Welcome to the January 2011 edition of the VisaPro newsletter. If you were planning to file an H-1B petition for your employee but have not done it yet, then time is quickly running out. Hiring in the U.S. has been slowly increasing in many sectors by each passing day, clearly signaling that the economy is recovering. USCIS has already announced that the H-1B advanced-degree quota was met on December 24, 2010. Employers can still seek H-1B cap numbers for in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 but it is anticipated that H-1Bs for FY2011 may run out as early as the end of January or the beginning of February. Once the H-1B cap for FY2011 is met, employers will have to wait until April 2011 to be able to file again i.e. for a start date no earlier than October 1, 2011!
Employers still planning to file H-1B cap cases for FY2011 employment should contact VisaPro immediately. Remember, with Labor Conditions Applications taking at least five days for approval, employers must act fast.
The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released a report to Congressional Committees dated January 2011 titled "H-1B Program: Reforms Are Needed to Minimize the Risks and Costs of Current Program". The GAO examined various topics including: what is known about employer demand for H-1B workers; how the cap affects employer costs and decisions to move operations overseas; H-1B worker characteristics; the potential impact of raising the cap; and how well the requirements of the H-1B program protects U.S. workers. The GAO analyzed data from federal agencies, interviewed agency officials, experts, H-1B employers and reviewed agency documents and literary before submitting its 118 page report. The report claims to offer several matters for congressional consideration, including that Congress re-examine key H-1B program provisions and make appropriate changes as needed. The report also recommends that the DHS and Department of Labor take steps to improve efficiency, flexibility and monitoring of the H-1B program.
USCIS has just announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the Department of State, has identified 53 countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs for the coming year. The new list of eligible countries is effective January 18, 2011, and the designations are valid for one year. This new list does not affect the status of individuals who currently hold valid H-2A or H-2B visas or status. The news list does not include countries from the South Asian Peninsula, such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc., are still excluded from the list. Find out which countries are eligible to participate in H-2A and H-2B visa programs in 2011.
The Department of State (DOS) has declared that they will soon publish final rule for the adjusted consular service fee schedule in the federal register. The interim final rule has been in effect since June 4, 2010. This rule amended the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services for nonimmigrant visa application and border crossing card processing fees. The rule implemented a tiered fee structure for the first time. The Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee for all nonimmigrant visas was $131 before the rule change. Within the tiered structure, the processing fee for most non-petition based non-immigrant visas is $140. Most MRV fee for most petition-based visas is now $150. The rule also increases the fee for the Border Crossing Card for Mexicans from $13 to $14.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the implementation of the Help HAITI Act of 2010, which authorizes USCIS to grant lawful permanent resident status to certain orphaned children from Haiti, who were paroled into the United States under the Haitian Orphan Parle Program (HOPP) after the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. The Help HAITI Act of 2010 authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to adjust HOPP parolees who are physically present in the United States to LPR status.
USCIS issued an interim memo for the adjudication of any applications for Adjustment of Status under the Help Haiti Act 201. Applicants filing for adjustment pursuant to the Help HAITI Act are instructed to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, by noting "Help HAITI Act" in Part 2(h): Other basis for eligibility. Applications for adjustment under this Act must be filed at any time on or before December 9, 2013.
Other Developments in Immigration Law
New Countries Eligible to Participate in H-2A and H-2B Programs
The Department of Homeland Security in consultation with the Department of State, has identified 53 countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs for the coming year. This new list does not affect the status of individuals who currently hold valid H-2A or H-2B visas or status. A national from a country that is not on the list may be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A and H-2B petition if the Secretary of Homeland Security determines, in her sole and unreviewable discretion, that it is in the U.S. interest for the alien to be a beneficiary of the petition.
USCIS Implements Help HAITI Act of 2010
USCIS announced the implementation of the Help HAITI Act of 2010. This new law authorizes USCIS to grant lawful permanent resident status to certain orphaned children from Haiti, who were paroled into the United States under the Haitian Orphan Parole Program Exit Disclaimer after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.
and Other Fun Stuff
Check out our In Focus section for this month, titled "B-1 Visa Extension Application: Issues to Consider Before Filing" aims to shed light on some basic and important things to consider when making the crucial decision about whether or not to file or when to file for a B-1 visa extension.
Every month we introduce a new and interesting question for our opinion poll. Last month's poll results indicate that 70.00% of the respondents favor USCIS' proposed rule of requiring online pre-registration of employers who are filing H-1B cap petitions. We appreciate that people take interest in the opinion question and cast their vote to give us their feedback. Keep it up! And continue to cast your vote to express Your Opinion.
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