Hello and welcome to the April 2012 Immigration Newsletter!
The FY 2013 H-1B Cap filing season has begun and it’s kicked off with a big bang (at least compared to the last 2 years)! According to USCIS, the number of filings received in the first three days of the H-1B season (April 2-April 4, 2012) was almost double the number of filings received by USCIS during the same time last year. USCIS currently reports that as of April 20, 2012, it has received approximately 25,000 H-1B cap-subject petitions and 10,900 petitions for foreign nationals with advanced degrees. The progression of H-1B numbers during the first 20 days of the filing period are as follows:
|Date (As on)||H-1B Regular Cap Eligible Petitions||H-1B Master’s Exemption Petitions|
So far, more than half of the master’s cap number has already been reached! In fact, the numbers are moving so quickly that while there are already more than 25,000 regular cap cases filed, only 22,700 were filed as of August 03, 2011 last year! These numbers would indicate that the economy is slowly on its path to recovery. More importantly for employers to keep in mind, however, is that the H-1B quota will not remain open for 7 or 10 months as it has the last few years. Based on the current progression of H-1B cap numbers, we don’t expect the quota to remain open more than a few months. 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 moment.
As expected, in the Department of State (DOS) Visa Bulletin for May 2012, the EB-2 priority dates for India and China have retrogressed and moved back to 15 August 2007 from May 01, 2010. Significantly, the DOS has also confirmed that the annual limit in the EB-2 category for China-mainland born and India has been reached and has notified USCIS that no further visas for those categories will be authorized. USCIS will continue to accept adjustment applications based upon the cut-off dates published in the April and May Visa Bulletins but requests from USCIS Service Centers and Field Offices for visas in the EB-2 category aliens chargeable to China-mainland born or India will be retained by DOS for authorization in FY 2013, beginning on October 1, 2012.
Continuing with some more DOS news, DOS announced adjustment of visa processing fees effective April 13, 2012. Under the announcement while the fees for most nonimmigrant visa applications and Border Crossing Cards increased, the fee for E visas (for treaty-traders and treaty-investors) and K visas (for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens), as well as all immigrant visa processing fees decreased. Click here to view the relevant fee changes.
On the H-2B front, the new H-2B Regulations 2012 were set to take effect on April 27, 2012. Accordingly, applications postmarked on or after April 27, 2012 are supposed to be adjudicated in accordance with the requirements described in the Final Rule. DOL has informed that any application filed under the current regulation that is postmarked on or after April 27, 2012 will be returned, and the employer (and its agent or attorney) informed of the need to file a new application in accordance with the provisions of the new H-2B Final Rule. The DOL has recently posted a first round of FAQs to assist employers, workers, and other interested parties in interpreting the H-2B 2012 Final Rule.
On April 26 2012, however, before the rule could go into effect, a District Judge in Florida ordered a preliminary injunction preventing the 2012 Final Rule from being implemented for at least 60 days. Several business and associations sued DOL in the Northern District of Florida over the H-2B final rule, alleging that DOL lacks rulemaking authority, and asking the court to vacate the rule and to issue a preliminary injunction. The Plaintiffs alleged that the DOL’s issuance of the Final Program Rules were in excess of their authority and must be vacated. With this challenge to the new regulations, one can safely assume that the new regulations are going to be in the news for some time in the near future.
Employers and other participants under the H-2B program should not fail to checkout our In Focus article of the month that showcases the major changes brought about by the new H-2B regulations 2012. Furthermore, employers should contact VisaPro at the earliest to discuss the recent developments and to see what effect, if any, the new rules and/or the injunction will have on the H2B process.
Meanwhile, we are happy to share with you that our Senior Immigration Attorney, Mr. Thomas Joy, gave a Seminar Presentation at the International HR SIG Event organized by Northern Virginia Society for Human Resource Management in McLean, VA on April 19, 2012. His presentation, “U.S. Immigration: What Corporate HR Must Know” was well received. We are also happy to share with you that all the participants stated that they learned something that they did not know before the Seminar. You may click here to view a few photographs of the Attorney Presentation and the Seminar. We look forward to interacting with you all in similar forums in the future. You may also contact us if you would like us to arrange a presentation to a group.
Other Developments in Immigration Law:
H2B Cap Count Update
USCIS has updated the count of H2B visa petitions received and counted towards the H2B cap for the 2nd half of fiscal year 2012 employment. As of April 20, 2012, USCIS has received filings on behalf of approximately 23,431 beneficiaries, and approved approximately, 20,915 H2B beneficiaries for the 2nd half of FY 2012.
USCIS Releases Information on Automatic Extension of F-1 Student Status for Those with Pending H-1Bs
USCIS confirmed the continuation of the F-1 “Cap-Gap” program. The program grants a cap-gap extension for F-1 students whose status would normally expire while waiting for an H-1B petition to be reviewed. Eligible F-1 students (those whose status is still valid when an H-1B petition is filed for the next fiscal year) will remain in status as long as the H-1B petition is filed before their F-1 status expires. Furthermore, if the H-1B petition is fled before the student’s OPT expires, the student will continue to be authorized to work until the effective date of the H-1B petition. Eligible students can go to their Designated School Official to have a cap-gap I-20 issued showing an extension once the H-1B petition is filed and receipt notice is received. Once the H-1B is approved, the student should return to the DSO to ensure that the I-20 is endorsed for the entire period until the H-1B goes into effect. USCIS released their annual Questions and Answers on Cap-Gap on March 29, 2012.
Immigration Articles and Other Fun Stuff:
Our ‘Featured Video’ for this month, titled ‘TN Canada: NAFTA Visas for Canadian Professional Workers’, showcases the TN work visa, specifically for Canadian professionals, which is an excellent alternative to H1B visa for Canadian nationals. The video details the qualifications required for TN NAFTA visas, and how Canadian professionals can enter the US with greater ease under the TN classification. Please check out and subscribe to our YouTube channel to take advantage of another great service provided to you by VisaPro.
Also check out our In Focus article for this month titled ‘The New H2B Regulations 2012: What You Need To Know’ which presents a snapshot of the various changes brought about by the DOL’s new H2B regulations 2012.
Every month we introduce a new and interesting question for our opinion poll. Last month’s poll results indicate that a majority of respondents (66.67%) welcome USCIS’ recent decision to allow R-1 Religious Workers to recapture time spent outside the U.S. 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.
We also congratulate Sushmita for winning last month’s Immigration Quiz. While we received more than one correct response to the quiz question, Sushmita 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!!!
We congratulate Bob Gray for winning last month’s Immigration Quiz. We received a significant number of responses from our readers, but Bob Gray 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!!!