February 2015 Newsletter
In This Issue
H-1B "cap season" is upon us. Remember the April 1, 2015 "deadline" for the filing of H-1B for Fiscal Year 2016 which starts on October 1, 2015.
Given pent-up demand, we expect the cap to be reached on the first day of April. USCIS will as usual accept petitions during the first five (5) business days; i.e., through April 7, 2015. Once the H-1B cap has been reached, employers will be unable to file new cap-subject H-1B petitions for a full year, until 1st April 2016. We strongly encourage you to identify any employees who may require H-1B sponsorship and contact us as soon as possible to begin preparing your H-1B petitions for a timely 1st April filing.
DHS Considers 'Known Employer' Program to Aid Business Travel
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering a "Known Employer" pilot program to streamline adjudication of certain types of employment-based immigration benefit requests filed by eligible U.S. employers.
DHS expects to launch the pilot by late 2015 to test the program, which is designed to make adjudications more efficient and less costly, and reduce paperwork and delays for both the department and U.S. employers who seek to employ foreign workers.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will jointly implement the pilot program. A goal is to expedite or otherwise facilitate legitimate cross-border business travel along the northern border ports of entry. "Doing so is a binational commitment under the North American Free Trade Agreement as well as the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border initiative," DHS explained.
In particular, the U.S. and Canadian governments intend to "explore the feasibility of incorporating a trusted employer concept in the processing of business travelers between Canada and the United States."
Additional information about the Known Employer program will be provided in the coming months. For background and updates, click here. DHS seeks input on the Beyond the Border initiative, which can be emailed to email@example.com mailed to Beyond the Border Coordinator, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Mailstop 0455, Washington, DC 20016.
HHS Updates Poverty Guidelines
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has updated the poverty guidelines effective January 22, 2015. Among other things, the poverty guidelines are used in determining minimum income requirements for Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and Form I-912, Fee Waiver Request.
The latest guidelines were published in the Federal Register. Click here to read.
State Dept. Anticipates Visa Number Movement in Some Employment-Based Categories
The Department of State's Visa Bulletin for February 2015 notes that movement is possible in some employment-based categories in the coming months.
In the employment-based "Worldwide" third preference category, the Visa Office expects rapid forward movement "for at least another month or two." The bulletin notes that rapid movement in recent months is expected to generate a significant amount of demand for numbers. "Once such demand materializes at the anticipated rate, it will have a direct impact on this cut-off date," which stands in February at January 1, 2014.
Similarly, the Visa Office expects rapid forward movement in the employment-based third preference category for China. "Such movement is likely to result in a dramatic increase in demand which could require 'corrective' action within the next six months," the bulletin notes. India may move by up to two weeks. On the other hand, Mexico and the Philippines will remain at the Worldwide date, although increased demand in the latter could require "corrective" action at some point later in the fiscal year, the bulletin states.
The bulletin notes that the determination of the monthly cut-off dates is subject to monthly fluctuations in applicant demand and a number of other variables, so trends and estimates are not guaranteed.
The Visa Bulletin for February 2015 is available here.
State Dept. Revises Reciprocity Schedules for Several Countries
In recent months, the Department of State has revised visa reciprocity schedules for Armenia, Brazil, Albania, and China, among others.
For temporary visitors (nonimmigrants) to the United States, reciprocity tables show applicable visa issuance fees by country and by visa classification type, and the maximum period of visa validity and number of applications, or entries, that may be authorized.
The latest updates are available here. Reciprocity tables by country are available here. Additional updates are available here.
State Dept.'s NVC Is Now Handling All Domestic Visa Inquiries
The Department of State's Visa Office has established one point of contact for all domestic inquiries regarding nonimmigrant and immigrant visa cases. The National Visa Center (NVC) has begun handling all domestic email and telephone inquiries from the public on nonimmigrant and immigrant visa cases as of January 12, 2015.
The notice is available here.
Government Agency Links
Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS Service Centers and the Department of Labor, or the Department of State's latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates for visa numbers:
Hodkinson Law Group News
We had a very busy January and extend a special welcome to our new clients and appreciate the support of our many long-term clients.