Filings on April 1, 2015

On April 1, 2015 the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will start accepting applications for one of the most popular U.S. work visas, H-1B, for fiscal year (FY) 2016.    Our intelligence and past experience suggest that this year’s H-1B cap season will be very short — five business days.   Our office is already preparing a number of H-1B applications for our clients and we urge employers to prepare for a very short H-1B season by identifying and initiating H-1B sponsorship cases now.

About the H-1B Program and the Annual Cap

The H-1B visa category was created in 1990 through the Nationality and Immigration Act of 1990 (INA).  Upon the creation of the H-1B visa type,  INA imposed a numerical limitation (“cap”) on the number of H-1Bs that could be issued in each fiscal year.  This “cap” (or quota) has varied over the past years but is set to 65,000 per year for FY2016 starting on October 1, 2015.

H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa classification used by U.S. employers to hire a foreign national who will be employed temporarily in the U.S. in a specialty occupation (generally one which requires a bachelor’s degree or higher) or as a fashion model.  Each year, by law, USCIS can approve up to new 65,000 H-1Bs, thereby allowing many private and employers to hire temporary qualified workers.   H-1B non-immigrants who work at (but not necessarily for) universities and non-profit research facilities are excluded from the numerical cap (see below for discussion of cap-exempt employers).

There are certain exceptions to the congressionally-mandated maximum of 65,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year.  The first 20,000 H-1B visas issued to alien workers who obtained their master’s degree from a U.S. university are exempt from the 65,000 cap;  H-1B visas issued to such U.S. master degree holders subsequent to the first 20,000 are then counted against the overall 65,000 cap.    Additionally, the cap does not apply to foreign nationals in the U.S. who are in lawful H-1B status and who are seeking to extend their visa or change employers.

The H-1B Quota and Expectations for This Year

H-1B Calendar April 2015As discussed above, the H-1B cap “opens” on April 1, 2015 and will remain open for new H-1B filings until the 65,000 H-1B limit (plus the 20,000 for U.S. masters degree holders) is reached.  While it is impossible to predict exactly when the FY2016 H-1B cap will be reached, it is helpful to provide some context.  During the last two years, the H-1B cap was met the first week (five business days) of filing, and we anticipate that this will be the case this year as well.

Historically, for FY2015 (last year), there were 172,500 applications and the cap was reached over the first five days.   Previously, in FY2014, there were 130,000 applications and the cap was also reached over the first five days of the filing season.    This increasing trend in the rate of H-1B cap filings, together with the improving economy in the United States, suggests that this year’s H-1B cap will also be oversubscribed even after only five filing days and will be subject to a random computer-generated lottery.

While it is impossible to predict with certainly at this time how quickly the cap will be reached, it is our expectation that the H-1B cap  will be open for only 5 business days and we are advising our clients to be prepared for H-1B cap case filing on April 1, 2015.

Over the next two months our office will monitor very carefully the H-1B application demand and we will be providing timely updates on the H-1B cap filing season, including on cap demand and expectations.   Please check back with us often or subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter to receive news and updates related to this H-1B filing season.

High H-1B Cap Demand Expected:   How and When to Prepare?

The expected heavy demand in this H-1B filing season means that all H-1B petitions should be submitted on or very shortly after April 1st.    It should be noted that it takes at least 10-14 days to prepare and file an H-1B petition (due to the LCA filing requirement, which takes up to 7 business days).  First-time H-1B employers should allow an additional 3-5 days.   Therefore it is critical to plan ahead to maximize your chances of success.

We recommend that employers start working with their immigration attorneys (our office is happy to help – contact us) NOW to review the prospective H-1B candidates and to start the preparation process.     Some employers may respond that it is too early to start the H-1B process — we disagree.    Starting the process as early as January is the perfect time to ensure that an unanticipated issue would not derail the one-time opportunity to file an H-1B under the cap.   For example, some employers’ federal tax ID (FEIN) will have to be “registered” with the DOL database in order to even file an LCA.   Some job positions run into prevailing wage issues which can take weeks to clear with DOL and even if all goes well, it is always best to be ready with the process and the paperwork early.

Proposed H-1B Cap Timeline

  • January – employers work on identifying prospective H-1B candidates for April 1 filings, those include students working on F-1 OPT, new college hires in F-1 status and new hires from abroad.  Some employers may have L-1 workers whom they may want to switch to H-1B.
  • February 1-15 – employers work with attorneys and employees to gather the required information from the company and employee.
  • February 15-28 – attorneys file the Labor Condition Application (LCA) with DOL (DOL takes up to seven business days to process an LCA; and if the employer’s FEIN has not previously been verified, this may take additional 3-5 days.)
  • March 1-15 – attorney finalizes relevant H-1B documents;  employers sign and complete the paperwork and send it to the attorney’s office (original documents are required for submission with USCIS and early courier delivery should give enough time for unanticipated – even in March – weather delays).
  • March 15-30 – attorney assemble final petition filing packages and complete final quality assurance checks.
  • April 1 – attorney files the H-1B petition with USCIS by courier delivery.

Action Items

We urge all employers who are considering filing H-1B petitions under this year’s H-1B cap to start the preparation process.   Our office stands ready to assist employers in the process and our office is already in “H-1B cap mode” for a number of our clients have already started the preparation process.    Please contact us if we can help you in evaluating and, possibly, in preparing an H-1B cap case this April.

On February 18, 2015, our office will also hold a free webinar on the H-1B cap season to discuss H-1B cap preparation and filing strategies.   This is one of our most popular webinars for the year and while registration is free, space is limited so interested H-1B employers should register early.

Conclusion

While we do not yet know how quickly this year’s H-1B cap would be reached, indications of the heavy interest early this year and last year’s historical data suggest for a very short (5-day) H-1B cap filing window.    In fact, we urge our clients and readers to assume that the H-1B cap season will last only five days and to aim for April 1, 2015 H-1B petition filing.

If you wish to start a new H-1B work visa petition under this year’s quota, or if our office can be of any help, please contact us as soon as possible.  Our attorneys and professionals stand ready to review your case, as part of our free initial consultation, and will help you prepare a strong H-1B application.

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February 2015 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India Advances Significantly; EB-3 Continues to Advance Significantly

The U.S. State Department has just released the February 2015 Visa Bulletin which is the fifth Visa Bulletin for the FY2015 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the significant (and somewhat unexpected) forward movement in EB-2 India and the continued forward movement in the EB-3 preference category.   Also, EB-2 India is expected to move forward significantly in each of the next few months.

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

Below is a summary of the February 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 moves forward significantly (and finally!) by six and a half (6.5) months to September 1, 2005.  EB-2 China moves forward by one and a half (1.5) months to March 15, 2010.
  • EB-3 ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by seven (7) months to January 1, 2014.   EB-3 China advances by six (6) months to September 1, 2011 while EB-3 India  advances by only one (1) week to December 22, 2003.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by seven (7) months to January 1, 2014.   EB-3 China moves forward by three (3) weeks to August 15, 2005 while EB-3 India  advances by one (1) week to December 22, 2003.

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

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

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all move forward by two (2) weeks to July 22, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by two (2) weeks to October 1, 1994 and FB-1 Philippines moves forward by two (2) weeks to January 8, 2005.
  • FB-2A moves forward again  – it moves forward by three (3) weeks to May 8, 2013 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It also moves forward by two (2) months to April 22, 2013  for Mexico.

Surprising EB-2 India Significant Forward Movement

The expectations set over the last few months by the State Department had been that EB-2 India would likely remain unchanged at the (severely retrogressed) February 15, 2005 date until the summer of 2015.    Fortunately, the February 2015 Visa Bulletin brings great news for EB-2 India applicants with the six-and-a-half month forward movement.   EB-2 India applicants with a priority date earlier than September 1, 2005 can now move forward (or expect news, hopefully approval) with their applications.

Additionally, the anticipated cutoff date movements for the next months suggest that EB-2 India will continue to move forward at a great pace (four to six months per Visa Bulletin) over the next few months.

EB-3 Continues to Move Forward Significantly

Another very notable and important development in the February 2015 Visa Bulletin is the continued notable forward movement in the EB-3 categories.    Most of the EB-3 categories have advanced by seven months, with EB-3 China moving forward by six months, on top of the significant forward movement in the past few visa bulletins. This should be welcome news to many EB-3 applicants (except EB-3 India where the forward movement is only of one week) who may be eligible for I-485 filings or processing of their immigrant visas at the U.S. Consulates abroad.    We are happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application to those EB-2 India and EB-3 applicants (and other) who are seeing an advancing and current (or soon to be current) priority date.

Short-term Expectations and Predictions for Cutoff Date Movements

The February 2015 Visa Bulletin also provides some predictions on the movement of the cutoff dates for the next few months.  Note that these figures reflect monthly potential movement.

EB-1.   This category is expected to remain current throughout the rest of the fiscal year.

EB-2 Rest of World (ROW).  This category is expected to remain current throughout the fiscal year.

EB-2 India.   This category is expected to move by four to six months per visa bulletin.

EB-2 China.   Three to six weeks forward movement per month.

EB-3 Rest of World (ROW).     Rapid forward movement is expected for the next month or two.   Such rapid movement can be expected to generate a significant amount of new demand, with the impact not being felt for three to five months. Therefore, the cut-off date will be held until it can be determined what level of demand is to be expected, and whether it is likely to be sustained.

EB-3 China.  Similar to EB-3 ROW – rapid forward movement expected, with a corrective “action” (retrogression) possible in the next six month or so.

EB-3 India.  Up to three weeks at a time.

EB-3 Mexico.  Likely to remain the same as EB-3 ROW.

EB-3 Philippines.   Likely to remain the same as EB-3 ROW.

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 February 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 February 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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January 2015 Visa Bulletin – EB-3 Continues to Advance Significantly; EB-2 India Unchanged

The U.S. State Department has just released the January 2015 Visa Bulletin which is the fourth Visa Bulletin for the FY2015 fiscal year.   The major headline in the upcoming month’s Visa Bulletin is the continued forward movement in the EB-3 preference category.

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

Below is a summary of the January 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 February 15, 2005 after the major retrogression from a couple of months ago.    EB-2 China moves forward by one (1) month to February 1, 2010.
  • EB-3 ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by seven (7) months to June 1, 2013.   EB-3 China advances by nine (9) months to March 1, 2011 while EB-3 India  advances by only two (2) weeks to December 15, 2003.
  • The “other worker” categories for ROW, Mexico and Philippines advance by seven (7) months to June 1, 2013.   EB-3 China remains unchanged at July 22, 2005 while EB-3 India  advances by only two (2) weeks to December 15, 2003.

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

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

  • FB-1 ROW, China and India all move forward by two (2) weeks to July 8, 2007.   FB-1 Mexico moves forward by one (1) month to September 15, 1994 and FB-1 Philippines moves forward by one (1) week to December 22, 2004.
  • FB-2A moves forward again  – it moves forward by three (3) weeks to April 15, 2013 for ROW, China, India and Philippines.  It also moves forward by seven (7) weeks to February 22, 2013  for Mexico.

EB-2 India Retrogression Expected to Remain Through Summer of 2015

As expected, EB-2 India remains unchanged at the (severely retrogressed) February 15, 2005 date.    Unfortunately, no movement in EB-2 India is expected over the next several months with a possible forward movement towards the summer of 2015.

EB-3 Continues to Move Forward Significantly

The most important development in the January 2015 Visa Bulletin is the continued notable forward movement in the EB-3 categories.    Most of the EB-3 categories have advanced by seven months, with EB-3 China moving forward by nine months, on top of the significant forward movement in the past few visa bulletins. This should be welcome news to many EB-3 applicants (except EB-3 India where the forward movement is only of two weeks) who may be eligible for I-485 filings or processing of their immigrant visas at the U.S. Consulates abroad.    We are happy to provide a free quote for preparing and filing your I-485 application to those EB-3 applicants (and other) who are seeing an advancing and current (or soon to be current) priority date.

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 January 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 January 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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