Wage Methodology for H-2B Visa Program Delayed until October 2012

The Department of Labor has again delayed the effective date of the Wage Methodology for the H-2B Visa Program, the Temporary Non-agricultural Employment program. The effective date has been moved back to October 1, 2012, in response to new legislation that prohibits funds being used to implement the Wage Rule for the rest of Fiscal Year 2012. The Wage Rule revised the methods by which the Department of Labor calculates prevailing wages to be paid to H-2B workers and U.S. workers recruited in connection to a temporary labor certification submitted with a petition to employ a nonimmigrant worker under H-2B status.

This rule was originally published January 19, 2011. It was first delayed until August 1, 2011, and delayed again until September 28, 2011 and then November 29, 2011.

Ombudsman Office Now Requiring the Submission of Form DHS 7001 with all Cases

The Ombudsman’s Office is now asking petitioners to submit Form DHS 7001, the CIS Ombudsman Case Problem Submission form, with all cases. This includes cases related to applications for Employment Authorization Documents. Form DHS 7011 is required for compliance with relevant privacy rules.

Previously the Ombudsman’s Office was open to customers submitting case inquiries regarding Employment Authorization Documents outside of normal processing times without also submitting Form DHS 7001, due to the urgency of many of these cases. This is no longer the case. It should also be noted that, in October 2011, the Ombudsman’s Office implemented the new Ombudsman Online Case Assistance program, which is an online system that enables same-day submission of case problems.

Download Form DHS 7001 at http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/cisomb_dhsform7001.pdf
Access Ombudsman Online Case Assistant at https://cisombvos.dhs.gov/vos/form7001.aspx

DOL Issues 2012 Adverse Effect Wage Rates for H-2A Workers

On Thursday, December 22, 2011, the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration issued a notice to announce the new wage rates for temporary and seasonal nonimmigrant foreign workers in the U.S. under the H-2A visa program. These wage rates, known as the Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs), provide guidance regarding the minimum amount that foreign seasonal workers here on the H-2A visa program must be paid for their work so that the wages of similarly employed U.S. citizens will not be adversely affected.

The notice took effect on December 22; wage rates can be seen at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-22/pdf/2011-32842.pdf.

DOL Reminds Petitioners of UPS Holiday Schedule

The Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification is reminding petitioners of the holiday schedule for United Parcel Service (UPS). UPS will not be providing delivery or pick-up services on Friday, December 23, 2011. All petitioners, DOL states, should make sure they submit their correspondence in a timely fashion to the Chicago National Processing Center to ensure UPS pick-up scheduling over the holiday week.

The Chicago National Processing Center will work hard to ensure that all H-2A and H-2B deadlines for December 23 and 26, 2011, are met by December 22, 2011. It is important that petitions and other requests are sent with the UPS schedule in mind.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act Remains in Limbo

On September 22, 2011, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act was introduced by Rep. Chaffetz (R-UT). The bill, if passed would remove the employment-based per-country cap by Fiscal Year 2015 and raise the family-sponsored per-country cap from 7% to 15%. The bill was passed on November 29, 2011, and shifted to the Senate for further consideration.

However, in late November, Senator Grassley (R-IA) objected to the bill, claiming that it might unfavorably impact the opportunities for American citizens to find high-skilled employment. Because of Grassley’s objection, the bill remains on hold. Grassley did propose amendments to the bill, but the amendments would have drastically changed the meaning and effect of the bill and they were objected to. The bill remains in limbo; it does not appear it will pass the two houses this calendar year.

New DOL Guide Will Help Prospective H-2A Employers

In its ongoing process to ease and streamline the process of immigration requests and management, the Department of Labor has created and posted a new Employer Guide for Participating in the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program. This guide, available to help prospective H-2A employers prepare their agricultural job openings and applications, summarizes and explains core components and requirements of the H-2A program.

The guide provides input on what documents should be filed, key timeframes and deadlines, helpful tips for filing and information on how to contact the National Processing Center for additional assistance.

To view a copy of the employer guide, visit http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/H-2A_Employer_Handbook.pdf.

New Plan to Strengthen US, Canada Partnership, Secure Borders

In February 2011, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a new agreement, Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness. This declaration described a new approach to security in which the two nations will share responsibility for security of the two nations.

The agreement identifies for areas in which the two countries will cooperate – addressing threats early; facilitating trade, economic growth and increasing job opportunities; cross-border law enforcement; and critical infrastructure and cybersecurity. The nations will work together with respect for national sovereignty, civil rights and liberties, protection of privacy and respect of the legal framework of both countries.

On December 7, 2011, Obama and Harper announced the Beyond the Border Action Plan. The Department of Homeland Security is currently seeking public input on this plan, which can be read in the December 9, 2011, Federal Register.

Local and District Offices No Longer Accepting Certain Naturalization/Citizenship Forms

In October 2011, USCIS announced process improvements for particular naturalization and citizenship forms. Part of this process was to centralize the intake of Forms N-336, N-600 and N-600K to the Phoenix Lockbox facility, and Form N-300 to the Dallas Lockbox facility. This change was implemented to streamline the way that forms are processed by USCIS and improve the speed and efficiency of the federal agency.

USCIS has just published a reminder: all forms affected by this change that are received at local and district offices after December 2, 2011, are now no longer being forwarded to the appropriate USCIS Lockbox facility for processing. Instead these forms are being returned to the filer with instructions on how to correctly file the form (and what Lockbox location to submit it to).

FY 2012 H-1B Program Now Closed for Cap-Subject Petitions

On November 22, 2011, USCIS received enough H-1B visa petitions to reach its statutory cap for Fiscal Year 2012. On October 19, 2011, the federal agency received over 20,000 H-1B petitions on behalf of candidates who met the advanced degree exemption. USCIS has noted that it will now reject all cap-subject petitions received after November 22, 2011, for New H-1B workers seeking an employment start date in Fiscal Year 2012. The agency will, however, continue to accept cap-exempt petitions, DOD petitions and Chile/Singapore H-1B1 petitions requesting a start date in Fiscal Year 2012.