April 7, 2017: 2018 H-1B Lottery Closed
The USCIS announce on April 7, 2017 that it has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for the fiscal year 2018. The USCIS reported that they received 199,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which started April 3, 2017.
January 27, 2017: New Executive Order Issued, "Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States"
President Trump signed an Executive Order suspending entry and visa issuance for at least 90 days for citizens of the following countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Citizens from these countries who are presently studying or working in the United States absolutely should not leave and seek re-entry to the US at this time. Other countries could be added to the list in upcoming days.
In addition, the Visa Interview Waiver Program has been suspended for all countries, and many anticipate that 221g administrative reviews for security clearances will increase. This means that individuals travelling abroad risk delays in obtaining visa stamps from US consulates, if a new visa stamp is required for re-entry to the United States. Note that 221g administrative review can occur for visa applicants from any country (including traditional US allies); however, it is expected for citizens of countries the US has determined are state sponsors of terrorism, and is also relatively common for citizens from the five "non-proliferation export control countries", including China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Russia, particularly if those individuals engage in work or research on the Technology Alert List. The Technology Alert List (TAL) is a list of technologies that the US federal government has determined are “sensitive”, particularly technologies that may be used in weapons or have "dual use" in both civilian and military applications. While the TAL is not new, and individuals have always faced the risk of 221g security clearances, delays may be more common in the current environment.
In light of the Executive Order, individuals travelling who need to apply for a visa stamp before returning to the United States are at risk of delays. Individuals with unexpired visa stamps are at a lower risk; however, individuals with valid visas from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen absolutely should not travel, and individuals from other countries in the Middle East could also be delayed upon re-entry to the US. Individuals from the five "non-proliferation export control countries" with unexpired visas may also be at higher risks of questions upon re-entry than in the past, although we have not heard of significant difficulties at this time.
The Executive Order has generated extensive confusion at airports. US permanent residents who were born in one of the 7 listed countries were denied entry to the United States at many airports, but allowed entry at others. Current clients should consult with our office prior to any international travel at this time.
Other key points of the President's Executive Orders are:
Refugee admissions will be halted for 120 days, with certain exceptions for individuals fleeing religious persecution
Construction of a wall along the border with Mexico will be pursued
The Visa Interview Waiver Program will be suspended, vetting of individuals seeking immigration benefits in the United States will be increased
Individuals unlawfully present in the United States will be subject to increased detention and removal
Stay tuned for updates as more information becomes available and the scope of the EO's are clarified.
Key Points Regarding the New Rules & Regulations:
-The final rules effect certain employment based immigrant and non-immigrant visa programs and takes effect January 17, 2017.
-The new rule establishes a 60 day grace period between H-1B jobs so that if employment terminates with an existing employer, the worker can still extend the H-1B if a new employer files a petition within 60 days. This is a significant improvement for H-1B workers who have unexpected job changes.
-The new rule also abolishes the 90 day window for approving new Employment Authorization Documents, which we do not see as a positive development; however, there is some improvement for individuals who already have approved EADs. In the new rule, as long as the EAD renewal is timely filed, the individual could continue working while the renewal is being adjudicated.