On December 21, 2009, the USCIS announced the closing of the H-1B cap for this fiscal year. USCIS will reject cap-subject petitions for fiscal year 2010 received after December 21, 2009 USCIS will apply a computer-generated random selection process to all petitions received on December 21, 2009. The next date to file an H-1B cap petition is April 1, 2010 for an October 1, 2010 start date (fiscal year 2011). Please contact our office if you'd like to begin the process for fiscal year 2011.
The new visa bulletin is out at this link:http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_4587.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (China is 04/01/2005 and India is 01/22/2005); EB-3 is at 2001 or 2002 depending on the category; other workers are at 2001; EB-4, religious workers, EB-5, and targeted employment areas and regional centers are all current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at 2005.
The USCIS has announced that it will conduct 25,000 new site visits of H and L employers/petitioners during the fiscal year that started on 10/01/2009. This marks a 5-fold increase in the number of site visits conducted during the last fiscal year. This increase is in response to a 2008 study concluding that 20% of H-1B applications involved fraud or other violations. In order to be prepared for a USCIS site visit, we suggest reviewing all the files of foreign workers to make sure they contain the necessary documentation. We also think it prudent to ensure that each worker is performing the duties as described at the location listed in the petition and that the proper (prevailing) wage is being paid. It is also a good idea to have policies and procedures in place beforehand for responding to these USCIS visits so that all employees know what to do and what to expect when the USCIS comes knocking.
On December 4, 2009, the USCIS announced that 61,100 of 65,000 regular cap petitions have been received. In addition, approximately 20,000 U.S. Master's or higher petitions (i.e. advanced degree petitions) have been received. Any advanced degree petitions received from here on out will count toward the regular cap of 65,000. The USCIS is still accepting petitions at this time, but it is advised that any H-1B petitions be filed as soon as possible as the USCIS could announce that the cap is closed at any time.
The Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced the issuance of 1,000 Notices of Inspection (NOIs) to employers associated with critical infrastructure. ICE plans to audit hiring records to determine compliance with employment eligibility verification laws (i.e. I-9 laws). Please feel free to contact our office with any questions or concerns.
At a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) function, the DHS explained the three types of site visits currently being conducted:
1. Risk Assessment
This is a joint program between the USCIS and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and applies to any type of benefit program, including family and employment-based immigration. Applications and petitions are chosen randomly, typically following approval, and visits are conducted to identify potential fraud.
These visits occur when fraud is suspected. During the visit, many questions may be asked. Advance notice, including notice to any immigration attorneys, is supposed to occur before the visit.
These are specific to H-1Bs and religious worker petitions. They are generally conducted by USCIS contractors who may or may not be well versed in immigration law. For H-1B visits, specific questions are asked involving the employer, wage, and duties. Employers are chosen at random and typically only receive one visit per site. Religious worker visits are performed in accordance with the religious worker regulations.
We previously posted an announcement about the extension of certain immigration programs until 2012. This post is simply a reminder that the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2010, which President Obama signed on October 28, 2009, extends the following immigration programs until September 30, 2012: E-Verify, EB-5 Pilot Program, special immigrant visa category for non-minister religious workers, and the date by which J-1 visitors must obtain that status to qualify for the “Conrad 30” program.
The USCIS has announced that it is temporarily holding certain adjustment of status applications until the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) new vaccination criteria becomes effective on December 14, 2009. The USCIS will resume the processing of these applications beginning December 14, 2009 using the new criteria, which remove the HPV and zoster vaccines.
On November 27, 2009, the USCIS announced that 58,900 of 65,000 regular cap petitions have been received. In addition, approximately 20,000 U.S. Master's or higher petitions (i.e. advanced degree petitions) have been received. Any advanced degree petitions received from here on out will count toward the regular cap of 65,000. The USCIS is still accepting petitions at this time, but it is advised that any H-1B petitions be filed as soon as possible as the USCIS could announce that the cap is closed at any time.