USCIS Proposed Rule Seeks to Process Certain Pending EB-5 Applications

USCIS has officially asked for public comments on a new, proposed rule that would give the federal agency the power to process certain EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa applications that were approved between 1995 and 1998. This proposed rule would apply to the group of immigrant investors who received approval of their Forms I-526, the Immigration Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, between January 1, 1995, and August 31, 1998.

The rule would enable USCIS to process roughly 580 applications from immigrant investors and their dependents who received approved Forms I-526 during the stated time period and who, before November 2, 2002, wished to register for permanent residence or adjust status, or remove conditions on permanent residence obtained as an alien entrepreneur.

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H-2B Wage Calculation Rule Delayed 60 Days

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration has announced a 60-day postponement of the revision of wage calculations for the H-2B visa program for temporary nonagricultural workers. This delay will allow various courts that are involved in litigation related to the implementation of the rule the chance to determine the best venue to find resolutions for claims, as well as ensure that the H-2B program can be administered without potentially conflicting court orders.

The effective date of the rule has been moved from September 30, 2011, to November 30, 2011. This change will be published in the Federal Register next week. A final rule was published on January 19, , that revised the wage methodology for the H-2B program.

Latest Updates on FY 2012 H-1B Visa Availability

On September 9, 2011, USCIS posted an update regarding the amount of applications received for standard cap-subject and master’s exemption H-1B visas for Fiscal Year 2012. According to USCIS, a total of 16,700 H-1B Master’s Exemption visas have been filed, and 32,200 standard cap visas have been filed. Each fiscal year, a total of 20,000 master’s exempt H-1B visas are available; up to 65,000 standard cap visas are available.

USCIS began accepting petitions for H-1B visas for Fiscal Year 2012 (starting on October 1, 2011) on April 1, 2011. Petitions may be filed no more than six months in advance of the requested start date. Please note that up to 6,800 visas from the 65,000 cap-subject visas are set aside each fiscal year for the H-1B1 program.

No More Employment Preference Cases for FY-2011, Reports Department of State

The Department of State has just posted an urgent notice to USCIS offices that no Employment Preference Cases for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011 remain. According to the Department of State, there has been an extremely large amount of demand and processing of Employment preference cases for this fiscal year and the FY-2011 Employment annual limit has now been reached.

Numbers will again be available for all Employment categories on October 1, 2011 and will be limited by the FY-2012 annual numerical limitations for each category.

2013 Diversity Visa Program Registration to Begin October 4

The Department of State has announced that the online registration period for the 2013 Diversity Visa Program, DV-2013, will begin on Tuesday, October 4 at noon EST, and will end on Saturday, November 5 at noon EST. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program makes up to 55,000 diversity visas available each year. These visas are given to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States who meet certain eligibility requirements. Visas are selected randomly from all eligible applicants who correctly submit their visas within the open registration period.

People selected for the Diversity Visa must have at least a high school education or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience. Learn more about the Diversity Visa Lottery Program at travel.state.gov.

New Plans Proposed to Help U.S. Growers and Foreign Farm Workers

A new plan will give annual visas to up to 500,000 foreign national farm workers, but many U.S. farm owners do not think the bill provides enough support for their industry. The new bill, written by the conservative Texas Republican Senator, Lamar Smith, proposes to move the H-2A visa program from the Labor Department to the Agriculture Department, streamline the application process for growers and ease many requirements for growers.

However, many in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) are not fans of the proposal. Lofgren says that the bill proposes to slash wages and worker protections in favor of growers, and creates incentives for U.S.-based growers to get rid of domestic workers in exchange for cheaper, foreign labor. California growers currently do not regularly use the H-2A visa program and many in the state have been supporting a program called AgJobs, which would give legal status to up to 1.5 million illegal immigrant farm workers, something Smith’s proposal does not do.

USCIS Publishes Final Rule for CNMI Transitional Workers

Earlier this week, USCIS published a final rule that establishes a Transitional Worker classification (the CW classification) for workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). This new classification will now allow employers in the CNMI to hire nonimmigrant workers who would otherwise not be eligible to work.

A specific amount of CW visas will be available each fiscal year and will be based on the CNMI government’s estimate of nonresident workers. In FY 2011, that number is 22,417; in FY 2012, it will be 22, 416. This limitation, according to the final rule, must drop each year; the Department of Homeland Security will determine this yearly limitation for fiscal year.