• Although the current fiscal year's H-1B cap has been reached as of Jan. 26, 2011, a new H-1B filing season is a little over a month away. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting new H-1B petitions on April 1, 2011 for an Oct. 1, 2011 H-1B employment start date. Now is the time to plan H-1B proceedings and gather the necessary documentation. Employers should discuss petition preparation and filing timelines with their immigration legal counsel.
  • The USCIS has begun issuing combination interim employment and travel authorization on a single, credit card-sized card for certain applicants undergoing Adjustment of Status during their final step in the Green Card process. In the past, applicants would receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card and a separate Advance Parole Document (i.e., travel document). The new card looks similar to an EAD Card, but includes a notation — "Serves as I-512 Advance Parole," and should be valid for a period of one or two years, depending on immigrant visa availability. Employers should note that the new card may be accepted as a List A document for I-9 employment eligibility verification purposes.
  • Employers soon may be seeing a new type of Request for Evidence (RFE) on certain employment-based immigration applications, such as the I-140 and I-360 Immigrant Petitions and nonimmigrant visa petitions for H-1B, L-1, TN, R-1, and E workers. The USCIS is beta testing Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE), a web-based tool which allows USCIS officers to electronically access commercially available information about a petitioning company or organization to verify its qualifications stated in filed petitions and applications. Such information includes: type of business; financial standing; number of employees; company executives; date of establishment; and physical address. The officer will issue an RFE or a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) if any relevant inconsistencies or issues are discovered, and provide the petitioner with an opportunity to respond. Employers should coordinate with their immigration attorney to minimize possible delays in adjudication caused by the new process.