Check out some recent immigration happenings below

Immigration Newsletter
July 2016  |  Volume 8, Issue 1
RSST Law Group is formed
 
In recognition of our five years of successful partnership, the firm announced in May that it was changing its name from Ross Silverman LLP to Ross Silverman Snyder Tietjen LLP, the RSST Law Group.  The firm also launched a new website, which can be found at

H-1B Cap Season Recap 


Between April 1 and April 7, 2016, USCIS received over 236,000 H-1B petitions towards the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. This is an increase over FY 2016 when USCIS received nearly 233,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions, and FY 2015 when USCIS received 172,500 petitions.
 
On May 2, 2016, USCIS announced that it completed data entry of all FY 2017 cap-subject H-1B petitions selected in the computer-generated random process (the "lottery"). On July 6, USCIS announced it has returned all FY 2017 petitions that were not selected in the lottery.
 
Nebraska Service Center to Accept Certain H-1B Petitions
 
On July 1, 2016, the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) began accepting H-1B and H-1B1 (Chile/Singapore Free Trade) petitions requesting "Continuation of previously approved employment without change from the same employer". For many years, only the Vermont and California Service Centers have processed H-1B petitions, so this marks a shift in workloads at USCIS which will hopefully begin to reduce the processing time for H-1B extensions moving forward.

Expansion of STEM OPT to 24 months
 

On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security published a revised STEM optional practical training (OPT) rule which was in the works for some time.

 

Effective May 10, 2016, eligible F-1 students with science, technology, math, or engineering

(STEM) degrees are allowed to extend their OPT period for 24 months, instead of the previous 17-month STEM extension. To be eligible, students must continue to meet each of the following requirements:

 

  1. Students must have graduated with a qualifying STEM degree from an accredited U.S. educational institution;
     
  2. The practical training opportunity must be directly related to the degree that qualifies the student for the STEM extension; and
     
  3. Their employer must be enrolled in the E-Verify program.
 
Under the new regulations, the Department of Homeland Security has developed a robust compliance-based program, and employers are required to play a key role in maintaining the integrity of this program. The rule increases oversight of the STEM OPT program through the implementation of reporting, evaluation and training requirements.  Among other changes, the new employer criteria and requirements include submission of a detailed training plan developed by the employer and the student on a new Form I-983.  Both parties must certify adherence and comply with evaluation requirements at the end of 12 months and a final evaluation at the end of the 24-month OPT extension period, which must be signed and attested to by the employer.

Immigrant Visa Numbers and Visa Bulletin

The Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, recently provided a thorough analysis of current trends and future projections, beyond the basic visa availability updates provided in the monthly Visa Bulletin. Following is a synopsis of the current trends and immigrant visa number availability:
  • EB-1 China and India: The August 2016 Visa Bulletin reflects a final action date of January 1, 2010 for both EB-1 China and EB-1 India. All other countries will remain "current" for the remainder of the fiscal year. This action is being taken to control number use under the EB-1 Worldwide annual limit, and to allow numbers to remain available for all other countries. Both EB-1 China and EB-1 India are expected to become "current" once again in October under the FY 2017 annual limits. 
     
  • EB-2 and EB-3 China: In June, due to high volumes of visa number usage, the final action date for both EB-2 and EB-3 China retrogressed to January 1, 2010 and no forward movement in either of these categories is expected for the remainder of the fiscal year. New visa numbers become available on October 1, 2016 at the start of the new Fiscal Year, and movement can be expected at that time. 
     
  • EB-2 Worldwide: High demand for EB-2 visa numbers has resulted in oversubscription of the EB-2 Worldwide category for August. As a result, a cutoff date of February 1, 2014 is established for all countries of chargeability, other than India and China. New visa numbers become available on October 1, 2016 at the start of the new Fiscal Year, and movement can be expected at that time. 
     
  • EB-2 India: The final action date for EB-2 India is expected to be one week beyond EB-3 India through the rest of the fiscal year. Current usage suggests that there will be available unused EB-3 numbers worldwide to allow forward movement in India EB-3 in the month of September.
Background Note:  There are five preference categories for the allotment of employment-based immigrant visa numbers, and four preference categories for family-based immigrant visa numbers.  For purposes of this newsletter, we are including only the categories most applicable to our business clients.  For additional information on other preference categories not included below, please contact the attorney with whom you work, or visit the State Department's website

Employment-Based Preference Categories
  • First (EB-1):  Priority Workers.  Includes Persons of Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Professors and Researchers, and Multinational Managers or Executives.
     
  • Second (EB-2):  Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability.  Also includes National Interest Waiver (NIW) applicants.
     
  • Third (EB-3):  Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers.
Immigrant visa numbers are available only to an applicant whose priority date is earlier than the cut-off date listed in the charts below.  "C" means current, i.e., numbers are available for all qualified applicants.    
  
Employment-Based
All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed
China - mainland born
India
Mexico
Philippines
1st
C
01JAN10
01JAN10
C
C
2nd
01FEB14
01JAN10
15NOV04
01FEB14
01FEB14
3rd
15MAR16
01JAN10
08NOV04
15MAR16
15MAY09
Other Workers
15MAR16
01JAN04
08NOV04
15MAR16
15MAY09
  
  
Family-Based Preference Category
  • FB-2A: Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents.
Family-Sponsored
All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed
China - mainland born
India
Mexico
Philippines
F2A
15NOV14
15NOV14
15NOV14
01SEP14
15NOV14

Processing Times

While processing times at USCIS and the Department of Labor (DOL) fluctuate, both agencies attempt to adjudicate cases on a first in - first out basis and in the order in which they were received.  Based on reported processing times from those agencies and what we have been seeing recently, following are the current processing times for the most commonly-filed employment-based applications and petitions:  
 
Application /
Petition Type
Current Reported
Processing Times
H-1B
            7 - 8 months
PERM
              4 months
PERM audits
           8 months from
        initial date of filing
I-140
            4 - 5 months
I-485
           8 - 10 months
EAD
              3 months
Advance Parole
              3 months
 
Please keep in mind that these are average processing times, and there are always some outliers (i.e. cases that are approved more quickly, and some which take longer).  
In the News: What's Happening at RSST Law Group
  • RSST Law Group welcomes our two newest employees, Sela Stockley and Sheena Duval.  Sela joins us as an Attorney Law Clerk on our employment-based immigration team, and Sheena is our Legal Administrative Assistant, covering reception and handling case intake, among other things.
     
  • Howard Silverman spoke on a panel about waivers for the Boston Bar Association on June 16. 
Please Note that this newsletter does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for consulting with an attorney.  Please contact us by phone or email if you have questions about any of the topics discussed here or if you have any other immigration or naturalization questions.
Attorneys at RSST Law Group:
Howard A. Silverman  |  Heidi L. Snyder  |  Rhonda A. Tietjen
  RSST Law Group
50 Congress Street, Suite 200, Boston, MA  02109  |  (617) 542-5111 | www.rsstlawgroup.com