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Home Affairs Committee issues report: Building consensus around immigration policy

The Home Affairs Committee consists of 11 Members of Parliament drawn from the three largest political parties (Conservative, Labour and the Scottish National). It has been chaired by Yvette Cooper MP (Labour) since 2016.

The Committee is currently managing a number of immigration-related inquiries. The most relevant to business immigration are:

  • Home Office’s capacity to deliver immigration services post-Brexit (launched October 5, 2017), which explores the capacity of the Home Office to meet the demands that Brexit will present, such as whether it can process applications from the 3 million EU nationals currently residing in the UK. Evidence has been gathered and we are currently awaiting the Committee’s report.
  • Building a consensus around immigration policy (launched October 17, 2017), which looks into the public perception of immigration and how the government might go about achieving greater consensus on immigration policy.

On January 15, 2017, the Committee published its report on the latter topic: “Immigration policy: basis for building consensus.” Click the UK Parliament website to read (i) the report summary, (ii) the report conclusions and recommendations and (iii) the full report.

To summarize the report’s main themes:

  • There is a lack of trust in official data, targets and decision-making on immigration policy.
  • Rules are complex and hard to understand, and there is concern that they are not being enforced.
  • Stronger coordination is needed between immigration policy and labor market policy.
  • Action is needed to address the impact of immigration, including appropriate investment in housing, public services and integration plans.

As the saying goes, perception is truth. While immigration rules are arguably easier to understand now than prior to the introduction of the points-based system, if public perception is the opposite then there is work still to be done.

If we look at the last 15 years there have been a number of events that have had an impact on the perception of immigration, such as the global financial crisis, the EU’s expansion into Eastern Europe and, most recently, the referendum on exiting the EU.

The report makes a number of compelling recommendations to address the public’s negative perception of immigration. With inevitable changes due to Brexit we have an opportunity to develop an immigration system that will be viewed positively by the wider population.

Some of the recommendations that are most relevant to business immigration and employers are:

  • Scrap the current net migration target and replace it with a new framework of targets and controls based on evidence.
  • Publish an annual migration report on migration flows, the economic contribution from migration and the measures taken by the government to manage impacts and pressures.
  • Link immigration policy for work purposes to strategy for improving investment in domestic skills and training with the target of reducing dependency on migrant labor.

Assess whether over reliance on migrant labor in some low-skilled jobs is due to poor pay, terms and conditions, and what restrictions and controls are needed to prevent undercutting and exploitation.

 

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Home Affairs Committee issues report: Building consensus around immigration policy

H-1B blast off countdown 2017

T minus 59 days. The countdown has begun.  The date is coming.  It will be here soon.

It is the biggest event of the year in United States immigration.

Hundreds of thousands will apply, but only a lucky few will be chosen. Employers keen to recruit and employ the best and brightest talent from around the globe to meet American business needs are already gearing up.  Professionals eager to pursue their career in the United States are updating resumes and collecting diplomas and reference letters. This program is not the best way for a country to succeed, but the United States Congress continues to lack the will and wisdom to change a law almost 25 years old.

Are you ready?

April 1, 2017, is the first day that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) will accept new H-1B specialty occupation worker nonimmigrant visa petitions by employers for foreign professionals.  It is important for global mobility and human resource managers to start work now to secure preliminary Department of Labor approvals, foreign degree evaluations, etc., to be ready to file the petition for an April 1 receipt date.

Limited supply

Only a limited number of new H-1B visas are accepted each year due to legal quota restrictions. Every year, 65,000 new H-1B visa petitions can be granted, of which 6,800 are set aside for citizens of Chile and Singapore under free trade agreements with those countries. To the extent there were unused free trade agreement H-1Bs, those are added to the quota for the next fiscal year. There is an additional allocation of 20,000 new H-1B visa petitions that can be accepted if the foreign professional in question earned a graduate degree from a university in the United States.

Not all H-1B visa petitions are subject to numerical limits. Individuals already holding H-1B visas are not counted against the quota, and petitions filed by institutions of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations are exempt from the limits. And H-1B workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam may also be exempt from the H-1B cap, provided their employers file the petition before December 31, 2019. Employers may not file a petition or an extension request for an employee more than six months before the employee’s intended start date.

Overwhelming demand

Last year, the USCIS received so many new H-1B visa petitions in the first week of April that the agency ended the application window on April 7. Approximately 236,000 new petitions were received, as compared to 233,000 in the prior year. As the regulations mandate, officers then selected—at random—which envelopes to open, and returned the rest unopened with the government filing fees. Only then did the agency begin the often long process of approving or denying the selected petitions on the merits of eligibility.

This year, the USCIS will once again receive more than it is allowed to accept. Again, the agency will randomly decide which envelopes to open and which to return unopened. The likelihood of a petition being selected in April 2017 is much lower than last year, taking into consideration the current state of the economy, the relatively low rate of American unemployment in typical H-1B specialty occupations, and the labor needs of US employers.

The countdown begins now (download dates directly into your Outlook)

T minus 59 days (February 1):  Start working with legal counsel now. Identify current and prospective employees who will need new H-1B visa petitions.

T minus 44 days (February 15):  By now, you and legal counsel should have requested the labor condition application certification from the Department of Labor.  Employers new to the process or who have not filed recently will need to create the appropriate accounts with the Department of Labor. Because the USCIS relies on Dunn & Bradstreet data (DUNS) as part of its employer background verification process, it is important for employers to create or update the company’s DUNS records to avoid inconsistencies with H-1B visa petition filings.

T minus 31 days (March 1):  Have all the required USCIS forms and supporting documents been signed and filing fee checks prepared?  There is still some time left to get last minute details completed, but this is when it gets very hectic. Government systems often become overloaded and delays at the Department of Labor for late filings are common.

T minus 1 day (March 31):  Envelopes should be properly addressed and delivered to the express service of choice with next business morning delivery instructions.

T minus 0 (April 1):  Just like at NASA ground control, this is the stage in the process where all the hard work resulted in successful delivery of the visa petition and you have to wait for the USCIS to announce whether the petition is selected or returned—usually within 3 weeks or so.

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H-1B blast off countdown 2017

US government immigration fee increase proposed

On May 4, 2016, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published notice of a proposal to increase certain government filing fees and create a new fee. The average increase is 21 percent, but the highest increases are for the visas used by American businesses to bring skilled workers to the United States, immigrant investors creating jobs for Americans and immigrants acknowledged to have extraordinary ability.

A 42 percent increase is proposed for the Form I-129 used for the most common work visas, including H-1B professional, O-1 extraordinary ability, and L-1 intracompany transfer visas, as well as E-1 treaty trader, E-2 treaty investor and E-3/FTA H-1B1/TN treaty professional visas processed in the United States rather than at an American consular post or Preflight Inspection Unit abroad. A 42 percent increase is also proposed for the Form I-140 used for EB1, EB2 and EB3 employment-based immigrant visas.

If 42 percent seems outrageous, the increase proposed for the Form I-526 required for an EB5 immigrant investor creating at least 10 jobs for American workers is 145 percent.

Family-based immigration fares better, with only a 27 percent increase proposed for the Form I-130 used by United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to sponsor certain close relatives to immigrate. The Form I-485 required for immigrants who process through the USCIS instead of an American consular post abroad is proposed to increase only 16 percent.

The USCIS explains that the fee increases are required to recover costs for their services and to maintain adequate service. Current service is far from adequate. Although Congress mandated USCIS processing timelines in the American Competitiveness of the 21st Century Act of 2000 (AC21), almost 16 years later the agency continues to consistently fail to meet the standards set by law.

AC21 set 30-day processing times for most employer-sponsored nonimmigrant visas and 180-day processing times for most employer-sponsored immigration. Processing times tend to be at least twice as long or worse. Instead of 30 days, five months is the processing time currently reported for Form I-129 H-1B visa extensions, for example, and the USCIS California Service Center reported that as of February 29, 2016, the agency was currently processing Form I-485 immigrant applications received before May 17, 2014!

The agency has not increased fees in many years. Proposed fee increases usually become final fee increases without significant, if any, change—most likely later this summer.

There is a 60-day comment period. Guidance on how to submit comments is in the notice. The full text of the USCIS notice can be found online at the Federal Register.

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US government immigration fee increase proposed

H-1B blast off countdown 2016

T minus 72 days. The countdown has begun.  The date is coming.  It will be here soon.

It is the biggest event of the year in United States immigration.

Hundreds of thousands will apply, but only a lucky few will be chosen.  Employers keen to recruit and employ the best and brightest talent from around the globe to meet American business needs are already gearing up.  Professionals eager to pursue their career in the United States are updating resumes and collecting diplomas and reference letters.  This program is not the best way for a country to succeed, but the United States Congress continues to lack the will and wisdom to change a law almost 25 years old.

Are you ready?

April 1, 2016, is the first day that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) will accept new H-1B specialty occupation worker nonimmigrant visa petitions by employers for foreign professionals.  It is important for global mobility and human resource managers to start work now to secure preliminary Department of Labor approvals, foreign degree evaluations, etc., to be ready to file the petition for an April 1 receipt date.

Limited supply

Only a limited number of new H-1B visas are accepted each year due to legal quota restrictions.  Every year, 65,000 new H-1B visa petitions can be granted, of which 6,800 are set aside for citizens of Chile and Singapore under Free Trade Agreements with those countries. To the extent there were unused Free Trade Agreement H-1Bs, those are added to the quota for the next fiscal year.  There is an additional allocation of 20,000 new H-1B visa petitions that can be accepted if the foreign professional earned a graduate degree from a university in the United States.

Not all H-1B visa petitions are subject to numerical limits. Individuals already holding H-1B visas are counted against the quota, and petitions filed by institutions of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations are exempt from the limits. The exemption for petitions filed for jobs only in Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands expired on December 31, 2015.

Overwhelming demand

Last year, the USCIS received so many new H-1B visa petitions in the first week of April that the agency ended the application window on April 7.  Approximately 233,000 new petitions were received, as compared to 172,500 in the prior year.  As the regulations mandate, officers then selected—at random—which envelopes to open and returned the rest unopened with the government filing fees.  Only then did the agency begin the often long process to approve or deny the selected petitions on the merits of eligibility.

This year, the USCIS will once again receive more than they are allowed to accept.  Again, the agency will randomly decide the envelopes to open and those to return unopened.  The likelihood of a petition being selected in April 2016 is likely to be much, much lower than last year, taking into consideration the current state of the economy, the relatively low rate of American unemployment in typical H-1B specialty occupations, and the labor needs of United States employers.

The countdown begins now (download dates directly into your Outlook)

launch

T minus 72 days (January 19):  Start working with legal counsel now.  Identify current and prospective employees who will need new H-1B visa petitions.

T minus 45 days (February 15):  By now, you and legal counsel should have requested the labor condition application certification from the Department of Labor.  Employers new to the process or who have not filed recently will need to create the appropriate accounts with the Department of Labor. Because the USCIS relies on Dunn & Bradstreet data (DUNS) as part of its employer background verification process, it is important for employers to create or update the company’s DUNS records to avoid inconsistencies with H-1B visa petition filings.

T minus 30 days (March 1):  Have all the required USCIS forms and supporting documents been signed and filing fee checks prepared?  There is still some time left to get last minute details completed, but this is when it gets very hectic.  Government systems often become overloaded and delays at the Department of Labor for late filings are common.

T minus 1 day (March 31):  Envelopes should be properly addressed and delivered to the express service of choice with next business morning delivery instructions.

T minus 0 (April 1):  Just like at NASA ground control, this is the stage in the process where all the hard work resulted in successful delivery of the visa petition and you have to wait for the USCIS to announce whether the petition is selected or returned—usually within 3 weeks or so.

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H-1B blast off countdown 2016

H-1B Blast Off Countdown

T minus 84 days. The countdown has begun.  The date is coming.  It will be here soon.

It is the biggest event of the year in United States immigration.

Hundreds of thousands will apply, but only a lucky few will be chosen.  Employers keen to recruit and employ the best and brightest talent from around the globe to meet American business needs are already gearing up.  Professionals eager to pursue their career in the United States are updating resumes and collecting diplomas and reference letters.  This program is not the best way for a country to succeed, but the United States Congress continues to lack the will and wisdom to change a law almost 25 years old.

Are you ready?

April 1, 2015, is the first day that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) will accept new H-1B specialty occupation worker nonimmigrant visa petitions by employers for foreign professionals.  It is important for global mobility and human resource managers to start work now to secure preliminary Department of Labor approvals, foreign degree evaluations, etc., to be ready to file the petition for an April 1 receipt date.

Limited Supply

Only a limited number of new H-1B visas are accepted each year due to legal quota restrictions.  Every year, 65,000 new H-1B visa petitions can be granted, of which 6,800 are set aside for citizens of Chile and Singapore under Free Trade Agreements with those countries. To the extent there were unused Free Trade Agreement H-1Bs, those are added to the quota for the next fiscal year.  There is an additional allocation of 20,000 new H-1B visa petitions that can be accepted if the foreign professional earned a graduate degree from a university in the United States.

Not all H-1B visa petitions are subject to numerical limits. Individuals already holding H-1B visas are counted again the quota, and petitions filed by institutions of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations are exempt from the limits.  In addition, petitions filed for jobs only in Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are exempt from the cap until December 31, 2015.

Overwhelming Demand

Last year, the USCIS received so many new H-1B visa petitions in the first week of April that the agency ended the application window on April 5.  Approximately 172,500 new petitions were received, as compared to 124,000 in the prior year.  As the regulations mandate, officers then selected — at random — which envelopes to open and returned the rest unopened with the government filing fees.  Only then did the agency begin the often long process to approve or deny the selected petitions on the merits of eligibility.

This year, the USCIS will once again receive more than they are allowed to accept.  Again, the agency will randomly decide the envelopes to open and those to return unopened.  The likelihood of a petition being selected in April 2015 is likely to be much, much lower than last year, taking into consideration the current state of the economy, the relatively low rate of American unemployment in typical H-1B specialty occupations, and the labor needs of United States employers.

The Countdown Begins Now (download dates directly into your Outlook) 

launch

T minus 84 days (January 7):  Start working with legal counsel now.  Identify current and prospective employees who will need new H-1B visa petitions.

T minus 60 days (February 1):  You and your legal counsel should be working together to prepare job descriptions, determine prevailing wage rates, secure equivalency evaluations of foreign degrees and work experience, and translate key documents.

T minus 45 days (February 15):  By now, you and legal counsel should have requested the labor condition application certification from the Department of Labor.  Employers new to the process or who have not filed recently will need to create the appropriate accounts with the Department of Labor. Because the USCIS relies on Dunn & Bradstreet data (DUNS) as part of its employer background verification process, it is important for employers to create or update the company’s DUNS records to avoid inconsistencies with H-1B visa petition filings.

T minus 30 days (March 1):  Have all the required USCIS forms and supporting documents been signed and filing fee checks prepared?  There is still some time left to get last minute details completed, but this is when it gets very hectic.  Government systems often become overloaded and delays at the Department of Labor for late filings are common.

T minus 1 day (March 31):  Envelopes should be properly addressed and delivered to the express service of choice with next business morning delivery instructions.

T minus 0 (April 1):  Just like at NASA ground control, this is the stage in the process where all the hard work resulted in successful delivery of the visa petition and you have to wait for the USCIS to announce whether the petition is selected or returned — usually within 3 weeks or so.

liftoff

 

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H-1B Blast Off Countdown

US executive action promises important new immigration benefits for some

US President Obama announced on November 20, 2014 a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the US without fear of deportation.  The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) announced that it is not yet accepting any applications for benefits under this program, stating that “[s]ome initiatives will be implemented over the next several months and some will take longer.”

Among the President’s initiatives is a plan to modernize, improve and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow our economy and create jobs.  This is intended to primarily benefit US businesses, foreign investors, researchers, inventors and skilled foreign workers.

The USCIS states that it will implement this initiative as follows:

  • Work with the Department of State to develop a method to allocate immigrant visas to ensure that all immigrant visas authorized by Congress are issued to eligible individuals when there is sufficient demand for such visas.
  • Work with the Department of State to modify the Visa Bulletin system to more simply and reliably make determinations of visa availability.
  • Provide clarity on adjustment portability to remove unnecessary restrictions on natural career progression and general job mobility to provide relief to workers facing lengthy adjustment delays.
  • Clarify the standard by which a national interest waiver may be granted to foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises to benefit the US economy.
  • Authorize parole, on a case-by-case basis, to eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver, but who:
    • Have been awarded substantial US investor financing; or
    • Otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.
    • Finalize a rule to provide work authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent resident status.
    • Work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop regulations for notice and comment to expand and extend the use of optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students, consistent with existing law.
    • Provide clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” to bring greater clarity and integrity to the L-1B program, improve consistency in adjudications, and enhance companies’ confidence in the program.

There is an additional, well publicized initiative to provide temporary legal status to certain individuals who have been in the US unlawfully for a continuous period of more than 5 years, if they are the parent of a US citizen or lawful permanent resident.  More details on all of the initiatives can be found at the USCIS web site.

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US executive action promises important new immigration benefits for some

Congress and the Future of Global Skilled Worker Mobility

The odds are very long that Congress will enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation in 2014, and the odds may not improve much in 2015.  The optimism that surrounded the Senate’s passage of a bipartisan bill in June 2013 has yielded to House leaders’ charges that President Obama cannot be trusted to enforce immigration laws.  Even narrower measures, including a bill providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who serve in the United States military, face vigorous opposition as the 2014 mid-term elections approach.

Washington’s immigration law stalemate contrasts starkly with rapidly accelerating global mobility.  According to the United Nations’ International Migration Report 2013, the number of international migrants increased 50% between 1990 and 2013 to nearly a quarter of a billion.  The country hosting the largest number of international migrants in 1990 and 2013?  The United States.

The United States is also the world’s largest magnet for skilled workers who, with help from prospective employers, navigate a legal maze of visas and potential pathways to permanent legal resident status.  The Senate’s comprehensive bill would expand existing visa and green card categories for skilled (and unskilled) workers and create a few new categories, including a highly anticipated visa for foreign entrepreneurs.  House bills and House leaders’ “immigration reform principles” would generally expand existing categories even more.

But none of the leading bills would allow skilled workers, regardless of their birth place, to put their talents to their highest use or allow employers to compete for all of the skilled workers they need.   Matching workers’ skills to appropriate jobs contributes to rising productivity and economic growth.  Prohibiting workers from moving to jobs where they will succeed robs them of rising incomes.  It also destroys incentives for workers to invest in skills development.  Absent a return, there is little reason to invest.  Thus, even if legislation emerges from Congress in 2015 or 2016, it will not end the debate over skilled workers’ mobility.

Future discussions could bypass the heated domestic immigration debate in favor of a multinational discussion of global visas for skilled workers.  The goal would be to allow freer international movement for well-educated, highly productive workers and greater competition among employers.  The European Union’s essentially free migration between member countries and several trade agreements between the United States and selected countries offering liberal “trade agreement” visas to some workers suggest models.  The framework would be the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) — the lesser known portion of the World Trade Organization’s trade regime.  GATS Mode 4 invites new rules governing service provision in one country by the citizens of another.

A global visa for skilled workers would radically change global mobility.  For this reason, a phase-in strategy is a necessary step to broad acceptance and adoption.  The “starter model” might involve free migration for incumbent employees committed to their current employers, like the United States’ L-1 visa.  A more advanced model would allow free migration of signatory states’ citizens with verifiable tertiary education credentials (e.g., bachelor’s degree) and an established high-skill work history.  The ultimate goal would be free migration for all such skilled workers, regardless of their country of birth or residence.

Skilled workers’ global visas should neither bind them to a particular employer nor require proof of a shortage of workers with their skills.  The U.S. unemployment rate among workers with bachelor’s degrees or more education is half the national average.  Further, the value of existing labor market tests is questionable, at best. Rather than spending money on bureaucratic procedures, employers should aggressively bid up workers’ wages and benefits.  And workers must have full legal protections under the laws of their host country.  Perhaps most important, after some period of time, host countries should offer the reward many immigrants prize most — earned citizenship.

This approach to global mobility for skilled workers faces important challenges.  Developing countries have legitimate concerns about “brain drain” as their high-skilled citizens flock to higher income countries.  These countries may want to include a broader swath of workers in a liberalized transnational mobility system to benefit their citizens.  Extensive negotiations will be required, and the concerns of developing countries and their citizens should be redressed.  But the effort is worthwhile, to assure fair opportunities for upward mobility to workers across the world, to assure employers can find the skilled workers they need, and to promote global economic growth.

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Congress and the Future of Global Skilled Worker Mobility

DHS proposes new rules for professionals and their family

Last week the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced a proposed rule to attract high-skilled foreign workers by allowing spouses of certain H-1B holders to also be eligible to work in the US.  The rule, if enacted, will only help H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B workers who:

  •  Are the beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  •  Have been granted an extension of their authorized period of stay in the United States under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21) as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. AC21 permits H-1B workers seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit.

Other H-4 spouses and H-4 children would not be authorized to work.

In addition, the DHS proposes an unrelated change for certain professional visa holders that removes some obstacles to their remaining in the United States.   If passed, this new rule would:

  • Update the regulations to include nonimmigrant high-skilled specialty occupation professionals from Chile and Singapore (H-1B1) and from Australia (E-3) in the list of classes of aliens authorized for employment incident to status with a specific employer,
  • Clarify that H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants are allowed to work without having to separately apply to DHS for employment authorization.
  • Allow E-3, H-1B1 and CW-1 nonimmigrant workers up to 240 days of continued work authorization beyond the expiration date noted on their Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, while the extension request is pending.

For further information, see the DHS press release.

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DHS proposes new rules for professionals and their family

H-1B Blast Off Countdown

T minus 74 days. The countdown has begun.  The date is coming.  It will be here soon.

It is the biggest event of the year in United States immigration. 

Hundreds of thousands will apply, but only a lucky few will be chosen.  Employers keen to recruit and employ the best and brightest talent from around the globe to meet American business needs are already gearing up.  Professionals eager to pursue their career in the United States are updating resumes and collecting diplomas and reference letters.  This program is not the best way for a country to succeed, but the United States Congress continues to lack the will and wisdom to change a law almost 25 years old.

Are you ready?

April 1, 2014, is the first day that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS) will accept new H-1B specialty occupation worker nonimmigrant visa petitions by employers for foreign professionals.  It is important for global mobility and human resource managers to start work now to secure preliminary Department of Labor approvals, foreign degree evaluations, etc., to be ready to file the petition for an April 1 receipt date.

Limited Supply

Only a limited number of new H-1B visas are accepted each year due to legal quota restrictions.  Every year, 65,000 new H-1B visa petitions can be granted, of which 6,800 are set aside for citizens of Chile and Singapore under Free Trade Agreements with those countries. To the extent there were unused Free Trade Agreement H-1Bs, those are added to the quota for the next fiscal year.  There is an additional allocation of 20,000 new H-1B visa petitions that can be accepted if the foreign professional earned a graduate degree from a university in the United States.

Not all H-1B visa petitions are subject to numerical limits. Individuals already holding H-1B visas are counted again the quota, and petitions filed by institutions of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations are exempt from the limits.  In addition, petitions filed for jobs only in Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are exempt from the cap until December 31, 2014.

Overwhelming Demand

Last year, the USCIS received so many new H-1B visa petitions in the first week of April that the agency ended the application window on April 5.  Approximately 124,000 new H-1B visa petitions were received.  As the regulations mandate, officers then selected — at random — which envelopes to open and returned the rest unopened with the government filing fees.  Only then did the agency begin the often long process to approve or deny the selected petitions on the merits of eligibility.

This year, the USCIS will once again receive more than they are allowed to accept.  Again, the agency will randomly decide the envelopes to open and those to return unopened.  The likelihood of a petition being selected in April 2014 is likely to be much, much lower than last year, taking into consideration the current state of the economy, the relatively low rate of American unemployment in typical H-1B specialty occupations, and the labor needs of United States employers.

The Countdown Begins Now (download dates directly into your Outlook)  

launch

T minus 74 days (January 16):  Start working with legal counsel now.  Identify current and prospective employees who will need new H-1B visa petitions.

T minus 60 days (February 1):  You and your legal counsel should be working together to prepare job descriptions, determine prevailing wage rates, secure equivalency evaluations of foreign degrees and work experience, and translate key documents.

T minus 45 days (February 15):  By now, you and legal counsel should have requested the labor condition application certification from the Department of Labor.  Employers new to the process or who have not filed recently will need to create the appropriate accounts with the Department of Labor. Because the USCIS relies on Dunn & Bradstreet data (DUNS) as part of its employer background verification process, it is important for employers to create or update the company’s DUNS records to avoid inconsistencies with H-1B visa petition filings.

T minus 30 days (March 1):  Have all the required USCIS forms and supporting documents been signed and filing fee checks prepared?  There is still some time left to get last minute details completed, but this is when it gets very hectic.  Government systems often become overloaded and delays at the Department of Labor for late filings are common.

T minus 1 day (March 31):  Envelopes should be properly addressed and delivered to the express service of choice with next business morning delivery instructions.

T minus 0 (April 1):  Just like at NASA ground control, this is the stage in the process where all the hard work resulted in successful delivery of the visa petition and you have to wait for the USCIS to announce whether the petition is selected or returned — usually within 3 weeks or so.

liftoff

, , , , , , , , ,

H-1B Blast Off Countdown