Posted On: February 14, 2011

March 2011 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5337.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 remains current, except for India (May 2006) and China (July 2006); EB-3 is at July 2005 for all countries, except for India (Mar. 2002), China (Jan. 2004), and Mexico (Jan. 2004); EB-3 other workers is at June 2003 for all countries, except India (Mar. 2002), China (April 2003), and Mexico (May 2003); 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 January 2007.

Posted On: February 14, 2011

USCIS Combines Employment Authorization and Advance Parole Into Single Card

On February 11, 2011, USCIS announced that it will begin issuing a new card that serves as evidence of both employment and travel authorization. Applicants filing an Application for Employment Authorization, Form I-765, and an Application for Travel Document, Form I-131, concurrently with or after filing Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, Form I-485, may receive this new card. The combined employment authorization and advance parole will allow an adjustment of status applicant to have valid work authorization and return to the U.S. after traveling abroad while their case is pending. Instead of carrying a separate Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a paper Advance Parole, applicants will now be able to present a single card that is more secure and durable than the previous paper Advance Parole document. The new card will look similar to the current Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and include additional language stating, “Serves as I-512 Advance Parole.” The new card can serve as a List A document for Employment Eligibility Verification, Form I-9. In certain instances, USCIS will continue to issue separate EAD and Advance Parole documents.

Posted On: February 10, 2011

H-1B “Cap Gap” for F-1 Students

The cap of 65,000 H-1B petitions for FY2011 has been reached. As a result, one must wait to apply for H-1B status under the new quota for FY2012, starting October 1, 2011. The earliest an H-1B petition can be filed for the new fiscal year is April 1, 2011, requesting an October 1st start date. For certain F-1 students, this interim period creates what is termed the “cap gap” as their status may lapse before their H-1B status can commence on October 1st. Current regulations provide relief to students by allowing an extension of F-1 status and work authorization for those students who are the beneficiaries of a pending or approved H-1B petition.

Upon the submission of a timely filed H-1B petition, the automatic cap gap extension will apply and the F-1 student will continue to maintain valid duration of status until the effective date of the H-1B approved status. Individuals under post-completion OPT at the time of filing will also receive extended work authorization through September 30th under the cap gap provisions. F-1 students with H-1B petitions that remain pending beyond October 1st are allowed to legally remain in the U.S. but their work authorization will cease. Please note that students who are within the 60 day grace period and have already completed their OPT by the April 1st filing date will also benefit from the automatic extension of their duration of status, but will not receive extension of their work authorization. For example, F-1 students whose OPT expires in February 2011 will qualify for an extension of their F-1 status while their H-1B petition is pending, but will not qualify for an extension of their work authorization as their OPT will have expired prior to April 1, 2011. However, F-1 students whose OPT is valid until July 2011 will qualify for both an extension of their F-1 status and extension of their work authorization until September 30, 2011.

For more information on filing a timely H-1B petition on April 1st and qualifying for F-1 extension of status and work authorization under the “cap gap,” please contact our offices.

Posted On: February 10, 2011

Delayed Processing of Immediate Relative Petitions (Form I-130)

On February 7, 2011, USCIS implemented expedited adjudication of approximately 36,000 Immediate Relative Petitions (Form I-130) that had been transferred from the California Service Center to the Texas Service Center back in November 2010. USCIS had hoped the redistribution of cases would have resulted in faster processing times, but instead many of these cases remain unadjudicated and beyond processing times. As part of USCIS’ expedite efforts, many of these I-130 Immediate Relative Petitions have been transferred back to the California Service Center for immediate adjudication. USCIS anticipates decisions to be reached on these cases by the end of February. Meanwhile, USCIS recommends monitoring one’s case status on-line at www.uscis.gov and contacting them at I-130Inquiries.Tsc@dhs.gov if no action is taken on the case by March 1, 2011.