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Carl Shusterman's Immigration Update

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  1. H-1B Cap: Congress Needs to Do Its Job

    http://shusterman.com/images/H-1B-visa.jpg During the first week of April, the USCIS received 233,000 H-1B petitions from companies in the US seeking to employ foreign-born professional workers. This exceeds the number of H-1B petitions received last year by over 60,000. Under current law, only 85,000 of these petitions can be approved, about 36%.

    Most of the other 64% of these petitions will be returned to disappointed employers. Computer professionals, physicians, teachers, researchers and many others will have to find jobs abroad. If they are in the US, most will be forced to return to their home countries.

    Congress has faced this problem in the past and resolved it by increasing the H-1B quota. In January 2013, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the “I-Squared” bill which would do just that.

    However, Congress is stalemated on this and many other immigration issues.

    The Chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Immigration Subcommittee oppose this legislation and are focused on tightening loopholes in the H-1B program. Many of their concerns are valid. When a few companies use H-1B workers to displace US workers, I think we can all agree that this is wrong, and that the law needs to be changed to prevent this from happening.

    But why can’t the H-1B cap be raised and loopholes in the law be closed at the same time? This would be a reasonable compromise and Congress is supposed to adapt at the art of compromise, especially when the H-1B program is clearly in the our national interest.

    Smart, well-educated foreign-born scientists worked for the Manhattan Project and helped save many thousands of American lives in World War II. More recently, foreign-born professionals were responsible for developing the anti-HIV cocktail and founding major US employers like Google, Yahoo, Intel and providing jobs for hundreds of thousands of American workers.

    It’s time for Congress to get its house in order and pass H-1B legislation.


    H-1B Lottery

    Outside the world of Congress, on April 13, the USCIS selected the 85,000 lucky H-1B lottery winners. However, it will be some time before they are notified.

    The USCIS will begin to adjudicate H-1B cap-subject cases where the employers paid an extra fee for premium processing starting on April 27. Then, by May 12, these employers will receive approvals, denials or requests for additional evidence on these cases.

    After this, USCIS will begin to adjudicate non-premium processing H-1B petitions. This process will probably continue until August.

    Most H-1B professionals for whom petitions are approved by the USCIS will be able to start work on October 1, 2015 although students with OPT will be able to continue their employment throughout the summer if H-1B petitions are approved on their behalf.

    Employers can expect that by sometime in June, they will receive back their H-1B petitions as well as refunds of filing fees for petitions which were not selected in the lottery.

    Updated 04-17-2015 at 01:00 PM by CShusterman

  2. Military Expands Program Which Expedites US Citizenship

    http://shusterman.com/images/photo6.gif Recently, the Defense Department greatly expanded a program which allows certain persons holding temporary visas to bypass the green card process and apply directly for US citizenship.

    The MAVNI (Military Accession Vital to National Interest) program was started in 2008 to recruit persons with medical skills (Certain physicians and nurses, etc.) or with special language skills into to the US military. Most of these persons have to be present in the US in temporary visa status. Once they complete their basic training, they are immediately eligible to apply for naturalization.

    MAVNI has strict numerical limits. However, the numbers were recently increased from 1,500 to 3,000 per year and will increase again in fiscal year 2016 (which starts October 1, 2015) to 5,000 year per year.

    The government recently announced that it would accept applications from persons with DACA work permits. Also, persons with TPS, physicians who had not received a J waiver and asylees/refugees are eligible to apply. Caveat: Spanish is not one of the languages on the MAVNI list.

    Eligible individuals can enlist for a 3-year contractual active duty tour or for 6 years in the Selected Reserve.

    If a person naturalizes, but fails to complete the above requirements, their US citizenship can be revoked.

    Languages include Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Cebuano, Cambodian-Khmer, Chinese, Czech, French (with citizenship from an African Country), Georgian, Haitian Creole, Hausa, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Indonesian, Kashmiri, Korean, Kurdish, Lao, Malay, Malayalam, Moro (Tausug/Maranao/Maguindanao), Nepalese, Pashto, Persian Dari, Persian Farsi, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Sindhi, Serbo-Croatian, Singhalese, Somali, Swahili, Tagalog, Tajik, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Turkmen, Ukrainian, Urdu (with citizenship from Pakistan or Afghanistan), Uzbek and Yoruba.

    Active Duty Medical Specialties include Comprehensive Dentist, Oral Surgeon, Preventive Medicine, Anesthesiologist, Pediatrician, Psychiatrist, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, General Surgeon, Emergency Medicine, Nuclear Medical Science Officer, Entomologist, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Anesthetist.

    Army Reserve Medical Specialties include General Dentist, Comprehensive Dentist, Prosthodontist, Oral Surgeon, Preventive Medicine, Urologist, Anesthesiologist, Ophthalmologist, Otolaryngologist (ENT), Psychiatrist, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, General Surgeon, Thoracic Surgeon, Orthopedic Surgeon, Emergency Medicine, Entomologist, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Physician Assistant and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

    For Army Reserve only: Health care professionals in their final year of residency may be eligible to apply to the MAVNI program.

    Additional information about MAVNI is available on the following website (http://www.goarmy.com/benefits/addit...ves/mavni.html )

    Updated 04-13-2015 at 01:56 PM by CShusterman

  3. H-1B Lottery Odds are Less than 50% Apply for an EB Green Card Now!

    In 2014, when over 172,000 petitions were filed for 85,000 visas, immigration lawyers had the following advice for the H-1B lottery losers:




    1. Look for a cap-exempt H-1B employer;
    2. Get a TN or an E-3 visa if you are eligible;
    3. Extend your OPT if you are a STEM graduate;
    4. Go to graduate school on an F-1 visa; or
    5. Return to your country, and try again next year.


    http://shusterman.com/images/H-1B-visa.jpg
    This year, there will probably be over H-1B 200,000 petitions filed for 85,000 visas, so the odds of being selected for the H-1B lottery will be far less than they were last year.


    This year, there is a better alternative to waiting for the H-1B lottery results: Have your employer sponsor you for a green card now.


    Last year, the wait in the EB-3 professional category was 18 months. This year, the EB-3 wait has been decreasing every month. Consider the first 3 months of 2015: January (19 months), February (13 months) and March (9 months). Odds are the EB-3 waiting times will continue to shrink, perhaps to 6 months or less.


    This is great news for both employers and employees getting ready for the H-1B lottery in April. After all, even if one wins the H-1B lottery, he cannot get H-1B status for at least 6 months, until October 1, 2015. So why not start your application for a green card now? It is not necessary to wait until April to apply for a green card.


    Let's examine the following categories of potential immigrants:


    1. Students who will Graduate this June


    If you are due to graduate from a US university in June, you will be granted a 12-month OPT work permit (EAD), perhaps with the possibility of a 17-month extension if your degree is in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field.


    If you employer immediate files a PERM application of your behalf, it will probably be approved before the end of 2015 and you can file forms I-140 and I-485 simultaneous. 90 days later, you will qualify for another EAD, and you will get your green card a few months later.



    2. Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists


    Most RNs are ineligible for H-1B visas, so it may not make sense to apply. However, both RNs and PTs are Schedule A shortage occupations, meaning that their employers do not have to file PERM applications for them. Instead, they can simply file I-140s for them, and when their priority dates are reached a few months later, they can submit I-485 packets and received an EAD 90 days later. A few months after that, they will receive green cards.



    3. Other Professionals

    If you are not eligible for OPT and are not an RN or a PT, there is no reason to worry. If you are present in the US on another type of working visa (E-1, E-2, H-1B, H-4, J-1, J-2, L-1, L-2, O, P, R, etc.) your employer can sponsor you for a green card, and you will be probably get an EAD within 12 months and a green card shortly thereafter.

    If you outside the US, you will have to get your green card abroad, but do not let that stop you. If your employer in the US is willing to sponsor you for a green card, you will probably enter the US as a permanent resident within 1 to 2 years.


    Unfortunately, Congress has yet to abolish the per-country quotas for EB visas. Until they do, applying for a green card will take many years for persons born in India and China with needed job skills.



    4. Section 245(k)


    What if so many people who lose the H-1B lottery all apply for green cards now that the waiting times start to retrogress?


    If you are in the US, remember that section 245(k) of the law permits you to adjust your status under an employment-based category as long as you have not been out of status for 180 days or more since you last admission to the US. In other words, you have 6 months of wiggle room.


    So, if you lose the H-1B lottery, don't jump off a bridge. Have your employer sponsor you for a green card, now!

    Updated 02-17-2015 at 03:06 PM by CShusterman

  4. I-SQUARED BILL: MORE H-1B VISAS & GREEN CARDS

    http://shusterman.com/images/hatch.png
    On January 13, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2015.

    The Act would create a much-needed overhaul of our broken legal immigration system. It would dramatically raise the H-1B cap, and would provide much-needed reforms of the employment-based preference system for green cards. It would also raise the per-country cap for family-based green cards.

    What follows is a brief summary of the I-Squared Act.

    Temporary Visas

    • Raise the general H-1B cap from 65,000 to 115,000
    • Allow the cap to go up (but not above 195,000) within any fiscal year where early filings exceed cap and require the cap to go down in a following fiscal year (but not below 115,000) if usage at the end of any fiscal year is below that particular year’s cap
    • Remove the 20,000 limit for the Masters’ cap
    • Reform fees on H-1B visas and employment-based green cards; use money from these fees to fund a grant program to promote STEM education and worker retraining to be administered by the states
    • Grant employment authorization for H-4 visa holders
    • Establish a grace period during which foreign workers can change jobs and not be out of status and restore visa revalidation for E, H, L, O and P visas
    • Allow dual intent for foreign students at US universities



    Green Cards

    • Enable the recapture of green card numbers that were approved by Congress in previous years but were not used, and continue this policy going forward through the roll-over of unused green cards in future fiscal years to the following fiscal year
    • Exempt certain categories of persons from the employment-based green card cap:
      • Dependents of employment-based immigrant visa recipients
      • US STEM advance degree holders
      • Persons of extraordinary ability
      • Outstanding professors and researchers


    • Eliminates per-country limits for employment-based green cards
    • Increases per-country limits for family-based green cards from 7% to 15%


    The I-Squared bill would remove many of the artificial limits on obtaining temporary work visas and permanent residence for the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders in science and technology. Providing more visas for these innovators will, in turn, create additional jobs for US workers.
  5. EB-3 CATEGORY GREAT NEWS IN FEBRUARY VISA BULLETIN!

    http://shusterman.com/images/eb3-workers.jpg Fantastic news for those in the EB-3 category in the February 2015 Visa Bulletin!

    Two years ago, the wait for those in the EB-3 category was almost 6 years to get a green card, even more for persons born in the Philippines (as well as China and India, which is a problem yet to be resolved by Congress). During the past 2 years, the wait has been shrinking and shrinking.


    Now, in the February 2015 Visa Bulletin, the wait has fallen to 13 months, and the State Department predicts even faster waiting times in the months ahead.


    This is an opportunity which you cannot afford to miss. If you qualify for a green card in the EB-3 category (Professionals and Skilled Workers), make sure your employer submits a PERM application for you immediately!


    If you are a Registered Nurse or a Physical Therapist, no PERM application is required. Your employer should submit an I-140 visa petition on your behalf as soon as possible. As soon as your priority date becomes current, apply for a green card using form I-485.


    EB-3 vs. H-1B

    This is especially great news for foreign-born students studying in the US. Once you graduate, you can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is a work permit which is valid for at least 12 months, or for some STEM jobs, up to 29 months.


    Since getting an H-1B temporary work visa is a 50-50 lottery these days, if your employer submits a PERM application or an I-140 petition at the beginning of your OPT period, you may be able to go directly from OPT to Green Card, and bypass H-1B altogether.


    This is great news for employers as well given the costs and uncertainty of obtaining H-1B status for essential employees.


    Don't hesitate, apply immediately!
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