EIG Dispatch | February 12, 2016


  • Increase in USCIS H-1B Extension Processing Times
  • Russia Sets New Standard for Foreign National Employees
  • New Bill Introduced to Expedite O and P Visa Processing
  • Applications for Australian Subclass 457 Visas Currently Experiencing Delays

Increase in USCIS H-1B Extension Processing Times

Adjudication of H-1B extension petitions filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) via regular processing is currently taking 8 months. At the present time, USCIS is reviewing petitions submitted on June 13, 2016.

What does this mean for my work authorization?

Employees with timely filed extension petitions can continue to work and remain in the U.S. up to 240 days after their current expiration date while USCIS processes their cases. A timely filed extension petition must be filed with USCIS prior to an applicant’s current expiration.

What does this mean for my driver’s license?

In most cases, approval notices are necessary to extend an H-1B holder’s driver’s license. However, DMV offices in some states may use their discretion in accepting the original receipt notice in lieu of the actual approval notice to complete the renewal process. If an applicant must present an approval notice for license renewal, we recommend that the applicant expedite his or her petition by upgrading to premium processing.

USCIS has taken action to resolve the processing backlog by reallocating resources to address the lengthy processing times for extensions.

EIG will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide updates when available.

Russia Sets New Standards for Foreign National Employees

This year, Russia introduced new requirements for foreign national employees. These changes include:

  • New standards on medical insurance that must be held by foreign national employees;
  • New requirements for Highly Qualified Specialist workers;
  • New passport criteria for various work permit holders; and
  • A seven-day window to amend work permits after details on a foreign national’s passport have changed.

Effective May 1, 2016, foreign national workers in Russia must hold medical insurance certificates that, at a minimum, identify the employer, the insured employee, the insurance company, and the terms and territory of the medical insurance. These changes must be made to medical insurance certificates by May 1, 2016.

In addition, recent policy changes require that Highly Qualified Specialist work permit holders satisfy the following requirements:

  • Be paid at least 167,000 RUB gross per month;
  • Be paid 501,000 RUB gross per quarter if they are on leave; and
  • Hold a passport that is valid for at least three years from the date they submitted their work permit application.

Finally, standard work permit applicants must hold a valid passport for at least one year from the date the work permit application is submitted. Work visa invitation letter applicants must hold a passport that is valid for at least eighteen months from the requested date of entry.

As of January 1, 2016, a foreign national worker must file for an amended work permit if changes were made to his or her passport.  The amended work permit must be filed within seven days of the passport change. Failure to file an amended work permit could result in a fine of 4,000 RUB to 5,000 RUB.

New Bill Introduced to Expedite O and P Visa Processing

Earlier this month, U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch introduced the Arts Act of 2016. This Act would require the USCIS to either: 1) process O and P visas within the 14-day compulsory period, or 2) automatically upgrade the petitions to premium processing with no additional cost to the petitioner.

  • O-1 Visas are issued to Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement.
  • P-1 Visas can be issued to Internationally Recognized Athletes (P-1A), Members of an Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group (P-1B), Individual Performers or Part of a Group Entering to Perform Under a Reciprocal Exchange Program (P-2), and Artists or Entertainers Coming to Be Part of a Culturally Unique Program (P-3).

Applications for Australian Subclass 457 Visas Currently Experiencing Delays

Due to the backlog of applications following the Christmas and New Year holidays, the Immigration Department in Australia has recently advised that the current processing time of all visa applications are longer than usual.

Additionally, the Department will only respond to priority requests in exceptional cases. However, compelling business cases can be processed as a matter of urgency. Information supporting a compelling business case can include 1) showing shortages in the role, and 2) any unique skills or attributes critical to the business and possessed by the employee.