US Headlines: US Consulates in Russia will Resume Nonimmigrant Visa Services on a Limited Basis / The Third and Most Recent Travel Ban Went into Effect / Protections for Dreamers Involved in Government Funding Discussions
Global Headlines: Switzerland: 2017 Quotas Reached for L and B Permits / Philippines: Employment Permit Rules Amended / Argentina: Waiver of Reciprocity Fee for Canadians
Feature Story: Happy Cap Season: The Road to April 1 Begins Now
December 13- “Planning Ahead for H-1B Cap Season: Lessons from Last Year and Best Practices” Webinar. (Registration Information Coming Soon)
US Consulates in Russia will Resume Nonimmigrant Visa Services on a Limited Basis. As an update to our earlier story, beginning on Monday, December 11, 2017, US Consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok will resume processing of nonimmigrant visas on a significantly reduced capacity, as the Russian government’s order to reduce US consulate and embassy personnel remains in place. As a result, nonimmigrant visa applicants are encouraged to plan in advance and anticipate longer appointment and processing wait times at these consulates as they will operate on a significantly reduced capacity.
The Third and Most Recent Travel Ban Went into Effect. The Supreme Court of the United States has allowed the third and latest version of the Travel Ban to take effect as of Monday, December 4, 2017, while legal challenges to its constitutionality continue in lower federal courts. This travel ban imposes travel restrictions on most citizens from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea, as well as on certain groups of people from Venezuela. Iraqi nationals are not subject to travel restrictions, but will still be subjected to higher scrutiny. The Supreme Court also will not hear legal arguments on the second Travel Ban since key provisions have now expired.
Protections for Dreamers Involved in Government Funding Discussions. While Congress has until March 2018 to address the status of DACA beneficiaries, commonly referred to as Dreamers, the issue has entered the ongoing budget debate. Democrats do not want to increase border spending, while Republicans have stated that it is a prerequisite for protecting Dreamers. Congress has until this Friday, December 8, 2017 to pass a bill that will keep the government open.
Switzerland: 2017 Quotas Reached for L and B Permits. The Swiss Immigration Authorities recently announced that the 2017 quotas for EFTA have been exhausted. New permits will be available for EU/EFTA nationals on January 1, 2018 (subject to variations based on region).
Please note that this does not affect applicants for the local-hire B permit, 120-day permit, or the four-month short-term permits.
Philippines: Employment Permit Rules Amended. The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has amended several rules governing employment permits to foreign nationals. The revised rules affect:
- Additional Documentation: Employers must provide additional documentation in support of an Alien Employment Permit (AEP);
- Renewals: Applications for AEP renewals must be submitted no more than 60 days before the expiration date;
- Denials: Employees working with an expired AEP for over a year and applying for a renewal with an expired visa, or, with a temporary visa are new grounds for denial;
- Penalties: Employers who have submitted fraudulent AEP applications three times will face a five-year bar from re-applying. Employers will also face fines in the amount of PHP 10,000 for employing foreign nationals without an AEP.
Argentina: Waiver of Reciprocity Fee for Canadians. Effective January 1, 2018, Argentina will waive the visa reciprocity fee for Canadian citizens entering the country for tourism or business purposes. Following the cancellation of the reciprocity fees for US citizens in 2016 and Australians in 2017, the latest fee exemption for Canadians officially overturns Argentina’s former 2008 policy in an effort to facilitate travel and tourism at lesser costs for temporary visitors (up to 90 days).
Feature Story: Happy Cap Season: The Road to April Begins Now
April 1, 2017: The highly anticipated date when US employers may file new H-1B visa petitions with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the hopes of bolstering their workforce with qualified, foreign talent to fulfill a variety of professional positions.
Every year, USCIS issues up to 85,000 H-1B visas to employers seeking to sponsor foreign-born employees to work in the US in “specialty occupations”, which are essentially jobs requiring a minimum of a US Bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) in a specific field of study to fulfill the duties of the position.
Historically, the demand has far exceeded supply, as US employers filed over 236,000 H-1B petitions in 2016 and 199,000 this past April. To address this imbalance, USCIS accepts all H-1B petitions for the first five business days of April and if the number exceeds the “cap,” a randomized lottery selection process takes place to determine which petitions will be officially receipted and reviewed for further consideration.
EIG works tirelessly to ensure all client cases are prepared and received by the government as soon as the doors open in April. Although the filing deadline is currently four months away, the volume of anticipated petitions in the queue to be filed requires preparation to begin as soon as possible.
What Can I Do Now?
Employer seeking to sponsor new H-1B employees:
The first step is deciding which of your employees has the preferred level of talent to warrant H-1B visa sponsorship. We are already working with our clients to track employee population requiring sponsorship and analyzing H-1B options. If you have not previously worked with EIG, we emphasize the importance of monitoring your employee population requiring sponsorship and are starting to confirm which candidates you will be sponsoring. In either case, being proactive will pay off significantly as we navigate the H-1B petition process. As always, if you have any questions before getting started, please contact EIG to get the ball rolling.
Employee seeking H-1B sponsorship:
We recommend first confirming with your employer that you will be considered for H-1B sponsorship. This can be accomplished through a simple phone call or email with your manager, Human Resources Department, or Global Mobility Team. EIG is standing by to assist with any questions you may have and to ensure that your case receives the proper level of attention and consideration.
As we proceed on this annual journey together, EIG will update you via our weekly Dispatch newsletter, as well as in our ongoing webinar series to provide guidance on next steps and answer any questions you may have throughout the H-1B process. This past year has delivered many changes and new challenges, so stay tuned!
We look forward to working with you.
Xavier Francis, Attorney
Maria V. Rolong, Attorney
Andy Finkle, Senior Attorney
Editors: Jeff DeCruz, Christina Holtz, Theresa Meehan, and Justin Parsons