New Regulations for Employment-Based Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visas
In November 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finalized a new regulation in an effort to modernize certain aspects of employment based immigration. The goal of the new regulation was to improve the ability of U.S. employers to hire and retain highly skilled workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents. These regulations go into effect on January 17, 2017.
The regulation updates are quite extensive, but the most significant changes for the majority of UAMS foreign national employees are listed below. To read a more in-depth summary of the changes, you may visit the Immigration Support Services (a UAMS-approved law firm) summary here. You may read the entire federal register final rule at the USCIS site.
**Please make an appointment with the Immigration Services Office to discuss these new regulations prior to making immigration-related decisions based on any new regulation.**
Grace Periods for H-1B, E-3, and TN workers
- Establishes two grace periods of up to 10 days for individuals in the E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1, and TN nonimmigrant classifications to provide a reasonable amount of time for these individuals to prepare to begin employment in the country and to depart the United States or take other actions to extend, change, or otherwise maintain lawful status. H-1B holders already have a 10-day grace period before and after the start of their approved H-1B status.
- Establishes a grace period of up to 60 consecutive days during each authorized validity period for certain high-skilled nonimmigrant workers, including H-1B, when their employment ends before the end of their authorized validity period, so they may more readily pursue new employment and an extension of their nonimmigrant status.
EAD Card for Compelling Circumstances with I-140 Approved
Allows certain high-skilled individuals in the United States with E-3, H-1B, L-1 or O-1 nonimmigrant status, including any applicable grace period, to apply for employment authorization for a limited period if:
- They are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140 petition,
- An immigrant visa is not authorized for issuance for their priority date, and
- They can demonstrate compelling circumstances exist that justify DHS issuing an employment authorization document in its discretion.
Automatic Extension of Certain EAD cards
- Automatically extends the employment authorization and validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) for certain individuals who apply on time to renew their EADs.
- Employees with EAD based on a pending I-485 Application to Adjust Status, or employees on Temporary Protected Status will benefit most.
- This rules does not apply to employees who hold an EAD based on a dependent status (H-4, J-2, etc.).
Elimination of “90-day rule” for EAD processing
This rule eliminates the regulatory provision that requires USCIS to adjudicate the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, within 90 days of filing and that authorizes interim EADs in cases where such adjudications are not conducted within the 90-day timeframe.
USCIS Filing Fees Increase December 23, 2016
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that many of the fees associated with non-immigrant and immigrant petitions are increasing as of December 23, 2016. Below are the fees that will most likely impact your departments’ processes. Please note that any petitions received by USCIS on or after December 23rd must be filed with these new fees. Fees not listed below (such as the $500 Fraud Prevention fee and $1225 Premium Processing fee for H-1Bs) are not being increased. For a full list of the fee increases, visit the USCIS website: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees (12/09/2016)
U.S. Consulates in India Increase Availability of Visa Appointments
USTraveldocs.com, which handles visa appointment services for U.S. embassies and consulates, has issued a public notice, advising stakeholders of a large, temporary increase in visa appointment availability. The notice states:
The U.S. embassy and the four U.S. consulates in India have made thousands of extra visa appointments available from now through December 2016. Visa applicants and their family members are welcome to book appointments to take advantage of this time-limited opportunity. The increased availability of appointments has been made possible through a temporary increase in staffing to help eliminate wait times for travelers from India. Applicants may reschedule previously made appointments and encourage their family members and friends who may have delayed applying for a visa to apply now. Please log in to your profile and reschedule your appointments.
U.S. Department of State’s letter on Visa Revocation
In a recent letter directed toward J-1 exchange visitors and sponsors, the Department of State highlighted a policy implemented on November 5, 2015, which requires consular officers to prudentially revoke (i.e., without making a determination that the individual is inadmissible) nonimmigrant visas of individuals arrested for, or convicted of, driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated, or similar arrests/convictions, that occurred within the previous five years, as detailed in 9 FAM 403.11-3(A). For more information, read the entire letter here.
USCIS Announcements about Scams
USCIS recently released the following important announcement regarding protecting yourself against scams.
Immigrants all over the country are being targeted in scams. Don’t be one of the victims! Scammers may call or email you, pretending to be a government official. They will say that there is a problem with an application or additional information is required to continue the immigration process. They will then ask for personal and sensitive details, and demand payment to fix any problems.
Remember, USCIS officials will never ask for payment over the phone or in an email. If we need payment, we will mail a letter on official stationery requesting payment.
If you receive a scam email or phone call, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 1.usa.gov/1suOHSS. If you are not sure if it is a scam, forward the suspicious email to the USCIS Webmaster at firstname.lastname@example.org. USCIS will review the emails received and share with law enforcement agencies as appropriate.
Visit the Avoid Scams Initiative at uscis.gov/avoidscams for more information on common scams and other important tips. If you have a question about your immigration record, call customer service at 800-375-5283 or make an InfoPass appointment at http://infopass.uscis.gov.
Letter and Information from the Local FBI Office
The local FBI office has provided our office with information on intellectual property protection and economic espionage. Read the Letter from the FBI to all Foreign Nationals at this link, then find more information from this office at the links below.
Reminder to Check I-94 Expiration Dates
Each year, foreign nationals should double-check important dates related to their immigration statuses. Many aspects of immigration law are tied to expiration dates, grace periods, filing deadlines, and other date-driven matters. It is vitally important to keep informed and on top of important calendar items and timelines specific to one’s immigration process. Perhaps the most important date an individual in nonimmigrant status needs to bear in mind is the expiration date on the I-94. In most situations, the I-94 reflects how long a person is permitted to stay in the United States, provided that s/he complies with the terms of his/her status. Individuals typically need to plan to depart the United States before the I-94 expires, or else make a timely request to change or extend status. To obtain the actual CBP I-94 information, it is necessary to log into the Admission (I-94) Number Retrieval page on the CBP website.
Click Here for more information on the I-94 record and other helpful reminders regarding your nonimmigrant status.
Visa Bulletin Changes for Adjustment of Status Applications
USCIS and DOS is revising the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for employment-based or family-sponsored preference adjustment of status.
This revised process will enhance DOS’s ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin.
What is Changing: Two charts per visa preference category will be posted in the DOS Visa Bulletin:
- Application Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued); and
- Dates for Filing Applications (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply).
Each month, USCIS will monitor visa numbers and post the relevant DOS Visa Bulletin chart. Applicants can use the charts to determine when to file their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
About the Visa Bulletin: DOS publishes current immigrant visa availability information in a monthly Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited visas are available to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date. The priority date is generally the date when the applicant’s relative or employer properly filed the immigrant visa petition on the applicant’s behalf with USCIS. If a labor certification is required to be filed with the applicant’s immigrant visa petition, then the priority date is when the labor certification application was accepted for processing by Department of Labor. Availability of an immigrant visa means eligible applicants are able to take one of the final steps in the process of becoming U.S. permanent residents.
Employment Authorization Extended to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that, effective May 26, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
DHS amended the regulations to allow these H-4 dependent spouses to accept employment in the United States. Eligible individuals include certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who:
- Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
- Have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000. The Act permits H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status.
If you would like more information about this new ruling, visit the USCIS website. 05/26/2015
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