Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Update:
- The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) July 7, 2008 tally showed 20,390 petitions have been counted against the H-2B cap, limited to 33,000 for the first half of the government’s fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2008. The H-2B is a popular work visa category aimed at satisfying employers’ peak load, seasonal, or intermittent employment needs in various industries, and, most notably, used by hospitality, construction, and landscaping businesses. Employers interested in pursuing the H-2B for employment in the upcoming fall and winter should act quickly.
- The USCIS has issued revised biometrics instructions for individuals applying for re-entry permits and refugee travel documents. Applicants ages 14 through 79 are required to provide biometrics - fingerprints and electronic photographs - in conjunction with these petitions. The USCIS usually schedules the biometrics appointment at a local U.S. application support center within one to two months of the application filing. Pursuant to new guidance, re-entry permit applicants will not be able to have their biometrics taken at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, but rather, they must have it done at an application support center located in the U.S. Applicants for refugee travel documents may be able to complete biometrics abroad, at the discretion of the particular U.S. embassy or consulate. Applicants are strongly encouraged to file their applications well in advance of their scheduled U.S. departure date.
- The USCIS has confirmed the continued suspension of premium processing (i.e., expedited 15-day processing) services for religious worker (R-1) nonimmigrant visa petitions. The suspension is scheduled to last until at least Jan. 7, 2009. The USCIS also is working to revise its regulations pertaining to both the R-1 visa category and its related special immigrant worker classification. Stay tuned for more updates when the final rule is published.
Department of Labor (DOL) Update
- The DOL continues its investigation into PERM Labor Certification Applications filed by several law firms and companies. The latest development finds LawLogix, a company that designs and sells immigration software, debarred from filing any permanent labor certification applications for three years. The DOL alleges that LawLogix submitted more than 100 PERM applications in the last year for the primary purpose of testing the parameters of the DOL’s online PERM filing process.
- In a case recently decided by the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA), the court confirmed that a PERM Labor Certification Application can not be filed until at least 30 days have passed from the date of the last advertisement for the PERM job opening. This is to ensure that the employer has given applicants sufficient time to respond to the ads prior to filing the application. Employers should carefully monitor PERM advertising and application filing timeframes to precisely comply with the DOL’s requirements.
- In June, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested 32 workers at an aircraft manufacturing plant in Washington as part of ICE’s stepped up enforcement efforts at national high security and infrastructure worksites. The arrests came on the heals of an ICE audit of the company’s employment records. Employers are reminded that government investigations in one area of the business, such as wage and hour, can often lead to inquiry into another. It pays to take preventative measures so that your business is prepared for such a situation.