EIG Dispatch | July 25, 2017

USCIS News: H-1B Cap Petitions Returned / Certain Cap-Exempt H-1B Premium Processing Resumes

DC Insights: Travel Ban Relaxed / NAFTA Renegotiation and Employment Visas / Senator Grassley’s Letter to DHS on O-1 Visas / Dream Act Introduced 

Headlines: Laptop Ban Lifted / European Entry-Exit Proposal 

Feature Story: Green Card FAQs Answered 

The Latest in USCIS News

Unselected FY18 H-1B Petitions Retured. On July 19, USCIS announced that it had completed the process of returning all FY2018 H-1B cap petitions that were not selected in the lottery. H-1B cap petitions filed between April 3 and April 7 should receive a receipt notice or a returned petition by July 31. If you have any questions regarding your H-1B cap petition, please reach out to your H-1B attorney for further details.

USCIS to Resume H-1B Premium Processing for Certain Cap-Exempt Petitions. Effective Monday, July 24, 2017, USCIS resumed premium processing for certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions, including higher education institutions, nonprofits, and government research organizations. As previously reported, USCIS also announced that premium processing has resumed for H-1B petitions for physicians under the Conrad 30 waiver program along with government agency waivers. Though premium processing of other H-1B petitions remains suspended, USCIS has indicated that it plans to resume premium processing of these petitions in the coming months.

DC Insights: What We Learned in the Past 7 Days

Travel Ban Slightly Relaxed. Two courts issued decisions on the Travel Ban in the past week. A federal court in Hawaii ruled that the definition of “close family” includes grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. The Supreme Court, in a rare mid-vacation decision, allowed that expanded definition to stand. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the full case in October.

Employment Visas Not Mentioned in NAFTA Renegotiation Objectives. The Office of the US Trade Representative for the Executive Office of the President released a summary of objectives for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiation. The summary does not mention any action on employment visas.

Senator Grassley Expresses Concern for O-1 Visa Abuses in Letter to DHS.  In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly, Senator Chuck Grassley expressed his concerns regarding the potential abuse of the O-1 visa category. Given the lack of numerical cap for the O-1 visa and tighter restrictions in place for other visa categories, Senator Grassley believes that O-1 visas could become a work around for these restrictions, thereby increasing the potential for fraudulent applications. Senator Grassley has requested additional information from DHS on O-1 adjudication standards to further investigate the potential abuses in the current O-1 petition process.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Dream Act to Give Immigrant Students a Path to Citizenship. On Thursday, July 20, 2017, Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin re-introduced the Dream Act, which would present an opportunity for immigrant students who grew up in the United States to earn lawful permanent residence and eventually American citizenship. The Dream Act is an attempt to replace the possible end of Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) and is geared towards young students who have stayed in the U.S. unlawfully, or have DACA, or Temporary Protected Status. If the bill becomes law, young immigrants will have to meet a number of guidelines to benefit from the Act.

Headlines: Immigration News from Around the World

DHS Lifts Laptop Ban for Passengers Flying into the U.S. On July 20, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed laptops and other large electronic devices are now permitted in the airplane cabin for passengers on flights coming directly to the U.S. from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa. The DHS Secretary, John F. Kelly, previously considered expanding the ban on electronic devices to all U.S. bound flights coming from Europe but instead announced a measure that would require airports with flights heading to the U.S. to screen passengers for trace amounts of explosives. The airports affected by the electronic ban as well as over 280 airports around the world have increased their security measures as a result of the newly announced DHS standards.

Proposal for an Entry-Exit System in Europe. An Entry-Exit System (EES) proposal has been endorsed by the European Council, but it is unknown if such a system will ever be implemented. If the proposal moves forward, as early as October a provisional agreement could be presented to the EU Civil Liberties Committee and the European Parliament for approval. If approved, the European Council would have to adopt the regulations. If adopted, implementation of the EES would not begin until 2020.

Feature Story: EIG Answers the Most Frequently Asked Green Card Questions

Having a green card, also known as a Permanent Resident Card, allows you to live and work permanently in the United States. EIG’s Immigrant Visa team has put together the answers to several of the most frequently asked green card questions.

1. What are the different stages of the green card process?    

There are 3 stages to obtaining an employment-based green card.

  • Stage 1: Labor certification with the U.S. Department of Labor, commonly referred to as “PERM.”
  • Stage 2: I-140 with USCIS.  Once the I-140 has been approved you can proceed to the final step once your priority date is “current.”
  • Stage 3: Filing the I-485, or Application for Adjustment of Status (the green card application).

2. How do I know when my priority date is “current”?

Your priority date will be listed on your Form I-797 I-140 approval notice. Using your country of birth and preference category (EB-2 or EB-3), you can visit the Department of State’s visa bulletin website to see whether your priority date is current.

3. Can I expedite or premium process any stages of the green card process? 

The only stage that may be filed premium process is the I-140 stage (stage 2). All other stages are subject to the Department of Labor or USCIS normal processing times.

4. Can my spouse and children apply for a green card with me? 

Yes. Your spouse/children can be added at any time before your green card is issued.

5. I have an EB-3 Approval through a previous employer; now that I am seeking EB-2 classification, can I keep my previous priority date? 

Typically yes. We ask USCIS to retain the previous priority date at the I-140 stage. As long as the previous I-140 was not revoked for fraud or misrepresentation, USCIS will grant the previous priority date request.

6. I believe I qualify for an EB-1 (extraordinary ability, outstanding researcher, or multinational manager/executive), can EIG assess whether I meet the requirements? 

Yes. If you do qualify for an EB-1, you will be able to skip stage 1, the PERM stage, and start directly at stage 2. You will likely get your green card a lot faster.

7. When can I get an H-4 EAD for my spouse? 

You can get an H-4 EAD for your spouse if you are currently in H-1B status and (1) have an approved I-140 petition or (2) your PERM Labor Certification has been filed at least 365 days prior to the end of your 6 year H-1B limit.

If you have more questions, feel free to contact your EIG attorney.