April 19, 2019
The first quarter of 2019 has continued an alarming trend: H-1B visa being denied at a record rate. Compared to a denial rate of 6% in 2015, the first quarter of 2019 currently has an incredible 32% of petitions being denied. This has been paired with an increase in denials for continuing employment petitions, which has risen to 18%.
Many outsiders are particularly worried because the denials do not appear to be tied to any formal policy changes or legal changes. These denials are further evidence of an administration that is averse to allowing foreign workers into the United States. The Trump Administration, which just celebrated the second anniversary of the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, is being sued by multiple companies who claim they’ve been discriminated against during the visa process.
With many more changes to the visa system being proposed and with the heightened level of scrutiny for applications, it is more important than ever for applications to work with qualified legal counsel to guide them through the visa process.
April 15, 2019
The demand for H-1B visas is still high despite an alarming number of denials last cycle. The number of requested visas rose from 190k to 201k, an increase of roughly 6 percent. Many of the nation’s largest technology companies, such as Amazon and Google continue to rely heavily on skilled foreign workers to fill their ranks in the US.
The number of highly educated visa holders also continues to rise, with holders of advanced degrees making up a larger percentage of H-1B visas than in previous years. Some of that might be because advanced degree holders are eligible for certain cap exemptions, but it is likely also due to the fierce competition over the highly coveted visa.
The future of the visa program remains in doubt, however, with the current administration making frequent and dramatic changes due to an emphasis on encouraging domestic hiring. With denials rising as well, it is important for anyone considering an H-1B visa, or any US visa, to work with qualified legal professionals to navigate the administrative hurdles.
April 8, 2019
The USCIS announced new regulations on Friday regarding the review process for spouses of H-1B holders. In particular, the new regulations are focused on spouses who are legal minors. The administration said the new regulations are meant to ensure that the visa process is protecting vulnerable populations and not being abused as a human trafficking tactic.
The changes mainly add new review procedures to the spouse of an H-1B holder attempting to immigrate to the US with them using an I-130 petition. It only applies when the spouse is under 16 years of age, OR if they are 16 or 17 years old with more than a 10-year age gap between partners.
The practical implications are that there might be more “request for evidence” requirements for those affected. Given that failure to provide evidence is a common reason for visa rejections, it is important to ensure that these requests are handled timely and appropriately.
For anyone concerned about the visa process, regardless of your marriage status, the best course of action is to work with a qualified legal team to help navigate the shifting rules and regulations.
April 5, 2019
The USCIS has announced that the mandated regular cap on H-1B applications for 2020 has been reached. The H-1B visa is only approved for 65,000 people for the fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 given for an “advanced degree” exemption.
The USCIS will continue to process petitions if they are exempt from the regular cap, as well as those petitions that apply to visa holders asking for extensions, changing their H-1B terms, changing employers, or attempting to gain a second H-1B position in addition to the one they hold already.
For those wondering about their H-1B status or qualifications, it is important to seek legal counsel to determine if you are eligible for a cap exemption or for another work visa.
April 1, 2019
The US Attorney’s office has announced that a woman has been sentenced in a case involving marriage and visa fraud. Marena Mushero, of Maine, allegedly offered to marry a foreign national in need of a visa in exchange for money.
Prosecutors claimed that Mushero accepted cash and wire transfers from a foreign resident living and working in the US prior to their wedding, so that the foreign national could obtain a “green card”. This attempt to circumvent the US’s immigration policies was eventually discovered, and Mushero has been convicted and sentenced to 5 years of probation as a result.
Schemes around visa fraud in the US can be unfortunately common, with many visa-for-profit rings being busted regularly by federal investigators. It is important for potential immigrants to follow US laws and policies, or face fines, imprisonment, and deportation. If you are considering living and working in the US, it is important to obtain qualified legal counsel to ensure that you are legally protected throughout the immigration process.
March 25, 2019
The head of an illegal visa scheme has finally been sentenced. Anjaneyulu Katam, who was accused by the US Department of Justice of manipulating the H-1B visa program to help Indian nationals illegally enter the US, was sentenced to a year in jail and ordered to forfeit $1.1 million in assets.
The government alleged that Katam ran a “IT Staffing Company” that had filed falsified visa applications in exchanged for payment and forced applicants to pay their own visa fees. The H-1B visa, which is intended to fill shortages of skilled laborers, has been under criticism for the ability to shift many IT jobs to foreign nationals.
Katam is not the only person to face charges due to visa fraud. Recently, several sting operations have been run against fake universities who were helping foreign nationals gain entry under false student visas. Additionally, others have faced similar charges for running fake IT staffing firms, an issue that is becoming more prominent with the rise in virtual workplaces.
It is important for potential applicants and employers to stick with the legal visa process and obtain appropriate legal counsel. With the recent USCIS announcement that employers face the potential for permanent bans from hiring foreign workers, the need for legal compliance is at an all-time high.
March 22, 2019
Last month, the Department of Labor released a memo outlining new interpretations to regulations around hiring foreign workers, such as those workers on the H-1B visa. In short, the memo states that those companies that do not comply fully with requests for evidence may be barred from using any foreign workers at all.
Much of the substance of the memo deals specifically with compliance to new electronic document requests. Namely, that much of the visa process is now online. For some companies or workers, using an electronic only process will be very difficult to navigate. For others, it might increase risk of failure to comply. For companies that rely heavily on foreign workers, even one instance of mismanagement can put their larger workforce at risk.
In light of these changing rules, regulations, and means of processing, it is important for employers to seek legal counsel to ensure that all of their documents are appropriately handled. Qualified legal professionals can not only help with the documentation but can also help protect the organization from the greater consequences in the event of a mistake or miscommunication.
March 18, 2019
As a result of many visa processing changes announced by the USCIS earlier this week, many applicants and employers are left scrambling to ensure that everything is revised in time for the April 1st start date. Notably, changes made to the processing of premium applications have caused a large amount of chaos for many who are filing applications, as the changes have disrupted timelines, application information, and even billing and fee cycles. Premium processing of applications, which is notably more expensive, traditionally guarantees a response within 15 days. However, the USCIS announced that they would not even begin the processing of applications until May 20th at the latest, creating a significant amount of uncertainty for visa applicants.
Reports from Forbes and NBCNews have given examples of the impacts, which range from law firms forced to re-examine hundreds of pre-planned applications, to more notably foreign students in the US attempting to transfer to visas that allow them to work here after graduation. More changes to regulations might even impact or prohibit spouses of H-1B workers from entering the US with them, which would be devastating to many families.
The visa process can be very turbulent time for both applicants and employers. With the potential for dramatic changes and ever-shifting laws, it is important for applicants to seek qualified legal representation to help them understand the process and protect themselves.
March 15, 2019
The USCIS has announced the starting dates for H-1B applications for fiscal year 2020. Applications will be accepted starting on April 1, 2019 and will be subject to any 2020 caps on the total number of visas approved. The USCIS also announced a number of changes, including changes to the visa selection process, changes to the processing of premium visa requests, and even a new H-1B employer data hub for the 2020 visa season.
Immigration services in the US are still actively trying to adapt to changes mandated by the Trump Administration, which is pushing for companies to hire American and limit the number of foreign workers who enter the US. Many of the changes during the last visa cycle lead to a large number of applications rejected for administrative reasons and caused concerns about discrimination and improper filing. Immigration laws can and do change every year, as do the processes involved. It is important to work with qualified legal help when attempting to gain approval to live and work in the United States.
March 11, 2019
A lawsuit filed against Apple and Infosys has been dismissed by US courts. The lawsuit alleged that Apple illegally conspired to abuse the US visa system to replace US workers with cheaper, outsourced labor from India. It was claimed that Apple was illegally attempting to get workers into the US on the cheaper B-1 Visa instead of the more expensive H-1B visas.
The lawsuit, filed by a whistleblower on the scheme and an independent contractor, was ultimately dismissed after the courts found that Apple’s use of the visa system was appropriate.
Companies using foreign workers should remain cautious and vigilant of scams, however, particularly in the wake of multiple sting operations against visa fraud and higher rates of denial for many firms, particularly foreign companies in the IT sector. For both companies wanting to hire foreign workers and for foreign workers seeking entry into the United States, it is important to maintain qualified legal counsel to ensure that all legal requirements are maintained throughout the visa process.