USCIS

USCIS Now Accepting Copies of Negative O Visa Consultations Directly from Labor Unions

Effective immediately, USCIS will begin accepting copies of negative consultation letters directly from labor unions relating to a current or future O nonimmigrant visa petition request. O-1 and O-2 nonimmigrant visas are available to individuals with extraordinary ability in science, education, business, athletics, or the arts, and individuals with extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, and certain essential support personnel. A consultation letter from a U.S. peer group, labor organization, and/or management organization is generally required for petitions in the O visa classification.

Typically, a petitioner submits the necessary O visa consultation with the petition, and that process requirement remains unchanged. Director L. Francis Cissna recently met with several labor unions to discuss concerns they had with the consultation process for O visa petitions, in particular that some advisory opinions may be falsified by petitioners and submitted to USCIS as no-objections or favorable consultations, when in fact these were negative. The labor unions will now be able to send a copy of a negative consultation letter to USCIS so that it can be compared to the consultation letter submitted to USCIS by the petitioner.

Labor unions should send copies of negative O nonimmigrant consultation letters to UnionConsultationMailbox@uscis.dhs.gov. To make sure USCIS matches the letters to the correct petitions, labor unions should include the last five digits of each beneficiary’s passport number in the consultation letters. Note that only copies of negative consultation letters should be sent to USCIS in the manner described above for O petitions.

After six months USCIS will analyze the data collected to identify areas for improvement in the consultation process. Additional information on O nonimmigrant visas is available on the O-1 Visa: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement page.

USCIS Completes the H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for FY 2019

On April 11, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process to select enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally-mandated cap and the U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap, for fiscal year (FY) 2019.

USCIS received 190,098 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 2, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS announced on April 6, that it had received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 and the master’s cap of 20,000. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees unless the petition is a prohibited multiple filing.

 

USCIS Reaches FY 2019 H-1B Cap

Demonstrating a critical demand for educated foreign workers in the United States, the annual H-1B cap was reached on April 6, 2018.  This is the 6th year of H-1B cap being reached within the first week of filing acceptance.  

USCIS has reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2019.

USCIS has also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap.

The agency will reject and return filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that are not prohibited multiple filings (PDF, 119 KB).

EB-5 Regional Center Program gets Extended (again) without Any Changes

SEC. 204. Section 610(b) of the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1993 (8 U.S.C. 1153 note) shall be applied by substituting “September 30, 2018” for “September 30, 2015”

This language refers back to Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1993 (Public Law 102-395) Section 610 (PDF page 47), which established the regional center program. The 2018 Appropriations Act does not include the EB-5 Reform Act, or other EB-5 changes. It just extends the borrowed time until we get a good piece of EB-5 legislation.

H-1B VISA PROGRAM AND TRUMP: HOW HIGH-SKILLED IMMIGRANTS ARE BEING THREATENED BY PRESIDENT’S ADMINISTRATION

The Trump administration’s once-rumored restrictions to the H-1B visa program have begun to take effect.

They’re causing a shakeup particularly in the United States tech industry because the temporary, non-immigrant work document enables companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers in fields that require technical and theoretical expertise.

EB-5 Regional Center Program Extension

USCIS administers the EB-5 program, created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Under a program initially enacted as a pilot in 1992, and regularly reauthorized since then, investors may also qualify for EB-5 classification by investing through regional centers designated by USCIS based on proposals for promoting economic growth. On February 9, 2018, the President signed Public Law 115-123; extending the Regional Center Program through March 23, 2018.

As H-1B applications get under way, foreigners face new challenges

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced a bill Thursday that would vastly increase the number of H-1B visas available and ease restrictions on the issuance of green cards to foreign workers.

The bill, also sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., would bring relief to the Bay Area’s large community of immigrants working at startups and big tech companies, many of whom rely on the H-1B visa, as well as their employers, who have quietly lobbied for years for an expansion of the program.

Lapse in Federal Funding for Certain USCIS Operations

The current lapse in annual appropriated funding for the U.S. government does not affect USCIS’ fee-funded activities. Our offices will remain open, and all applicants should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled.

However, several USCIS programs will either expire or suspend operations, or be otherwise affected, until they receive appropriated funds or are reauthorized by Congress. These include:

  • EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program. Regional centers are a public or private economic unit in the United States that promote economic growth. USCIS designates regional centers for participation in the Immigrant Investor Program.
  • E-Verify. This free internet-based system allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.
  • Conrad 30 J-1 doctors. This program allows J-1 doctors to apply for a waiver of the two-year residence requirement after completing the J-1 exchange visitor program. The expiration only affects the date by which the J-1 doctor must have entered the United States; it is not a shutdown of the Conrad 30 program entirely.
  • Non-minister religious workers. This special immigrant category allows non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations to immigrate or adjust status in the United States to perform religious work in a full-time, compensated position.

Generally, if the government shuts for budgetary reasons, all but "essential" personnel are furloughed and are not allowed to work.

  • January 21, 2018 Update: USCIS has confirmed that DACA renewal processing will continue.

DOS: Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and should not be impacted by a lapse in appropriations, but operating status and funding will need to be monitored closely. If visa operations are affected, consular posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and "life or death" emergencies.

CBP: Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered "essential.” Ports of entry will be open; however, processing of applications filed at the border may be impacted.

ICE: ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and ICE attorneys will typically focus on the detained docket during a shutdown. The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices are unaffected since SEVP is funded by fees.

EOIR: EOIR's detained docket is typically considered an essential function and would therefore continue to operate. During the 2013 shutdown, EOIR continued to accept court filings, even in non-detained cases.

**DOL: The OFLC would cease processing all applications in the event of a government shutdown, and personnel would not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. OFLC's web-based systems, iCERT and PERM, would be inaccessible, and BALCA dockets will be placed on hold. - This means no labor certification processing until the government shutdown is over.

CIS Ombudsman: The DHS Office of the CIS Ombudsman would close and would not accept any inquiries through its online case intake system.

Texas Service Center to Begin Processing Form I-129 for L Visas

USCIS - On February 12, 2018, the Texas Service Center (TSC) will begin processing certain Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker petitions for L nonimmigrant classification, also known as L visas. The TSC will share this workload with the California Service Center to balance workloads and to provide flexibility as USCIS works towards improving processing times and efficiency. The Vermont Service Center will no longer process any new Form I‑129 petitions requesting L nonimmigrant classification. 

Petitioners requesting an L nonimmigrant classification 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 March 12, 2018, USCIS may reject any of these applications that are filed at the wrong service center.

Congress Passes Stopgap Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown Against a Friday Deadline**

**which includes the EB-5 Program extension to January 19, 2018

WASHINGTON — Congress gave final approval on Thursday to legislation to keep the government funded into January, averting a government shutdown this weekend but kicking fights over issues like immigration, surveillance and health care into the new year.

The stopgap spending bill extends government funding until Jan. 19 while also providing a short-term funding fix for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, whose financing lapsed at the end of September.