H-1B Visas

DHS publishes proposed changes to cap-subject H-1B visa petition processing

On December 3, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would make changes to the way cap-subject H-1B petitions are processed. There are two proposed changes: first, petitioners seeking to file petitions will have to register electronically with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period; and second, the order in which cap-subject petitions are selected in years when demand exceeds supply has been reversed. These changes are made pursuant to President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, issued in 2017.

Update on work authorization for certain H-4 dependents

As mentioned in our prior post, the Trump administration was due to propose new regulations by the end of February 2018, eliminating the ability of certain H-4 dependents to work.  Although it has not yet issued proposed regulations, there is now an updated timeline for that to occur.  On September 21, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) submitted a status report in the ongoing litigation in Save Jobs USA vs. U.S. Department of Homeland Security over the regulation allowing H-4 employment.  The status report for the case, which is being held in abeyance pending the issuance of a new rule, indicated that DHS’s proposed rule will be sent to the Office of Management & Budget (“OMB”) for notice and comment within three months. 

USCIS Announces Further Suspensions of Premium Processing Service (PPS)  for H-1B Cases

In an announcement on August 28, 2018, USCIS announced that, instead of lifting the suspension of Premium Processing Service (PPS)  for H-1B “cap” cases that was supposed to last only through September 10, 2018, it is extending the PPS ban for such cases to February 19, 2019.  In addition, starting September 11, 2018, USCIS will extend its PPS ban to most other types of H-1B cases, as well. 

H-1B cap update – USCIS reports 190,098 petitions received

Today USCIS announced that it received 190,098 H-1B petitions in the filing period that began on April 2. On April 11 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 advanced degree exemption petitions first; all advanced degree petitions not selected were then made part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit. Any petitions not randomly selected will be rejected and returned with the filing fees.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

H-1B cap reached for FY 2019, lottery triggered

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year (FY) 2019. USCIS has also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the U.S. advanced degree exemption. USCIS will not accept H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2019 cap or the advanced degree exemption after today.

USCIS Suspends Premium Processing Service for H-1B cap-subject petitions

On March 20, 2018, USCIS announced that starting April 2, 2018, it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B cap-subject petitions. This suspension may last until at least September 10, 2018. The temporary suspension applies only to FY19 cap-subject H-1B petitions (i.e., petitions submitted in the annual lottery). Non-cap-subject H filings, such as for extensions and change-of-employers, will be able to use premium processing. While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B cap-subject petition if they meet certain criteria. USCIS indicated that it needs the suspension to focus on reducing backlogs and processing times.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

Update on work authorization for certain H-4 dependents

The Trump administration was due to propose new regulations by the end of February 2018, eliminating the ability of certain H-4 dependents to work.  Although it has not yet issued proposed regulations, there is now a potential timeline for that to occur.  In ongoing litigation over the regulation allowing H-4 employment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered the case to be held in abeyance following a motion from the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) requesting time to issue a proposed “rescission” regulation in February 2018.  Although DHS did not issue such a regulation in February, the Circuit Court order, issued February 21, 2018, gives the DHS 90 days, or until May 22, 2018, to provide an update on rulemaking.  

H-1B “cap” season and the government shutdown

Although many businesses have become accustomed to the seasonality of sponsoring H-1B visas, there is a new reason for employers to identify candidates and employees potentially needing H-1B sponsorship early this year: the looming government shutdown.  Although U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS, the agency that adjudicates H-1B visa petitions) is fee-funded, and operates as usual during a shutdown, a government shutdown affects the issuance of a critical H-1B prerequisite document by the U.S. Department of Labor.  Without this document, the H-1B “cap” case cannot be filed.  Currently the government is funded until February 8, 2018, and future shutdowns appear possible before the April H-1B filing window opens.  Therefore, it’s imperative to initiate cases, now, while the government is “open for business.”

As background, the H-1B visa is the U.S.’s workhorse visa for professionals.  Not all jobs and all individuals are H-1B-eligible.  In general, the job must be one that ordinarily requires knowledge and skills obtained by earning a Bachelor’s or higher degree in a specific field, and the individual must have the required degree or equivalent.  For first-time H-1B applicants, there is a narrow application window in the first week of April for employers to submit H-1B petitions to USCIS.  Depending on the issues in a case, it can take several weeks for an application to be ready to file.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018

USCIS resumes Premium Processing Service for pending cap-subject H-1B petitions

On September 18, 2017, USCIS announced that it would resume its Premium Processing Service (PPS) for all H-1B visa petitions subject to the Fiscal Year 2018 cap. The resumption only applies to pending cap petitions, not any newly-filed petitions such as for changes of employers or extensions of stay. USCIS previously resumed PPS for H-1B petitions for certain cap-exempt employers. To date, USCIS has not indicated when it plans to resume PPS for all H-1B petition types. 

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2017