Updated Numbers for the H-1B Master’s Cap

On April 27, 2007, USCIS gave updated numbers of petitions received for the H-1B visa master’s cap. As of Friday, USCIS has received 19,673 petitions for this visa program for foreign nationals with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. 20,000 petitions total will be allowed, which means that there are less than 1,000 petitions left.

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InfoPass Pilot Program Speeds Up Waiver of Excludability Process in Consular Offices Abroad

Earlier this year, USCIS’s Ciudad Juaraz, Mexico office, in collaboration with the State Department, started a new pilot program that would allow for same-day adjudication of many Waivers of Excludability (Form I-601). Immigrants that need consular immigrant visa processing and have been found inadmissible to the U.S. by a consular officer are, in many cases, allowed to file a waiver to explain various inadmissibilities (e.g.: immigration and criminal violations and health-related issues).

Waiver applicants in the Ciudad Juarez office are able to use InfoPass, USCIS’s online appointment system, to select a date and time when they can return to the consulate to file their waiver. The online service is available online at http://www.infopass.uscis.gov. An USCIS adjudication officer will review that waiver and its supporting documents at the time it is submitted by the applicant. The officer then will either approve the waiver or refer it to further review.

As part of the waiver process, the applicant will need to show that his or her spouse/parent would suffer “extreme hardship” if he or she were not allowed to return to the U.S. Prior to approval of the waiver and issuance of the visa, a detailed set of security checks would be made.

The pilot program has, so far, been able to speed up the process and enable these immigrants to return to care for their families in a reasonable amount of time.

“This ground making pilot program makes sense and ensures that qualifying immigrants return to their families without unnecessary delays,” said Warren Janssen, the Officer-in-Charge of the Ciudad Juarez office. “Those applicants that file a well prepared I-601 and who otherwise do not have any serious adverse issues to be addressed will, in many cases, be approved and be able to receive their visas on the same day.”

Updated Numbers on H-1B Masters’ Cap Visa Availability

Yesterday, USCIS provided updated numbers of H-1B visa masters’ cap visa petitions they received during early April. As of April 18, 2007, USCIS has received roughly 18,000 H-1B petitions for foreign nationals with advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. 20,000 petitions from these candidates, according to legislation passed by Congress, are exempt from the H-1B visa cap, which means there are still about 2,000 H-1B advanced degree petitions still available for Fiscal Year 2008. However, please note that these additional 2,000 available petitions may be gone by the end of the week.

USCIS Creates New Internal Security Office

Two months ago, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) created the Office of Security and Integrity (OSI), an internal office with the specific mission of ensuring USCIS maintains critical organizational security for its employees and facilities.

“USCIS must be the fairest, most secure, professional national immigration agency in the world,” said USCIS Director, Emilio Gonzales. “In order to succeed in that mission, we must ensure that our own security and integrity is beyond reproach and that our employees and facilities are secure. We developed OSI with that purpose in mind. Through the office, we will elevate and increase the visibility of USCIS internal security and integrity programs.”

OSI officially began last month, in response to an internal USCIS review that suggested the organization combine its audit liaison and the internal self inspection portions of the Office of Planning, Budget and Finance with USCIS’s Office of Security and Investigations. USCIS intends to triple OSI’s staff to a total of 64 by next year. Primary tasks for the new office include hiring more security and investigative specialists and increasing USCIS’s overall focus on integrity during its immigration officer basic training course, offered in Brunswick, GA.

FY 2008 H-1B Petition Lottery Now Completed

The USCIS has officially submitted notice that it has conducted and completed the computer-generated random selection process to choose which H-1B petitions, subject to the H-1B visa cap for FY 2008, will continue to final processing for the upcoming fiscal year. USCIS noted that it received a total of 123,480 petitions for cap-subject H-1B visas on April 2 and 3. Each petition was labeled with a unique numerical identifier, then placed into the coffer for random selection by computer. All petitions that were chosen were then forwarded to the relevant Service Center for continued processing.

Applicants whose petitions were chosen should receive a receipt notice within the next four weeks. All applicants whose petitions were not chosen will receive their applications in the mail, along with their filing fee.

For all cases that were filed with requests for premium processing, the 15-day premium processing period will begin on April 12, the date these petitions were chosen by the random selector.

USCIS has also noted that they will continue to provide updates regarding the processing of these H-1B petitions as information is received. USCIS has not commented specifically about petitions applicable for the Advanced Degree Exception, but has previously noted that roughly 13,000 of the H-1B petitions received on April 2 and 3 were counted against the 20,000 exemption for foreign nationals with masters’ or above degrees from U.S. universities, which means that this cap has not yet been reached.

H-1B Process Begins, Adjudication Starts April 13

Michael Aytes, Associate Director for Domestic Operations for USCIS, informed a group of specialists that the H-1B Random Number Generator was run yesterday, April 12, 2007. According to Aytes, the adjudication process for non-U.S. Master’s degree cap subject H-1B petitions will not begin before April 13, 2007. USCIS comments that if you’ve received an approval notice for one of these petitions before April 13, you should verify that approval notice either through the Premium Processing Unit that issued the notice or with the National Customer Service Center.

Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions Will Begin After Computer-Generated Random Lottery

USCIS announced yesterday that the 15-day premium processing period for H-1B petitions filed for Fiscal Year 2008 visas will start after the computer-generated random lottery has selected which petitions will be processed. USCIS had announced last week that they had received enough H-1B petitions to meet the Cap for FY 2008.

Because a high volume of petitions were received on April 2 and 3, USCIS will be required to place this condition on the premium processing service, which, under normal conditions, ensures that an H-1B application is adjudicated within 15 days. USCIS received 133,000 mail packages on April 2 and 3, all of which contained H-1B petitions. Further, each of those packages may contain more than one petition. Regulations prohibit USCIS from starting the adjudication process for any of these cases until the computer-generated random lottery is conducted. All petitions that are not chosen in the lottery will be returned, along with their application fees.

In addition, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions received on behalf of internationals with masters’ or above degrees from U.S. institutions will be exempted from the cap. However, if USCIS receives more than 20,000 petitions that match this exemption, all those H-1B exempt petitions will be subject to their own computer-generated random lottery. Those exemption H-1Bs not picked in that initial lottery will then have one more chance with the larger random lottery of all H-1B petitions received on April 2 and 3.

Finally, USCIS notes that it does not plan in the future to suspend or terminate the premium processing service for H-1B petitions.