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Stay up-to-date on immigration news with Monty & Ramirez!
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APRIL 2017 
H-1B Cap Reached for Fifth Consecutive Year
U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require specialized knowledge. This year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received more than 236,000 H-1B petitions to compete for only 65,000 available visas.
USCIS has announced that it has reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 visa H-1B cap for fiscal year 2018. USCIS allocates an additional 20,000 visas every year for specialty workers who possess a U.S. Master’s degree.  USCIS has also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa U.S. advanced degree exemption, also known as the Master’s Cap. 
Temporary Suspension of Premium Processing Will Prolong H-1B Decisions 
Premium Processing has always been an optional service that allows employers to request 15-day processing of H-1B applications for an additional filing fee of $1,225. Now, this option is not available.
Without the option of Premium Processing this year, we expect significant delays in the H-1B adjudication process. It is not uncommon for H-1B petitions filed without premium processing to be adjudicated six months or more after filing.  The Government indicates that any Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing that is filed with an H-1B petition will be automatically rejected.
If you should have any questions about H-1B petitions, processing times, or audits, please consult with the experienced attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or contact us via email at smonty@montyramirezlaw.com.
Automatic Extension of the Validity Periods of Certain Employment Authorization Documents 
On January 17, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security finalized a new rule entitled “Retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers.” These amendments provide for an automatic extension of the validity period of certain Employment Authorization Documents (EAD), Form I-765, for up to 180 days if the employee meets the following requirements:
  • Must renew Form I-765, the EAD, before its expiration date;
  • Must be renewing the EAD based on the same visa category as the previous EAD; 
  • The renewal must be in a category that is eligible for the extension.
For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
New Handbook for Employers
USCIS has released an updated Handbook for Employers with guidance for completing USCIS Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The handbook is available on the AILA website.
For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
CBP Field Office No Longer Responding to I-94 Inquires
Effective immediately, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) field office has announced that it will no longer be responding to I-94 inquires via email. Requestors will receive a notice directing them to the deferred inspection sites. 
The notice will appear as follows: 
“Until further notice, requests for I-94 corrections will no longer be accepted through this email address. Please visit https://www.cbp.gov/document/guidance/deffered-inspection-sites for assistance.” 
CBP has indicated that this change is only temporary. Our office will monitor the situation and keep you informed if the Houston Field Office decides to reinstate the online system for requesting I-94 corrections. All pending requests submitted prior to March 31, 2017 and sent via the I-94 correction system will be resolved, and those cases will be closed out.
For more information, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
Proposed Changes to the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program
The EB-5 program allows investors (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age) to apply for permanent residency (a green card) if they: 
  • Make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States; and
  • Plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. 
This program was created by Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. The EB-5 program is set to expire again on April 28, 2017 and must be renewed by Congress in order for the program to continue. 
The EB-5 program has been the subject of controversy from legislators who see it as a way for foreign nationals to “purchase” a visa by making the required investment. A new bill was introduced in the House of Representatives that would end the EB-5 program altogether. On the other hand, Senator Rand Paul introduced a bill on March 27, 2017 that would create a permanent EB-5 visa program and would increase the availability of visas by eliminating the per-country cap on applications. Because of the controversy surrounding the EB-5 program, its renewal by Congress is never guaranteed.
While it is uncertain whether Congress will do away with EB-5, we do know that the Government has proposed more restrictive changes to the program, including an increase in the required investment amount.  Currently, EB-5 applicants are required to invest $1 million in a new commercial enterprise, or $500,000 if the investment is in a rural or economically disadvantaged area, known as a TEA (Targeted Employment Area). The proposed changes would increase those amounts to $1.8 million, or $1.3 million in a TEA. These proposed changes are subject to mandatory Notice and Comment Rulemaking and will not go into effect until after April 2017. 
For more information regarding the EB-5 program, please contact the experienced immigration attorneys at Monty & Ramirez LLP at 281-493-5529 or via email at info@montyramirezlaw.com.
Do you have over 10 years of using E-Verify? 
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will dispose of transaction records that are over 10 years old in April of 2017.  USCIS has created a Historic Records Report that contains transaction records dated before December 31, 2006.  These records may be downloaded from now until March 31, 2017.  We recommend downloading and retaining the Historic Records Report of your E-Verify files. 
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 April 2017 Visa Bulletin has arrived!
The Visa Bulletin for April 2017 has been released by the Government. For more details, visit the US Visas website.
If you have questions about the April 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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