Additional Selections From FY2021 H-1B Cap-Subject Registrations

In March 2020, USCIS had accepted online H-1B registrations for the FY-2021 cap-subject petitions. H-1B numerical allocations were made from these registrations in the initial period and registrants were notified of the selected registrations no later than March 31, 2020.  Registrations that were not denied continued to be in “submitted” status.  The new selections are from these cases.

On August 14, 2020, a new set of H-1B registrations were selected. Petitions for these new selections have to be filed between August 17 through November 16, 2020.

It is important to remember that a petitioner may not substitute the beneficiary named in the registration or transfer the registration to another petitioner.  If an H-1B cap-subject petition is filed for a different beneficiary than the one identified in the selected registration notice submitted with the petition, the H-1B cap-subject petition will be denied or rejected. The petition must also include a start date of October 1, 2020 consistent with the selected registration or the petition may be rejected.


DHS Increases Filing Fees and Executive Order Raises H-1B Scrutiny

On August 3, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a new fee schedule under their final rule, that increases government filing fees for certain immigrant and non-immigrant petitions, which fees take effect from October 2, 2020.

U.S. companies sponsoring an H-1B worker will now have to pay an increased base filing fee of $555 (a 21% increase from the existing $460).  Companies filing petitions to sponsor their L-1 intracompany transferees are looking at significant increase from the base filing fee of $460 to $805 per petition.  What’s more, for each L-1 and H-1B extension petition, an employer who has more than 50 employees, more than 50% of whom are in H-1B or L-1 status, has to pay the $4,000 fee (for an H-1B petition) and $4,500 (for an L-1).   At present, such employers are required to pay this additional (border security) fee of $4,000 or $4,500 only at the time of the initial or change of employer petition filing.  But now this fee extends to each L-1 and H-1B extension petition as well which is a significant recurring cost for employers.

Fees for applying for U.S. citizenship have risen from $640 to $1,170 as also for H-4 EAD spouses – from the current $370 to $550.  Also, total filing fees for adjustment (I-485) applications and ancillary benefits will nearly double.

The premium processing (expedite service) adjudication period of 15 calendar days will increase to 15 business days, which in effect is three weeks, thus increasing the adjudication period by a week’s time.

In a further bid to clamp down on the work visas, President Trump signed an Executive Order on August 3 – Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices with the Interests of American Workers – that essentially prevents federal agencies from employing H-1B workers.   The Order directs the heads of the DHS and Department of Labor to “protect United States workers” from any damage to wages or working conditions caused by employment of foreign citizens on the H-1B visa. The Order also directs chiefs of federal government agencies to audit their use of foreign contract workers.  Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security, under the Order, are required  to “take action” within 45 days “to protect United States workers from any adverse effects on wages and working conditions caused by the employment of H-1B visa holders at job sites (including third-party job sites).”

This Order is in keeping with Trump’s 2017 executive order – ‘Buy American, Hire American’.  These measures come as no surprise since the Trump Administration has long been planning to overhaul and restrict employment immigration, particularly the H-1B program.

Webinar on “U.S. and India: Impact on Immigration, Travel & Tourism” on May 19, 2020

Poorvi was one of the speakers at the webinar on ‘U.S. and India: Impact on Immigration, Travel & Tourism’ organized by Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (GIACC) in association with Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) held on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 from 9 PM to 10 PM IST (11.30 AM to 12.30 PM EDT).
The recording of this webinar is available at the following link and the password to access the recording is 8n^R!0.*

Airport Travel in Covid-19 Crisis

Travel Restrictions Preventing Several Indian Nationals from Returning to India

The Government of India issued a travel advisory on March 23, 2020 stating that no international commercial passenger aircraft would be allowed to land and disembark its passengers including Indian nationals in India. Therefore, Indian nationals abroad were unable to return to the country. This travel restriction was extended until April 14, 2020 and then until May 03, 2020. On May 02, 2020 the Government in continuation with the nation-wide lock-down until May 17, 2020 further extended this restriction until May 17, 2020. This restriction does not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

To curb the spread of COVID-19, the Government of India has suspended all Indian visa services until May 17, 2020. Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders in India are in valid status. However, OCI cardholders outside India cannot travel to India until May 17, 2020.

All existing visas to India other than diplomatic, official, UN/International Organizations, employment (and project) visas and who have not entered India remain suspended until May 17, 2020.

Thousands of Indians abroad whether those on work permits or students are stranded and unable to return to the country due to the temporary international travel ban.

On May 04, 2020, The Government announced that it would evacuate stranded Indians from 12 countries in a phased manner starting May 07, 2020. The stranded citizens are being brought back by aircrafts and naval ships which expense they must bear individually. The individuals must directly reach out to the concerned Indian Mission.

The Government of India through travel advisories and guidelines have stated that “any foreign national, including Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders, who intend to travel to India for compelling reasons must contact the concerned Indian Mission for fresh visas.” Unfortunately, however, in practice we are seeing that this is not the case.

Several instances have come to light where Indian nationals on work permits abroad are unable to return to the country because their foreign-born children are being prevented from boarding the special repatriation flights despite holding Indian visas/OCI cards. Most of these Indian nationals who wish to return to India are those who have lost their jobs and must leave the country where they are currently residing within a stipulated period. Unfortunately, they are unable to board the special flights because their foreign-born children hold OCI cards/Indian visas.

Sadly, the reality of the situation as evidenced by the struggles of several Indian citizens is that while they long to return to their home country and have even secured tickets on the special flights, are unable to do so merely because their foreign-born children were denied tickets because they hold OCI cards/Indian visas.

– Ashwina Pinto

USCIS Grants Further Reprieve in Responding to its RFE and Other Notices

The USCIS has granted a further reprieve where petitioners or applicants need to present further evidence to the USCIS or respond to a notice of intention to deny or similar notice. The USCIS in March had announced that such responses for requests and notices issued between March 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020 could be filed 60 days beyond the due date. The USCIS has now extended this and will accept responses or appeals for notices received between March 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020, 60 days beyond the due date listed in the notice.

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