- REMINDER: Employees with 17-month STEM OPT EAD May Be Eligible to Extend
- EU Proposes Changes to the Blue Card System
- August 2016: EB-1 Category Expected to Have a Cutoff Date for India and China
- New Ten-Year Multiple-Entry Visa Agreement Between Israel and China
- USCIS Launches Improved Online InfoPass Tool
REMINDER: Employees with 17-month STEM OPT EAD May Be Eligible to Extend
As a reminder, individuals with at least 150 calendar days remaining on their 17-month STEM OPT extension at the time of filing for the new EAD can qualify for an additional 7-month extension for a total of 24-months of STEM OPT extension (provided they have submitted a Training Plan and meet other requirements). The application must be filed within 60 days of the date the university enters the recommendation for the 24-month STEM OPT extension.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin accepting these applications on May 10, 2016 and will stop accepting applications on August 8, 2016. Individuals approved for the 7-month extension will be issued a new 7-month STEM OPT EAD with a validity date that starts the day after the individual’s 17-month STEM OPT EAD expires. The time-frame for extending the 17-month STEM OPT EADs will only be open until August 8, 2016. Thus, individuals should check their STEM OPT expiration dates and submit a request for an additional 7-month extension if there is at least 150 calendar days remaining on their 17-month STEM OPT EAD.
Please note that if you have less than 150 days left on your 17-month STEM OPT extension, you will not qualify for this extension. If you are in your 60-day grace period following your 17-month STEM OPT extension, you may not file for the 7-month STEM OPT extension. Please reach out to EIG for any questions.
EU Proposes Changes to the Blue Card System
The European Commission announced a proposal to revise the European Union’s (EU) Blue Card in order to attract more skilled foreign workers into EU member countries. The current Blue Card system imposes significant restrictions on admissions and allows for parallel requirements by Member States. The proposed changes include:
- A single Blue Card scheme that would replace Member States’ other parallel systems for welcoming highly skilled immigrants;
- A lowered salary requirement to allow more skilled immigrants to qualify;
- A reduction in the mandatory length of the employment contract from 12 months to 6 months;
- A reduction in the maximum application processing time from 90 days to 60 days;
- Recognizing a professional experience equivalency to meet educational degree requirements;
- A new trusted employer’s scheme that would provide expedited procedures and fewer administrative burdens to trusted employers;
- Eligibility for long-term residence after 5 years of residence in multiple EU Member States or after 3 years of continuous residence in a single Member State; and
- Expedited procedures and fewer requirements for short-term business trips to Member States.
The proposed changes will be debated and must be approved by the European Parliament and the European Council. Once approved, the EU member nations are committed to implementing the changes within two years. EIG will continue to monitor developments with the EU Blue Card system and keep you informed of developments as they arise.
August 2016: EB-1 Category Expected to Have a Cutoff Date for India and China
The EB-1, or employment based first preference category, is traditionally known for being “current” for every country of chargeability. However, Charles Oppenheim, the U.S. Department of State Visa Control and Reporting Division Chief, recently confirmed that the August 2016 visa bulletin will have a cutoff date of January 1, 2010 for the EB-1 category for India and China only. All other countries will continue to remain current. The EB-1 category for India and China is expected to be current again on October 1, 2016, when the fiscal year 2017 begins. This adjustment is due to the demand for visas in the EB-1 category exceeding the statutorily set quota by Congress. The Department of State is implementing a cutoff date for India and China to ensure that visa numbers are available for all other countries.
New Ten-Year Multiple-Entry Visa Agreement Between Israel and China
Both the United States and Canada have agreements with China which allow for a ten-year multiple-entry visa issuance to business travelers and visitors. Recently, Israel and China entered into a similar agreement, which was ratified by the Israeli government last week. This agreement authorizes issuance of a ten-year multiple-entry visa to Israeli citizens traveling to China, and to Chinese citizens traveling to Israel, for business or pleasure. Thousands of Israeli nationals visit China each year, and vice versa. Accordingly, the purpose of the agreement is to encourage travel and tourism between Israel and China, and to conserve time and money for travelers.
Before this agreement existed, the business visitor and tourist visas between Israel and China were limited to one entry only. Under the new agreement, Chinese nationals may enter Israel (and vice versa) for up to 90 days per visit. However, border officials have the ultimate discretion to limit the duration of each stay upon entry. This change addresses business visitor and tourist visas only. Such visas do not authorize employment or any hands-on work, even if the work is brief in nature or payment is coming from a different country. Any unauthorized work performed while on this visa will be punished as a criminal offense. More detailed rules regarding the processing of these visas at respective Consulates will be released soon and EIG will continue to monitor requirements.
USCIS Launches Improved Online InfoPass Tool
On June 27, 2016, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched its improved InfoPass tool. InfoPass is the USCIS online portal that allows users to schedule an appointment to meet with their local USCIS office and make inquiries on specific cases.
The tool now includes a new feature – interactive mapping. This option allows users to more easily locate their closest USCIS office.