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Immigration Law Update

April 2019

 H-1B Quota Reached for the Upcoming Fiscal Year

USCIS announced that it received more than 200,000 H-1B petitions for the FY 2020 cap season, more than fulfilling the annual quota in the very first week that these applications were received. The number of petitions filed was approximately 10,000 more than last year, but short of the record, which was FY 2017 when 236,000 petitions were filed. The immediacy in which the cap is reached year after year demonstrates how demand far outstrips the supply of visas in this critical category.

A random drawing has been conducted by USCIS to determine which H-1B petitions will be selected by the government. Petitioners who filed via premium processing are already receiving receipt notices. We expect that those who filed via the standard process who were selected will receive receipt notices in the coming weeks. USCIS will begin adjudicating cap-subject premium processing filings starting May 20, 2019.

USCIS continues to accept H-1B petitions that are not subject to the annual quota, including those that fall into the following categories: (1) extensions of status for those who have previously been counted towards the quota; (2) current workers in H-1B status who have previously been counted towards the quota moving to a new employer; and (3) those working for employers who are exempt from the annual quota.

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.

Delays in Visa Processing at U.S. Consulates

Our clients have been reporting increased delays in scheduling and processing of visas at U.S. Consulates around the world. With summer travel on the horizon, we recommend that you plan ahead and schedule appointments well in advance of anticipated travel dates. Additionally, we have seen an increased amount of visa applications, including renewals, put into “administrative processing.” Administrative processing means that the Consular Officer deems that the application warrants additional evaluation and screening. This often results from security and background checks related to: (1) Occupations in targeted fields (the Technology Alert List); (2) Screening from national security and law enforcement databases; or (3) Information found on the Form DS-160. Administrative processing can delay visa issuance for 30-60 days or more.

Legal Marijuana Use Can be a Bar to Naturalization

The USCIS issued new guidance concerning the naturalization process to clarify that immigrants may find themselves barred from naturalization based on the use or possession of marijuana, even if doing so is legal in the state where they live. The reasoning of this new memorandum may also apply to people who are working in the marijuana industry in states where it is legal.

Firm News

We are pleased to announce that attorney Nataly Mualem has joined our Immigration Law Group. Nataly is a 2017 graduate of the Ohio Northern University Claude W. Pettit School of Law where she served as Student Articles Editor for the Law Review, on the Moot Court Honors Board, and as President of the Immigration Law Student Society. Nataly’s zest for immigration law is motivated in large part by her own personal journey as an immigrant from Syria.

We are also very happy to welcome back Alison Crain as a Senior Paralegal. Ali has worked for us for more than five years previously. She returns to Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper after working for a year in Philadelphia.

Form I-539 Extensions Now Require Biometrics Processing

Last month the Trump Administration released a revised Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. This is a common nonimmigrant application form for dependents of those in a work-authorized status, tourists and business visitors, among others. A key change in this new form is that it now requires biometrics processing with an accompanying $85 biometrics fee. We anticipate that this new requirement will delay adjudications, particularly for those cases in which the principal applicant’s case is being processed through premium processing.

L-1 Visa Extensions Can No Longer be Filed at the Port-of-Entry for Canadians Residing in the United States

U.S. Customs & Border Protection recently announced that it will no longer entertain extension applications for L-1 status for Canadians who are currently residing in the United States. Such petitions must now be filed at a USCIS Service Center by mail. This reverses a policy that has existed since the beginning of NAFTA more than twenty years ago. The new policy notably does not apply to individuals who reside in Canada who only commute to or spend intermittent time in the United States.

USCIS Seeks to Close International Field Offices

According to recent news reports, USCIS plans to close all of its twenty-three international field offices. These offices, which are located in embassies and consulates around the world, handle immigration applications for those who are living overseas, including for members of the U.S. military. They are known for providing efficient processing for overseas applicants. The purported reason for this change is to shift resources to the United States to clear immigration backlogs.

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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