Happy Fall!

Pardon our sabbatical, but it’s been a bit of slow summer for immigration news.

Overall, visa appointment delays at consulates worldwide early in the summer continued to delay cases as the consulates tried to catch up, this combined with reduced summer holiday staffing at many consulates and the desire of many foreign nationals in the US to travel and obtain a visa during the summer meant frustrations for many. This abated by summer’s end though and students and professors seeking to enter by September and H-1B workers coming for October seemed to not be too severely impacted.

Family detention facilities on the Southern border continued to make immigration headlines with their poor conditions, long waits, and limited access to counsel. Immigration attorneys from around the country, including several funded by my local New England chapter, travelled and provided much needed legal assistance during the summer.

It has also been sobering to see the headlines out of Europe on the vast numbers of people seeking refuge in the European Union. As many smaller and less economically advantaged countries there struggled to cope with this flood of displaced persons, it was a stark reminder that the United States’ struggles to formulate immigration policy in the face of large population displacements by politics and poverty are not unique.

Amidst these global issues, our government has struggled to find a middle ground which would allow them to fund necessary federal programs and avert a shutdown. Earlier this week a continuing resolution was signed by the President which will fund the government (including numerous immigration programs and departments) through mid-December. As Speaker Boehner departs, we all are anxious about what these funding negotiations will look like again come December. Stay tuned.

By far the biggest newsmaker going into the fall was what has now been termed the “visa bulletin debacle”. In attempts to assist foreign nationals waiting in lengthy visa bulletin lines, the government announced their intention to allow a large number of individuals to file applications early, only to “roll back” the eligibility dates after further recalculation. Further details on this “debacle” can be found in our separate post.

Keep tuned in for further updates as the fall progresses and thanks for reading!

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Technology Problems at US consulates resolved

The technology problems occurring in June at U.S. Consulates around the world are resolved, according to the U.S. Department of State. This delayed visa issuance for almost a third of a million travelers.

All visa-issuing embassies and consulates are now back online and visa issuance is proceeding. All remaining backlogged cases are expected to be cleared by this week.

http://www.travel.state.gov/content/travel/english/news/technological-systems-issue.html

TECHNOLOGY PROBLEMS AT US CONSULATES OVERSEAS

Beginning about June 9, 2015, US consulate posts overseas began experiencing system problems. These problems meant that visa applications worldwide were being delayed. As of June 25, 2015, this problem has been fixed at 85% of visa issuance posts. The Bureau of Consular Affairs is continuing to make efforts to have this problem resolved at the remaining posts. Please contact our office if you are impacted and need more information.

TPS DESIGNATED FOR NEPAL

On June 24, 2015 the Department of Homeland Security designated Nepal for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for a period of 18 months. This designation allows eligible Nepalese nationals (and aliens having no nationality who last habitually resided in Nepal) who have continuously resided in the United States since June 24, 2015 and have been continuously physically present in the US since June 24, 2015 to be granted TPS. Potentially qualified individuals should apply within the 180 day registration period which began on June 24, 2015 and ends on December 21, 2015.

During the TPS designation period, TPS beneficiaries are eligible to remain in the US, may not be removed, and are authorized to work and to obtain EAD (work permits), so long as they continue to meet the requirements of TPS. TPS beneficiaries may be granted travel authorization as a matter of discretion.

It is important to note that the granting of TPS does not result in or lead to lawful permanent resident status. It is a temporary status and when the TPS designation terminates, beneficiaries return to the same immigration status they had before TPS (if any).

Specific requirements of the forms and documents required for an individual to apply for TPS may be found at the USCIS website at http://www.uscis.gov/news/dhs-announces-temporary-protected-status-designation-nepal.

H-1B CAP REACHED

As expected, USCIS announced that as of April 7, 2015 it had received enough H-1B petitions to reach the congressionally-mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year 2016.  This means that more than 85,000 H-1B petitions were filed with USCIS in one week.

At present, USCIS is completing intake of all petitions filed during the first week. Once this is completed, they will run a computer-generated random selection process (“the lottery”) to select 65,000 petitions for the general H1B quota, and 20,000 for the advanced degree quota. The lottery for the advanced degree selection will occur first, and any unselected petitions that qualified for that quota will be included in the second random selection for the general quota.

Any H-1B petitions filed by April 7 but not selected in the quota will be returned.  Likewise, any petitions subject to the quota that are filed after April 7, 2015 will be returned.

USCIS has not yet announced the date it will conduct the random selection process, nor when it will notify applicants of their acceptance or rejection.

USCIS will continue accepting petitions for H-1B’s that are not subject to the quota, including exempt employers and petitions for extension of stay or changes of employer where the employee has already been counted toward the cap.

If your case was not selected in the quota, you should contact skilled immigration counsel like Law Office of Adrienne J. Vaughan to discuss alternatives at the earliest opportunity.

 

 

 

 

DHS Extends Eligibility for Employment Authorization to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses

Effective May 26, 2015, certain H-4 dependent spouses may apply for work permits. Eligible H-4s are those whose H-1B spouse is the principal beneficiary of an approved I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or those H-1Bs that have been granted continuing H-1B status as a result of AC21 sections 106(a) and (b).

Each of these presumes that an H-1B has been in H-1B status for some time and has started the green card process. Thus, the applicability of these work permits will be limited to only certain H-4 spouses. Nonetheless, the USCIS is estimating this program may benefit as many as 179,600 H-4s in the first year.

If you desire assistance in determining your applicability for this program, or completing the required application, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

Additional details may be found on the USCIS website directly at http://www.uscis.gov/news/dhs-extends-eligibility-employment-authorization-certain-h-4-dependent-spouses-h-1b-nonimmigrants-seeking-employment-based-lawful-permanent-residence

Legislation for More H-1B Numbers Introduced

Bi-Partisan Group of Senators Introduces Immigration Innovation Act of 2015

This Tuesday, a bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a bill that would address some of the most frustrating restrictions imposed upon high-skilled workers under our current immigration system. The Immigration Innovation Act of 2015 (known as the “I-Squared” Act), co-sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would provide critical reforms to an outdated and inadequate system that hampers our economy by preventing the immigration of high-skilled workers. Key elements of the bill include the following:

• Increasing the H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000, with the potential to increase to 195,000, depending on market demand;
• Removing the cap on individuals with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions;
• Providing employment authorization for H-1B dependents (H-4 visa holders);
• Providing an exemption from the employment-based green card cap for dependents of green card holders, individuals with advanced STEM degrees from U.S. institutions, individuals with extraordinary ability, and outstanding professors and researchers;
• Recapturing immigrant visa numbers that were unused in previous years;
• Eliminating annual per-country limits for employment-based immigration and adjusting the caps for family-based immigration.

While it is encouraging to see Congress introduce a bill that would facilitate high-skilled immigration, we remain uncertain about the likelihood of its passage in our current political climate. Nevertheless, we will monitor the status of this bill and keep you apprised of any developments.