- USCIS Redesigned Green Cards and EADs
- USCIS Adopts Final Action Visa Bulletin Chart for May 2017
- New USCIS Guidance – All Employment-Based Non-Immigrants Must be Paid Minimum Wage
- USCIS Completes the H-1B Visa Lottery Selection Process for Fiscal Year 2018
- “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order Signed Tuesday
- Australia and New Zealand Tighten Immigration Regulations
USCIS Redesigns Green Cards and EADs
USCIS has announced it will begin issuing redesigned Green Cards and Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) in May. The redesigns will use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features to create cards that are highly secure and more tamper-resistant than those currently in use. The redesign is part of an ongoing effort between USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enhance document security and deter fraud.
Some Green Cards and EADs issued in May will still use the existing format, as USCIS will use existing card stock until current supplies are depleted.
Both existing and new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date on the card.
USCIS Adopts Final Action Visa Bulletin Chart for May 2017
As previously reported, the Department of State (DOS) released the May 2017 visa bulletin on April 11, 2017. Following the release of the monthly visa bulletin USCIS must determine which chart – the Final Action Chart (Chart A) or the Dates for Filing Chart (Chart B) – it will adopt for the specific month.
USCIS advised yesterday that it will be adopting the Final Action Chart (Chart A) for Employment-Based Preference Filings for the month of May 2017. Foreign nationals should only look at the Final Action Chart when determining whether or not their priority date is current for the month of May 2017.
Look for next month’s EIG Special Alert on the Visa Bulletin for the June 2017 Visa Bulletin.
New USCIS Guidance – All Employment-Based Non-Immigrants Must be Paid Minimum Wage
Last week, through new policy guidance, USCIS announced that all visa beneficiaries must be paid at least minimum wage. The new guidance directs all USCIS employees to ensure that a visa beneficiary will not be paid less than the minimum required wage under state or Federal law, whichever is higher, before approving an employment-based visa petition. This rule applies regardless of the location of payroll, which includes employees who remain on foreign payroll while working in the U.S.
Moving forward, employers sponsoring visa beneficiaries should be prepared to set workers’ total compensation at a level that meets the requirements of both federal and state minimum-wage laws. In calculating a foreign worker’s compensation, USCIS’s guidance on what constitutes “total compensation” remains unchanged. In addition to wages and salary, “total compensation” may continue to include other guaranteed forms of compensation paid by the petitioner to the foreign worker in the form of money, commodities, services, or privileges, including food, transportation and housing allowances, as well as guaranteed bonuses.
USCIS Completes the H-1B Visa Lottery Selection Process for Fiscal Year 2018
USCIS has completed its H-1B cap random selection process for the 2018 Fiscal Year. As reported in Monday’s EIG Special Alert, USCIS received 199,000 cap-subject H-1B petitions during the filing period, which ran from April 3 to April 7, 2017. The number of H-1B petitions filed this year is significantly lower than the prior two years.
On April 11, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category H-1B cap and the 20,000 H-1B cap under the advanced degree exemption, commonly known as the Master’s cap. USCIS conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All unselected advanced degree petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general-category cap.
EIG expects USCIS to start issuing cap selection notifications by May.
As a reminder, as of April 3, USCIS has temporarily suspended premium processing for all H-1B petitions, including H-1B cap exempt petitions, for up to six months. Thus, all cases selected under the H-1B lottery will be processed under USCIS’ regular processing timeline.
“Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order Signed Tuesday
On Tuesday April 18th, President Trump signed a new Executive Order titled “Buy American, Hire American.” The Executive Order does not make any new laws, nor does it make any changes to the H-1B visa program. Instead, the Executive Order merely calls for the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest paid petition beneficiaries.” The order does not provide any specific timeline by which the DOL and DHS must complete their review nor does it provide a timeline by which legislative or regulatory action must occur.
As such, the Executive Order does not have an immediate impact on current H-1B visa holders or the recently completed H-1B lottery. Nor does it have any immediate impact on any other U.S. visa program.
EIG will continue to monitor the agencies’ review of the H-1B Visa Program and provide updates as they become available.
Australia and New Zealand Tighten Immigration Regulations
On Tuesday, the Australian Government announced major changes to the Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457) and other elements of its immigration system. The announced changes, which do not impact the status of current subclass 457 visa holders, will be implemented in several stages over the coming year.
On Wednesday, the day after the Australian announcement, the New Zealand government announced changes to their immigration system, with reforms aimed at “managing the number and improving the quality of migrants coming to New Zealand.”
Effective immediately, the Australian Government has modified the occupations which are eligible for employer sponsorship. In general, positions in most engineering and technical occupations, as well as many business occupations, will remain eligible for sponsorship.
In March 2018, the subclass 457 visa will be abolished and replaced with a new Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa. The TSS visa will be divided into Short-Term and Medium-Term streams. The Short-Term stream will allow Australian employers to fill skill shortages with foreign workers on a temporary basis for up to two years. The Medium-Term stream will allow employers to hire foreign workers for up to four years to address shortages in a narrower range of high skill and critical need occupations. The Medium-Term stream will provide a path to Australian permanent residency, while the Short-Term stream will not.
Further details regarding the announced changes to the subclass 457 visa program and other elements of the Australian immigration system are expected from the Australian Government in the coming months.
The changes in New Zealand include changes to both temporary and permanent immigration processes. For individuals coming to New Zealand to work for a temporary period, new minimum salary requirements will apply and, for lower-skilled positions, a new “cooling off” or “stand down” period will be required between 3-year work permits with workers required to spend a period outside New Zealand before re-applying.
For employment-based permanent residency under the “Skilled Migrant Category”, the government has introduced new salary requirements and has modified the “points system,” reducing the significance of family ties and work experience while giving greater weight to job offers.
As always EIG attorneys will continue to monitor news and alerts regarding these changes and will provide you with updates as information becomes available.