• H-1B SEASON IN FULL SWING: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to accept new H-1B petitions for an Oct. 1, 2011 H-1B employment start date. As of the beginning of June, nearly 14,000 H-1B cap-subject petitions have been accepted for processing. Additionally, the USCIS has confirmed receipt of 9,300 H-1B petitions for foreign nationals with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. As foreign students with college and advanced degrees are graduating this Spring/Summer and significant numbers of recent graduates are finishing up their post-graduation practical training (OPT), the pace of H-1B filings is likely to increase over the following 2 to 3 months. For employers, this means it is time to strategize for the Fall hiring season and weigh the risk of delaying H-1B filings for employment candidates. As a reminder, foreign workers that currently hold H-1B visas for U.S. employers and those who held them in recent years and departed the U.S. prior to exhausting the maximum period of H-1B time in the U.S., are not subject to the H-1B cap and may qualify for Change of Employer, Change of Status, or non-cap subject H-1B filings.
  • The USCIS has proposed enhancements to its EB-5 visa program for immigrant investors. The EB-5 program offers 10,000 immigrant visas annually to foreign nationals who make substantial investments in job-creating U.S.-based businesses. Investors may apply for U.S. Green Cards individually or through a government-designated Regional Center. While investment and immigration proceedings through a Regional Center hold significant attraction, slow processing and related hurdles have been discouraging would-be investors. Under the USCIS's proposal, EB-5 Regional Center processing would be accelerated for well-developed commercially-sound projects, and an expedited processing (Premium Processing) immigration adjudication would be available. Investors' filings would be reviewed by specialized intake teams comprised of economists well familiar with the EB-5 program requirements. Also, the USCIS proposes to create a legal counsel supported Decision Board with decision making power over EB-5 Regional Center applications. The USCIS proposal should be open for public comment this month.
  • While immigration enforcement continues to be on the forefront of U.S. employers' concerns, the USCIS is making strides to streamline I-9 compliance and enforcement and has launched a new online resource dedicated to employment eligibility verification issues. I-9 Central is located at www.uscis.gov/I-9central and aims to provide employers and employees with a comprehensive information resource on I-9 completion and maintenance. The new portal includes information on employers' and employees' rights and obligations, Form I-9 completion instructions, and discussion of employers' questions and typical mistakes.