Stay up-to-date on immigration news with Monty & Ramirez!
Stay up-to-date on immigration news with Monty & Ramirez!
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JANUARY 2017 
H-1B Filing Deadline Fast Approaching!
U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering, and computer programming. If you are looking forward to hiring foreign labor or sponsoring a current employee under the H-1B visa program, you should start preparing your H-1B petitions. USCIS will begin accepting petitions for the 2018 Fiscal Year on April 1, 2017.
Generally, there is a congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 on H-1B visas. The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap. USCIS expects to receive more than 65,000 petitions during the first five business days of the year. If the number of petitions USCIS receives reaches the cap amount within the first five days, the agency will notify the public. Subsequently, the agency will use a computer-generated lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to meet the cap. All unselected petitions that are subject to the cap or any petitions received after the cap will be rejected.
For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
The Government Will Allow Grace Period for New Form Versions
On December 23, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted to its website a large number of new form versions with the effective date of December 23, 2016 and indicated that no other versions of the forms would be accepted. As a result of considerable pressure by the legal community, USCIS announced on December 29, 2016 that it will accept prior versions of forms that were revised on December 23, 2016 until February 21, 2017. The only exception to this grace period is the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
  • Please note that regardless of the form edition submitted, applications and petitions postmarked or filed on or after December 23, 2016 must include the new fees, or USCIS will reject the submission.
For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
For Canadian Visitors: Risks of Unintentionally Overstaying on a B-1 or a B-2 Visa
When entering by air, Canadians, like all travelers, are issued electronic I-94 cards. Many visitors do not know they have been issued an I-94, or they assume that they have been admitted for six months. 
The recommendation is to always verify your period of admission by obtaining your most recent I-94, issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). You can get your most recent I-94 on the I-94 official website to verify your period of authorized stay. It is a good habit to check your I-94s after each admission to avoid unintentional overstays.
There have been reports of situations where, subsequent to the issuance of a 6-month electronic I-94 at an airport, a Canadian citizen returned to Canada and then reentered the U.S. at a land border crossing during the original I-94 validity period. In this scenario, it is common practice for CBP at the land border to "revalidate" the existing I-94 and original period of admission rather than create a new I-94 record with a new period of admission. As a result, Canadians who frequently travel to the United States may unknowingly overstay and may only find out upon a later attempt to reenter.
This issue is being reviewed by CBP. In the meantime we encourage you to regularly check the I-94 website after being admitted to the U.S. to avoid unintentional overstays. 
For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
NSEERS Regulation Has Been Repealed!
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a Final Rule to repeal a federal regulation that permitted the agency to conduct “special registration” of certain foreign nationals seeking admission to the United States based on their nationality. This regulation was implemented in 2002 following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. This law was designed to collect information of individuals who may have links to terrorism. The Obama administration is now closing out the presidency with an immigration friendly action by repealing this law for good.
For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
Employers Should Stop Identifying Returning H-2B Workers in Petitions
The H-2B returning worker provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 expired on September 30, 2016. USCIS had previously advised that H-2B employers should continue to identify potential returning workers with start dates in the fiscal year 2017. However, Congress has yet to reauthorize the H-2B returning worker program. As a result, USCIS now urges employers to stop identifying returning workers in petitions for fiscal year 2017.
Because the returning worker program has expired, petitions requesting H-2B workers for new employment with an employment start date on or after October 1, 2016 will generally be counted towards the annual H-2B cap of 66,000 for fiscal year 2017. The H-2B cap for the first half of fiscal year 2017 has been reached. Once the fiscal year cap is reached, USCIS will only accept petitions for H-2B workers who are exempt or not subject to the H-2B cap.
The following categories of workers are exempt or not subject to the H-2B cap:
  • Current H-2B workers in the U.S. petitioning to extend their stay and, if applicable, change the terms of their employment or change their employers;
  • Fish roe processors, fish roe technicians, or supervisors of fish roe processing; and
  • Workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands or Guam from November 28, 2009 until December 31, 2019.
For fiscal year 2017, USCIS will consider those identified by employers as potential returning workers as still subject to the cap. After the cap has been reached, they will accept petitions only for those workers who meet any one of the exemptions listed above. Please note: spouses and children of H-2B workers that are classified as H-4 nonimmigrants are not counted against this cap.
For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
The Government Proposes Changes to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
A proposed rule changing the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program has been published.  The Government has determined that the proposed changes are needed to “better reflect business realities for regional centers and EB–5 immigrant investors, to increase predictability and transparency in the adjudication process for stakeholders, to improve operational efficiency for the agency, and to enhance program integrity.” A copy of the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking can be found here.
Some of the changes proposed include the following: change to the requirements for initial designating of entities as regional centers, a potential requirement for regional centers to utilize an exemplar filing process, the "continued participation" requirements for maintaining regional center designation, and the process for terminating regional center designation.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has published a second set of proposed changes to the EB-5 immigrant investor program, raising the required investment from $1 million to $1.8 million in most areas and from $500,000 to $1.35 million in targeted high-unemployment areas.  The proposed rule is also taking away the states' ability to designate high-unemployment areas for investment reserving for the DHS the power to designate high-unemployment areas.  For more details, please see proposed rule available here.
For more information on the proposed rules, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
PERM — How a Pay Raise Can Affect Labor Certification Application:
The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals recently upheld a denial of a labor certification application because the applicant received a pay raise between the Notice of Filing and the application for temporary labor certification. For this reason it is important to not offer a pay raise to the foreign employee being sponsored until after the ETA Form 9089, Application for Permanent Employment Certification has been filed. As demonstrated by this case, if the wage rate for the position changes during recruitment, the government can argue that the Notice of Filing contained wages or terms and conditions of employment less favorable than those offered to the applicant.
For more details, read the decision here: Matter of DVB Transport, LLC, 2015-PER-00361 (Dec. 6, 2016).
For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
The February 2017 Visa Bulletin has arrived!
The Visa Bulletin for February 2017 has been released by the government. For more details, go to the U.S. Visas Website.
If you have questions about the February 2017 Visa Bulletin, contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.

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