March 19, 2019: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the start of the fiscal year (FY) 2020 H-1B cap season, start dates for premium processing of cap-subject H-1B petitions, and the launch of its new H-1B data hub. It also reminded petitioners of its new H-1B cap selection process.
H-1B FY 2020 Cap Season
USCIS will begin accepting H-1B 2020 cap petitions subject on April 1, 2019. Any cap cases filed before that date will be rejected.
Premium processing (PP) will be offered in a two-phased approach during the FY 2020 cap season. USCIS says that this will allow it to manage premium processing requests without fully suspending it as it has done in the past.
Premium processing for H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap, such as extension of stay requests, remains available.
New H-1B Data Hub
USCIS announced a new H-1B Employer Data Hub that will be available on April 1. The data hub is part of USCIS’ continued effort to increase the transparency of the H-1B program by allowing the public to search for H-1B petitioners by fiscal year, NAICS industry code, company name, city, state, or zip code. Memners of the public will be able to calculate approval and denial rates and to review which employers are using the H-1B program.
For any questions about H-1B cases, please contact Elaine Martin, immigration lawyer.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it plans to close its offices outside the United States. This would mean the closure of 23 local offices of USCIS, in 20 countries.
On March 12, 2019, the agency said that roughly 70 USCIS employees work in the offices abroad. If the plans to close these offices are finalized, the employees will return to the United States.
Local offices of USCIS handle family petitions for US citizens currently living in those countries, military citizenship applications, and helping people flee persecution in their countries.
Another "important function" of USCIS' international offices is "to provide technical expertise on immigration-related matters to U.S. government agencies abroad, including other Department of Homeland Security components, the Department of State and the Department of Defense," the agency explains on its website.
As reported by NPR, USCIS spokeswoman Jessica Collins announced on Tuesday the agency is in "preliminary discussions" to delegate its international responsibilities to the State Department, or to its own personnel in the U.S. In some cases, the workload would be absorbed by U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
In a cost analysis conducted last year, USCIS officials estimated phasing out its international offices would save millions of dollars each year. "The goal of any such shift would be to maximize USCIS resources that could then be reallocated, in part, to backlog reduction" at the agency, Collins told NPR in an emailed statement.
In the statement, Collins downplayed the potential impact of shutting all 23 field offices across 20 countries. She provided assurances that the transition would be coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the State Department, "to ensure no interruption in the provision of immigration services to affected applicants and petitioners."
For more information, please contact Elaine Martin, US immigration lawyer.
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.