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Visa Update: Premium Processing of H-1B Petitions Temporarily Halted; H-1B & L-1 Visa Reform Bill Introduced; President Trump Issues New Travel Ban & Requirement to Carry Visa Documents in Person

USCIS Suspends Premium Processing of All H-1B Petitions April 3, 2017

In other immigration news, effective April 3, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. The duration of the suspension is not specified and may go on for several months. During this time, petitioners may not file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for H-1B cases that require Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.

The temporary, indefinite suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. This suspension applies to all petitions filed for fiscal year 2018’s regular H1-B cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption as well as petitions that may be cap-exempt. Any Form I-907 filed will be rejected. If petitioner sends one check to cover the Form I-129 and the I-907, both forms will be rejected.

USCIS said the reason for this suspension of premium processing is to help USCIS reduce overall H-1B processing times.

Premium process Form 1-129 petitions filed prior to April 3 will be processed.

The temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications covered by Form I-129.

USCIS will notify the public prior to premium processing for H-1B petitions being reinstated.

Expedited Processing in Limited Situations

After April 3, 2017, a petitioner may still ask USCIS to expedite a petition or application if they can demonstrate that one or more of the following criteria have been met:

  • Severe financial loss to the company or the individual (beneficiary);
  • Emergency situation;
  • Humanitarian reasons;
  • Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the United States;
  • Department of Defense or national interest situation (These particular expedite requests must come from an official U.S. government entity and state that delay will be detrimental to the government);
  • USCIS error; or
  • Compelling interest of USCIS.

USCIS will review all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and requests are granted at the discretion of the office leadership.

This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.

The USCIS alert is available here: https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-will-temporarily-suspend-premium-processing-all-h-1b-petitions.

Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Reform H-1B and L-1 Visas

A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives has introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2017 to overhaul these visa programs and get tough on companies that take high-skill jobs away from U.S. citizens by outsourcing them to foreign workers.

Specifically, the legislation would require:

  • Employers to make a good faith effort to recruit and hire American workers before hiring foreign workers;
  • Prohibit employers from replacing American workers with H-1B or L-1 workers;
  • Modify existing H-1B wage requirements on the Labor Condition Application;
  • Establish wage requirements for L-1 workers;
  • Prohibit employers from outsourcing H-1B and L-1 visa holders to other sites unless the employer obtains a waiver; and
  • Grant the U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security more authority to investigate fraud and abuse in these two visa programs.

The legislation also aims to prohibit companies from hiring H-1B workers if the company employs more than 50 people and if more than 50 percent of the employees are H-1B or L-1 visa holders.

The legislation would create a new H-1B visa allocation system that prioritizes workers who have earned advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from U.S. schools.

The legislation would also raise penalties on those who violate the law and would provide visa holders with a list of rights to protect them against mistreatment and underpayment of wages.

Immigration Alert:

Do I need to carry proof of my immigrant or non-immigrant visa all the time?

Short Answer: Yes, Section 264 (e) of the Immigration & Nationality requires all immigrants (green card holders) and non-immigrants (H-1B/L-1 and other types) visa holders to carry proof of respective status. In light of the increasing strict enforcement of immigration laws, we urge you to carry respective proof of visa status at all times.

Take a note: AR-11 change of address notification was in the law all along but was not enforced until after 9/11. Now both immigrants and non-immigrants religiously notify USCIS when there is a change in the address on a regular basis.

President Trump Issues New Travel Ban

On Monday, March 6, President Donald J. Trump issued another executive order, which serves as a replacement to the executive order signed in January that was challenged in court and blocked by federal judges.

This new executive order also bans citizens from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. The countries included are Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya. Citizens from these countries are subjected to a 90-day ban on traveling to the U.S. that commences on March 16.

The previous executive order included Iraq, but that nation is not included this time. A report by NBC News noted that a senior Department of Homeland Security official told reporters that the Iraqi government has assured the U.S. of increased information sharing. Another significant difference from the previous travel ban is that the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees has been removed.

This new executive order takes effect on March 16. Existing visas approved prior to that date will not be revoked. This includes visas revoked due to the previous travel ban, which have subsequently been reinstated. Lawful permanent residents of the United States who are citizens of the six countries will not be subject to the travel ban. Individuals holding dual citizenship in the U.S. and the six countries will not be subject to the ban.

While scaled back from the previous executive order and making no reference to “religious minorities,” critics are still calling this a “Muslim ban,” and the intent is clear to curtail the number of refugees admitted to the U.S.

NBC News reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “To our allies and partners around the world, please understand this order is part of our ongoing efforts to eliminate vulnerabilities that radical Islamic terrorists can and will exploit for destructive ends.”

For 90 days following March 16, immigration is temporarily suspended from Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya. The entire refugee program is suspended for 120 days and the limit on the total number of refugees to be admitted to the U.S. in 2017 remains 50,000.

Within 30 days of implementation, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security will issue a joint report on the progress of implementation. Another report is due within 60 days.

For Further Information

If you have any questions regarding this Breaking News, please contact any of the attorneys in the Corporate Immigration Practice Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact by calling at (212) 571-6002 or sending email to visainfo@greencardmaker.com.