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The visa bulletin is out at this link: April 2019

Employment-based petitions must use the Final Action Dates chart. The employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 is at February 1, 2018 for all countries except China and India (February 22, 2017); EB-2 is current for all countries except China (April 1, 2016) and India (April 12, 2009); EB-3 is current for all countries except China (August 1, 2015), India (June 22, 2009) and the Philippines (March 1, 2018);  EB-3 other workers is current for all countries except China (August 22, 2007), India (June 22, 2009) and the Philippines (March 1, 2018); EB-4 and religious worker visas are current for all countries except El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (March 8, 2016) and Mexico (April 1, 2018); and EB-5 non-regional centers and regional centers are current for all countries except China (September 15, 2014) and Vietnam (August 22, 2016).  Family based petitions must use the Dates for Filing chart.  Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at December 15, 2017 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for Philippines F4 (brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens) at January 15, 1998.

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The American Immigration Council (AIC), a nonprofit immigration advocacy group, published fact sheets and resources with key data points, historical information, and background on hot topics in immigration.  These publications highlight various aspects of economic contributions immigrants, such as H-1B and Temporary Protected Status workers, provide to the U.S.

H-1B

H-1B is a temporary (nonimmigrant) classification that allows employers to petition for highly educated foreign professionals to work in “specialty occupations” that require at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent.

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the national association of more than 15,000 attorneys and law professors who practice and teach immigration law, released a policy brief analysis about U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) case processing delays.

Forbes reports the analysis found that USCIS’ average time to process a case increased by 46% over the past two fiscal years and 91% since fiscal year 2014.  Although case receipt volume appeared to have decreased, case processing times increased substantially in fiscal year 2018.

Because of the delays, tech workers are finding the process of applying for and getting H-1Bs increasingly difficult, according to the Los Angeles Times.  The article notes that AILA Vice President Jennifer Minear said, “[USCIS] delays have reached a crisis level and are the result of policies that inhibit efficiency.”

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The federal judge presiding over a court case that challenges United Sates Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) policy regarding unlawful presence calculations for student visa holders, has issued an injunction permitting the two student plaintiffs to remain in the U.S. so that they can continue to participate in the case.

The case, Guilford College et al. v. Nielsen et al., challenges USICS’ May 2018 policy that changes how unlawful presence is calculated for foreign citizens studying in the U.S. under F student, J exchange visitor, or M vocational student status. Under the new policy, USCIS considers unlawful presence accrual to begin from the date in which a student initially falls out of status, rather than from the date when USCIS formally concludes that there has been a violation and notifies the student.

According to the legal news service Law 360, the policy “could carry heavy penalties for students who inadvertently or unknowingly accrue unlawful status including re-entry bars after 180 days of unlawful presence that would prevent the students from returning to the U.S. again for years.”

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The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China announced that they will consolidate H and L visa applications for foreign nationals. Effective March 1, 2019, interviews for H and L visas will be conducted only at the Embassy in Beijing, and the Consulates in Guangzhou, and Shanghai. H and L visa interviews will no longer be conducted at the Consulates in Chengdu or Shenyang. For more information, please go to: Applying for a U.S. Visa in China.

If you have questions or need assistance with consular processing of visas in China or anywhere else in the world, please contact at immigrationinfo@cornerlaw.com .

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E-Verify, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States, has resumed operations following the temporary re-opening of the government. All E-Verify features and services are now available.  Employers who participate in E-Verify must create an E-Verify case by February 11, 2019 for each employee hired while E-Verify was unavailable.

Although E-Verify Form I-9 support representatives were unavailable during the government shutdown and E-Verify service was disrupted, employers were still required to complete and retain Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, for every person hired for employment in the U.S. during that time, as long as the person works for wages or other remuneration.

Due to the large volume of accumulated cases, delayed processing times are expected. Longer than normal delays and response times for E-Verify Support requests are also expected.

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The immigration community is scratching its head about Trump’s recent Tweet about H-1B visas. “H-1B holders in the United States can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship,” tweeted Trump on January 11, 2019.  Trump may have been referring to the USCIS proposed regulation to change the order of the H-1B lottery; however this will have no effect on H-1B visa holders ability to secure green cards or citizenship.  The government has also not announced any changes to the current path to permanent residence or citizenship for H-1B visa holders.  So no one really knows what his Tweet meant!

For more information and comments: Forbes 

Or contact  Cornerstone Law Group

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U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman has blocked U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ attempt to include a question about citizenship on the 2020 U.S. Decennial Census in State of New York et al. v. U.S. Department of Commerce, et al.

The U.S. Census Bureau, which falls under the U.S. Department of Commerce, has not asked a citizenship question since 1950.  The census, which measures U.S. population and demographics every ten years, serves to properly allocate House of Representatives seats and helps to appropriate billions of dollars in Federal funds, grants, and support to states, counties and communities.

According to Secretary Ross, the citizenship question was a response to a U.S. Department of Justice request for better citizenship data to enforce the Voting Rights Act and its protections against racial discrimination in voting.

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The visa bulletin is out at this link: February 2019

For the Date for Filing, employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 is at June 1, 2018 for all countries except China and India (October 1, 2017); EB-2 is current for all countries except  China (November 1, 2015) and India (May 22, 2009); EB-3 is current for all countries except China (January 1, 2016), India (April 1, 2010) and the Philippines (October 1, 2017);  EB-3 other workers is current for all countries except China (June 1, 2008), India (April 1, 2010) and the Philippines (October 1, 2017); EB-4 and religious worker visas are current for all countries except El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (May 1, 2016); and EB-5 non-regional centers and regional centers are current for all countries except China (October 1, 2014).  Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at December 1, 2017 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for Philippines F4 (brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens) at August 1, 1997.

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There has been a significant increase in the frequency with which IT professionals are refused visas at consular posts in Mission India. These refusals appear to be the result of the Buy American/Hire American Executive Order (BAHA). AILA, our immigration lawyers association, has provided the following strategies for visa issuance:

  • Applicants must be prepared to discuss the job offered and the specific skill set required to perform the job.
  • Applicants should be prepared to provide a succinct “elevator speech” explanation to the consular officer about the position. The applicant must clearly communicate what they do (or will be doing) and should be prepared to articulate the value that they bring to the U.S. employer.