Today the Department of State announced the application period for the fiscal year 2011 diversity lottery, which will run from 10/02/2009 at noon (EST) to 11/30/2009 at noon (EST). The diversity lottery is an annual lottery that allows individuals from countries with low immigration to the U.S. to compete for 55,000 diversity visas. If selected, the individual is permitted to seek lawful permanent residence (green card status). Please see http://www.travel.state.gov/pdf/DV-2011instructions.pdf for detailed information about the diversity lottery program and online application.
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) new iCERT system for submitting Labor Condition Applications in H-1B cases is creating more problems for practitioners, employers and other users. Recently, the system has been dropping the “0” at the beginning of FEINs that begin with “0” when the number is entered in the iCERT employer profile. As a result, applications, which auto-generate the FEIN, are getting submitted with an incorrect FEIN. The DOL advises to carefully review the LCA application to make sure the complete FEIN is listed before submitting.
The Department of State (DOS), which is charged with allotting and issuing visa numbers, has informed immigration practitioners that employment-based visa numbers (for lawful permanent resident cases) are no longer available for fiscal year 2009, which ends September 30. The new fiscal year (2010), which is around the corner on October 1, will re-start the available visa numbers and cases will be processed according to the October 2009 visa bulletin at that time.
The H-2B category is available to individuals temporarily in the U.S. for seasonal, periodic, or intermittent employment of a non-agricultural nature. The H-2B category is capped at 66,000 per year worldwide with 33,000 available on October 1 and 33,000 available on April 1 of each year. As of 09/11/2009, the USCIS had received 18,134 for the first half of fiscal year 2010 and thus slots remain open. The USCIS has also reopened the 2009 filing period as stated in a previous blog post, but any petitions filed for 2009 must be adjudicated by September 30, 2009, which is the end of the fiscal year (and just around the corner).
The H-1B category is a temporary status available to specialty workers who hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience and who will be working in positions that require the same. The H-1B category is capped at 65,000 petitions per year worldwide plus 20,000 additional petitions for those who earned a Masters degree or higher from a U.S. educational institution. The latest H-1B cap count came out September 18, 2009 and reports that 46,000 regular cap petitions and 20,000 Master’s cap petitions have been filed with the USCIS. The agency will continue to receive both types of cap petitions until all cap numbers have been used.
How to Avoid a Labor Certification Denial Based on Recent BALCA (Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals) Decisions
1. Ensure the Notice of Filing includes the contact information for the Department of Labor
2. Retain proof that the job order filed with the state workforce agency ran and proof of the exact start date
3. Wait the full 30 days following the end date of the job order placement before filing a PERM application
The USCIS released its new website design today, 09/22/2009. In addition to a completely overhauled look, the site also provides additional services to foreign nationals, such as receiving status updates regarding their applications via text message and email. The homepage can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis and the case status page at https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard.do.
The USCIS has given $1.2 million in grants for 13 organizations that provide citizenship preparation for legal permanent residents (green card holders). Among the award recipients include: Association House of Chicago; Catholic Charities of Dallas Inc.; Central American Resource Center, Los Angeles; Federation Employment and Guidance Service Inc., New York, N.Y.; International Institute of St. Louis; International Rescue Committee Inc., San Diego; Jewish Family and Children’s Services, San Francisco; Jewish Vocational Service of MetroWest Inc., East Orange, N.J.; Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas, Raleigh, N.C.; OneAmerica, Seattle; Progreso Latino, Central Falls, R.I.; Saint Mark Roman Catholic Parish, Dorchester, Mass.; and Young Women’s Christian Association of Tulsa, Okla. The announcement of this $1.2 million came on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, which was established by Congress to celebrate the ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
The new iCERT system for submitting Labor Condition Applications (LCA) with the Department of Labor has raised many questions among practitioners, employers and employees. The LCA is one part of the process for sponsoring an individual for H-1B status. The Department of Labor has responded with the attached FAQ provided at this link:
The Global Entry Program is an automated inspection system provided by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for international travelers. The program is executed at kiosks in airports, allowing individuals to be processed expeditiously when entering the U.S. if they have been pre-screened and approved. The program is voluntary and requires a $100 application fee. Currently, the program is only open to U.S. citizens and green card holders. This program is now available at Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport.
The USCIS website’s case status checking system has been overhauled and is found at the following link: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard.do. A complete remodel of the entire USCIS website is set to go live 09/22/2009.
The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_4575.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (China is 03/22/2005 and India is 01/22/2005); EB-3 is at 2001 or 2002 depending on the category; other workers are at 2001; EB-4 is current; religious workers continue to remain unavailable; EB-5 is current; and the category of targeted employment areas and regional centers is current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at 2005.
The iCERT system, which is used to submit Labor Condition Applications for H-1B petitions, has recently been issuing many requests for FEIN verification. To reduce the burden of verifying countless FEIN numbers, the Department of Labor (DOL) has now incorporated FEIN verifications completed during the PERM verification process into the iCERT system. PERM is the DOL portion of the green card process and separate from the H-1B process. The DOL is notifying employers once the data transfer occurs and encouraging them to submit LCAs after 1-2 days have passed from receipt of the data transfer email message. The DOL also encourages employers who are not previously in the PERM system to submit FEIN verification data to the Chicago LCA Business Verification Team at LCA.Chicago@dol.gov in advance of submitting an LCA to speed up the FEIN verification process. Employers can get more information about the iCERT system at http://icert.doleta.gov/.
On 09/08/2009, the USCIS published a supplemental E-Verify guide for Federal contractors as a result of new regulations that went into effect the same day. This guide discusses the new regulations and provides instructions for how to complete Form I-9. It also provides E-Verify enrollment instructions and explains qualifying contracts. The guide can be found at: http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Controlled%20Vocabulary/Native%20Documents/Supplemental%20Guidance%20for%20Federal%20Contractors%20090109%20FINALa(1).pdf
The H-1B category is a temporary status available to specialty workers who hold a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience and who will be working in positions that require the same. The H-1B category is capped at 65,000 petitions per year worldwide plus 20,000 additional petitions for those who earned a Masters degree or higher from a U.S. educational institution. The latest H-1B cap count came out August 28, 2009 and reports that 45,100 regular cap petitions and 20,000 Master’s cap petitions have been filed with the USCIS. The agency will continue to receive both types of cap petitions until all cap numbers have been used.
Pursuant to a decision by the USCIS Office of Management and Budget to extend its approved of Form I-9 to 08/31/2012, employers are permitted to use Form I-9 with a revision date of either 08/07/2009 or 02/02/2009 (see bottom right corner of form). Visit www.uscis.gov/i-9 for more information and to obtain the Handbook for Employers provided by the USCIS.
The USCIS is hosting FREE webinars on the following topics:
1. Form I-9
3. FAR E-Verify
Please follow the link to sign up: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=9085bd181e09d110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD&vgnextchannel=75bce2e261405110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD