Friday, March 27, 2015

SENATE BUDGET BILL PASSES WITHOUT IMMIGRATION AMENDMENTS

Senators and Congressmen have a long history of attaching pet amendments to budget and funding bills.  They know that these bills are “must pass” legislation, meaning that Congress will certainly pass a budget or else the entire government would shut down.  Since budget and funding bills are must pass, prized amendments get approved without going through the usual route, working their way through subcommittees and full committees.  This year several odd amendments were offered.

Sen. Hatch (R-UT) offered an amendment that sought to allow the conference committee to raise the H-1B cap, increase STEM visas, raise the green card cap, and increase the H-1B fee.  Sen. Grassley (R-IA) sought the exact opposite.  He hoped to restrict H-1B usage.  Neither amendment was successful. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

H-1B CAP NOTES: PREMIUM PROCESSING, NUMBER OF FILINGS, ETC.

The H-1B cap requires that all H-1B petitions are received at the USCIS’ California Service Center or Vermont Service Center by Tuesday April 7, 2015.  Below are some key points to keep in mind about this year’s H-1B cap:

-The USCIS makes no accommodation for delays caused by couriers.  Accordingly, MU Law will file the vast majority of its H-1B petitions on March 31 for delivery by April 1, which is the first day that H-1B petitions are accepted.

-Premium Processing Service (PPS) may not start until May 11, 2015, although the USCIS could start PPS earlier, depending on the volume of petitions that are received.  Last year PPS began on April 28.

-The USCIS expects that more H-1B petitions will be received this year than last year.  At the recent AILA Manila chapter conference, a USCIS official said that he expected more than 200,000 H-1B cap-subject filings.  There were 172,500 cap-subject H-1Bs in 2014 (FY 2015).

-Last year it was mid-May before most H-1B lottery winners and losers found out about the outcome of their lottery selection.  Since the volume is expected to be greater in 2015, it may not be until June until lottery winners and losers know their outcome.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

SEN. GRASSLEY HATES THE H-1B? NO, HE LOVES THE H-1B!

The Senate is controlled by Republicans who are odds at how to handle the real and perceived problems with the H-1B visa.  One group of Senators, led by Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT), recognizes the obvious: that the H-1B visa quota is an enormous hindrance to the US economy.  Sen. Hatch’s solution is to increase the quota while maintaining protections for US workers.  Sen. Hatch’s bill, the I-Squared bill, has support from Senators in both parties, with co-sponsorship from eleven different Senators.  It is the rare piece of legislation that has support from a diverse group of Senators. 

This sensible coalition recognizes that an increased H-1B visa cap is necessary.  There is no real evidence that the H-1B drives down US workers’ wages.  

The other side of the debate is spearheaded by Sen. Grassley (R-IA), with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) riding alongside.  Neither Senator is actually interested in getting legislation passed, as evidenced by the fact that neither has actually introduced any legislation.  They are only interested in rabble rousing.  Earlier this week, they held a hearing on the H-1B visa, which amounted to nothing. 

Sen. Grassley's plan seems to be able to force amendments to the I-Squared, whose support is growing.  He has done this many times in the past.  These amendments will only increase the regulatory and legislative headaches that lawful staffing companies already face.  The companies that take advantage of loose enforcement will continue to do so.  

It is in the Senator's best interest to keep the H-1B bill alive and well.  How else can he tell the protectionists how bad it is?  

Monday, March 16, 2015

HISTORICAL H-1B USAGE

This year’s H-1B filing date of April 1, 2015 is coming fast.  MU Law predicts that the USCIS may see 200,000 H-1Bs filed this year, more than double the Congressional cap of 85,000.  When the USCIS receives more H-1B petitions than slots available it holds an “H-1B lottery”.  Last year, the USCIS held an H-1B lottery because it received over twice as many H-1B petitions as slots available..

If you are considering filing an H-1B cap-subject petition, MU Law urges you to begin that process now.

Many healthcare professions ordinarily qualify for H-1B status, including Physical Therapists,Occupational TherapistsSpeech Language Therapists, and some Registered Nursing positions.

International workers who are working in the U.S. on an H-1B visa with another cap-subject employer are not subject to H-1B cap. These cases are commonly referred to as “H-1B transfer” cases and may be filed at any time throughout the year.

Employees that need a "cap-subject" H-1B include:

* International students working on an EAD card under an OPT or CPT program after having attended a U.S. school
* International employees working on a TN may need an H-1B filed for them in order for them to pursue a permanent residency (green card) case
* Prospective international employees in another visa status e.g. H-4, L-2, J-1, F-1
* H-1B workers with a cap exempt organization
* Prospective international employees currently living abroad

Past H-1B Demand:

Year:
H-1B Cap Numbers:
Date H-1B Cap Reached:
H-1B 2003 (FY 2004)
65,000
October 1, 2003
H-1B 2004 (FY 2005)
65,000
October 1, 2004
H-1B 2005 (FY 2006)
85,000
August 10, 2005
H-1B 2006 (FY 2007)
85,000
May 26, 2006
H-1B 2007 (FY 2008)
85,000
April 3, 2007
H-1B 2008 (FY 2009)
85,000
April 7, 2008
H-1B 2009 (FY 2010)
85,000
December 21, 2009
H-1B 2010 (FY 2011)
85,000
January 25, 2011
H-1B 2011 (FY 2012)
85,000
November 22, 2011
H-1B 2012 (FY 2013)
85,000
June 11, 2012
H-1B 2013 (FY 2014)
85,000
April 5, 2013
H-1B 2014 (FY 2015)
85,000
April 1, 2014
H-1B 2015 (FY 2016)
85,000
April 1, 2015 (expected)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

APRIL 2015 VISA BULLETIN

The Department of State has just released the April 2015 Visa Bulletin.  This is the seventh Visa Bulletin of the 2015 US Fiscal Year, which began October 1, 2014.  There is once again very positive news for many immigrant visa categories.

The biggest news is the continued progression of the Philippines EB-3, the Worldwide-All Other (ROW) EB-3 date and the Mexican EB-3 date.  These are all now at October 2014, which is the closest to current they have been in many years.  This is yet another large progression in dates.

India EB-2 climbed forward steadily as well.  It has moved to September 2007, representing a 2 and a half year increase in the last three months.  

Chinese numbers righted themselves.  For two years the Chinese EB-3 has been more favorable than Chinese EB-2.  With this Visa Bulletin, Chinese EB-2 is now the better date.

Employment- Based
All Other
CHINA - mainland bornINDIAMEXICOPHILIPPINES
1stCCCCC
2ndC01APR1101SEP07CC
3rd01OCT1401JAN1108JAN0401OCT1401OCT14

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

USCIS H-1 NURSE MEMO REISSUED: ANOTHER MISSED OPPORTUNITY

In July 2014, the USCIS published and released a Memorandum aimed at clarifying the USCIS’ position on the approvability of H-1B Registered Nurses.  The Memorandum updated the long-standing 2002 Johnny Williams USCIS Memorandum on the same subject.  The July 2014 Memorandum did not provide any substantive guidance beyond than the 2002 Williams Memorandum.   It paid lip service to the idea that USCIS officers should remember that, “there are some situations, however, where the petitioner may be able to show that a nursing position qualifies as a specialty occupation”.

Oddly, the July 2014 Memorandum disappeared from the USCIS’ website shortly after publication.  Some practitioners hoped that that USCIS had reconsidered the Memorandum and would issue a Memorandum that provided concrete instruction and examples.

Unfortunately, the USCIS has finally republished the Memorandum.  It is identical to the July 2014 Memorandum, except the date of the Memorandum is now February 18, 2015.

An article that MU Law posted in July 2014 includes a link to the July 2014 Memorandum and an analysis of the missed opportunity.  Rather than restate the arguments that we made in that article, we will just point you there.

Monday, March 2, 2015

H-4 EAD FAQ

Starting May 26, 2105, certain H-4 spouses of H-1B holders can file for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD).  The full regulation has just been published. 

Musillo Unkenholt has had many questions from clients and friends of the firm.  We have published these in this FAQ.

Can I file before May 26, 2015?
No.  The USCIS will not accept EAD applications until May 26, 2015.

How long will it take the USCIS to process the EAD Application?
Traditionally EAD Applications take 90-120 days until approval.

Can I work upon the filing of the EAD Application?
No.  The EAD must be approved?

Who qualifies for the new H-4 EAD card?
Certain H-4 spouses may file for the new H-4 EAD.  Children who hold H-4 status are ineligible for the EAD.

Which H-4 spouses may file for an EAD?
In order to decide if you qualify for the H-4, we must look to the underlying H-1B status holder.  The USCIS elected to apply the rule first set forth in Section 106 of AC21.  The H-1B worker must either:

A.  Hold an approved I-140, Petition for Alien Worker.  The approved I-140 does not need to be from his present employer; or
B.  Have a priority date that is at least one year old.  A priority date can be established by the filing of a PERM Application or a Form I-140.

May an H-4 spouse file for an EAD if the H-4 spouse holds (A) an approved I-140 or (B) one year has passed since the filing of a PERM or I-140?
No.  The USCIS looks to the H-1B worker to meet A or B, above.  It is irrelevant if the H-4 meets A or B.

Are there any limitations on the work that I can perform on an H-4 EAD?  For instance, is there a prevailing wage?  Am I limited only to certain types of jobs?
No.  There are no such limitations.  You can work for any employer, at any rate (above minimum wage), and in any occupation.

What should I do if I want to file an H-4 EAD?
EAD Applications do not require an attorney’s assistance, although many people find it helpful to have an attorney assist in the process.  If you would like MU Law to help, please contact us.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

H-4 EAD RULE IS EFFECTIVE MAY 26

USCIS has just announced that the long-awaited H-4 EAD rule will go into effect on May 26, 2015.

Under the new H-4 EAD rule, the H-4 spouse may obtain an EAD card in two instances.   (1) Either the principal H-1B worker has to have had a PERM Application pending for at least one year or (2) the principal H-1B worker has to have an approved I-140. 

H-4 spouses who meet one of the two conditions may file an I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.  Ordinarily, I-765 Applications are approved in 90-120 days.  Accordingly, H-4 spouses who qualify should be able to begin working in September 2015.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

NON-IMMIGRANT MAINTENANCE OF STATUS: F-1 & PERIODS OF AUTHORIZED EMPLOYMENT

Generally, all persons in a non-immigrant classification are required to maintain their immigration status for the duration of their stay in the U.S. This issue is of particular importance as we approach the impending 2016 H-1B CAP season. A prospective employee in a non-immigrant status must demonstrate compliance and maintain status at the time of the H-1B filing. Failure to maintain the status can cause a denial in the prospective employee’s H-1B petition.

More recently, the USCIS has narrowly focused on F-1 students and particularly whether the student maintained status during any period(s) of authorized employment. The authorized periods of employment may include any work performed while engaged in Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

There are 4 primary characteristics that serve as evidence of the student’s maintenance of status while engaged in OPT/CPT:  
  1. The student was enrolled full-time each semester;
  2. The student was engaged in full-time employment while on OPT/CPT (or part-time work if so designated on the SEVIS Form I-20);
  3. The CPT was an integral part of the student’s degree program; and  
  4.  The student engaged in CPT work after completing 1 year of academic studies. 
In their discretion, the USCIS can request for additional clarification of the student’s academic and employment history. And ultimately the agency can issue a denial of the H-1B petition when the evidence provided deviates from the above mentioned characteristics.    

Sunday, February 15, 2015

PREDICTING THE VISA BULLETIN FOR 2015

AILA regularly checks in with Charlie Oppenheim, who is the Department of State’s guru on Visa Bulletin numbers.  Their most recent Check In with Charlie contains projections for 2015.  Here are his projections for several major visa categories.

India EB-2.  This category had stagnated for a long time until the recent March 2015 Visa Bulletin that progressed the date by 16 months, to January 2007.  Charlie expects that India EB-2 will continue to progress at a very steady rate in the upcoming months.

Philippines EB-3.  Demand for Philippine EB-3 remains lower than expected, which is good news for those in this category.  He does not see the demand on the horizon, which leads to his projection that Philippine EB-3 should run parallel to Worldwide EB-3.  He cautions that if the nursing demand returns, a correction may be required for this category.

Worldwide EB-3. The Worldwide EB-3 has advanced in the past few months in order to spur demand.  If the demand continues to stay soft, the progressions will continue.  If the demand picks up, the Worldwide EB-3 number will slow down.

China EB-2 and EB-3.  Low demand for Chinese family-based visas has buoyed the China EB-2 and EB-3 categories.  The EB-2 continues to run behind the EB-3 category, although the gap between the two appears to be tightening. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

MARCH 2015 VISA BULLETIN

The Department of State has just released the March 2015 Visa Bulletin.  This is the sixth Visa Bulletin of the 2015 US Fiscal Year, which began October 1, 2014.  This is one of the most favorable Visa Bulletins in years and likely reflects the decreased demand for US visas during the recession.

The biggest news is the continued progression of the Philippines EB-3, the Worldwide-All Other (ROW) EB-3 date and the Mexican EB-3 date.  These are all now at June 2014, which is the closest to current they have been in many years.

India EB-2 had a jump in dates as well.  It moved to January 2007, representing a 2 year increase int he last two months.   Even India EB-3 reached a milestone, progressing into 2004.

The Chinese EB-2 and EB-3 number continued to move inconsistently.  China EB-3 remains ahead of China EB-2 which has been the case for much of the last two years.

Employment- Based
All Other
CHINA - mainland bornINDIAMEXICOPHILIPPINES
1stCCCCC
2ndC01SEP1001JAN07CC
3rd01JUN1422OCT1101JAN0401JUN1401JUN14

Thursday, February 5, 2015

POSSIBLE LEGISLATION: THE STARTUP ACT

A new bill called “The Startup Act” was introduced in the Senate last week to benefit immigrant entrepreneurs and those in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.  The Startup Act states that new companies create jobs in the US and that entrepreneurs must be free to work in the US and to hire employees to get the US back to work.

The Startup Act offers the following three key benefits:

1.       Conditional Permanent Residency for Those in STEM Fields.

Aliens holding a master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM field from a US institution can apply for Conditional Permanent Residence (CPR) for up to one year after their F-1 studies conclude.  CPR is a temporary green card, valid for a limited period of time and contingent on the green card holder completing certain required actions.  At the end of the temporary green card validity period, the applicant must have completed the required actions to obtain a permanent green card, valid for ten years.

To qualify for CPR under this part of the Startup Act, the applicant must be “diligently searching” for an opportunity to become gainfully employed in a STEM field occupation.  The alien can be granted CPR for up to five years and can remove the conditions and obtain a permanent green card, or naturalize and become a US Citizen after the five year period, provided the applicant has been employed in a STEM occupation for the duration of the five year period.

2.       Conditional Permanent Residency for Entrepreneurs.

The Startup Act provides that immigrant entrepreneurs can be granted CPR for up to four years.  The CPR holder is eligible to apply for a permanent green card if:
·         the alien holds F-1 or H-1B status
·         during the first year of the CPR, the alien
o   registers a new business in the US
o   the alien’s business employs at least full-time employees who are not members of the alien’s family
o   the alien invests or raises capital of $100,000
·         during the remaining three years of the CPR, the alien employs at least five full-time employees who are not members of the alien’s family

3.       Elimination of Per Country Caps and Rollover of Unused Green Cards.

Finally, the Startup Act phases out the per country caps on green cards over a three year period.  It also provides for the rollover of unused green cards.


Monday, February 2, 2015

KNOWN EMPLOYER PROGRAM FOR CANADIAN COMPANIES

By late 2015, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is expected to launch a test program with the Canadian government. The initiative is designed to streamline adjudication of certain types of employment-based immigration benefit requests filed by eligible U.S. employers. Essentially, the goal is to aid U.S.– Canada business travel.  
The pilot program emerged under the U.S. and Canada Beyond the Border initiative. The latter allows both countries to work together to address threats within, at, and away from their borders, while expediting lawful trade and travel. And in doing so, the pilot program furthers the binational commitment under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Known Employer program will facilitate legitimate cross-border business travel along the northern border ports of entry. Specifically, the program targets to: 
  • Make adjudications more efficient and less costly.
  • Reduce paperwork and delays for both the department and U.S. employers who seek to employ foreign workers.

This is not the first program of its kind. The DHS has initiated a trusted employer concept in the Philippines with its Priority Interview Program and  Business Executive Program in India. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

H-1B TELECONFERENCE ON FEB 4

** REMINDER **

In anticipation of the H-1B cap filing date of April 1, 2015, MU Law will be holding a free teleconference for our clients on February 4, 2014 at 2PM / 11AM PT.  Interested clients should email MU’s Annalisa Smith, who can register you for the teleconference.

Last year the H-1B cap was reached in the first week; we expect that the demand will be even greater this year.  It is imperative that all H-1B cap-subject petitions are filled on April 1, 2015.

H-1B cap-subject petitions include:
* International students working on an EAD card under an OPT or CPT program after having attended a U.S. school
* International employees working on a TN may need an H-1B filed for them in order for them to pursue a permanent residency (green card) case
* Prospective international employees in another visa status e.g. H-4, L-2, J-1, F-1
* H-1B workers with a cap exempt organization
* Prospective international employees currently living abroad

In addition to the H-1B cap discussion, MU lawyers will also provide an employment-based immigration legislation update.

Monday, January 26, 2015

THE BEST PROOF THAT THE H-1B IS NOT ABOUT TAKING JOBS


In 2009, a mere 9,000 H-1Bs were received in the first month of H-1B processing.  It would be 264 days before the H-1B cap was reached.  In 2010, it took 300 days until the H-1B cap was reached.  In 2011, there were 236 days between the April 1, 2011 cap opening and the November 23, 2011 cap being reached.  Not coincidentally, the US employment rate from 2009-2011 ranged between eight and ten percent.

On the other hand, the H-1B cap was reached on the very first day in 2007, 2008, 2013 and 2014, mirroring the low unemployment rate.


 
The lack of H-1B petition filings in years when the unemployment rate is high is compelling evidence against the argument that internationally-trained workers are being used to displace American workers and lower US workers' salaries.

Why?  Because if H-1B visa labor was being used primarily to lower US workers’ salaries, then H-1B filing numbers would not correlate with US unemployment rates.   If anything, the reverse would happen because the incentive to reduce workers’ salaries is likely greater in a recessed economy, not less.

This logic is straightforward and it is a shame that otherwise successful people do not see employment visas for what they are -- tools for growing industries to fill labor shortages.  Organizations -- and governments -- work better when they work on data and not on nonsense.