Monday, November 23, 2020

DECEMBER 2020 VISA BULLETIN: ANALYSIS AND PREDICTIONS

The Department of State has just issued the December 2020 Visa Bulletin. This is the third Visa Bulletin of Fiscal Year 2021. This blog post analyzes this month's Visa Bulletin.

December 2020 Visa Bulletin

Table A: Final Action Dates -- Applications with these dates may be approved for their Green Card (Permanent Residency card) or Immigrant Visa appointment.


Employment-
based

All Other

CHINA

INDIA

PHILIPPINES

1st

C

01APR19

01APR19

C

2nd

C

01MAY16

01OCT09

C

3rd

C

01NOV17

15MAR10

C


Table B: Dates of Filing

The USCIS again announced that it will allow the more favorable Date of Filing chart for I-485 Adjustment of Status. This means that all employment-based immigrants in EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 can file their I-485s.  However, if they are natives of India or China, their priority date must be earlier than these dates:

Employment Based

CHINA-mainland

INDIA

1st

01NOV20

01NOV20

2nd

01OCT16

15MAY11

3rd

01JUN18

01JAN15


MU Law Analysis

Unlike last month, the DOS issued a timely Visa Bulletin for December. 

Both the Philippines and Worldwide (All Other) EB-3 continue to be current.  We expect these categories to stay current for the foreseeable future.  The only constraint to the Philippine EB-3 visas being issued is the capacity at the Embassy in Manila.  It remains to be seen how increasing COVID infection rates bear on embassies capacities.

India had another month defined by variance.  India EB-1 moved ahead six months.  India EB-2 and EB-3 each moved ahead by about 1-2 weeks.  The interesting news was that the Dates of Filing for India EB-3 retrogressed by a year, reflecting the fact that an enormous number of India EB-3 I-485s have been filed in October and November.  This retrogression probably means that no further material progress will happen in India EB-3 for a long time.

China EB-2 and EB-3 both moved forward by a few weeks, a trend that may continue.  China EB-1 showed more progress than expected, perhaps because of declining rates of visa issuance out of the American posts in China.

MU expects that future Visa Bulletins will continue to have positive news, including slow but continued forward progression in the Chinese and Indian categories.  We also expect the Philippine and Worldwide categories will remain current for the foreseeable future.


Monday, November 16, 2020

UPDATE: SCHEDULED WEBINAR PLATFORM CHANGED

The platform for MU’s webinar scheduled for Monday, November 16th at 2PM Eastern (1PM Central) discussing the Recap of Changes from the USCIS, DOL, AND DOS has changed from Livestorm to Zoom.
  
If you have already registered for Monday’s webinar, you will receive an email with your invite to the Zoom webinar. If you had not previously registered, you can still join the webinar. Click on Join the Webinar below.  No registration required.

Friday, November 13, 2020

UPDATE: SCHEDULED WEBINAR PLATFORM CHANGED

The platform for MU’s webinar scheduled for Monday, November 16th discussing the Recap of Changes from the USCIS, DOL, AND DOS has changed from Livestorm to Zoom.

  
If you have already registered for Monday’s webinar, you will receive an email with your invite to the Zoom webinar. If you have not yet registered, there is still time to register by clicking on the link below.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

DHS PROPOSED RULE TO SELECT ONLY THE HIGHEST WAGES IN H-1B CAP

On November 2, 2020, DHS published in the Federal Register its proposed new rule for the 2021 CAP that would give priority to H-1B CAP candidates whose employer promises to pay the highest of the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) wage levels. 

The OES categorizes wages from Levels I through IV for a particular position in a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). In the H-1B context, the employer then chooses the appropriate wage level based on the experience and complexity of the position and can file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) using the OES wage assigned. 

According to the DHS’s proposed rule, only those H-1B CAP registrations offering the highest OES wage levels would be selected for filing in the 2021 CAP. This means that DHS would first accept Level IV wages, then Level III, etc. 

Keeping with the 2020 CAP changes, the USCIS’s current intent is to continue its electronic pre-registration system, requiring first a registration period of CAP petitions, and a later period of filing. DHS’s proposed rule intends to add a wage level question to its pre-registration form so that only the highest wage levels are selected for filing. 

The Master’s CAP, an allotment of 20,000 H-1Bs designated only for candidates possessing a master’s degree from an accredited U.S. university, is also in place for the 2021 CAP period. 

The proposed rule is currently accepting comments from the public until December 2, 2020, to which DHS will then respond and may alter some elements of the rule. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

RECAP OF CHANGES FROM THE USCIS, DOL, AND DOS

MU Law will be hosting a free webinar for our clients and friends on Monday, November 16, 2020 at 2PM Eastern (1PM Central). Interested clients and friends can register for our webinar by clicking on the link below.


Join us for this FREE webinar to learn more about:

  • The new USCIS rule on qualifying for H-1B

  • The new DOL rule on wage calculations and alternative wage surveys

  • Pending law suits on the new H-1B and wage rules

  • The new USCIS rule on the H-1B lottery system

  • The Public Charge rule

  • The Visa Bulletin

  • The new USCIS rule on F-1 duration of status

  • Post-Election debrief and a look forward 

PLEASE JOIN US! 

Friday, October 30, 2020

DOL WAGES: LAWSUITS AND ALTERNATIVE SURVEYS

At our recent webinar, MU attorneys discussed the new DOL wage rule and how it could greatly raise prevailing wages for H-1B petitions and EB-2 and EB-3 green cards.  More on this topic here.   We want to give our clients and friends two updates: 

1.   Lawsuit.  MU along with some clients and the US Chamber of Commerce have been working on a lawsuit against both the DOL and the USCIS.  US Chamber of Commerce press release.  The lawsuit seeks to overturn both the new DOL wage computation used in their OES wage survey, and the three harsh changes to the H-1B definition.  The lawsuit was filed last week and there is a hearing on the case set for November 23.  If successful, the DOL and USCIS regulations could be nullified. 

2.   Alternative Wage Surveys.  The new DOL rule only raises the OES survey, which is the default survey used in H-1B cases, and in PWDs, which are used in EB-2 and EB-3 green card petitions.  The law still allows “alternative surveys.”  An alternative survey is any published or private survey that meets common statistical metrics, is recent, is geographically relevant, and covers the position in question.  

MU has identified several surveying companies that can be used for problematic wages.  As MU works your cases, we will let you know if we think that a survey may be a strategy worth pursuing.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

NOVEMBER 2020 VISA BULLETIN: LATE PUBLICATION, BUT EXCELLENT NEWS

The Department of State has just issued the November 2020 Visa Bulletin. This is the second Visa Bulletin of Fiscal Year 2021. This blog post analyzes this month's Visa Bulletin.

November 2020 Visa Bulletin

Table A: Final Action Dates -- Applications with these dates may be approved for their Green Card (Permanent Residency card) or Immigrant Visa appointment.

Employment-
based

All Other

CHINA

INDIA

PHILIPPINES

1st

C

01DEC18

01DEC18

C

2nd

C

22APR16

22SEP09

C

3rd

C

01OCT17

01MAR10

C

 

Table B: Dates of Filing

Importantly, the USCIS announced that it will allow the more favorable Date of Filing chart for I-485 Adjustment of Status. This means that all employment-based immigrants in EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 can file their I-485s starting October 1, 2020.  However, if they are natives of India or China, their priority date must be earlier than these dates: 

Employment Based

CHINA-mainland

INDIA

1st

1-Sep-20

1-Sep-20

2nd

1-Oct-16

15-May-11

3rd

1-Jun-18

1-Jan-15

Other Workers

1-May-09

1-Jan-15


MU Law Analysis

For reasons that remain unclear the Department of State held back on publishing this Visa Bulletin about 2 weeks longer than usual.  Nevertheless, the Visa Bulletin showed continued positive trends. 

Both the Philippines and Worldwide (All Other) EB-3 continue to be current.  We expect these categories to stay current for the foreseeable future.  The only constraint to the Philippine EB-3 visas being issued is the capacity at the Embassy in Manila.  It remains to be seen how increasing COVID infection rates bear on embassies capacities.

The good news extended to India.  India EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 all moved forward, ranging from several weeks to several months in all of these categories.  Similarly, China EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 all moved forward at about the same rates as India.

MU expects that future Visa Bulletins will continue to have positive news, including continued forward progression in the Chinese and Indian categories.  We also expect the Philippine and Worldwide categories will remain current for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

IMPLICATIONS OF THE NEW DEPARTMENT OF LABOR WAGE LEVELS

Effective October 8, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a new rule dramatically increasing prevailing wages for H-1B, EB-2, and EB-3 workers.  The new rule changes the computation of the four levels of wages when the DOL is using the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES).  For more detail about these changes, you can read our previous blog post on the rule.

A prevailing wage determination can only be issued by the DOL. The prevailing wage is based on the job duties, job requirements, and job location as provided by the employer on a prevailing wage request.  The prevailing wage for an H-1B, EB-2, or EB-3 worker, is the wage the foreign national is required to be paid by his or her employer upon approval of the H-1B or green card.

Frequently, employers and foreign nationals review the Foreign Labor Certification (FLC) Data Center website which publishes the OES wages and refer to the OES wages as the “prevailing wages.” The FLC Data Center wages are not prevailing wages. A prevailing wage determination (PWD) can only be issued by the DOL.

The OES is only one wage library the DOL can consult when issuing a PWD.  The DOL can also review private wage surveys, if the survey is provided by the employer at the time the wage request is made.  In order for a private wage survey to be accepted by the DOL, it must meet certain, specific requirements.  For more information about those requirements and which surveys might apply to your cases, please contact MU.

The new DOL wage rule only applies to wage determinations issued by the DOL or LCAs certified by the DOL on or after October 8, 2020.  Approved H-1Bs or I-140s are not required to be updated with the new wage calculations.  In addition, wage determinations which have been issued by the DOL and are valid through 2021 are not required to be updated.

Finally, there are several law suits which have already been filed challenging the new rule.  Please continue to read our blog for regular updates on these pending law suits and the wage rule. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

REMINDER - OVERVIEW OF UPDATES FROM THE USCIS, DOL, AND DOS

MU Law will be hosting a free webinar for our clients and friends on Monday, October 12, 2020 at 2PM Eastern (1PM Central).  Interested clients and friends can register for our webinar by clicking on the link below.

 REGISTER HERE

Are you feeling dizzy from all the changes in immigration lately?  Join us for this FREE webinar to learn more about:

  • Furloughs at USCIS
  • Recap of the Presidential Proclamations from April and June 2020
  • 221Gs from the US Embassy in Manila
  • The Public Charge Rule
  • October Visa Bulletin
  • EB2 to EB3 Downgrading options for Indian and Chinese nationals
  • Detailed Risk Analysis of I-140 Amendments
  • USCIS Fee Increases
  • New Department of Labor rule regarding prevailing wage calculations
  • New USCIS rule regarding qualification for H-1B

 

PLEASE JOIN US!

Friday, October 9, 2020

REMINDER - OVERVIEW OF UPDATES FROM THE USCIS, DOL, AND DOS

MU Law will be hosting a free webinar for our clients and friends on Monday, October 12, 2020 at 2PM Eastern (1PM Central).  Interested clients and friends can register for our webinar by clicking on the link below.

 REGISTER HERE

Are you feeling dizzy from all the changes in immigration lately?  Join us for this FREE webinar to learn more about:

  • Furloughs at USCIS
  • Recap of the Presidential Proclamations from April and June 2020
  • 221Gs from the US Embassy in Manila
  • The Public Charge Rule
  • October Visa Bulletin
  • EB2 to EB3 Downgrading options for Indian and Chinese nationals
  • Detailed Risk Analysis of I-140 Amendments
  • USCIS Fee Increases
  • New Department of Labor rule regarding prevailing wage calculations
  • New USCIS rule regarding qualification for H-1B

 

PLEASE JOIN US!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

OVERVIEW OF UPDATES FROM THE USCIS, DOL, AND DOS

MU Law will be hosting a free webinar for our clients and friends on Monday, October 12, 2020 at 2PM Eastern (1PM Central).  Interested clients and friends can register for our webinar by clicking on the link below.

 REGISTER HERE

Are you feeling dizzy from all the changes in immigration lately?  Join us for this FREE webinar to learn more about:

  • Furloughs at USCIS
  • Recap of the Presidential Proclamations from April and June 2020
  • 221Gs from the US Embassy in Manila
  • The Public Charge Rule
  • October Visa Bulletin
  • EB2 to EB3 Downgrading options for Indian and Chinese nationals
  • Detailed Risk Analysis of I-140 Amendments
  • USCIS Fee Increases
  • New Department of Labor rule regarding prevailing wage calculations
  • New USCIS rule regarding qualification for H-1B

 

PLEASE JOIN US!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

DOL AND USCIS DRAMATICALLY ALTER EMPLOYMENT BASED IMMIGRATION

In two sweeping and lengthy regulations the USCIS and DOL have attempted to jam through last minute rules that dramatically alter employment-based immigration.  The DOL rule takes effect on Thursday October 8. The USCIS rule will take effect in 60 days. Both rules are expected to be challenged in court.

The DOL rule dramatically increases prevailing wages for H-1B and EB-2 and EB-3 workers.  The rule changes the computation of Level I, II, III, and IV.  Current Prevailing wages use this formula:

Level            US wage percentile
I                  17
II                 34
III                50
IV                67

The new rule changes the formula:

Level            US wage percentile
I                  45
II                 62
III                78
IV                95

The new USCIS regulation will be published on October 8 and take effect 60 days later. It applies only to petitions filed on or after the effective date.
The rule implements several changes:
  • It revises the H-1B definition of “specialty occupation” in a very limiting way.  This new regulation seeks to rewrite the approvability of H-1B visas. The USCIS has consistently lost in federal court because it has repeatedly misapplied its own definition of specialty occupation.  This regulatory change seeks to reduce the likelihood of the USCIS losing on this issue in federal court.
  • The new rule limits third-party placement H-1B validity to one-year increments.  There does not appear to be any statutory justification for this change other than the USCIS’ own belief that third-party placements cause more fraud.  As with the rewrite of the specialty occupation rule, this regulatory change seeks to reduce the likelihood of the USCIS losing on this issue in federal court.
  • It also reimposes contract and itinerary requirements in H-1B petitions, which had been ruled illegal by several federal courts.  Again, the USCIS seeks to reduce the likelihood of the USCIS losing on this issue in federal court.
Musillo Unkenholt will shortly have more detail about these two massive new changes.

Monday, October 5, 2020

CONSIDERATIONS WHEN DOWNGRADING FROM EB2 to EB3

Following the USCIS’s announcement in late September that it will accept the favorable October FY 2021 visa bulletin filing dates, many candidates have seen a significant improvement in their chances to file a long-awaited adjustment of status (I-485) application. 

In the October visa bulletin, all categories besides India and China are current. Notably, China’s and India’s EB3 categories give eligibility to file to priority dates that are more recent than those of the EB2 category. 

There are three options for those looking to downgrade their I-140:

   1. Amending the existing I-140: An I-140 amendment is a request that the USCIS reopen the EB2 case and convert the EB2 I-140 to an EB3 I-140.  The USCIS will again review the EB2 I-140 and, if the amendment is approved, convert the EB2 to EB3.  If the EB3 dates later retrogress, a new I-140 will have to be filed to obtain an EB2 priority date.

2. Filing a new I-140: A new I-140 includes a new wage request, a new Notice of Filing posting, a new labor market test and a new Labor Certification (when required).  A new I-140 may be required if the employee has moved to a new worksite, new position, or new employer and cannot return to the worksite, position, or employer listed on the approved I-140.  Once the new I-140 is approved, if the employee’s priority date is current, he/she can file an I-485. 

3. Filing a second I-140: A second I-140 can be filed in PERM case (one that requires a labor market test) with an expired Labor Certification.  If an I-140 is filed during the six month validity period of a Labor Certification, the Labor Certification becomes valid indefinitely and can be re-used in subsequent I-140s.  A note that the USCIS will only accept an expired Labor Certification if it was certified by the Department of Labor, so this option is not available in Schedule A cases for PTs and RNs. 

Given the current “flip-flopped” EB3 vs. EB2 priority dates, below are MU’s “need-to-know” points for Chinese and Indian nationals considering an EB2 to EB3 “downgrade”:

  •  Will EB3 filing dates always be more favorable than EB2 filing dates?

The visa bulletin changes every month; there is no guarantee that the visa bulletin categories will remain the same for November or any of the following months. For this reason, it is unclear whether EB2 or EB3 will move faster in the coming months or years.

  •  Premium Processing

Premium Processing is generally not available when filing a second I-140. However, in some cases, the USCIS may accept a Premium Processing request.  Premium processing is usually available when filing an amendment or new I-140.

  •  Can I retain both an EB2 and EB3 I-140 approval simultaneously?

Yes, you can hold two approved I-140s. Those filing for an EB3 downgrade by submitting a new or a second I-140 will retain an EB2 I-140, and hold the EB3 I-140 once it is approved. If the EB3 downgrade is filed as an I-140 amendment to the EB2 petition, the USCIS will convert the EB2 priority to an EB3 priority and the EB2 will no longer be viable.

  •  Medical Exams

Medical exams must be submitted to the USCIS within 60 days of the physician’s signature and, once filed with the USCIS, are valid for 2 years.  If the I-485 approval is not issued within 2 years, the applicant will have to get a new medical exam.  The I-485 can be filed now – without a medical exam - and the USCIS will issue an RFE or a letter of deficiency later in the process and ask for the medical exam at that time. 

  • Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) Considerations

Because the USCIS is accepting the rarely used Filing Dates chart, beneficiaries should be reminded that the privileges of the Child Status Protection Act (CSPA) do NOT extend to filing dates. If you have a foreign-born child nearing the age of 21, please contact your MU attorney immediately.

  • Filing EB3 I-140 concurrently with I-485

Applicants will want to weigh the costs at risk by filing a concurrent I-485. By first filing the I-140 and securing an approved I-140 prior to filing an I-485, the beneficiary and employer avoid the risk of having the I-485 automatically denied because of a denial of the I-140. Keep in mind that an automatic denial of an I-485 when filing concurrently means that none of the associated filing fees will be refunded.

Friday, October 2, 2020

USCIS FEE INCREASES SET FOR OCTOBER 2, 2020 HALTED

On September 29, 2020, a District Court Judge in California stopped the USCIS from implementing their new fee rule set to go into effect on October 2, 2020. 

USCIS announced that the USCIS will not implement their new fee rule on October 2, 2020, including the new USCIS filing fees and new USCIS form versions.

The current USCIS filing fees and forms should be used until a decision is issued in this case. 


Thursday, September 24, 2020

OCTOBER 2020 VISA BULLETIN: EB-3 CURRENT FOR ALL BUT CHINA, INDIA

 

The Department of State has just issued the October 2020 Visa Bulletin. This is the first Visa Bulletin of Fiscal Year 2021. This blog post analyzes this month's Visa Bulletin.

October 2021 Visa Bulletin

Table A: Final Action Dates -- Applications with these dates may be approved for their Green Card (Permanent Residency card) or Immigrant Visa appointment.

Employment-
based

All Other

CHINA

INDIA

PHILIPPINES

1st

C

01JUN18

01JUN18

C

2nd

C

01MAR16

01SEP09

C

3rd

C

01JUL17

15JAN10

C


Table B: Dates of Filing

The USCIS has just announced that it will allow the more favorable Date of Filing chart for I-485 Adjustment of Status. This means that all employment based immigrants in EB-1, EB-2 or EB-3 can file their I-485s starting October 1, 2020.  However if they are natives of India or China, their priority date must be earlier than these dates:



MU Law Analysis

This was the Visa Bulletin that we have been expecting for some time.  Because of the State Department’s inability to issues immigrant visas for much of 2020, there are many, many immigrant visas that are now part of allocation for the new fiscal year. 

Both the Philippines and Worldwide (All Other) EB-3 have become current.  We expect these categories to stay current for the foreseeable future.  The only constraint to the Philippine EB-3 visas being issued is the capacity at the Embassy in Manila. 

The good news extended to India.  India EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 all moved forward, about 3-5 months in all of these categories.  Similarly, China EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 all moved forward at about the same rates as India.  We do not expect a retrogression in these categories. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

PUBLIC CHARGE RULE IS REINSTATED BY USCIS

On September 22, 2020 the USCIS reinstated the new public charge rule. 

Guidance on the USCIS website states that the USCIS will apply the public charge rule to all petitions postmarked after February 24, 2020. 

USCIS will not re-adjudicate any cases which are already approved, but may issue an RFE for any evidence required by the public charge rule on those cases still pending.  Any cases filed after October 13, 2020 without the forms, information, or evidence required by the public charge rule will be rejected.  The I-944 is now re-published on the USCIS website.

As background:
  • In August 2019 the new public charge rule was announced by the Department of Homeland Security.  
  • In early October 2019 the new public charge rule was implemented by the USCIS.  In mid-October 2019, the implementation of the new public charge rule was suspended after a law suit was filed. 
  • In February 2020 the new public charge rule was implemented after the US Supreme Court lifted the nationwide injunction on January 27, 2020. 
  • In July 2020, a District Court Judge in New York stopped the USCIS and DOS from enforcing, applying, implementing, or treating as effective the new public charge rule during the national health emergency declared by President Trump due to Covid-19. On July 31, 2020 USCIS announced that in response to this ruling USCIS will not consider any information or documentation provided with the I-944 on applications filed after July 29, 2020 and removed the form I-944 from its 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

221g CRISIS IN MANILA APPEARS TO HAVE ENDED

Thanks to aggressive lobbying and advocacy by the AAIHR, MU Law believes that immigrant visas are again being issued to applicants who apply through the US Embassy in Manila.  This week, a notable number of MU Law clients have been granted their visas.

MU Law recommends that all nurses who have been waiting to schedule their appointment begin contacting the Embassy and reset their appointments.

Previously, the US Embassy in Manila had denied virtually every nurse immigrant visa for the entirety of 2020, including in January and February, before the pandemic began.


Thursday, September 10, 2020

WHERE THE HWRA STANDS

The HWRA is an important piece of proposed legislation that would allow US patients access to badly needed nurses and doctors.  These two occupations are severely undersupplied by US workers.  As the COVID pandemic moves into a phase where administration of a vaccine, the need for nurses will exponentially grow.  

The HWRA provides a partial answer to this.  The HWRA allows 25,000 fully qualified nurses into the US, who are only waiting to enter the US because of bureaucratic delays and misallocated visa quotas.  The bill similarly allows doctors who have been waiting in the immigration queue for 10+ years to rise to the top of the queue.  

And the HWRA does all this without adding a single visa to the annual quotas.  The HWRA recaptures visas that were authorized by Congress but were not issued because of processing delays at government agencies. 

With 36 bipartisan Senators (out of 100) who have already signed on to co-sponsor the bill, the HWRA is among the most popular bills in the Senate.  In the House of Representatives, the co-sponsor list is approaching 70 members.  As with the Senate, the House list is fully bipartisan with a nearly 50/50 split between Democrats and Republicans. 

Congress is now back in session, after taking most of August off.  It is expected that the Congress will take up additional COVID relief legislation.  The Democrat-controlled House passed a partisan bill in May, which the Republican-controlled Senate has declined to consider.  Now, the Republican-controlled Senate is expected to do the same, and attempt to pass a “skinny” COVID relief bill.  That bill is also not expected to go anywhere. 

After that it is expected that Democrat and Republican leadership will attempt to broker a deal that both parties can hold their nose and agree to endorse.  Any agreement would have to come in the next few weeks.  HWRA advocates are actively seeking to make the HWRA part of any deal. 

The first US presidential debate is set for September 29.  While not a true deadline, September 29 almost serves as a soft deadline for the HWRA, at least until after the US election on November 3.  If no deal is reached by September 29, there is a chance that Congress returns after the election and revisits a COVID relief deal.