USCIS Proposes Fee for H-1B Cap Registrations

As discussed in prior posts, on January 30, 2019, USCIS announced a final rule regarding changes to the annual H-1B cap lottery system, requiring an electronic registration process for each cap-subject petition.  While the electronic registration requirement was suspended for the most recent lottery in April 2019, USCIS is taking steps to implement it going forward.  On September 3, 2019, USCIS announced that it was seeking to collect a $10 fee for each electronic registration submitted to USCIS.

DHS Publishes Final Rule Expanding Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility

Effective October 15, 2019, unless halted by litigation, the standard by which a foreign national is determined to be “likely at any time to become a public charge” (and consequently inadmissible to the U.S.) will drastically change.

Old Definition and Application of Public Charge

Previously, a “public charge” involved situations where a foreign national was “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence as demonstrated by either (i) receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or (ii) institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” Furthermore, sponsorship via an affidavit of support (filed on Form I-864) would generally prevent a foreign national from being considered a public charge. 

New Definition and Application of Public Charge

Under the new rule announced by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) on August 14, 2019, “a public charge is [a foreign national] who receives one or more public benefit for more than 12 months in the aggregate within any 36-month period (such that, for instance, receipt of two public benefits in one month counts as two months).”

Principal Claire Pratt is named the firm's Managing Attorney

JSP is pleased to announce that the principals of the firm have named Claire Pratt as its Managing Attorney, effective July 1, 2019.  Claire has been with the firm since 2008, became a principal of the firm in 2016, and recently completed her tenure as Chair to the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Northern California Chapter.  Principal Phyllis Jewell, the firm’s Founder and Managing Attorney since 1996, remains an active member of the firm’s leadership team and will continue to focus on counseling clients and mentoring the firm’s other lawyers.  This leadership transition is a key step in the firm’s overall long-term planning and we look forward to serving our clients and community for generations to come.  Congratulations to Claire and Phyllis!  

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2019

I-539 applications for dependents no longer eligible for “courtesy” Premium Processing Service

As discussed in a prior post, USCIS began in March 2019 to require a new version of the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and introduced a biometrics fee and appointment requirement for each applicant.  The Form I-539 has never been eligible for the government’s 15-day Premium Processing Service (PPS), but a particular subset of I-539 applicants — the dependents of principal nonimmigrants (e.g., the H-4 spouse of an H-1B worker) — have, until recently, benefited from “courtesy” PPS of the I-539 if it was filed with the principal’s own PPS’d application or petition.  

USCIS to schedule interviews outside of applicants’ geographic areas

In a stated attempt to reduce processing times on applications, USCIS announced on June 17, 2019, that it would be adjusting workloads for its field offices and that, as a result, some applicants may be scheduled for interviews outside of their geographic area.  Generally, interviews for naturalization and permanent residency are scheduled based on the USCIS field office closest to an applicant’s residence.  This change will particularly affect San Francisco Bay Area residents residing in the San Francisco Field Office jurisdiction, who may now be scheduled for interviews in Sacramento or San Jose.

Forms DS-160 and DS-260 now require disclosure of social media accounts

On May 30, 2019, the U.S. Department of State added required questions about social media accounts or identifiers to the online nonimmigrant and immigrant visa application forms, the DS-160 and DS-260.  This means that anyone applying for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa (a temporary visa) or a U.S. immigrant visa (permanent residence, a green card) must disclose all social media accounts used in the last five years. Social media presumably will be reviewed by U.S. Consular personnel in the course of visa adjudications.

Jewell Stewart & Pratt lawyers selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers®

Jewell Stewart & Pratt (JSP) is pleased to announce that four of its lawyers have been selected for inclusion in Northern California Super Lawyers® in 2019. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas, including immigration, who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

USCIS resumes Premium Processing Service for cap-subject H-1B petitions, takes next step in H-1B registration rules

USCIS resumed Premium Processing Service for all cap-subject H-1B petitions on June 10, 2019. The USCIS news alert is posted here and also mentions a temporary suspension of the use of pre-paid mailers for sending approval notices. Instead, final notices will be sent via regular U.S. mail.

Separately, the Department of Homeland Security published its proposed regulatory agenda which included a proposal to charge a fee for H-1B registrations filed under the electronic registration rule expected to to take effect for the upcoming “cap” season in Spring 2020. Further implementation details have not yet been released.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2019

H-1B cap update – USCIS reports 201,011 petitions received

Today USCIS announced that it received 201,011 H-1B petitions in the filing period that began on April 1. On April 10 USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as a “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the cap. USCIS says that it conducted the selection process for all beneficiaries first, as described in its January 30, 2019 regulation, and then selected a number projected to reach the advanced degree exemption from the remaining eligible petitions. Any petitions not randomly selected will be rejected and returned with the filing fees.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2019

H-1B "regular" cap reached for FY 2020

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 5 that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory H-1B visa “regular cap” for fiscal year (FY) 2020. USCIS will next determine whether it has received a sufficient number of petitions to meet the 20,000 H-1B visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, known as “the master’s cap.”

USCIS is expected to use a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as the “lottery”) for all FY 2020 cap-subject petitions received through April 5, 2019. This year, the agency will conduct the selection process for “regular cap” first, and the “master’s cap” second, as discussed in our prior blog posts. The exact day of the random selection process has not yet been announced.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2019