H-1B Visa

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for Certain Petitions

From USCIS.gov on 5/29/20: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced that it will resume premium processing for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, in phases over the next month.

Effective June 1, 2020, USCIS will accept Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for all eligible Form I-140 petitions.

Effective June 8, USCIS will accept premium processing requests for:

  • H-1B petitions filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication and are cap-exempt (for example, petitions filed by petitioners that are cap-exempt and petitions filed for beneficiaries previously counted toward the numerical allocations).
  • All other Form I-129 petitions (non H-1B petitions) for nonimmigrant classifications eligible for premium processing filed before June 8 that are pending adjudication.

Effective June 15, USCIS plans on resuming premium processing for:

  • H-1B petitions requesting premium processing by filing an I-907 concurrently with their I-129 (or request for a petition filed on or after June 8) and are exempt from the cap because:
  • The employer is cap-exempt or because the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, entity or organization (such as an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization); or
  • The beneficiary is cap-exempt based on a Conrad/IGA waiver under INA section 214(l).

Effective June 22, USCIS plans on resuming premium processing for all other Form I-129 petitions, including:

  • All H-1B cap-subject petitions (including those for fiscal year 2021), including change of status from F-1 nonimmigrant status, for both premium processing upgrades and concurrently filed I-907s.
  • All other Form I-129 petitions for nonimmigrant classifications eligible for premium processing and requesting premium processing by filing an I-907 concurrently with their I-129.

All dates are subject to change as USCIS continues to take on more premium processing requests and USCIS will announce any changes to these dates accordingly.

On March 20, USCIS announced the temporary suspension of premium processing for all Form I-129 and I-140 petitions due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

USCIS continues to process any petition with a previously accepted Form I-907, in accordance with the premium processing service criteria.

Petitioners who had already filed Form I-129 or Form I-140 using the premium processing service before the March 20 suspension, but received no action and a refund, may refile their Form I-907 consistent with the timeline above, barring any changes USCIS may announce in the future.

USCIS Expands Flexibility for Responding to USCIS Requests

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that it adopted measures to assist applicants and petitioners who are responding to certain Requests for Evidence (RFE) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID).
This alert clarifies that this flexibility also applies to certain Notices of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) and Notices of Intent to Terminate (NOIT) regional investment centers, as well as certain filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

Notice/Request/Decision Issuance Date:

This flexibility applies to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, NOIT or appealable decision within AAO jurisdiction and the issuance date listed on the request, notice or decision is between March 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020, inclusive.

Response Due Date:

Any response to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, or NOIT received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice will be considered by USCIS before any action is taken.

Any Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision will be considered by USCIS before it takes any action.

USCIS Offices Preparing to Reopen on June 4

On March 18, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended in-person services at its field offices, asylum offices, and application support centers (ASCs) to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). USCIS is readying offices to reopen on or after June 4. Employees in these offices are continuing to perform mission-essential services that do not require face-to-face contact with the public while the offices are closed.

While offices are temporarily closed, USCIS will continue to provide limited emergency in-person services. Please call the USCIS Contact Center for assistance with emergency services.

USCIS field offices will send notices to applicants and petitioners with scheduled appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by the extended temporary closure. USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date and location of the interview. When USCIS again resumes operations for in-person services, USCIS will automatically reschedule ASC appointments due to the temporary office closure. Individuals will receive a new appointment letter in the mail. Those who had InfoPass or other appointments must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center once field offices are open to the public again. Please check to see if the respective office has been reopened before calling the Contact Center.

Please also visit uscis.gov/coronavirus for updates. For the latest information on the status of an office, visit https://www.uscis.gov/about-us/uscis-office-closings.

USCIS Increasing Premium Processing Fee to $1,440 starting 12/02/2019

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced beginning on December 2nd, it is adjusting the fee to request premium processing for certain employment-based petitions.

The premium processing fee will increase to $1,440 from the current fee of $1,410 for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. This increase, which is done in accordance with the Immigration and Nationality Act, reflects the full amount of inflation from the implementation of the premium processing fee in June 2001 through August 2019 based on the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U). USCIS last increased the fee in 2018.

Premium processing is an optional service currently authorized for certain petitioners filing Forms I-129 or I-140. The system allows petitioners to request 15-day processing of these forms if they pay an extra fee. The premium processing fee is paid in addition to the base filing fee and any other applicable fees. It cannot be waived.

Proposed a fee of $10 per H-1B petition for 2020 H-1B Cap Filings

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed a fee of $10 per H-1B petition. The agency considers this to be an “appropriate, nominal fee” to recover some costs involved.

In January 2019, DHS published the rule establishing an H-1B electronic registration system. At that time, no fee was proposed, but the “door was left open.” In mid-August, DHS announced that there would be a fee.

As to what information will be required, that is still a bit up in the air – again, the door is left open by DHS. The agency wants enough information to be able to check for fraud, duplicate registrations filed by the same company, and to ensure that those selected during the registration period ultimately file H-1B petitions. In addition to company identification, each registration would include the beneficiary’s:

Full name
Date of birth
Country of birth
Passport number

Each registration also will require the petitioner to complete an attestation about the “bona fides” of the registration. Frivolous registrations, DHS warns, “may be referred to appropriate federal law enforcement agencies for investigation and further action as appropriate.” Under a “catch-all,” DHS could require: “any additional basic information requested by the registration system to promote certainty.”

Some concerned about frivolous registrations suggested that information include job title, worksite address, salary offers, SOC code, LCA wage level, and specific educational qualifications. Others suggested including disclosure of any recent labor violations or disputes and EEOC complaints and whether the petitioner is H-1B dependent. DHS rejected these ideas (for now), noting that much of that information would be used to review eligibility once an H-1B petition is filed.

Questions remain about what DHS does with the information it gathers during the electronic registration. In accordance with the Administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order, DHS is already gathering and sharing much information on its H-1B Data Hub. The public can search the number of H-1B approvals and denials by company and by year. The public also can see, by employer, the number of approved H-1B petitions by salary and degree type. In addition to making the information public, DHS has stated in a description of the H-1B registration tool that it “may share the information with other Federal, State, local and foreign government agencies” and “may also share [the] information, as appropriate, for law enforcement purposes or in the interest of national security.” The full scope of this statement is not yet known.

It is unclear whether the electronic registration will be ready in 2020 or when the promised trial period for stakeholders will occur.

FLAG System – Update on filing Form ETA-9141

Beginning Monday, June 10, 2019, OFLC will accept online submissions of the Application for Prevailing Wage Determination (Form ETA-9141) in the FLAG System covering all visa programs.

Beginning June 10, 2019, the capability to submit the Form ETA-9141 using the iCERT System will be deactivated. OFLC will continue to accept online submissions of the Form ETA-9141 through the iCERT System until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, Sunday, June 9, 2019.

Technical Assistance Materials:

OFLC has developed a series of instructional videos to help educate the stakeholder community on how to create and manage a FLAG System account and content to prepare the Form ETA-9141 for submission to the NPWC.

To obtain more information and view these instructional videos, please visit the Prevailing Wage Program page on the FLAG System at https://flag.dol.gov/.

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

From uscis.gov on 6/7/19:

On June 10, we will begin premium processing for all remaining FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions.

Starting on that date, petitioners may file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, with the USCIS service center that is processing their petition.

On March 19, we announced that we would offer premium processing in a two-phased approach during the FY 2020 cap season to best manage premium processing requests without fully suspending it.

In the past few years, we suspended all premium processing for H-1B petitions due to high demand.

Based on feedback from the public, we are using this phased approach to benefit petitioners and ensure efficient premium processing.

The first phase, which started on May 20, included FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status and the second phase includes all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions.

At this time, premium processing for H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap, such as extension of stay requests, remains available.

Pre-paid Mailer Temporary Suspension

Starting on June 10 and continuing through the end of June 24, we will not use pre-paid mailers to send out final notices for premium processing for FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions not requesting a change of status.

Instead, we will use regular mail. We will be doing this due to resource limitations as we work to process all premium processing petitions in a timely manner.

The process for printing approval notices and sending them by regular mail is fully automated, whereas using pre-paid mailers requires a separate and more time-consuming manual process.

As such, and given the initial surge of premium processing requests for H-1B cap petitions and its impact on USCIS resources, using pre-paid mailers may actually delay the issuance of an approval notice compared to the standard process, or otherwise negatively affect our ability to timely process premium processing petitions.

After the two-week period, we intend to resume sending out final notices in pre-paid mailers provided by petitioners, when operationally feasible.

USCIS Updates Rejection Criteria for Form I-129

On August 5, USCIS will begin rejecting Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, petitions that do not include the petitioner’s or applicant’s name and primary U.S. office address in Part 1 of Form I-129.

USCIS currently rejects Form I-129 for several reasons. These include, but are not limited to, lack of signature, incorrect fees, or unauthorized third party signing on behalf of the petitioner.

DHS regulations require every form to be submitted in accordance with the form instructions, and allow USCIS to reject any benefit request that is not filed in compliance with the regulations governing the specific benefit request. See 8 CFR 103.2(a)(1) and 8 CFR 103.2(a)(7)(ii)(C).

The petitioner’s or applicant’s primary U.S. office address in Part 1 of Form I-129 must not be the address of the petitioner’s or applicant’s outside counsel or clients. Failure to include the petitioner’s or applicant’s name or providing the address of the petitioner’s or applicant’s outside counsel or clients in Part 1 creates unnecessary delays in the adjudication of Form I-129 and may result in its rejection.

The Instructions for Form I-129 state, in relevant part:

Petitioner Information
Complete the “Legal Name of Petitioner” field (if the petitioner is an individual person or a company or organization). For mailing address, list the address of the petitioner’s primary office within the United States.

In many instances, the petitioner’s or applicant’s primary U.S. office address will determine the filing jurisdiction. Information about where to file Form I-129 is available on the Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker page.

Form I-129 petitions that USCIS rejects due to missing information can generally be refiled with the required information and fee. However, there are instances when a refiled petition or application would be rejected, such as when a statutory cap-subject petition is resubmitted after USCIS has received a sufficient number of petitions projected as needed to reach the congressionally mandated numerical limit.

Texas Service Center to Begin Accepting Form I-129 for Certain H-1B Petitions

From USCIS.gov on 5/20/19:

On May 20, 2019, the Texas Service Center will begin processing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, for certain H-1B cap-exempt petitions requesting:

  • A change in previously approved employment;
  • A change of employer;
  • Concurrent employment;
  • Amendments;
  • A continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer;
  • A change of status to H-1B; or
  • Notification to a U.S. Consulate or inspection facility (port of entry or pre-flight inspection).

This does not include H-1B petitions for cap-exempt entities, petitions that are cap-exempt based on a Conrad/Interested Government Agency (IGA) waiver under Immigration and Nationality Act Section 214(l), or petitions where the employer is located in Guam or the beneficiary will be performing services in Guam.

The Texas Service Center will share this workload with the California Service Center, Vermont Service Center, and Nebraska Service Center to balance workloads and provide flexibility as USCIS works towards improving processing times and efficiency.

Petitioners filing any of the above H-1B petitions should file their Form I-129 at the address indicated on the Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker page.

Starting July 19, 2019 , USCIS may reject any of these petitions that are filed at the wrong service center.

Texas Service Center Filings

File Form I-129 with the TSC if the petitioner’s primary office is located in:

  • Florida
  • Georgia

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

From USCIS.gov on 5/17/19:

USCIS has completed data entry for all fiscal year 2020 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in our computer-generated random selection process, including those selected under the U.S. advanced degree exemption.

As in previous years, we will now begin returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that we did not select and will issue an announcement once we are done notifying petitioners.

Due to the volume of filings, we cannot provide a definite time frame for returning unselected petitions.

We ask petitioners to wait to inquire about the status of their cap-subject petitions until they receive a receipt notice or an unselected petition that we have returned.

Additionally, we may transfer some Form I-129 H-1B cap-subject petitions between the Vermont Service Center and the California Service Center to balance the workload and enhance efficiencies.

If we transfer your case, you will receive notification in the mail.

After receiving the notification, please send all future correspondence to the center processing your petition.

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