Autumn Newsflash 2006
September 7, 2006
The USCIS recently announced that Premium Processing is available as of August 28, 2006 for I-140 Immigrant Visa Petitions for professional and skilled workers in the Employment-Based 3rd Preference Category.
Premium Processing ensures USCIS adjudication of these I-140s or the issuance of a Request for Evidence within 15 calendar days of filing. This new service will be particularly attractive to employers of certain foreign nationals in H-1B status who are subject to visa retrogression and who are close to reaching their six-year maximum. Premium Processing of the I-140 may make the difference in being able to file for a three-year extension of the employee's H-1B status based on an approved I-140. Please contact counsel for cost/benefit analysis on a case-by-case basis.
H-1B Visas Are All Gone. The H-1B visa numerical cap for Fiscal Year 2007 was met on May 26, 2006. The special numerical "set aside" for holders of U.S. Master's degrees or higher was met on July 26, 2006. Unfortunately, without help from Congress, no new H-1B numbers will become available until October 1, 2007. Please contact counsel by winter 2006 to ensure timely filing on April 1, 2007, in order to have the best chance of securing one of these limited numbers for start dates on or after October 1, 2007.
Consider Premium Processing for Certain Pending H-1B Petitions.
The Vermont Service Center, charged with adjudicating one-half of all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 1, 2006, is currently processing only those petitions filed on or before April 30, 2006. As a result, it is unlikely that this Service Center will completely adjudicate all H-1B petitions seeking an October 1, 2006 start date before that date. Further, foreign national employees needing to acquire an H-1B visa abroad may encounter delays due to high traffic at the consulates. Employers and employees may wish to consider converting these October 1st start date cases to Premium Processing now, to ensure some Service action within 15 calendar days.
On a positive note, the Department of Labor's Backlog Elimination Centers have actively and effectively worked to reduce the backlog of Reduction in Recruitment ("RIR") labor certifications filed prior to the advent of PERM processing. In the context of the PERM program, on the heels of a successful appeal filed by an employer to the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals, the Department of Labor is now obligated to process PERM labor certifications less rigidly and in a manner slightly more favorable to employers.
We hope this information is helpful. Please contact our office if you have any questions.