Posted On: November 29, 2011

USCIS Case Status and Other On-Line Functions Unavailable 12/2/11 through 12/5/11

From Friday, December 2nd at 7pm (EST) until Monday, December 5th at 9am (EST), USCIS’ on-line case status information and other on-line services will not be available as the site undergoes system maintenance. As a result, the following services will not be available:

􀁺 Check My Case Status
􀁺 Sign-Up for Case Status
􀁺 Check Processing Times
􀁺 Change of Address Online
􀁺 Civil Surgeon Locator
􀁺 e-Request
􀁺 Office Locator

Posted On: November 23, 2011

FY2012 H-1B Cap Reached

On November 23, 2011, the USCIS announced that it has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the 65,000 cap for FY2012. November 22, 2011 is the final date for receipt of new H-1B petitions requesting an employment start date in FY2012. Therefore, any petitions received after November 22, 2011 will be rejected. USCIS will continue to accept H-1B cases that are not subject to the FY2012 cap, including the following petitions:

• H-1B extension of status.;
• H-1B change of employer;
• H-1B amendments; and
• H-1B concurrent employment.

On April 1, 2012, USCIS will begin accepting new H-1B petitions for FY2013 as it releases a new set of H-1B numbers, including 65,000 newly available numbers and an additional 20,000 for applicants with U.S. Master’s degrees or higher. Petitions filed under the new FY2013 H-1B cap will have an October 1, 2012 start date. For more information on obtaining a FY2013 H-1B number, please contact our office.

Posted On: November 20, 2011

File Now - H-1B Cap Close to Being Reached.

This is another reminder that FY2012 H-1B numbers are moving very quickly and the cap of 65,000 will likely be reached by the end of the month. As of Nov. 14, 2011, USCIS has received approximately 56,300 Bachelor’s degree petitions towards the 65,000 regular H-1B cap. Meanwhile, the cap of 20,000 U.S. Master’s degree petitions has already been met. As such, H-1B Master’s degree petitions will now also be counted against the regular H-1B cap. We therefore anticipate the remaining numbers to go quickly.

As such, employers are strongly urged to file H-1B petitions on behalf of prospective candidates as soon as possible. Such individuals may include those currently on student visas who are employed temporarily under optional practical training, individuals living abroad, or individuals seeking to change their current status (TN, L-1, H-4, etc). If employers fail to file petitions on behalf of such individuals before the FY2012 cap is reached, they risk not being able to employ the individual until new H-1B numbers are released on October 1, 2012. Therefore, please contact our office for assistance in filing a timely H-1B petition before the current H-1B numbers are gone.

Posted On: November 16, 2011

U.S. Posts With Limited Visa Services

The Department of State (DOS) has compiled a list of the U.S. embassies and consulates that currently have limited or suspended visa services, as well as countries that do not have an existing U.S. post. DOS explains that visa services may be affected at these posts due to various reasons, including natural disasters, civil unrest, war, and security concerns. To consult the list of countries with limited or no U.S. visa services, see http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/info/info_1302.html.

Posted On: November 16, 2011

FY2012 H-1B Update

As of Nov. 14, 2011, USCIS has received approximately 56,300 Bachelor’s degree petitions towards the 65,000 regular H-1B cap. Meanwhile, the cap of 20,000 U.S. Master’s degree petitions has already been reached, and USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions for FY2012 until the cap of 65,000 is met.

This is a reminder that employers should file H-1B petitions on behalf of prospective candidates as soon as possible as the remaining H-1B numbers will likely be filled by the end of the month. Please contact our office for assistance.

Posted On: November 10, 2011

December 2011 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5603.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (Mar. 15, 2008); EB-3 is at January 15, 2006 for all countries, except for India (Aug. 1, 2002) and China (Sept. 8, 2004); EB-3 other workers is at January 1, 2006 for all countries, except India (July 22, 2002), China (April 22, 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 March 22, 2009 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for F4 Philippines (brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens) of September 8, 1988.

Posted On: November 7, 2011

Changes to Exchange Visitor Summer Work Travel Program

Effective January 1, 2012, the Department of State (DOS) will place limitations on the Exchange Visitor Program (J-1), specifically the size of the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program. It will also place a moratorium on the designation of new Summer Work Travel sponsor organizations, effective immediately. Since 1963, the Summer Work Travel program has served as a cultural and diplomatic exchange, enabling foreign post-secondary students to come to the U.S. for travel and work for a maximum period of four months.

After an extensive review of the Summer Work Travel program in spring 2010, DOS made major changes to the program, including the creation of a pilot program in the 2011 season that placed stricter requirements on certain participating countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova and Romania. Additionally, the following regulations were implemented:

(a) Strengthening sponsor oversight requirements with respect to both program participants for whom sponsors are responsible and the third parties that sponsors rely upon to assist them in administering their programs (i.e., U.S. employers and foreign agents);

(b) requiring that participants from non-Visa Waiver Program countries be pre-placed in a job before the Form DS-2019 is issued;

(c) requiring sponsors to fully vet employers and all SWT job offers; and,

(d) requiring sponsors to contact current program participants on a monthly basis to monitor their welfare and whereabouts.

However, DOS is continuing to receive a high volume of complaints with regard to the Summer Work Travel Program and has cited to the following problem areas: reports of improper work placements, fraudulent job offers, job cancellations upon participant arrival in the United States, inappropriate work hours, and problems regarding housing and transportation. As a result, DOS has decided to place a cap on the current participating levels and moratorium on new sponsor applications. In the meantime, current participating sponsors can continue to operate under their present designations, but will not be able to increase the number of program participants beyond their actual total 2011 participant program size until further notice.

Posted On: November 7, 2011

FY2012 H-1B Cap Update

As of Nov. 2, 2011, USCIS has received approximately 50,800 Bachelor’s degree petitions towards the 65,000 regular H-1B cap. Meanwhile, the cap of 20,000 U.S. Master’s degree petitions has already been reached, and USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions for FY2012 until the cap of 65,000 is met.

The remaining H-1B numbers will likely be filled within the next few months. We therefore strongly advise that employers file H-1B petitions on behalf of prospective candidates as soon as possible. Please contact our office for assistance.

Posted On: November 4, 2011

From Denial to Approval: An Immigrant Entrepeneur's Story

Amit Aharoni, an Israeli national and graduate of Stanford Business School, is an immigrant entrepreneur who recently made big headlines after being featured on various media outlets, including ABC News “World News” on November 2, 2011. Aharoni, along with two co-founders, had obtained $1.65 million in venture capital funding for a start-up called CruiseWise.com, an online cruise booking company. In the last year, the company has already hired 9 Americans and is being touted as one of the "20 Hot Silicon Valley Startups You Need to Watch.” Aharoni, however, was recently denied a visa by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and had no choice but to depart the U.S. and relocate to Canada where he’s been running his company remotely.

USCIS’ denial of Aharoni’s visa has been met with much criticism as many question a U.S. immigration policy that keeps out smart and talented immigrant entrepreneurs like Aharoni who want to invest in the U.S. and have the potential to create hundreds of jobs for Americans. This sentiment was shared by President Obama earlier this summer:

"What I want to do is make sure that talented people who come to this country to study, to get degrees, and are willing and interested in starting up businesses can do so, as opposed to going back home and starting those businesses over there to compete against the United States and take away U.S. jobs," he said.

Many fear that the current U.S. immigration policy is placing the country at an economic disadvantage. Other countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Chile, are making efforts to encourage immigration of entrepreneurs by extending special visas and funding. For example, Chile even provides $40,000 in seed funding. Additionally, statistics shows that immigrants have historically benefitted the U.S. in stimulating the economy. Statistics from Partnership for a New American Economy show that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.

Meanwhile, USCIS has acknowledged that it needs to “streamline” the visa process for immigrant entrepreneurs and has issued the following statement:

"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is working to streamline the visa issuance processes to realize the full potential of our nation's immigration laws and enable immigrants to invest capital, create new jobs for American workers, and further dedicate their talent to the growth of our nation's economy," stated USCIS spokeswoman Edna Ruano.

Following all this media attention, Aharoni on November 3, 2011 received an email from USCIS stating that his petition has been approved after reconsideration. Aharoni is thrilled and is looking forward to obtaining his visa and returning to the U.S. For more information on ABC’s World News Story of Aharoni, see http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Economy/immigrant-entrepreneur-visa-world-news-story/story?id=14867513#.TrIbIVY0L40.

Posted On: November 3, 2011

Chennai Post Takes Over All Blanket L Processing in India

Effective December 1, 2011, all Blanket L visa applications in India will be adjudicated by the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai. The Blanket L category includes intracompany transfers occupying executive and managerial positions, as well as specialized knowledge positions. Previously the U.S. posts in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad were also able to adjudicate applications under the Blanket L category, but now only the post in Chennai has authority to process such applications. However, individual L visas and L dependents may continue to process visas at all the posts in India.

Posted On: November 1, 2011

FY2012 H-1B Cap Close to Being Reached

As of October 28, 2011, USCIS has received approximately 49,200 Bachelor’s degree petitions towards the 65,000 regular H-1B cap. Meanwhile, the cap of 20,000 U.S. Master’s degree petitions has already been met. As such, H-1B Master’s degree petitions from here on out will be counted against the regular H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions for FY2012 until the cap of 65,000 is met.

With only 15,800 H-1B slots left, we anticipate the cap being reached within the next few months. As such, employers are strongly urged to file H-1B petitions on behalf of prospective candidates as soon as possible. Such individuals may include those currently on student visas who are employed temporarily under optional practical training, individuals living abroad, or individuals seeking to change their current status (TN, L-1, H-4, etc). If employers fail to file petitions on behalf of such individuals before the FY2012 cap is reached, they risk not being able to employ the individual until new H-1B numbers are released on October 1, 2012. Therefore, please contact our office for assistance in filing a timely H-1B petition before the current H-1B numbers are gone.

Posted On: November 1, 2011

Newly Revised Form I-693, Report of a Medical Examination and Vaccination Record

Effective Nov 1, 2011, USCIS issued a newly revised, more user-friendly version of Form I-693, Report of a Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. Form I-693 is a form completed by a designated civil surgeon that reports the results of a medical examination for applicants seeking certain immigration benefits, including those seeking adjustment of status as legal permanent residents. The new form is dated 10/11/11 and civil surgeons are advised to use the new form when completing medical examination between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. However, the previous version dated 7/20/10 will continue to be accepted for examinations completed between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. But please note that beginning Jan. 1, 2012, civil surgeons must use the new version of the form as USCIS will reject the submission of an outdated form and require the applicant to return to the civil surgeon and resubmit the new form. See below for summary of the relevant dates.

- If a medical examination is completed before Nov. 1: Use the I-693 dated 7/20/10
- If a medical examination is completed between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011: Use the I-693 dated 10/11/11, although USCIS will continue to accept the 7/20/10 version
- If a medical examination is completed on or after Jan. 1, 2012: Must use the I-693 dated 10/11/11