Friday, March 12, 2010

Prepare your cap-subject H-1Bs ASAP - LCA delays possible

USCIS will accept H-1B petitions for the Fiscal Year 2011 starting on April 1, 2010. In the past, it was possible to prepare and file a petition in a matter of days or less, so we were able to file petitions with very little noce in emergencies. This is no longer possible, because the Department of Labor has changed the procedure for certifying Labor Condition Applications (LCAs). LCAs are filed electronically and used to be certified almost instantly. Now it takes a week or more to get an approved LCA, and the H-1B petition cannot be filed without an approved LCA. 

For a few months, from November 5, 2009 to March 9, 2010, CIS accepted petitions without an approved LCA, acknowledging that the delays in LCA approvals could be very difficult for employers and foreign nationals.  However, CIS just announced (see here) that it would not extend that temporary measure. As of March 10, 2010, CIS will reject any H-1B petition filed without an LCA certified by DOL.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Greece added to Visa Waiver Program

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now allows nationals of Greece to use the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Travellers will be able to enter the US for 90 days or less for tourism or business purposes without a visa, provided they have an e-passport and an approved authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

To travel to the United States under the VWP, an alien must be from a participating country and must (1) be seeking entry as a tourist for a period of 90 days or less; (2) be a national of a VWP participant country; (3) present an electronic passport or a machine readable passport issued by a designated VWP participant country to the air or vessel carrier before departure; (4) execute the required immigration forms; (5) if arriving by air or sea, arrive on an authorized carrier; (6) not represent a threat to the welfare, health, safety or security of the United States; (7) have not violated U.S. immigration law during a previous admission under the visa waiver program; (8) possess a round trip ticket; and (9) waive the right to review or appeal a decision regarding admissibility or to contest other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any action for removal.

For the DHS press release, see here. For more information about the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA, see here.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

ICE sends audit notices to 180 new businesses

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is issuing Notices of Inspection (NOIs) of I-9 forms to 180 businesses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. Employers are required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This form requires employers to review and record the individual's identity document(s) and determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and related to the individual.

The notices warn  business owners that ICE will be inspecting their hiring records to determine whether they are complying with employment eligibility verification laws and regulations. The names of the businesses have not been released.

See the ICE press release here.  For information on I-9 requirements, see this blog posting.

Monday, March 8, 2010

CIS issues guidance on H-1B filings for Fiscal Year 2011

The USCIS has issued guidelines for petitioners filing cap-subject H-1B petitions for Fiscal year 2011.  The guidance explains what that cap is, what petitions are subject to the cap, filing fees, where to file, etc. See here.