Department of State Adds Social Media Questions to Online Applications for Visas

Department of State Adds Social Media Questions to Online Applications for Visas

On May 30, 2019, the Department of State’s (DOS) online visa applications added a question regarding social media. Specifically, DOS is requesting information on all social media platforms applicants have used for the last 5 years. Applicants are required to provide any identifiers or handles they have used on websites such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, and YouTube.  

In light of this revision to DOS’ online visa applications, the following are some tips for using social media during the immigration process:

·       Make sure that any information posted online is consistent with what you have provided to the government in the past. For example, make sure your job title on LinkedIn matches the job title on your H-1B petition or that the spouse listed on your Facebook profile matches the petitioner of your marriage-based green card application.

·       Do not post derogatory, vulgar, or offensive comments, articles, pictures, or links of any kind.

·       Do not post pictures or comments involving illegal or potentially illegal activities.

·       Be selective with friend requests. If you don’t know the person, don’t accept the request.

·       As much as possible, set your social media profiles to private in order to limit the amount of information about yourself that is available online.

·       Be cognizant of the people and organizations that you follow on social media.

·       Monitor the content that other users are posting to your page or profile. Remove any content that is derogatory, vulgar, offensive, illegal or that depict you in a negative way.

·       Keep in mind that anything you post online can be used as evidence against you.

·       Private messages aren’t always private, so be careful of what you are saying and sending in private or direct messages.

·       Be mindful when geo-tagging your locations on social media.

These tips are good to keep in mind even for U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents, as social media is being used as evidence in more legal cases than ever before. In conclusion, be aware that nothing you post online is truly private and Department of State officers may be gathering information about you from your social media profiles.

USCIS Completes H-1B Cap Lottery

USCIS Completes H-1B Cap Lottery

Please be advised that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has completed the H-1B lottery and randomly selected 65,000 petitions to meet the H-1B regular cap and an additional 20,000 petitions to meet the U.S. master’s cap. USCIS announced that on April 10, 2019 it began selecting the H-1B Cap petitions for the lottery. Furthermore, USCIS completed the lottery for regular cap petitions and projected that it received enough petitions to meet the 20,000 U.S. master’s cap. According to USCIS, 201,011H-1B petitions were received between April 1 and April 5, 2019. This is about 9.5% increase from last year’s lottery.

For the first time this year, USCIS conducted the lottery for H-1B regular cap petitions first. During the first random selection, USCIS chose from all cap-subject petitions, including petitions that were also eligible for the master’s cap. USCIS then moved on to selecting the petitions for the master’s cap from the remaining eligible petitions.

Taking Action

This is the sixth year in a row that the H-1B cap has been met in the first week that filings are accepted. The continued demand in cap filings year-to-year is representative of U.S. employers’ increasing desire to retain talented foreign employees. The arbitrary limit of 65,000 H-1B positions for the entire nation is a reflection of our broken immigration system.

We encourage you to reach out to your representatives in Congress and demand comprehensive immigration reform to include an increase in the number of H-1B visas, or a removal of the cap entirely. Here are links to assist you in locating your congressional representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and your senators: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

For more information on FY2020 H-1B filings, please see: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/h-1b-specialty-occupations-and-fashion-models/h-1b-fiscal-year-fy-2020-cap-season

USCIS Announces H-1B Cap Lottery Updates for Fiscal Year 2020

USCIS Announces H-1B Cap Lottery Updates for Fiscal Year 2020

On March 19, 2019, USCIS announced that it will accept H-1B Cap petitions for Premium Processing under a “two-phased approach.” First, cap petitions requesting a change of status will be permitted to file an I-907, Request for Premium Processing concurrently with the H-1B Cap petition. However, USCIS will not begin processing Form I-907 requests until May 20, 2019.

Premium Processing requests for change of status petitions may either be filed concurrently with the H-1B cap petition, or after May 20, 2019. In other words, Premium Processing upgrade requests filed separately between April 1 and May 20, 2019, will be rejected by USCIS.

Premium Processing for all other H-1B Cap petitions will not begin until at least June 2019. If a petitioner is not requesting a change of status, the Premium Processing request cannot be filed concurrently. Instead, these petitioners will be eligible to upgrade to Premium Processing at a later time. USCIS will notify the public when Premium Processing will begin for petitions not requesting a change of status under the cap.

In the same announcement, USCIS also explained how it will be publishing data on its new H-1B Employer Data Hub beginning April 1, 2019. The Data Hub will allow the public to search for H-1B petitioners by fiscal year, NAICS industry code, company name, city, state, or zip code. The H-1B Employer Data Hub is being instituted as part of the president’s Buy American, Hire American executive order.

ADHS Has Opened One Slot for the FY-2019 J-1 Waiver Program

ADHS Has Opened One Slot for the FY-2019 J-1 Waiver Program

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced that it will accept applications for one remaining slot in the 2019 Conrad 30 J-1 waiver program, on a first-come, first-served basis.  Conrad 30 J-1 waivers are for clinical physicians, as opposed to teaching or research positions. Please contact our office if you wish to submit a J-1 waiver application to ADHS.

Please feel free to contact our office if you have questions regarding J-1 waiver applications or any other immigration matter.

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing on All H-1B Petitions and Announces Procedural Changes for Form I-539 Filings

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing on All H-1B Petitions and

Announces Procedural Changes for Form I-539 Filings

USCIS has resumed Premium Processing on all H-1B petitions as of today, March 12, 2019. For petitions that have received a Request for Evidence, a premium processing request should be filed with the response. For H-1B petitions that have been transferred to a different service center, the premium processing request must be sent to the service center that is now handling your petition. In order to reduce the possibility of delays, USCIS suggests including a copy of the transfer notice along with your request.

In addition, USCIS has also announced a change in the way it will handle Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status filings. On Friday, March 8, 2019 USCIS released an updated Form I-539 along with the following revisions to the process:

·       Every co-applicant included on the I-539 must now sign and submit a separate Form I-539A.

·       Every applicant and co-applicant must now pay an $85 biometric services fee. This fee is in addition to the I-539 filing fee.

·       Every applicant and co-applicant must attend fingerprinting (Biometrics Services Appointment) at a USCIS Application Support Center.

Previously, if an I-539 was filed concurrently with an I-129 that requested Premium Processing, USCIS would also process the I-539 under premium processing times as a courtesy. USCIS has confirmed that this will no longer be possible now that I-539 applicants must appear for fingerprinting appointments; however, the agency confirmed that it would make every effort to process these I-539s expeditiously.

Starting on March 22, 2019, USCIS will only accept the revised version of Form I-539. USCIS will reject any Form I-539 with an edition date of 12/23/16, or earlier, that is received by USCIS after March 21.

Due to these USCIS changes, additional time will now be required to complete the I-539A supplement for dependents and to follow up on required biometrics appointments. Accordingly, our firm’s legal fee for dependents’ change of status or extension of stay filings will increase as of March 22, 2019.

If you have any questions about the resumption of premium processing for H-1B petitions or if you need assistance filing Form I-539, please contact our office today.

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions Filed on or before December 21, 2018

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions

Filed on or before December 21, 2018

On February 15, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin accepting Premium Processing requests for H-1B cases filed on or before December 21, 2018. Premium processing is a service by which USCIS normally guarantees a response within 15 calendar days, with an additional $1410 filing fee. Our office charges a flat fee of $250 for Premium Processing upgrade requests.

In addition to H-1B petitions filed before December 21, 2018 the following cases will continue to be eligible for premium processing regardless of filing date:

·       Cap-exempt petitions filed at the California Service Center because the employer is cap exempt, or the beneficiary will be working “at” a cap-exempt location.

·       Petitions filed at the Nebraska Service Center requesting a “Continuation of previously approved employment without change with the same employer.” In other words, H-1B extensions with the same employer.

·       All other categories of petitions filed on form I-129 that are otherwise eligible for Premium Processing, for example TN, E-2, L-1, O-1, etc.

As an alternative to Premium Processing, petitioners may still request “expedited processing” if they meet the criteria outlined here. Petitioners with a pending H-1B petition filed before December 21, 2018 who require a quick decision should consider filing a Premium Processing upgrade request. Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding this information.

DHS Publishes Final Rule to Change the H-1B Cap Lottery Process

DHS Publishes Final Rule to Change the H-1B Cap Lottery Process

On January 30, 2019, DHS announced a final rule that would change the way the H-1B cap lottery is administered. This final rule makes two primary changes to the H-1B lottery process.

First, the rule reverses the order that USCIS will use to select H-1B petitions during the lottery. Currently, petitions for candidates with a US Master’s degree for higher are selected before the regular H-1B cap petitions. Under the new final rule, USCIS will select petitions under the regular H-1B cap first, and then select from the remaining petitions those that will be selected as part of the US advanced degree cap. USCIS estimates that this change will result in a 16% increase in the likelihood that an H-1B beneficiary with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university will be selected.

Second, the final rule will implement an electronic registration requirement for petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. Importantly, USCIS is suspending this new electronic registration requirement for Fiscal Year 2020 so that the agency may complete user testing on the registration system to ensure it is fully functional. Once implemented, petitioners who want to file an H-1B cap petition will need to electronically register with USCIS during a designated period. When the process is implemented, only petitions whose registrations have been selected will be able to file an H-1B cap-subject petition with USCIS.

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on January 31, 2019.  If you have questions about how the final rule could impact your petition, please contact our office today.