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EIG Dispatch | March 18, 2016

March 18, 2016

HIGHLIGHTS

  • H-1B Cap Premium Processing Schedule Announced
  • UPDATE: April 2016 Visa Bulletin
  • Ghana Announces Visa-on-Arrival Scheme for Nationals of 54 African Countries
  • Foreign Workers Could Face Deportation Under New UK Immigration Laws
  • Thailand Announces Regulations to Counter Visa Overstay

H-1B Cap Premium Processing Schedule Announced

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the H-1B Cap filing will open on April 1, 2016 and premium processing will begin no later than May 16, 2016.  Employers may experience delays getting receipt notices and may have to wait for adjudication of cap-subject petitions until late May for premium processing cases.  Petitions filed under premium processing are eligible for expedited processing (15 days).

Similar to last year, USCIS anticipates that it will receive more than the statutory cap of 65,000 petitions during the first five business days of the filing period and announced it will notify the public when the cap has closed.  When USCIS receives more than the allotted 85,000 petitions, a lottery system will be used to randomly select petitions.  This process is expected to begin after April 7, 2016. USCIS will reject all petitions not selected under the lottery, including petitions received after the cap has closed.  The numerical cap for the fiscal year is 65,000 with an additional 20,000 for individuals holding advanced degrees from U.S. academic institutions.


UPDATE: April 2016 Visa Bulletin

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has published an update regarding the April 2016 Visa Bulletin.  Applicants for employment-based filings must use the Application Final Action Dates chart in the U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin for April 2016 as follows:

Application Final Action Dates For Employment-Based Preference Cases:

Employment- Based All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA – mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
1st C C C C C
2nd C 01SEP12 08NOV08 C C
3rd 15FEB16 15AUG13 08AUG04 15FEB16 01MAY08
Other Workers 15FEB16 01MAR07 08AUG04 15FEB16 01MAY08
4th C C C C C
Certain Religious Workers C C C C C
5th
Non-Regional
Center
(C5 and T5)
C 01FEB14 C C C
5th
Regional
Center
(I5 and R5)
C 01FEB14 C C C

The complete Visa Bulletin for April 2016 can be found here.


Ghana Announces Visa-on-Arrival Scheme for Nationals of 54 African Countries

Ghana announced that it plans to offer a new class of visas-on-arrival to certain foreign nationals of African Union countries.  These nationals, with the exception of Moroccan nationals, will no longer need to secure a visa from either a consulate or the Ghana Immigration Service before traveling to Ghana for visits up to 30 days.  Rather, eligible applicants will be issued a visitor visa at the port of entry.  The change will eliminate consular processing for eligible travelers.  Additionally, the new class of visas-on-arrival will facilitate travel and improve business relations between Ghana and other African nations.  The new arrival scheme is likely to be implemented in July 2016.

Currently, only nationals of the 15 countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are exempt from needing a visitor visa before traveling to Ghana. In most cases, the current visa policy requires other African Union nationals to go through Europe in order to reach a neighboring African country.  The new scheme will allow nationals of 54 African Union countries to travel directly to Ghana without pre-travel approval.


Foreign Workers Could Face Deportation Under New UK Immigration Laws

Thousands of foreign workers in the United Kingdom could be impacted by a new law expected to take effect in April 2016. Under the law, foreign workers could face deportation if their annual salary is below the threshold.  The change will affect professionals living and working in Britain on a Tier-2 visa who earn less than 35,000 pounds a year at the end of five years of stay in the country and who seek to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). The law would primarily apply to those who entered after April 6, 2011.  Starting next month, those qualifying for ILR under the five-year category must prove that they earn at least 35,000 pounds a year or could ultimately face loss of legal status.  Foreign nationals most likely to be affected under this change include Indian, U.S., Australian, Chinese, and Japanese nationals.


Thailand Announces Regulations to Counter Visa Overstay

Thailand’s Interior Ministry announced that harsher regulations will be in effect for visa holders overstaying their visa, starting March 20, 2016. The new penalties provide that a foreign national who has already overstayed their visa but surrenders to the authorities at an immigration checkpoint and leaves the country before March 20, 2016 will be fined 500 baht per day of overstay, up to a maximum of 20,000 baht.

Foreign nationals who overstay their visa but do not leave the country before March 20, 2016 will be accountable for the same fines and also face additional penalties further described below:

  • Those who overstay more than one year but less than three years will be banned from re-entering Thailand for three years.
  • Those who overstay more than 90 days will be banned from re-entering the country for one year.
  • Those who overstay more than three years but less than five years will be banned from re-entering Thailand for five years.
  • Those who overstay more than five years will be banned from re-entering Thailand for ten years.

Harsher penalties and re-entry bans will be implemented for foreign nationals who overstay their visas and do not surrender but are seized by authorities. Visa holders in Thailand must be sure to leave Thailand before the last permitted date of their visa to avoid these new penalties taking effect on March 20, 2016.