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Immigration Law Update

February 2019

H-1B Quota Season is Upon Us!

Just last week the Trump administration issued a new rule to change the way the H-1B quota program is administered. The changes that are to be enacted will not change the way that petitions will be filed this year. If your company is seeking to sponsor someone in H-1B status who is subject to the quota, now is the time to notify us, so that we can get started on preparing the petition for an April 1 filing date.

In this coming H-1B season, the only consequential change to the H-1B quota program relates to how the H-1B lottery is conducted. Under the new rule, the lottery will first be conducted for the 65,000 slots available for those who have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Once that drawing is completed, USCIS will then conduct the lottery for the remaining 20,000 slots for those that have a Master’s Degree or higher. This reverses the order in the way that the lottery has previously been conducted. The net effect of this change will likely increase the number of H-1B beneficiaries with a Master’s Degree or higher. Indeed, USCIS predicts that these numbers are likely to increase by 16%.

In future years, USCIS will introduce an electronic pre-registration component. With this mechanism, the lottery drawing will be done before the H-1B petition is actually filed. Only those selected through this pre-registration lottery will then be permitted to file H-1B cap-subject petitions.

If you have questions or concerns relating to H-1B sponsorship, please contact Brad Ortman or Karen Moss via email or telephone at 216-621-7227.

The Trend of USCIS Processing Delays Continues to Get Worse

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) recently issued a report documenting across-the-board processing delays by USCIS on the many applications that are filed with the agency. These delays affect family-based cases, business cases, as well as refugee and asylum cases. Despite the fact that the number of applications received by USCIS has decreased by 17%, the average processing time for an application has increased by 46%. Indeed, 74% of the application types received by USCIS are at or have exceeded record long processing times.

This change manifests itself in many ways. For example, I-765 Applications for Employment Authorization typically took roughly two months to be processed four years ago. These applications are now taking more than four months. H-1B petitions, which historically have taken 90-120 days to be processed, are now taking 9-10 months. Periodic restrictions on premium processing have exacerbated these problems.

What is the reason for these delays? The AILA report indicates that this does not appear to be an issue of staffing. The most logical explanations given are procedural changes made by the Trump administration in how immigration applications are processed internally, including lack of deference to prior adjudications, stricter adjudication standards, in-person interview requirements that previously did not exist and “extreme vetting” measures.

Non-Emergency Visa Services Suspended at the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela

In the midst of the recent tumult in Venezuela, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro suspended diplomatic ties with the United States. The very next day, the U.S. Department of State announced that it would suspend immigrant and non-immigrant visa processing in Venezuela. Emergency services to U.S. citizens are still available.

Foreign nationals who would otherwise apply for visas at the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela should consider alternate Embassies or Consulates that:

  1. May accept jurisdiction based on the foreign national holding immigration status in another country; or,
  2. May accept applications filed by “third country national.”

If you were planning on traveling to Venezuela or were seeking to attend a U.S. nonimmigrant or immigrant visa appointment with the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, you should contact Brad Ortman or Karen Moss via email or telephone at 216-621-7227 to review whether an alternate Embassy or Consulate may accept jurisdiction or be more appropriate for your application.

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If you have questions or would like to learn more about the items discussed above, please contact Karen Moss or Brad Ortman of the Immigration Law Group at Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper via email or at (216) 621-7227.

Bradley L. Ortman and Karen Gabriel Moss
Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper LLC

This Immigration Law Update contains general information that should not be considered legal advice or legal opinion concerning individual situations. Legal counsel should be consulted for specific advice.

Copyright 2019 by Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper LLC