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USCIS Announces Date for Start of H-1B Cap Premium Processing

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that on May 12, 2016, it will it will begin the 15 calendar day processing timeline for cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting premium processing. USCIS provides an expedited “premium processing” service for certain employment-based petitions. For non-cap-subject petitions, including H-1B and other nonimmigrant visa classifications, the 15-day processing period typically begins on the date USCIS receives the request. However, for cap-subject H-1B petitions filed in April, USCIS has historically taken additional time to complete intake and computerized random selection of the petitions for further processing prior to starting the 15-day adjudication period.

17-Month EAD Holders Seeking Full 24 Months under New STEM OPT Rule Must be Quick

The Department of Homeland Security’s final rule on optional practical training (OPT) work authorization for foreign nationals in F-1 status with science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degrees from U.S. institutions will go into effect on May 10, 2016. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) then will begin accepting applications to extend an initial 12-month period of OPT work authorization for an additional 24 months — a welcomed increase from the old rule’s 17-month extension period.

HR Intel: The Battle Over Immigration Heats Up

Throughout the presidential election primary season, immigration has been used as a wedge issue by the candidates on both sides.

Supreme Court’s Decision on Future of DACA and DAPA

Supreme Court argument has taken place in United States v. Texas, a high-stakes, hotly contested case on the Administration’s executive programs that deferred possible deportation of millions of undocumented individuals. The Court’s expected June decision is likely to have far-reaching implications for employers.

Record Number of H-1B Professional Work Visa Requests

On April 12, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released the H-1B “cap” count, indicating that it received approximately 236,000 petitions for H-1B work visas for fiscal year 2017. This means that U.S. employers filed approximately 236,000 petitions during the short five-day window of opportunity that opened on April 1, 2016, and closed on April 7, 2016.

“University of Northern New Jersey” Visa Fraud Sting Operation Shutdown after Arrest of 21

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) announced on April 5, 2016, that the “University of Northern New Jersey” (“UNNJ”) had been a sting operation for the past two-and-a-half years. Run by Homeland Security Investigations Newark, UNNJ had a plausible website and an address in Cranford, New Jersey. Twenty-one persons, characterized as brokers, recruiters, and employers, were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and alien harboring. Over 1,000 foreign students had been enrolled at UNNJ.

USCIS Reaches FY 2017 H-1B Cap

As of April 7, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reached the H-1B quota or “cap” limitation for fiscal year (FY) 2017. USCIS has not yet confirmed the total number of petitions received for the 65,000 “general” quota or the 20,000 “advanced degree” quota but will likely confirm the total number in the following weeks. Due to the high number of petitions received, USCIS has not yet confirmed the date it will complete its computerized random selection or “lottery” of H-1B petitions for further processing.

DHS Issues STEM OPT Final Rule

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") recently issued its long-awaited F–1 nonimmigrant student visa regulations on optional practical training (“OPT”) for certain students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (“STEM”) from U.S. institutions of higher education. The final rule allows such F–1 STEM students who have elected to pursue 12 months of OPT in the United States to extend the OPT period by 24 months (also known as STEM OPT extension). This 24-month extension effectively replaces the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to certain STEM students, whereby the STEM OPT Employment Authorization Document (“EAD”) issued will be valid for 24 months instead of 17 months.

USCIS Says Expired Form I-9 Still Okay to Use, Requests Additional Comments

According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an employer should continue to use the current version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, even though it expired on March 31, until a new form is finalized and posted for use. USCIS has also announced that it has extended the comment period until April 27, because it has made additional proposed revisions to the form.

USCIS Says Expired Form I-9 Still Okay to Use, Requests Additional Comments

According to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an employer should continue to use the current version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, even though it expired on March 31, until a new form is finalized and posted for use. USCIS has also announced that it has extended the comment period until April 27, because it has made additional proposed revisions to the form.