DOS announces suspension of visa services in Caracas, Venezuela
As a result of ongoing unrest in Venezuela, the Department of State (DOS) has ordered non-emergency U.S. government employees to depart Venezuela, and has indicated that U.S. citizens in Venezuela should “strongly consider departing Venezuela.” The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has suspended visa services, and will have “limited ability” to assist U.S. citizens in Venezuela. Foreign nationals impacted by the suspension of services should discuss options with their immigration counsel.
For more information, and the most recent updates, please see the U.S. Embassy’s website.
DOS announces changes to H and L visa processing in China
Effective March 1, 2019, interviews for H (e.g., H-1B) and L-1/2 visas will only be conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, or the U.S. Consulates in Guangzhou or Shanghai. The U.S. Consulates in Chengdu and Shenyang will no longer be conducting H and L visa interviews. Foreign nationals applying for an H or L visa in China should plan accordingly.
For more information regarding H and L visa processing in China, please see these DOS instructions.
Reports and notices
USCIS finalizes changes to H-1B lottery
By notice dated January 31, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in particular, issued a final rule changing the process by which H-1B cap subject petitions will be selected each fiscal year (FY). The final rule (1) adds a pre-registration process to the H-1B lottery, and (2) reverses the order by which H-1B petitions are selected in the lottery, thereby increasing the total number of beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. college or university selected. Importantly, while USCIS will implement the reversed selection process for the FY 2020 H-1B cap filing season (April 2019), the final rule’s pre-registration requirement will not be implemented until at least the FY 2021 H-1B cap filing season (April 2020).
For more information on changes to the H-1B lottery process, please see our client alert.
The 2019 H-1B cap season is upon us
On April 1, 2019, USCIS will begin accepting H-1B visa petitions for FY 2020, which begins October 1, 2019. We believe that in FY 2020, USCIS will again receive more H-1B petitions than there are H-1B visas available, necessitating an H-1B lottery. Therefore, U.S. employers wishing to sponsor foreign national worker(s) for an H-1B visa should discuss the sponsorship process with immigration counsel as soon as possible to ensure any petitions are filed on time.
For more information on the H-1B filing process, see our client alert.
USCIS to resume premium processing for fiscal year 2019 H-1B cap petitions
Effective January 28, 2019, USCIS will resume premium processing services for FY 2019 H-1B cap petitions that have yet to be approved. The previously announced suspension of premium processing remains in effect for other categories of H-1B petitions, including change of employer petitions. Employers may request premium processing service to expedite USCIS adjudications of certain employment-based petitions and applications in exchange for an additional filing fee of $1,410.
For more information on the availability of premium processing service for FY 2019 H-1B cap petitions, see this USCIS alert. For information on the continued suspension of premium processing for other H-1B visa categories, please see our client alert.
E-Verify resumes operations following government shutdown
On January 25, 2019, a short-term government funding bill was passed, which reopened the government until February 15, 2019. The funding allows for the resumption of E-Verify operations, and employers who participate in E-Verify must create an E-Verify case by February 11, 2019, for employees hired while E-Verify was unavailable. As a result of the shutdown, federal contractor deadlines in the Employment Eligibility Verification Federal Acquisition Regulation will be adjusted accordingly; and certain employees who received a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) will be granted an additional ten (10) federal business days to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) or DHS to resolve their cases.
For more information on the resumption of E-Verify operations, and employer and employee obligations, see this E-Verify alert.