Immigration Lawyer Houston: Important Immigration Dates
With the U.S. election behind us, attention is now being focused on the potential immigration developments for employers and employees and how these changes might affect the workplace in 2017. While there are many possible changes that may be implemented in the new year, we know that there are at least two important dates to keep in mind in the coming weeks:
- USCIS Filing Fee Increase: USCIS will increase the government filing fees for most visa applications and petitions filed on or after December 23, 2016. Some of these increases are quite substantial and employers should take note of the additional filing fee costs. You can read more about this here. [link to my prior blog on fee increases]
- The H-1B FY2018 cap will open on April 1, 2017. Companies wishing to sponsor qualified individuals for an H-1B petition should begin planning now and seek counsel in order to be ready for the filing deadline. While some U.S. companies are exempt from the H-1B cap, most companies are subject to the annual quota. Due to overwhelming demand, USCIS uses a randomly selected lottery to determine whose H-1B petition has been selected. We recommend seeking reliable counsel should you have any questions regarding the rules and regulations of the H-1B visa.
See below for more detailed information about these upcoming immigration dates:
USCIS FILING FEE INCREASES – EFFECTIVE DECEMBER 23rd 2016
USCIS issued a final ruling on October 24, 2016 to increase most filing fees for nonimmigrant and immigrant visa petitions, including the popular H-1B, L-1A, I-140, and Adjustment of Status (green card) applications. These new filing fees will take effect on December 23, 2016 and include increases across the board for many popular visa types.
Employers wishing to file an I-129 petition for an H-1B or L-1 visa for instance, will see an increase from $325.00 to $460.00, in addition to other filing fees. For a full list of all filing fee increases, please logon to USCIS webite.
H-1B FY2018 CAP
As we approach the new year, employers should turn their attention towards the H-1B visa FY2018 cap. Employers who wish to temporarily employ qualified foreign nationals for an H-1B petition must first file a Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) with the Department of Labor in addition to filing an I-129 petition with United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”).
The congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year 2018 is 65,000 H-1B petitions and an additional 20,000 H-1B petitions for those who have completed a Master’s degree from a U.S. college or university. It is worth noting that during the last few years, the H-1B cap was reached within the first few days in April.
If the cap is met within the first five business days of April, all H-1B petitions received during those days will be placed in a lottery for random selection. Thus, timing is of the essence in planning for the upcoming H-1B cap. In fact, USCIS reported that they received over 230,000 H-1B petitions for FY2016 in April 2015.
For individuals who are already in H-1B status, they are not subject to the cap so an H-1B extension of status or change of employer petition may be filed on their behalf at any time.
In the likely event that USCIS receives more H-1B petitions that officially allotted as noted above, they will conduct a computer-generated random selection process (“lottery”) to determine which H-1B petitions will be selected for processing.
USCIS will likely announce that they will conduct a lottery within the first or second week of April 2017, which underlines the importance of filing all H-1Bs so they are received by USCIS on April 1, 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter.
H-1B CAP-EXEMPT EMPLOYERS
Certain employers are exempt from the H-1B cap and can file H-1B petitions for qualified individuals at any time throughout the year. In order for a company to be cap-exempt, they must meet one of the following qualifications: (1) institution of higher education; (2) non-profit organization or entity related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; or (3) a non-profit research organization or government research organization. If you are unsure if your company is cap-exempt, consult with an immigration attorney.
EMPLOYER & EMPLOYEE QUALIFICATIONS FOR H-1B SPECIALTY OCCUPATION VISA PETITION
If you’re wondering if a prospective employee qualifies for H-1B status, here’s a basic overview of the requirements:
The position/job you offer must meet the definition of a “specialty occupation,” which roughly means that a bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement in order to perform the duties and responsibilities.
The prospective employee (“Beneficiary’), must have completed a U.S. bachelor’s degree or an equivalent foreign degree in a field related to the industry.
The employer/company must demonstrate that it can and will pay the proffered wage or wage specified by the U.S. Department of Labor (whichever is higher) to the beneficiary.
With new developments in immigration on the horizon, it is of utmost importance that you seek talented counsel for legal advice. If you have a question about your immigration status or would like to schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Kathryn N. Karam, P.C., an immigration lawyer in Houston, please call us at (832) 582-0620 or write us a message here: