Department of Labor Delays Effective Date of the Wage Methodology for the H-2B Visa Program

The Department of Labor has published a final rule in which they state they will be delaying the effective date of the Wage Methodology for the H-2B Visa Program for temporary non-agricultural workers. This rule revised the methods by which the Department of Labor calculated the prevailing wages to be paid to individuals working in the United States under the H-2B visa program, who were recruited in connection with a temporary labor certification to employ nonimmigrant workers in H-2B status.

The rule was originally to be made effective on August 1, 2011. It was first delayed until September 28, 2011 and is now further delayed until January 1, 2012. This guidance was published and is effective on November 29, 2011.

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The Issuance of Student Visas Resumes

The Department of State and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program have begun reissuing F, M and J visas at consulates and embassies throughout the world. Issues with an interface between the two agencies’ systems were resolved and the visa reissuance began at the end of business on November 18, 2011.

On November 14, the Department of State discovered an issue with the communications between its Consolidated Consular Database and the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System. In order to avoid major data issues, the agencies jointly decided to halt the issuance of student visas until the issue was resolved.

Department of State Temporarily Halts Issuance of Student Visas Due to Technical Difficulty

The Department of State has just identified a problem with the communication process between its Consolidated Consular Database and the Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This issue was identified on Monday, November 14, 2011. The two agencies are now investigating this communication difficulty in order to provide a resolution as soon as possible. According to the Department of State, in order to ensure the highest level of data integrity and consistency, the issuance of all F, M and J visas has been temporarily halted at all U.S. embassies and consulates. This may affect the travel schedules and plans of prospective students and exchange visitors.

Latest Updates on FY 2012 H-1B Visa Availability – Nov. 14

On November 14, 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 20,000 H-1B Master’s Exemption visas have been filed, and 56,300 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.

New Report Shows L-1 Visas Issued in India Has Dropped in Fiscal Year 2011

According to a report published by the National Foundation for American Policy, the number of L-1 visas issued at U.S. posts in India has declined by 28 percent over the past year. The published data show that approvals for L-1 visas in India dropped from 35,896 in Fiscal Year 2010 to 25,898 in Fiscal Year 2011. This is a drop of roughly 10,000 visas. While L-1 visa rates dropped in India, the rates in other areas of the world rose by about 15 percent.

The L-1 visa is an essential method by which companies move employees around the world. The visa enables U.S. companies to transfer executives, managers and other personnel with specialized knowledge from locations around the world to the United States to work. Beneficiaries must have worked abroad for the company for at least one continuous year within a three-year period before the petition was filed. Additionally, executives and managers are limited to a seven-year period of stay in the U.S. and other individuals with specialized knowledge are limited to a five-year period of stay.

USCIS Publishes Draft of EB-5 Changes for Public Comment

USCIS, in an effort to improve the EB-5 Immigrant Investor program, has published a draft of changes for public comment. Based on meetings with internal and external stakeholders regarding the current adjudication policies and practices, USCIS has taken a series of steps. These steps include introducing a direct email contact between Regional Center practitioners and the USCIS adjudication team, introducing an accelerated process and premium processing for some applicants and petitioners, using an expert decision board to assist adjudicators in making final decisions on Regional Center petitions, bringing in economists to help guide and support USCIS’ adjudication team and hiring a consulting firm to help reengineer the adjudication process to ensure a more efficient system.

USCIS states that additional reforms are planned in the future. In addition, USCIS plans to consolidate various EB-5 changes into a single overarching policy statement that will bring together constructive stakeholder input into a single statement.

Latest Updates on FY 2012 H-1B Visa Availability – Nov. 2

On November 2, 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 20,000 H-1B Master’s Exemption visas have been filed, and 50,800 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.