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USCIS Announces Further Measures to Detect H-1B Visa Fraud and Abuse

April 6, 2017 Leave a comment
On April 3, 2017, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced multiple measures to further deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse.  The press release states that the H-1B visa program should help U.S. companies recruit highly-skilled foreign nationals when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country. Yet, too many American workers who are as qualified, willing, and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged. Protecting American workers by combating fraud in our employment-based immigration programs is a priority for USCIS.

Beginning April 3, 2017, USCIS will take a more targeted approach when making site visits across the country to H-1B petitioners and the worksites of H-1B employees. USCIS will focus on:

  • Cases where USCIS cannot validate the employer’s basic business information through commercially available data;
  • H-1B-dependent employers (those who have a high ratio of H-1B workers as compared to U.S. workers, as defined by statute); and
  • Employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location.

The press release further states that targeted site visits will allow USCIS to focus resources where fraud and abuse of the H-1B program may be more likely to occur, and determine whether H-1B dependent employers are evading their obligation to make a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers.  USCIS will continue random and unannounced visits nationwide. The press release states that these site visits are not meant to target nonimmigrant employees for any kind of criminal or administrative action but rather to identify employers who are abusing the system.

US Dept of Labor Announces Plans to Protect American Workers from H-1B Program Discrimination

April 6, 2017 Leave a comment

On April 5, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor announced plans today to protect U.S. workers from H-1B program discrimination by providing greater transparency and oversight. The program allows employers to hire highly skilled foreign workers in specialty occupations. The H-1B visa program authorizes the temporary employment of qualified individuals who are not otherwise authorized to work in the U.S.

The Dept. of Labor states that in recent years, some employers have used the H-1B program to hire foreign workers despite American workers being qualified and available for work or even to replace American workers. The department fully supports the U.S. Department of Justice in cautioning employers who petition for H-1B visas not to discriminate against U.S. workers, as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s measures to further deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse.

The department will protect American workers against discrimination through the following actions:

1. Rigorously use all of its existing authority to initiate investigations of H-1B program violators.
This effort to protect U.S. workers will also involve greater coordination with other federal agencies,
including the departments of Homeland Security and Justice for additional investigation and, if
necessary, prosecution.

2. Consider changes to the Labor Condition Application for future application cycles. The Labor
Condition Application, which is a required part of the H-1B visa application process, may be updated
to provide greater transparency for agency personnel, U.S. workers and the general public.

3. Continue to engage stakeholders on how the program might be improved to provide greater
protections for U.S. workers, under existing authorities or through legislative changes.

USCIS received over 236,000 H-1B petitions in April 2016

April 20, 2016 Leave a comment

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 7, 2016, that it has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for fiscal year (FY) 2017. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap.

USCIS received over 236,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 9, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees, unless the petition is found to be a duplicate filing.

The agency conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All unselected advanced degree petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.

USCIS will begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than May 16, 2016.

H-1B Cap Filings Begin Friday, April 1, 2016

February 1, 2016 Leave a comment

April 1 is nearing.  Even though H-1B filings begin the first business day, which is Friday, April 1, 2016, the H-1B individuals will not be able to arrive in the United States until late 2016 (Oct/Nov) or early 2017 to work for employers (given the delays at Consulates).  Here are some thoughts:

Thursday, March 31, 2016 is when we could begin shipping H-1B cases to USCIS with an employment start date of October 1, 2016.

Just as last year, the Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) which is required as part of filing of an H-1B petition, is actually taking up to 7 days to be certified. Thus, if you would like to file an H-1B petition on or shortly after April 1, 2016, consider leaving several weeks of buffer time between document transmittal to our office, preparation, LCA processing delays, etc.  Moreover, things that are beyond our control such as US government shutdown or such similar event, which resulted in LCA website being down for about a month in 2013 could happen again.

It is imperative to note that the regular H-1B quota is 58,200, not 65,000.  This is because 6,800 out of 65,000 are allotted for Chile and Singapore. In addition, there will be 20,000 H-1B available for potential employees who have earned a U.S. masters or a higher degree.

We strongly advise that employers discuss with us at the earliest convenience about the upcoming H-1B cap filings.  

Categories: H-1B Posts Tags: , ,

H-1B & L-1 Fee Increase

December 22, 2015 Leave a comment

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for 2016. The U.S. Senate adopted the Omnibus Appropriations Act (the “Act”) by a vote of 65-33; the House did so by a 316-113.

H-1B & L-1 Fee Increase

The Act includes, among other things, the following changes to the currently expired H-1B/L-1 fees for companies with more than 50 employees and companies where 50% or more of the employees hold H-1B or L-1 status:

  • Additional L-1 fees for companies with more than 50 employees and where 50% or more of the total employees are in H or L status increase from $2,250 to $4,500;
  • Additional H-1B fees for companies with more than 50 employees and where 50% or more of the total employees are in H or L status increase from $2,000 to $4,000;
  • Fees must be paid on initial petitions as well as extension petitions;
  • Fees are authorized for ten years, running through September 30, 2025;
  • The funds generated by these fees will be split between the 9-11 programs and the Biometric Entry-Exit program;
  • The addl. fee goes into effect immediately.  In fact, the US Consulates in India are already charging it.

Fees Breakdown

While we await the final guidance from USCIS on the precise fees to be paid, the following appears to be the breakdown:

  • H-1B initial filing: $325* + $1500** + $4000*** + $500**** = $6325
  • H-1B first extension: $325 + $1500 + $4000 = $5825
  • H-1B second/subsequent extension: $325 + $4000 = $4325
  • L-1 initial filing: $325 + 4500 + 500 = $5325
  • L-1 first or subsequent extension: $325 + $4500 = $4825

*Form I-129 Fee

**ACWIA H-1B training Fee

*** 9-11 Response and Biometric Entry-Exit Fee

****Fraud Detection and Prevention Fee

Precise fee details will be posted on this blog once there is guidance from USCIS.

USCIS Extends Eligibility for Employment Authorization to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants

February 25, 2015 Leave a comment

On February 24, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that effective May 26, 2015, certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants (principal beneficiaries) will be eligible to apply for employment authorization to work in the United States. Even though USCIS currently allows spouses of L and E visa holders to work in the U.S., the rule was not extended to spouses of H-1B visa holders until yesterday’s announcement. It is a welcome news to thousands of families who are in the U.S. in H-1B/H-4 visa status.

The rule comes with certain conditions though. In other words, it is not a blanket eligibility to all H-4 spouses. Only those H-4 spouses that meet the following criteria will be eligible to apply for employment authorization:

Criteria:
Employment authorization-eligible individuals include certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who:

1. Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140 petition; or

2. Have been granted H-1B status based upon:
a) the filing of a labor certification application (365 days or more have elapsed since filing); or
b) the filing of Form I-140 (365 days have elapsed since filing).

Thus, the eligibility to file employment authorization application is offered only to H-4 spouses whose H-1B principal beneficiaries have an ongoing permanent residence (green card) process as described above. As such, the new rule will not apply to H-4 spouses whose H-1B principal beneficiaries do not have any ongoing green card process. It will not also apply to H-4 spouses whose principal beneficiaries have an ongoing green card process but do not otherwise meet the criteria described above.

Process to obtain Employment Authorization:
• Filing of Form I-765 with USCIS.
• Filing fee: $380.00
• Processing time: Approximately 60-90 days.

If you need assistance in filing an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) application, please contact our office.

H-1B Cap Filings Begin Wednesday, April 1, 2015

January 15, 2015 Leave a comment

April 1 is nearing.  Even though H-1B filings begin the first business day, which is Wednesday, April 1, 2015, the H-1B individuals will not be able to arrive in the United States until late 2015 (Sep/Oct) or early 2016 to work for employers (given the delays at Consulates).  Here are some thoughts:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 is when we could begin shipping H-1B cases to USCIS with an employment start date of October 1, 2015.

Just as last year, the Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) which is required as part of filing of an H-1B petition, is actually taking up to 7 days to be certified. Thus, if you would like to file an H-1B petition on or shortly after April 1, 2015, consider leaving several weeks of buffer time between document transmittal to our office, preparation, LCA processing delays, etc.  Moreover, things that are beyond our control such as US government shutdown or such similar event, which resulted in LCA website being down for about a month in 2013 could happen again.

It is imperative to note that the regular H-1B quota is 58,200, not 65,000.  This is because 6,800 out of 65,000 are allotted for Chile and Singapore. In addition, there will be 20,000 H-1B available for potential employees who have earned a U.S. masters or a higher degree.

We strongly advise that employers discuss with us at the earliest convenience about the upcoming H-1B cap filings.  

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