Hello and welcome to the December 2013 Immigration Newsletter!
VisaPro wishes all its readers Happy Holidays and a very prosperous New Year! We are very happy to have spent the last year with you and look forward to continue to help you accomplish your immigration goals in 2014!!
2013 has been a landmark year in the field of US immigration. As we usher in 2014, let’s take a look back at some of the more interesting and key developments that took place in the world of US immigration in 2013:
First, the FY 2014 H-1B cap was reached in the first week of filing (reportedly within only a day or two), forcing USCIS to conduct a ‘lottery’ for the first time since April 2008. USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions between April 1 and April 5, which included petitions seeking the advanced degree exemption. USCIS conducted a lottery on April 7, 2013, to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the H-1B cap.
As a side note, it is important to remember that USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2015 cap on April 1, 2014. With the economy continuing to get stronger and unemployment rates continuing to dip, it is widely expected that we’ll be seeing another H-1B lottery for FY 2015! If an employer misses the chance to petition for an employee because the cap is reached, he or she will have to wait until 2015 to file or look for an alternate visa category (which may or may not exactly match his or her requirements). We strongly advise that employers begin to prepare most or all of their H-1B petitions as early as possible in order to file the petitions on or as close as possible to April 1, 2014 to ensure that their petitions have the greatest chance to be included in the quota for FY 2015. If you are an employer intending to employ foreign workers on H-1B, make sure to contact VisaPro at the earliest to discuss all options and not leave things to the last minute.
Let’s get back to our look back at 2013. One of the biggest stories affecting immigration was effective death of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down key parts of DOMA. Specifically, SCOTUS declared that Section 3 of the Act, which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, was unconstitutional. As a consequence of this ruling, same-sex partners are now able to avail immigration benefits on par with other married couples, including the ability to file immigrant petitions, seek status as immediate relatives and dependents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, and seek status as dependents of nonimmigrant visa holders.
Another great immigration milestone was the passage of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill in the Senate by a decisive majority vote. Some of the more popular provisions of the bill included increasing the H-1B cap to 115,00 in the first year with allowances for further increases depending on the demand; introduction of a new merit-based visa program; and elimination of per-country limits in the employment based green card categories. Unfortunately, nearly 6 months after the bill was passed by in the Senate, its passage through the House of Representatives still remains stalled. With House Representatives yet to reach any compromise on their version of a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and some of them working on separate piecemeal legislation, it is still unclear if immigration reform will even occur in 2014 despite lawmakers continuing to state that it’s a priority.
Finally, the U.S. government actually shut down!!! The first half of October 2013 witnessed a federal government shutdown that lasted 16 days– the third-longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The shutdown significantly impacted certain classes and types of employment based nonimmigrant and immigrant visa processing. While the direct effect on USCIS was minimal, the shutdown directly impacted the Department of Labor as the filing of Labor Condition Applications (LCA’s), Prevailing Wage Requests, and PERM applications completely stopped. The inability to file or receive LCA’s had a significant impact on H-1B, H-2A and H-2B filings. With some experts raising concerns that another federal government shutdown could be a possibility in mid-January if the current Budget doesn’t pass, employers are strongly advised to begin their LCA submissions for April 2014 H-1B filings early.
DOING BUSINESS IN THE US
Earlier this year, our Senior Immigration Attorney, Mr. Thomas Joy, gave Workshop Presentations at the highly successful ‘Doing Business In The US’ workshops that were organized in six major Indian cities from January 28 to February 8, 2013. His presentation, “U.S. Immigration Strategies: How to Avoid Costly Mistakes and Receive More Approvals,” was attended by 750 paid attendees from 600 companies. Mr. Joy presented on various key topics related to B-1, H-1B, L-1, Blanket l, and Green Cards, and provided practical tips and suggestions to the attendees. He also conducted Mock Interview sessions with candidates for B-1 visas.
You may view a few photographs and videos of the Attorney Presentation and the Workshop. We look forward to interacting with you all in similar forums in 2014 as well. You may also contact us if you would like us to arrange a presentation to a group.
Other developments in 2013 included:
- The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) completed the implementation of the automation of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Records for all air and sea travelers. With I-94 automation, foreign visitors no longer need to fill out a paper form I-94 when arriving in the U.S. by air or sea. Instead, records of admission are now generated using traveler information already transmitted through electronic means. Travelers who require a hard copy of the arrival-departure record or other evidence of admission can access this information online and print a copy of their I-94. CBP continues to issue paper I-94’s at land border ports of entry.
- The Department of State (DOS) nominated Chile for inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program. The nomination initiated a process of verification of various security safeguards and information-sharing requirements before Chile can formally enter the program.
- USCIS’s Provisional Waiver Application process, initially announced in early 2012, officially began on March 4, 2013. Under the new program, certain immigrant visa applicants who are immediate relatives (spouses, children and parents) of U.S. citizens can now apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver before they leave the United States to attend an immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Consulate abroad.
Overall, 2013 was an exciting year in US immigration. We hope and expect that 2014 will bring us all further good news and developments in that area!!
Other Developments in Immigration Law:
January 2014 Visa Bulletin: EB-2, EB-3 Priority Dates Advance for All Countries except India
In the recently published U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin for January 2014, the EB-2 priority dates remained current in respect of all countries other than India and mainland China. The EB-2 priority date remained at 11/15/04 with respect to India and advanced marginally from 11/08/08 to 12/08/08 in respect to mainland China. EB-3 priority dates advanced for all countries except India, in where the priority date remained at 09/01/03. EB-3 priority dates for China are better than the EB-2 dates.
Immigration Articles and Other Fun Stuff:
Our ‘Featured Video’ for this month is “Visa Cap Rules for: H1B Visa, H1B1 Visa, H2B Visa, and H3 Visa” in which we discuss the various cap rules that employers must keep in mind while considering hiring foreign nationals on H visas. Please check out and subscribe to our YouTube channel to take advantage of another great service provided to you by VisaPro.
Check out our ‘In Focus’ article for this month titled “P-1 Visa for eSport Professionals: Let the USCIS Game Begin!” in which we discuss how recent developments have expanded the growing number of eligible “athletes” who are able to seek a P-1A visa, including eSports professionals who are now eligible to seek P-1A visas to come and perform for payment or prize money in the US.
Every month we introduce a new and interesting question for our opinion poll. Results of our previous poll indicate that half of the respondents (50%) think that the EB-3 category will witness significant retrogression in the near future. We continue to appreciate that people take interest in the opinion question and cast their votes to give us their feedback. Keep it up! And continue to cast your vote to express Your Opinion.
We also congratulate John Sandler for winning last month’s Immigration Quiz. While we received more than one correct response to the quiz question, John gave the best answer and won a free online consultation to discuss the concerned Immigration issues. It’s time to get ready for this month’s quiz. If you know the correct answer your name might be featured in next month’s newsletter. All the Best!!!
See you next month with a lot more noise from the Immigration World!