President Obama’s announcement on November 20, 2014 regarding his planned Executive Action to improve the immigration system was accompanied by several administrative memorandums, including several that addressed the business community’s frustration with a system that has been cumbersome, lengthy, and unpredictable. One memo included a promise to review the PERM process with an effort to

Last night President Obama addressed the nation and outlined his long awaited Executive Order to begin the process of immigration reform. His speech emphasized the policy imperative to improve the system, and encourage economic growth consistent with our values respecting and protecting individual rights. The President, anticipating the Republican response, reiterated that it is the

This past weekend President Obama, while in China, announced changes in the reciprocity agreement for visas for Chinese citizens. The reciprocity agreement, which becomes effective on November 12, 2014, governs the period of validity for different kinds of visas which permit Chinese citizens to travel to the United States for different purposes. The agreement provides

This year brings more bad news for employers who filed H-1B petitions for foreign workers beginning on April 1, 2014.  On April 10, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received about 172,500 H-1B petitions, far above the 85,000 H-1B visas available each year (65,000 being available for bachelor degree-level graduates, with

This morning, the USCIS announced that the H-1B cap was reached during the initial filing period. More than 65,000 petitions were received for the regular cap, and more than 20,000 petitions were received for the advanced degree exemption. This announcement was expected, and it will take another couple of weeks for the USCIS to enter

By now, all employers should have filed their H-1B petitions for their employees who are subject to the cap for the upcoming fiscal year. While waiting for the October 1st start date, the employees often ask about travel during the summer before the H-1B becomes effective. The rules on travel during the “cap-gap” period are both obscure and a trap for the unwary.

For individuals on F-1 student status whose H-1B petitions have been selected and issued receipt notices, the Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization is extended to September 30th so that there is no gap in employment authorization between the OPT expiration and the beginning date of H-1B employment on October 1st. This extension of OPT is referred to as the H-1B cap gap extension.

The general rule is that an application to change status (from F-1 to H-1B) is abandoned if the applicant departs from the U.S. while it is pending. However, the individual may return to the U.S. in F-1 status with a valid F-1 visa and other documentation to show maintenance of status, such as an endorsed Form I-20 and an unexpired OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Because the change of status will be denied, she will be required to apply for an H-1B visa at a U.S. consular post abroad prior to beginning employment in H-1B status. If the H-1B petition and change of status application are approved prior to departure, the individual may return to the U.S. on valid F-1 status prior to the date the change of status takes effect. Again, the individual must have a valid F-1 visa to return in F-1 status.
Continue Reading Can my employee travel during the H-1B cap gap extension period?

Spring is right around the corner, so we’d like to remind our clients, especially U.S. employers, to begin considering filing H-1B petitions for prospective new foreign national employees. These petitions can be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on or after April 1, 2014 for employment beginning no earlier than October 1, 2014 (this is the beginning of the government’s 2015 fiscal year, which runs from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015). The H-1B visa category provides for the temporary employment of foreign nationals who will work in “specialty occupations,” or those jobs for which at least a bachelor’s degree in a particular field is required (for example, engineers, teachers, accountants, and many professional information technology positions). The problem is that there are limited numbers of H-1B visas available each year, and this year we expect these numbers to be quickly claimed.
Continue Reading Prepare for the H-1B Cap: Filing Season Begins April 1, 2014

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is warning the public of a new telephone scam targeting foreign-born immigrant applicants and petitioners. The scammers contact individuals in temporary status, and identify themselves as USCIS or other government officials. The callers often have some private information, and are very skilled at collecting more private information, and then using that information to lend credibility to their claim to be governmental officials. The callers use “Caller ID spoofing” to display a misleading phone number (often 911) in the recipient’s Caller ID, and then claim that due to problems with the recipient’s application or records, they must quickly pay a large sum of money to correct such errors or avoid severe penalties like deportation.

Recently, we were alerted to an H-1B visa applicant who was contacted and was told to provide $5,000 in order to avoid deportation. After paying this sum, the scammer again called her to further demand she provide an additional $20,000! Despite warnings that she should not talk to anybody else about this request, she nevertheless contacted her Human Resources department and learned that the call was a scam. We have learned that this is a common, yet quite sophisticated scam and many immigrants – many of whom are highly educated – have fallen victim to the pressure. While the immigration laws can be complex, and compliance is often counter-intuitive, the Government will NEVER request that money be sent to avoid unpleasant results.
Continue Reading Scam Alert! Beware of Telephone Scams from “USCIS” Officials Asking for Money

The Government shut-down resulting from Congress’ inability to pass an appropriation measure or continuing resolution will have varied impacts on employers and individuals who require visa applications, and immigration processing at the several agencies with responsibility for the administration of the immigration laws. Several agencies have issued statements as to which operations will continue as