H-1B Visa

USCIS reaches H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020




On April 5, 2019, USCIS reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa regular cap for fiscal year 2020.

USCIS will next determine if they have received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap.

Petitions filed for current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap, and who still retain their cap number, will also not be counted toward the FY 2020 H-1B cap.



USCIS Launches H-1B Employer Data Hub




The H-1B Employer Data Hub includes data from fiscal year 2009 through the first quarter of fiscal year 2019 on employers who have submitted petitions to employ H-1B nonimmigrant workers.

Data can be queried by fiscal year, employer name, city, state, zip code, and NAICS code.

The H-1B Employer Data Hub has data on the first decisions USCIS makes on petitions for initial and continuing employment.

It identifies employers by the last four digits of their tax identification.

You can download annual and query-specific data in .csv format.



Premium Processing for FY 2020 Cap-Subject Petitions




Premium processing will be offered in a two-phased approach during the FY 2020 cap season so USCIS can best manage the premium processing requests without fully suspending it as in previous years.

The first phase will include FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status and the second phase will include all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions.

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, may request premium processing by concurrently filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

However, to prioritize data entry for cap-subject H-1B petitions, USCIS will not begin premium processing for these petitions immediately.

USCIS will begin premium processing for these petitions no later than May 20, 2019, and will notify the public before premium processing begins for these petitions.

If a petitioner does not file Form I-907 concurrently with an FY 2020 H-1B cap-subject petition requesting a change of status, the petitioner must wait until premium processing begins to submit Form I-907.

Until premium processing begins for these petitions, USCIS will reject any Form I-907 that is not filed concurrently with a cap-subject Form I-129.

Petitioners must appropriately select response “b” for Item 4 in Part 2 of Form I-129 to be eligible to concurrently file Form I-907.

Second Phase:

Premium processing for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions will not begin until at least June 2019. 

Cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status may not submit their premium processing request concurrently with their H-1B petition.

These petitioners will be eligible to upgrade to premium processing by filing Form I-907 once premium processing begins for this group.

USCIS will notify the public with a confirmed date for premium processing for cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status.

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



LCA Posting – Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB)




3/15/19 – This Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB) reiterates an H-1B petitioner’s obligations when using electronic means to make the requisite notice to all affected employees.

This includes those who are employed by a third-party employer.

The H-1B petitioner must notify all affected employees of its intent to place H-1B workers at the worksite using one of the three required methods.

One of those options is electronic notification. If an H-1B petitioner chooses to provide notice via posting in an electronic location (such as an intranet, internal database, or public website), it must ensure that all affected workers, including those employed by a third-party, have access to, and are aware of, the electronic notification.



3/11/2019 – USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions




From uscis.gov on 3/11/19. USCIS will resume premium processing on Tuesday, March 12, for all H-1B petitions.

If you received a request for evidence (RFE) for a pending petition, you should include the RFE response with the premium processing request.

When an H-1B petitioner properly requests the agency’s premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-day processing time.

If USCIS does do not take certain adjudicative action within the 15‑calendar day processing time, USCIS refunds the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continues with expedited processing of the petition.

If Your H-1B Petition Was Transferred

If you received a transfer notice for a pending H-1B petition, and you are requesting premium processing service, you must submit the premium processing request to the service center now handling the petition.

You should also include a copy of the transfer notice with your premium processing request to avoid possible delays associated with the receipt of your premium processing request.

If your petition was transferred and you send your premium processing request to the wrong center, USCIS will forward it to the petition’s current location.

However, the premium processing clock will not start until the premium processing request has been received at the correct center.

Please use the below table to determine where you should send your premium processing request if USCIS transferred your petition:

If your petition was transferred to the… Send your premium processing request to…
Nebraska Service Center USPS:

USCIS Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87129
Lincoln, NE 68501-7129

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS Nebraska Service Center
850 S Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

Vermont Service Center USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS Vermont Service Center
Attn: I-129 H-1B
30 Houghton Street
St. Albans, VT 05478-2399



USCIS to Update Form I-539 and Publish New Form I-539A




2/25/19. USCIS will be updating Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status and will publish the revised form on the USCIS website on March 11, 2019.

Beginning March 11, 2019, USCIS will only accept the revised Form I-539 with an edition date of 02/04/19.

USCIS will reject any Form I-539 with an edition date of 12/23/16 or earlier that is received by USCIS after March 8.

USCIS will also be publishing a new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, on the Form I-539 webpage on March 11.

Form I-539A replaces the Supplement A provided in previous versions of Form I-539.

Form I-539A can only be submitted with Form I-539; it cannot be filed as a standalone form.

The revised Form I-539 includes the following significant changes:

  • Every co-applicant included on the primary applicant’s Form I-539 must submit and sign a separate Form I-539A, which will be available on the Form I-539 webpage on March 11.
  • Parents or guardians may sign on behalf of children under 14 or any co-applicant who is not mentally competent to sign.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometric services fee, except certain A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants as noted in the new Form I-539 Instructions to be published on March 11.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice, regardless of age, containing their individual receipt number.
  • The biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the primary applicant’s address. Co-applicants who wish to be scheduled at a different ASC location should file a separate Form I-539.
  • USCIS will reject any Form I-539 that is missing any of the required signatures or biometrics fees, including those required for Form I-539A.



USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions Filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018




2/18/2019 from uscis.gov:

USCIS will resume premium processing on Tuesday, Feb. 19, for all H-1B petitions filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018.

If you received a transfer notice for a pending H-1B petition, and you are requesting premium processing service, you must submit the premium processing request to the service center now handling the petition.

You should also include a copy of the transfer notice with your premium processing request to avoid possible delays associated with the receipt of your premium processing request.

Additionally, if you received a request for evidence (RFE) for a pending petition, you should also include the RFE response with the premium processing request.

If your petition was transferred and you send your premium processing request to the wrong center, USCIS will forward it to the petition’s current location.

However, the premium processing clock will not start until the premium processing request has been received at the correct center.

Please use the below table to determine where you should send your premium processing request if USCIS transferred your petition:

If your petition was transferred to the… Send your premium processing request to…

Nebraska Service Center

USPS:

USCIS Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87129
Lincoln, NE 68501-7129

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS Nebraska Service Center
850 S Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

Vermont Service Center

USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS Vermont Service Center
Attn: I-129 H-1B
30 Houghton Street
St. Albans, VT 05478-2399

When an H-1B petitioner properly requests the agency’s premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-day processing time. If USCIS does not take certain adjudicative action within the 15‑calendar day processing time, USCIS refunds the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continues with expedited processing of the petition.

The previously announced temporary suspension of premium processing remains in effect for H-1B petitions to which it applied that were filed on or after Dec. 22, 2018. On Jan. 28, USCIS resumed premium processing for FY 2019 cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS plans to resume premium processing for the remaining categories of H‑1B petitions as agency workloads permit.



USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for Fiscal Year 2019 H-1B Cap Petitions




USCIS will resume premium processing on Monday, Jan. 28, for all fiscal year (FY) 2019 H-1B cap petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption (the “master’s cap”).

Petitioners who have received requests for evidence (RFEs) for pending FY 2019 cap petitions should include their RFE response with any request for premium processing they may submit.

This service is only available for pending petitions, not new submissions, because we have already received enough petitions to meet the FY 2019 cap.

The previously announced temporary suspension of premium processing remains in effect for all other categories of H-1B petitions to which it applied.



iCERT will open for service at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday, January 7, 2019




The iCERT Portal System is currently unavailable.

UPDATED ANNOUNCEMENT (January 4, 2019, 7:00PM EST):

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor held a conference call to update stakeholders on the status of the iCERT system. The Department is confident the iCERT System will open for service at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday, January 7, 2019.

Due to an unprecedented volume of simultaneous system users that included applications for 97,800 workers on January 1, 2019, the legacy iCERT System experienced a failure preventing applications for H-2B temporary labor certifications from being submitted to the Department.

The Department’s iCERT Rapid Response team has been working non-stop to address all issues. Steps taken to recover and restore stability to the iCERT System include:

 

    • Increasing web server capacity to 50 servers for managing the increased number of system users who need to submit applications;

 

    • Instituting a “CAPTCHA” feature at the iCERT login stage to ensure individuals, as opposed to computer algorithms, are interacting with the system, and;

 

    • Continuing to perform intensive testing and performance tuning on the iCERT system to simulate the functional load volume and activity of a large number of simultaneous system users.

 

The H-2B program is statutorily limited to 66,000 worker positions annually with 33,000 allocated to each half of the fiscal year. H-2B applications are date and time stamped to establish the order of submission, because of the demand for the program. A huge surge in user activity is expected upon the reopening of the iCERT System on January 7, especially in the first 15 minutes. The non-H-2B users should not attempt to log into the system until 3:00 p.m.

The Department’s iCERT Rapid Response Team will be monitoring the system’s servers continuously when services are restored.

Out of an abundance of caution, we have established and will be prepared to activate a backup solution should an unlikely new system disruption occur.

We understand how important our programs are for employers and realize this workforce is critical to meeting the seasonal needs of many employers across the nation. Thank you for your patience.



DHS Proposes Merit-Based Rule for More Effective and Efficient H-1B Visa Program




From uscis.gov on 11/30/18: WASHINGTON—The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions to first electronically register with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period.

Under the proposed rule, USCIS would also reverse the order by which USCIS selects H-1B visa petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption, likely increasing the number of beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to be selected for an H-1B cap number, and introducing a more meritorious selection of beneficiaries.

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelors or higher degree in the specific specialty, or its equivalent.

When USCIS receives more than enough petitions to reach the congressionally mandated H-1B cap, a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, is used to select the petitions that are counted towards the number of petitions projected as needed to reach the cap.

The proposed rule includes a provision that would enable USCIS to temporarily suspend the registration process during any fiscal year in which USCIS may experience technical challenges with the H-1B registration process and/or the new electronic system.

The proposed temporary suspension provision would also allow USCIS to up-front delay the implementation of the H-1B registration process past the fiscal year (FY) 2020 cap season, if necessary to complete all requisite user testing and vetting of the new H-1B registration system and process.

While USCIS has been actively working to develop and test the electronic registration system, if the rule is finalized as proposed, but there is insufficient time to implement the registration system for the FY 2020 cap selection process, USCIS would likely suspend the registration requirement for the FY 2020 cap season.

Currently, in years when the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption are both reached within the first five days that H-1B cap petitions may be filed, the advanced degree exemption is selected prior to the H-1B cap.

The proposed rule would reverse the selection order and count all registrations or petitions towards the number projected as needed to reach the H-1B cap first.

Once a sufficient number of registrations or petitions have been selected for the H-1B cap, USCIS would then select registrations or petitions towards the advanced degree exemption.

This proposed change would increase the chances that beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education would be selected under the H-1B cap and that H-1B visas would be awarded to the most-skilled and highest-paid beneficiaries.

Importantly, the proposed process would result in an estimated increase of up to 16 percent (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.

USCIS expects that shifting to electronic registration would reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for USCIS.

The proposed rule would help alleviate massive administrative burdens on USCIS since the agency would no longer need to physically receive and handle hundreds of thousands of H-1B petitions and supporting documentation before conducting the cap selection process.

This would help reduce wait times for cap selection notifications.

The proposed rule also limits the filing of H-1B cap-subject petitions to the beneficiary named on the original selected registration, which would protect the integrity of this registration system.

On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, instructing DHS to “propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of U.S. workers in the administration of our immigration system.”

The EO specifically mentioned the H-1B program and directed DHS and other agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

Additional information on the proposed rule is available in the Federal Register.

Public comments may be submitted starting Monday, December 3, when the proposed rule publishes in the Federal Register, and must be received on or before January 2, 2019.



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