Immigration News, February 2018

 

Cap-Subject H-1B Filing Period for Fiscal Year 2019 Quickly Approaching
 
As we begin the month of February, employers should be aware that the filing period for cap-subject H-1B petitions is growing closer and closer. The filing period this year will begin on April 2 and run until April 6. It is important to allow enough time to prepare these applications, so we recommend reaching out as soon as possible to begin the process for any employees whom you may want to sponsor. Those who are selected and approved for an H-1B visa will be eligible to begin working in H-1B status at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2019, which is October 1, 2018.
 
USCIS has announced that there will be no stylistic changes to the H-1B process this year, meaning the H-1B lottery will remain in place. The cap will also remain the same, at 65,000 for the regular cap, and 20,000 for the Masters cap. Individuals with a Bachelor’s degree are eligible for the regular cap lottery, while those with a Master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution are eligible for the Master’s cap. Those not selected in the Master’s cap will be added to the regular cap.
 
USCIS has also announced that it expects premium processing for cap-subject H-1B petitions to be briefly suspended, though no interruptions are expected for non-cap filings, such as H-1B transfers, amendments, or extensions of stay.
 
We encourage employers to identify any employees or prospective employees that they may want to sponsor for an H-1B visa as soon as possible, so the necessary steps can be taken to ensure the timely filing of the case. For more information about the H-1B cap, please click here.
 
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Extended for Syrian Nationals
 
On January 31, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security announced that TPS for Syrian nationals already in the United States would be extended for 18 months. This marks the first time that the current administration has extended a TPS designation, after it previously terminated four designations in the past four months (El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan). TPS will be extended until September 30, 2019, when DHS will once again make a decision on the fate of Syrian TPS. This extension will allow approximately 7,000 Syrian nationals to continue living and working legally in the United States. Unfortunately, recent Syrian nationals who have arrived in the United States are not eligible to apply for TPS. This extension only covers those who have previously been granted TPS. We are frustrated that this administration has excluded this group of individuals who have arrived in the US more recently, who are also desperately in need of protection. We expect more information about the re-application process will be provided by USCIS in the coming days.  Click here for more information about TPS for Syria.
 
Department of Labor Loosening Requirements for Unpaid Workers
 
Occasionally we are asked whether an individual in a non-worker status can “volunteer” or “intern” for an employer. Generally, the answer to this question has been “no.” This year, though, the U.S. Department of Labor has begun to relax the criteria for unpaid employment. Previously, the U.S. Department of Labor looked at six factors to determine whether the opportunity must be paid or not. If the position did not meet any of the six criteria, it had to be a paid position. Now, the U.S. Department of Labor will be looking at the totality of evidence to determine whether the position must be paid. Most importantly, though, the new system removes possibly the most difficult criterion from the old system. Previously, the worker could not provide any immediate benefit to the employer during the duration of the position. Now, though, this requirement has been dropped, meaning that interns will be able to do work that directly and immediately benefits their employers. To review the full U.S. Department of Labor guidelines click here.
 
State of the Union Address
 
President Trump made his first State of the Union address on January 31, 2018 in front of the U.S. Congress and others in Washington, D.C. Toward the end of the address, the president discussed his ideas for immigration reform. The president’s tone and rhetoric were both divisive and unfair to our immigrant community. It was frustrating to hear, but we urge people not to despair in these uncertain times. We will continue to provide updates as soon as they are available. In the face of these trying times, it is important that we remember the United States of America is, has been, and always will be a country of immigrants.
 
The following is a brief overview of the four pillars put forward by the President in regards to immigration reform:

  1. A path to citizenship for 1.8 million “[undocumented] immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age.” This path would be available to those who meet both education and employment requirements and who have displayed good moral character. Full citizenship for all would occur over a 12-year period.
  2. Fully securing the border, including building a wall between our southern border and Mexico.
  3. Ending the diversity visa lottery.
  4. Ending “chain migration” by limiting family migration to spouses and minor children.

We, as do many in Congress, stand up against such an anti-immigrant proposal and will work separately to secure a fair path for DACA recipients. For facts about the many benefits immigrant communities provide our country, please click here.
 
DOS Released February Visa Bulletin
 
The Visa Bulletin includes “Application Final Action Dates” and “Dates for Filing Applications” for the family- and employment-based categories. The DOS Visa Bulletin for February 2018 is available at:https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin/2018/visa-bulletin-for-february-2018.html