As published in the Immigration Daily on November 23, 2021
USCIS does third round of H-1B picks for first time.
USCIS surprised just about everyone in holding a third round of H-1B selections for fiscal year (FY) 2022 on November 19, 2021, over a month and a half after the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, 2021. In FY-2021, the agency conducted two rounds, and with the large number of H-1B registrants for this year (308,613 for the 85,000 slots), it was assumed that the second round in July 2021 was the final word. This was a happy surprise for organizations and those selectees now willing and able to move forward with H-1B processing. The downside is that a number of organizations may not be so willing and able to sponsor as they were earlier in the year and that the selectees may have moved on to other jobs, gone back to school, taken other nonimmigrant/immigrant options, or left the country. Nevertheless, the third round will solve problems for a number of individuals whose statuses are or may become questionable. Notice was given to petitioners’ attorneys/representatives and petitioning organizations on their myUSCIS accounts including details on when and where to file. Petitioning organizations have from November 22, 2021 until February 23, 2022, to file petitions with USCIS.
Filing addresses extremely important to pay attention to.
USCIS announced that it is planning to open a new lockbox in Elgin, Illinois, next year; that now certain adjustment of status applicants submit their applications to the Phoenix lockbox instead of the Chicago or Dallas lockbox; that it has streamlined filing locations for certain employment based forms to a single lockbox location and that people can find the latest filing instructions on I-130, I-131, I-360, I-485, I-601, I-765, I-824, and I-864 pages; that in the coming year, USCIS is planning a few more filing location changes and will direct some family-based adjustment of status applications to Dallas; and that next summer, USCIS will move the lockbox facility in Arizona from Phoenix to Tempe. So the watchword for all is to check the filing locations for every petition or application going out!
EAD changes for H-4, L and E dependents.
On the heels of the H-4 and L dependent spouse automatic extension EAD settlement in Shergill, et al v. Mayorkas, 2:21-cv-01296 (WD Wash 11/10/21), USCIS issued a policy alert on November 12, 2021, “Employment Authorization for Certain H-4, E, and L Nonimmigrant Dependent Spouses”, PA-2021-25, on the procedures to follow for three nonimmigrant classes of spouses, H-4, E, and L –that all of them are eligible for automatic EAD extensions of work authorizations if they properly filed an application to renew their EADs before expiration and have an unexpired I-94 form showing their status as H-4, E, or L nonimmigrant. The automatic extension continues until the earlier of 180 days from date of expiration of the previous EAD, end date of the I-94 showing valid status, or the approval or denial of the EAD renewal application. For automatic extension of the previous EAD, employers for I-9 purposes need to see the form I-94 indicating the unexpired nonimmigrant status, I-797C receipt for timely filed EAD renewal application stating “Class requested” as “(a)(17)”, “(a)(18)”, or “(c)(26)”, and facially expired EAD issued under the same category.
The policy alert also provides that E and L dependent spouses are employment authorized incident to their status and are no longer required to request employment authorization by filing for I-765 but may continue to file form I-765 if they choose to receive an EAD. The problem with the new policy for E and L dependent spouses is that at present, there are no distinguishing markers on their I-94’s to distinguish them from children, and so on until USCIS can implement changes to the I-94 to distinguish them, an I-94 solely indicating H or L nonimmigrant status is insufficient evidence of employment authorization under list C of the I-9 form. So until that time, E and L spouses still need to rely upon an EAD as evidence of employment authorization. USCIS noted that three classes of E dependents are not recognized under the new policy – spouses of employees of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) and Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices (TECO) must continue to apply for EAD’s under 8 CFR 274a .12(c)(2); spouses of long-term investors in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands under 8 CFR 274a .12(c)(12); and spouses of E-2 CNMI investors who obtained such status based upon a Foreign Retiree Investment Certificate are not eligible for work authorization.
December visa chart holds a few bright spots.
A few bright spots in the December visa chart were the advances in the Mexico family-based categories, EB-5 open availability for direct investments for all countries, and China’s advance in EB-2 and EB-3W categories under dates for filing. Both family-based (FB) charts remained the same except for final action dates for Mexico that moved from 1-4 months and for dates for filing F-2A advancing worldwide to 9/1/21 (unimportant as the category is open under the final action dates chart and USCIS allows that date to be used for filing purposes), and Mexico preferences advancing 0-4 months; employment based (EB) final action dates remained current worldwide* except for regional center investments under EB-5 being unavailable for all countries, China moved one and a half months in EB-2 to1/1/19, and EB-3W (other workers) two years to 3/1/12; and India EB-2 advanced six months to 5/1/12 (not especially helpful for most Indian cases that had already downgraded to EB-3 in 2020 when the availability date reached 1/1/15); in EB dates of filing, China’s EB-2 advanced two months to 4/1/19, EB-3W 5 years to 5/1/15, and EB-5 direct for all countries including China became current. EB-5 regional investment cases remain unavailable as there is no implementing legislation. (Unless investors are involved in direct EB-5 investments (only about 5% of investors), the EB-5 movement in the December visa chart was not very exciting).
For the month, USCIS is allowing final action dates to be used for the F-2A category, and dates for filing for both FB and EB categories.
*Worldwide here meaning all but oversubscribed countries China and India (EB-1 to EB-3) and El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico (EB-4 religious cases).
New York District Office/Contact Center meeting points.
The Contact Center meeting of 10/21/21 was reported by the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the following are some interesting items which readers may or may not know in working with the Center:
- Urgent inquiries for the Center to call back are up to 72 hours, but currently 48 hours.
- Cases classified as nonurgent for the Center are up to 30 days for callback, but currently 20 days.
- Representatives are supposed to take two phone numbers.
- For cases without receipt numbers, the attorney/representative should state that the inquiry is for a specific filing that doesn’t have a receipt number and tier 1 will escalate to tier 2 to research/special handling and then generate a service request to the office where the case is pending.
- While a tier 1 officer should provide the name and the agent ID number, a tier 2 immigration services officer (ISO) only needs to provide the last name.
- On biometrics appointments where the person is turned away because the ID is not sufficient or for other reasons, the person should contact USCIS and let them know why the biometrics was not collected on the scheduled date and the officers would try to accommodate.
- Good cause for rescheduling biometrics appointments may include but are not limited to medical reasons, employment reasons, necessary travel, travel that was previously planned, coverage on the job (people cannot take a particular day off), illness/Covid.
- The Contact Center encourages applicants to use their myUSCIS account to request rescheduling.
- On callbacks, representatives can ask about another two cases when they receive a call back.
- It was confirmed that USCIS is not speaking to paralegals, only to the lawyer on the G-28 authorization of representation.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!