“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu In keeping with a belief in the truth found in the phrase above and in light of the events of the past weeks which have been painful reminders that black people in the United States continue to suffer under the oppression of racism and injustice, we are issuing a statement declaring that we stand for justice and good. At the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. the concept of justice is depicted in a number of places with the most prominent being the statue of Lady Justice holding a smaller Lady Justice blindfolded and holding scales designed to depict that justice is fair and impartial. The ideal of justice being impartial has oft been proven to be illusory relative to the treatment of persons of color. As the poet Langston Hughes wrote, That Justice is a blind goddess Is a thing to which we black are wise: Her bandage hides two festering sores That once perhaps were eyes.” My favorite of the depictions of justice is not the prominent statue by the steps but, rather the frieze located on the west wall inside the courtroom which depicts the battle of good vs. evil. In this depiction, Lady Justice is not blindfolded but, rather, she has her hand on her sword and is prepared to fight the forces of evil for good. She is surrounded by depictions of divine inspiration and wisdom. We have a shared responsibility to be on the side of good not evil; to speak out against acts of racism and oppression; to act to bring about meaningful change; and, to be a positive force in creating places of work, communities, cities, and a nation that stands for [...]
The USCIS has announced that premium processing will return in phases throughout June. Below is a chart to help you see when your petition will be eligible: JUNE 1st: -All I-140’s can be premium processing JUNE 8th: -H-1b transfers filed before June 8th can be upgraded -H-1b extensions filed before June 8th can be upgraded -H-1b cap exempt entities filed before June 8th can be upgraded -Non H-1b I-129 petitions (TN, L-1) filed before June 8th can be upgraded. E-3 still not eligible for premium processing JUNE 15: -h-1b’s that are cap exempt entities, regardless of original filing date, can be premium processed -H-1b’s for physicians under J-1 waiver JUNE 22nd: -All I-129’s can be premium processed (including cap cases, H-1b transfers that were filed after June 8th
Last week, the Department of State (DOS) released the June Visa Bulletin and several categories saw significant forward movement. The EB3 all others and Philippines both jumped forward 10 mos. as did India EB1. Other categories saw little to no forward movement. The USCIS announced that it would follow the Final Action Date chart for I-485 filings in June. If you are current in June, we encourage you to file your I-485 as the summer months typically see retrogression.
Yesterday, the USCIS was handed another defeat at the hands of a Federal Judge, this time from Atlanta. In a case that echoed prior decisions from other Federal Courts, the Court ruled that the USCIS' practice and policy over the past 10+ years relative to H-1b adjudications was unlawful. The decision struck at the interpretation of employer-employee and the itinerary requirement which had resulted in the issuance of shortened approval notices. A copy of the full decision can be read here In even better news, the USCIS conceded defeat in only what can be imagined as the scene from the Wizard of Oz when it was proclaimed "Ding Dong the Witch is dead" and they entered into a settlement agreement. This settlement agreement provides for the following: 1. The USCIS will rescind the 2018 Contracts and itinerary memo 2. The USCIS will stop applying the current itinerary language A portion of the settlement agreement states that they will not apply the Neufeld memo but, this may be more limited than it is being reported. What does this mean practically ? 1. There should be no more shortened approval notices limited by the duration of the WO/JO/SOW. 2. End client letters or other documentation should not be routinely required but, the USCIS may continue to ask for this type of documentation to prove the existence of a job that meets the specialty occupation standards 3. The USCIS will not automatically re-open previously shortened cases and issue full approval notices but, you can go into Federal Court and force this action. As a result of these actions, we can expect the USCIS to issue new regulations but, given the amount of time it takes for regulations to be finalized, these will likely be completed by the Administration that wins in Nov. A [...]
As the White House is contemplating placing a moratorium on the issuance of H-1b visas and the issuance of OPT STEM work permits, it may be helpful for the WH to check DOL data. If they do, they will learn that the unemployment rate of IT professionals, which make up a large percentage of H-1b workers and OPT STEM workers has not been impacted significantly by COVID-19. The unemployment rate for IT professionals was at 2.8% in April. It is true that 30+ million Americans are currently out of work due to the current pandemic, but, the impact on the IT space is nominal. IF the WH cares enough about the economy to actually check out the facts, they will drop their ill-conceived plan that attacks STEM jobs and will instead focus on other areas. For the data, check out the NFAP policy brief.
The USCIS has pleaded to Congress for additional funding due to the implications of COVID-19. Guess they figure everyone else's hand is out, why not theirs. They have stated that if they do not receive the additional funding, they will add a 10% service charge to applications. Maybe they should consider restoring the premium processing service which generates $1440.00 per petition ? Or maybe they should make their processing of cases more efficient and cost-effective eg. they can stop requesting the annual report for publicly traded cos.; having to receive, scan in and store what is often a 1000+ page document is unnecessary. Or maybe they should stop issuing RFE's at a rate that is 4x greater than under any other administration. Or maybe they should stop issuing 3 mo. H-1b approval notices when the law supports the issuance of a 3 yr. approval thus eliminating literally tens of thousands of unnecessary filings ? Or maybe they should stop denying H-1b petitions where the law does not support such a decision; as they lose case after case in Federal Court, surely the money they are paying out to the winning plaintiffs and the costs to defend these arbitrary and capricious decisions add up. But, hey those are just my thoughts; I'm no budget expert. Asking Congress for a handout or charging your customer that you are failing to serve is another route to take.
When President Trump issued his Executive Order last month suspending the issuance of green cards for 60 days, he included a statement promising that all legal visa programs would be reviewed. It is common knowledge that the Trump Administration does not support legal immigration and has been trying to restrict business visas since he took office and the H-1b visa has been a top target. U.S. employers who use the H-1b visa to supplement its workforce have been anxiously waiting the next EO. A letter from 4 Republican Senators has been released by Politico and it provides a wish list including the elimination of the OPT and STEM OPT programs, the elimination of an investor visa and the elimination of new H-1b visas bringing into doubt this year's cap cases among others. The idea that the unemployment rate of restaurant workers is relevant to the employment of STEM workers is nonsense and I would guess that each of these 4 Senators, are well aware of the idiocy of their claims however, all politicians know how to take advantage of a crisis to push an agenda that they could not have otherwise pursued. Earlier this week, Forbes ran an article discussing possible restrictions that could be coming. As of now, an EO has not been released so the content of and the consequences are mere speculation but, we have a glimpse at the wish list and it is ugly.
HLG will be hosting a free teleconference on Thurs. May 14th at 11:00 am eastern to discuss some recent changes in the immigration laws and policies relative to H-1b visas and PERM applications and also to provide updates on several misc. topics impacted by COVID-19. The seminar will specifically focus on the IT and engineering staffing market but, information will be provided that is relevant to all employers that have international workers. Register here.
Several Senators have announced that they have proposed a bi-partisan bill in the Senate that would provide a short term increase in the number of immigrant visas available for Medical Doctors and RN's. Given the current climate, there are a limited number of bills that stand a chance to be approved but, given the bi-partisan nature of this proposal and the current shortage of healthcare workers more exacerbated by the COVID-19 virus, it is possible that it could pass. We will provide updates as they become available. If you are a healthcare employer, we would strongly encourage you to reach out to your Senators and express your support.