US hikes H-1B and L-1 visa fees

The visa fee increases for an H-1B visa and the L-1 visa. This visa fee increase has caused friction between India and the US expectedly. Recent report says that Indian IT firms have decided to increase the client and the processing fees more which will soften the blow of increased costs due to fees being doubled for US H-1B and L-1 visas.
Under the new law, employers that employ 50 or more employees in the United States, and where more than 50% of such employees are working under H-1B or L-1 status, will be required to pay an additional filing fee of:

  • $4,000 for H-1B petitions (including H-1B extensions), and
  • $4,500 for L-1 petitions (including L-1 extensions).

One of the largest Indian IT outsourcing companies in India, TCS, said that it’s likely to record a 10 per cent increase in profitability in its December quarter, while Infosys is expected to report a 3 percent rise in profits, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Nasscom and Economic Time says:

According to Indian IT body Nasscom, this is expected to have an impact of about $400 million annually on India’s technology sector. Indian technology industry paid $22.5 billion in taxes during the financial years 2011-15, besides investing $2 billion in FY 2011-13 in the US as well as supported 4,11,000 jobs in FY2015 directly or indirectly, according to a Nasscom report.

R Chandrasekhar, president of Nasscom, described the fees as ‘unjustified’, and said that they are designed to target Indian IT companies ‘disproportionately.’ “US immigration reform is something that has to occur sooner or later,” Chandrasekhar added.

The Economic Times quoted him as saying: “I don’t think it is an issue at all, $2,000 or $4,000 that doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you have to provide excellent value to customers.” While another leading industry figure, Sanchit Gogia, expects that the affected Indian IT companies will simply pass on the extra charges to their clients.

However, several commentators have stated that the increased H-1B and L-1 visa fees aren’t of great concern. Indian industrialist N. R. Narayana Murthy, co-founder of Infosys, believes that the doubled visa costs will not be a particularly troubling issue.

DHS Proposing new employment based immigration regulations

The Department of Homeland Security [DHS] is offering rule that would modernize and improve certain aspects of employment based immigration visa programs. People with temporary work visas waiting for a green card are the one who is going to get more benefits because of these projected changes. The DHS says that the projected changes are ‘envisioned to better expedite US employers to recruit and maintain extremely accompanied workers who have profited from employment-based immigration visa petitions, while growing the skill of such workers to progress their careers by accepting raises, changing positions with present employers, changing employers, and trailing other employment opportunities.

Many of the projected changes will actually have no practical effect of any kind, according to the National Law Review – an online news source published by a group of in-house attorneys. The National Law Review states that even the most noteworthy change of them all, relating to work authorization for certain individuals with approved I-140s, will have very little effect basically.

Highlights:

  1. The extension of an H-1B visa can be obtained beyond the maximum six-year stay.
  2. When an H-1B non-immigrant can shift jobs or employers without it affecting his or her permitted immigrant visa petition.
  3. How to calculate H-1B recapture time [days outside the US that do not count towards the maximum six-year stay].
  4. Those businesses that qualify as H-1B ‘cap-exempt’ employers. This is important as in recent years the H-1B visa quota is immensely oversubscribed within a few days of the quota becoming available at the opening of April each year.
  5. Offering a one-time 60-day grace period, during an authorized validity period, for individuals in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, L-1, or TN status, where employment ends due to voluntary or involuntary termination or lay off. These individuals are not authorized to work during the grace period.
  6. An addition of the 10-day grace period allowed prior to and after H-1B status to also include persons in E-1, E-2, E-3 or L-1 status. During the 10-day grace period, you will not be permitted to work. On a one time basis, you also benefit from 60 day grace period, if you are on this employment related visas.
  7. Permitting issuance of one-year Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) for individuals in E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1 or O-1 status with an approved I-140 and no available visa numbers if the individual can show compelling circumstances. It is not certain what is meant by convincing circumstances; DHS includes examples, such as serious ailment and disabilities. If you work with an EAD in these circumstances then it will be considered to be the case that you are no longer on a non-immigrant work visa and when visa numbers are available will need to apply for an immigrant visa from outside the US. If you have an EAD your spouse and children may also be able to apply for an EAD. Renewals are allowed in certain circumstances.
  8. Removing the 90-day processing time required by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs), spontaneously extending most EADs 180 days beyond the expiration if the extension was timely filed.

It is worthwhile to note that the DHS proposal does include other regulatory amendments. However, these additional changes largely conform to current policy guidance, and so the primary purpose of the regulations in these additional areas is to formalize the existing guidance.

3 million US work permits, work visas and green cards issued

Over 3 million foreign nationals were issued with US work permits, working visas [including L-1A and L-1B visas and H-1B visas] and green cards [including EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3] according to the most recent data available, published by the Congressional Research Service for 2013.

In 2013, Mexican, Chinese and Indian nationals were granted most of the 3 million work permits, working visas and green cards issued that year. 2014 numbers are yet to be disclosed, but the 2013 statistics highlight that US work permits and visas continued to be granted in record numbers according to congressional sources and figures provided to the Washington Free Beacon – a right wing online newspaper.

Numbers are inclusive of 1 million green cards which allows you to stay in the US permanently and work, 1 million employment based non-immigrant visas for foreign workers [such as the L-1 visa, and E-1 and E-2], plus 1.2 million work permit authorizations for foreign nationals. Tightening immigration restrictions.

The emergence of figures showing a continuous increase in the number of L-1, E-1 and E-2 visas and green cards being granted comes at a time when a debate is taking place within Congress about tightening immigration laws due to security concerns. In the aftermath of recent terror attacks the debate has intensified.

As of 2014, figures published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, show that the overall number of foreign workers in the US reached 26 million.

All Green Card Holders can work

An excerpt from a Congressional Research memo states: “All foreign nationals who gain lawful permanent resident status in the United States are eligible to work, regardless of what preference category or class they entered through.”

Obama Immigration Reforms and Refugees

The Obama administration wishes to make reforms to work permits and visas, as well as allowing approximately 10,000 Syrian refugees to relocate to the US.

US Senator Jeff Sessions, who is opposed to the resettling of refugees in the US, says that ‘the costs associated with resettling refugees and granting them welfare benefits have not been offset.’ However this may actually be wrong. Studies in Denmark and in a number of other Countries suggest that in the long term refugees are frequently beneficial to the economy of a Country. In many cases they create jobs and have a positive effect on local wage rates. The US has benefitted greatly in the past by accepting refugees.

Half of Americans want reduction in US immigrant population

Studies carried out by the Pew Research Center – an impartial US think-tank based in Washington – revealed that about half of Americans want a reduction in immigration.

We note that some “right wing” publications may have exaggerated the percentage of Americans who are anti-immigration. We have tried to be accurate. We hope we do a better job at reporting immigration related news stories than many of the other news sites.

Most immigrant workers are Hispanics or Asians

According to the most recent labor statistics, US work permits are mostly granted to Hispanics and Asians who account for the largest percentage of foreign nationals in the US workforce. 48.3 per cent of the foreign-born labor force in 2014 consisted of Hispanics, while 24.1% was made up by Asians.

Get help with US work visas

If you would like to apply for a US work visa – including L-1 visas, E-1 and E-2 visas, and H-1B visas – WorkPermit.com can help. WorkPermit.com is a specialist visa consultancy with over twenty-seven years of experience dealing with visa applications. We can help with a wide range of visa applications to your country of choice. Please feel free to contact us for further details.

Deadline to Request TPS for Nepal is December 21

USCIS notes that the deadline for eligible nationals of Nepal (and people without nationality who last habitually resided in Nepal) to register for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is Monday, Dec. 21, 2015. This deadline date is the end of the 180-day initial registration period. TPS designation for Nepal runs from June 24, 2015, through Dec. 24, 2016.

You must demonstrate that you meet all eligibility criteria, including that you have been both “continuously physically present” and “continuously residing” in the U.S. since June 24, 2015, to be eligible for TPS. You will also be required to undergo thorough security checks.

CBP to Begin Biometric Entry/Exit Testing at Otay Mesa Port of Entry

U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to start testing new biometric technology at the Otay Mesa pedestrian crossing to enhance the identification of certain non-U.S. citizens entering and exiting the United States. CBP uses these biometric data to accurately verify who arrives in the U.S. and who leaves. This new technology is being tested to see if CBP can better match entry and exit records along the land border using it and to help protect travelers’ identities against theft.

“CBP is committed to developing a system that provides biometric exit data on non-U.S. citizens in a way that does not disrupt air, sea, or land port operations, but, rather secures and facilitates travel and trade,” said Pete Flores, San Diego Field Operations Director. “This test will help inform on next steps to developing and implementing biometric exit in the land pedestrian environment.”

USCIS Publishes Updated H-2B Visa Numbers – November 30, 2015

On November 30, 2015, USCIS provided an update of the amount of cap-subject H-2B visas received and approved by the federal agency for first half of fiscal year 2016. According to USCIS, a total of 11,520 beneficiaries have been approved for the first half of fiscal year 2016, with an additional 1,952 petitions pending. USCIS has not yet received applications for the second half of Fiscal Year 2016.

Congressionally-based legislation limits the amount of H-2B visas provided per fiscal year to a total of 66,000, with 33,000 allocated for employment for the first half of the fiscal year and 33,000 allocated for employment for the second half of the fiscal year. Unused numbers from the first half of the fiscal year are made available for use by employers seeking H-2B workers during the second half of the year.

USCIS Launches New Virtual Assistant to Aid in Customer Service

USCIS this week launched a new virtual assistant named “Emma” at its http://www.uscis.gov website. This new virtual assistant will assist consumers in finding accurate information. She answers questions in plain English and navigates users to relevant USCIS website pages.

The virtual assistant “Emma” is named after Emma Lazarus, whose famous words make up the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. Emma was created in response to interest in self-help and greater customer service tools. Access Emma on a desktop or laptop; she will soon be available on mobile devices and early next year will speak Spanish as well as English.

USCIS Updates Employers and Refugees on Automated I-94 Processing for Refugees

USCIS has updated employers and refugees that Customs and Border Protection has automated Form I-94 processing for refugees. A refugee will no longer receive a stamped paper form upon arrival, with the exception of limited circumstances. Refugees may obtain copies of their I-94 forms from Get I-94 Information, online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html.

Refugees are authorized to work because of their immigration status. A refugee may choose to present any applicable document from the federal Lists of Acceptable Documents. The new electronic Form I-94 for refugees does not include an admission stamp but provides the class of admission as “RE” and an admit until date as “D\S”. If a refugee presents a Form I-94 computer-generated printout for Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification, the employer must accept it as a receipt establishing both employment authorization and identity for 90 days. No later than at the end of the 90-day receipt period, the refugee is required to present an Employment Authorization Document or a combination of a List B document and an unrestricted Social Security card.

Department of State to No Longer Add Visa Pages to U.S. Passports

The Department of State will no longer add visa pages into U.S. passports, beginning January 1, 2016. U.S. passport holders have had the option to pay for the insertion of additional 24-page visa inserts when their valid passports did not have enough space for entry or exit visa stamps.

This option is being discontinued to enhance the security of the passport and to abide by international passport standards. To help limit impact on frequent travelers, the Department of State began issuing 52-page passports to applicants outside the United States for no additional cost on October 1, 2014.

USCIS Releases Spanish Language Version of Civics Practice Test

USCIS has launched an online Spanish-language version of its civics practice test. Questions in the practice test are presented in English with Spanish subtitles and focus on basic U.S. government and history topics. The goal of this practice test is to help Spanish-speaking lawful permanent residents prepare for the naturalization test and gain a firmer grasp on the English language.

The civics test is normally conducted in English. There are, however, certain instances in which an applicant may take the civics test in his or her native language. Reasons for exception may be age, time as a permanent resident or a disability.