USCIS Announces Cap Reached for Additional H-2B Visas for FY 2019

Posted in H-2B

USCIS announced June 7 it had received sufficient petitions to reach the recently allocated 30,000 additional returning worker H-2B visas (see our related May 8 post here). Some commenters had noted that the returning worker and the “irreparable harm” attestation requirements required under the additional allocation might suppress utilization. Even with the additional requirements, U.S. employers maintained demand for the increased resources in one month’s time.

Here is the June 7 USCIS statement:

Cap Reached for Additional H-2B Visas for FY 2019

USCIS has received enough petitions to reach the additional maximum 30,000 visas made available for returning workers under the H-2B numerical limit (also called a cap) for fiscal year (FY) 2019.

As previously announced, USCIS began accepting H-2B petitions on May 8 under the temporary final rule increasing the cap by up to 30,000 additional H-2B nonimmigrant visas for returning workers through the end of FY 2019.

USCIS will reject and return any cap-subject petitions received after June 5, together with any accompanying filing fees.

USCIS will continue to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap. This includes petitions for:

  • Current H-2B workers in the United States petitioning to extend their stay and, if applicable, change the terms of their employment or change their employers;
  • Fish roe processors, fish roe technicians, and/or supervisors of fish roe processing; and Please contact your GT attorney with questions and please check back as this matter and others will be updated as information becomes available.
  • Workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam from Nov. 28, 2009, until Dec. 31, 2029.

Please contact your GT attorney with questions, and please check back as this matter and others will be updated as information becomes available.

For more on H-2B visas, click here.

Premium Processing Begins for Remaining H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions on June 10, 2019

Posted in H-1B, H-1B Cap, H-1B Premium Processing, USCIS, Visas

Per its announcement on June 7, USCIS started accepting premium processing requests for all remaining FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions on June 10, 2019. This allows petitioners to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service with the service center processing their cap-subject H-1B petition. Previously, USCIS accepted premium processing requests only for FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status.

On March 19, USCIS announced it would offer premium processing requests in a two-phase approach for the FY 2020 cap season to “best manage the premium processing requests without fully suspending it as in previous years.” The first phase allowed premium processing for FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status. The second phase now allows premium processing for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions.

Initially starting April 1, FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker could request premium processing by concurrently filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service with the petition. However, USCIS would not begin premium processing for these petitions until May 20, 2019. Petitioners who did not file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service concurrently with an FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petition requesting a change of status had to wait until premium processing began on May 20 to submit Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

Prepaid Mailer Temporary Suspension:

From June 10 to June 24, USCIS will not use prepaid self-addressed return mailers to return final notices for premium processing for FY 2020 cap-subject petitions that do no request a change of status. USCIS claims “using pre-paid mailers requires a separate and more time-consuming manual process” while use of “regular mailer is fully automated.”

For more on H-1B petitions, click here.

New Leadership at USCIS; Former VA AG Ken Cuccinelli Named Acting Director

Posted in Department of Homeland Security, Global Immigration, Immigration Law, USCIS

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been appointed acting director of USCIS, replacing Acting Director Koumans. Director Koumans replaced Director Cissna on June 3 as acting director. 

Below is the USCIS release:

WASHINGTON— Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan today announced that Kenneth T. (Ken) Cuccinelli will serve as the new acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), effective June 10, 2019.

Cuccinelli will lead an agency of 19,000 employees and contractors who are responsible for administering our nation’s lawful immigration system while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values. In fiscal year 2018 alone, USCIS adjudicated more than 8.7 million requests for immigration benefits.

“I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at this critical time and serve alongside this agency’s dedicated workforce,” said Acting Director Cuccinelli. “USCIS has the extraordinary responsibility to administer and protect the integrity of our nation’s lawful immigration system. Our nation has the most generous legal immigration system in the world and we must zealously safeguard its promise for those who lawfully come here. I look forward to working with the men and women of USCIS to ensure our legal immigration system operates effectively and efficiently while deterring fraud and protecting the American people.”

Cuccinelli previously served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2010 to 2014. During his time as attorney general, he led the Commonwealth in fighting human trafficking. Additionally, he led efforts resulting in record enforcement against gangs, health care fraud, and child predators. Cuccinelli also served in the Senate of Virginia from 2002 to 2010 and has practiced law for nearly 25 years.

Cuccinelli earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Virginia, a law degree from Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, and a Masters in International Commerce and Policy from George Mason University.

Cuccinelli and his wife, Teiro, grew up and live in Virginia and have seven children.

For more on USCIS, click here.

The United States Will Now Require Visa Applicants to Provide Social Media Information

Posted in Department of Homeland Security, social media, U.S. Department of State (DOS), Visas

Under a new State Department policy, virtually all visa applicants to the United States are now required to submit information about social media accounts they have used in the past five years.

Applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas must use the State Department’s Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC) to complete online forms for nonimmigrant (DS-160) or immigrant (DS-260) visas. The Department has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to request additional information, including “social media identifiers,” from almost all U.S. applicants.

The new visa application forms list a number of social media platforms and require the applicant to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years.

US State Department Now Requires Visa Applicants to Provide Social Media Information

Applicants have the option of stating they do not use social media. However, failure to provide accurate and truthful responses in a visa application may result in denial of the visa by a consular officer. An individual’s social media footprint will provide consular officers with a snapshot of contacts, associations, habits, and preferences. Consular officers will likely look for inconsistencies and possible security concerns on a broad range of issues.

This action amplifies the measures outlined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its September 2017 proposal calling for the review of social media records by all immigrants. This marks a significant shift from prior policy under the Obama Administration, which asked visa applicants to submit social media records on a voluntary basis.  

In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, email addresses, international travel, and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities. 

Under the new policy, both temporary visitors and those seeking permanent residence are required to fill out the new forms. Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types will be exempted from this requirement. 

Please consult your GT attorney for additional information and check back here for updates.

For more on social media and immigration policy, click here.

USCIS Names Acting Director as Director Cissna Exits After Posting Metrics Report

Posted in USCIS

USCIS Deputy Director Mark Koumans has been appointed acting director following L. Francis Cissna’s departure. Mr. Koumans has experience in Custom Border Protection and the U.S. Foreign Service.

Prior to his exit from USCIS, former Director L. Francis Cissna released a report highlighting agency programs, workload and accomplishments, in which he states the following:

The 2018 USCIS Statistical Annual Report represents a key piece in our continued commitment to provide improved awareness of the nature and scope of work accomplished by the dedicated men and women of USCIS. … Following a long absence, we are again publishing an annual report, emphasizing our promise of full transparency and accountability to the American people.

In the last fiscal year, USCIS adjudicated more than eight million requests for immigration benefits, which is a 28 percent increase over the last five fiscal years. … USCIS also helped make the American dream become a reality for 757,000 new citizens, a five year high in new oaths of citizenship. The annual report also showcases the work our agency does to protect the integrity of our nation’s immigration through fraud detection, national security vetting, and administering E-Verify, a web-based system used to protect jobs for legal workers. We are proud of the good work accomplished by our dedicated staff to fairly and efficiently administer our nation’s legal immigration system, protect the homeland, and honor our values.

Please check back, as more information on this and other matters will be provided as events warrant.

For more on USCIS, click here.

McDonald’s in Austria to Assist Americans Abroad

Posted in Travel, U.S. Consulates

On May 10, 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Vienna announced a partnership with McDonald’s in Austria to help U.S. citizens in need.

The post states that American citizens traveling in Austria who are in distress may enter any McDonald’s in Austria and receive assistance from staff to contact the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Embassy itself will still be responsible for consular services, such as reporting a lost or stolen passport. One of the first reported instances of assistance was Diane Schmallegger of Las Vegas, who lost her passport in Vienna and walked into a nearby McDonald’s for assistance.

According to McDonald’s, U.S. Ambassador Trevor Traina requested the company provide this new service. There are 194 McDonald’s in Austria, thereby expanding the number of avenues available for Americans in Austria to reach the U.S. Embassy. Note, the McDonald’s in Austria are still in Austrian territory; therefore, a U.S. citizen in a McDonald’s in Austria is still subject to Austrian legal jurisdiction. In other words, don’t commit a crime in Austria and expect to flee into a nearby McDonald’s.

For more embassy news, click here.

OMB Releases Spring Unified Regulatory Agenda; Provides Update on EB-5 and Other Pending Regulations

Posted in EB-5 Program, Immigration Law, Office of Management and Budget, OMB, Uncategorized

Today, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the bi-annual Spring 2019 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.   

As set forth in a Federal Register notice and using the Department of Homeland Security as an example, the Unified Agenda is explained as follows: 

This regulatory agenda is a semiannual summary of projected regulations, existing regulations, and completed actions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its components. This agenda provides the public with information about DHS’s regulatory and deregulatory activity. DHS expects that this information will enable the public to be more aware of, and effectively participate in, the Department’s regulatory and deregulatory activity. DHS invites the public to submit comments on any aspect of this agenda.

As such, these agency submissions are snapshots in time and estimates of pending timelines by the agency, which can change based on many factors.  

Staying with the Department of Homeland Security/USCIS for example purposes, a few rules in final rule stage include, among others:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find past reporting on the OMB Unified Agenda Here

Please check back as we post additional information on the Spring Unified Agenda and other matters as events and new information warrants.

USCIS Completes Data Entry of Fiscal Year 2020 H-1B Cap Subject Petitions

Posted in H-1B, H-1B Cap, H-1B Premium Processing

On May 17, USCIS announced completion of data entry for all fiscal year 2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in its computer-generated random selection process. USCIS will now begin returning petitions that were not selected. USCIS will issue another announcement once it has finished returning all petitions that were not selected. As has been the case in the past, due to the high volume of petitions received, USCIS cannot provide a definite time frame for returning unselected petitions. USCIS asks petitioners not to inquire about the status of their cap-subject petitions until they receive a receipt notice or an unselected petition.

As also has happened in the past, USCIS may transfer some Form I-129 H-1B cap subject petitions between the Vermont Service Center and the California Service Center to balance the distribution of cap cases. If a case is transferred, the employer should receive notification in the mail and should direct all future correspondence to the center processing the petition.

Because premium processing for 2020 H-1B cap subject petitions was available for certain petitions, USCIS will begin issuing decisions or requests for evidence on those petitions filed via premium processing. Hopefully, this will alleviate the processing time delays that plagued last year’s H-1B cap subject adjudications, some of which were not adjudicated until around Spring 2019. Anyone who has not filed a request for premium processing of their H-1B cap subject petition may now file such request.

For more on H-1B petitions, click here.

President Unveils New Immigration Reform Plan

Posted in President Trump's Administration, Visas

Today, President Trump hosted a Rose Garden event unveiling his new immigration plan. The theme of the address, “Modernizing Our Immigration System for a Stronger America,” focuses on border security and modernizing the employment-based immigration systems to be more merit-based, according to the president.

A new initiative called the “Build America Visa” would replace certain employment-based visas with a “merit-based visa to attract the best and the brightest.” The president explained the Build America Visa as follows:

Like Canada and so many other modern countries, we create an easy-to-navigate points-based selection system. You will get more points for being a younger worker, meaning you will contribute more to our social safety net. You will get more points for having a valuable skill, an offer of employment, an advanced education, or a plan to create jobs.

We lose people that want to start companies, and, in many cases, they’re forced to leave our country; go back, usually, to the country where they came from; and they’ll startup companies, and some of those companies are among the biggest and most successful companies today in the world.  They could’ve started them right here in the United States, where they wanted to do it in the first place. Now they’ll have a chance. (Applause.)

Priority will also be given to higher-wage workers, ensuring we never undercut American labor. To protect benefits for American citizens, immigrants must be financially self-sufficient.

Finally, to promote integration, assimilation, and national unity, future immigrants will be required to learn English and to pass a civics exam prior to admission. (Applause.)

The president’s remarks can be found here.

Please check back as we will update this matter and others as information becomes available.

For more on President Trump’s Administration, click here.

Visa Bulletin – June 2019

Posted in China, EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, India, Visa Bulletin, Visas

The U.S. State Department has just released the June 2019 Visa Bulletin, and the headline is the significant retrogression in EB-1 India, where the Final Action Date goes back to January 2015. There is slow forward movement in almost all employment-based categories; EB-1 China remains unchanged and EB-3 India remains more advanced than EB-2 India.

For more visa bulletins, click here.

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