Lottery to be held for FY2018 H-1B petitions

USCIS has confirmed to the American Immigration Lawyers Association that if, during the week of April 3-7, 2017, it receives enough petitions to exhaust the statutory annual H-1B visa limits, the petitions will be selected for processing by lottery.

As in recent years, petitions for the 20,000 Master’s degree cap exempt visas will be randomly selected by lottery first. Any Master’s degree petitions not selected then will be combined with the other H-1B petitions subject to the 65,000 annual cap, for selection to be processed by lottery.

H-2B visa limit already reached for FY2017

USCIS has announced that they have received enough petitions for H-2B seasonal, non-agricultural nonimmigrant workers to reach the annual limit for FY2017.   That means that with limited exceptions, no H-2B petitions filed by employers after March 13, 2017 for seasonal jobs starting prior to October 1, 2017 will be accepted by USCIS.

Only 33,000 H-2B visas are available annually for spring/summer seasonal employees from abroad, for the entire country, and those visas are being exhausted earlier each year.  The cap for FY 2015 was reached in June of that year, and last fiscal year’s cap was reached in May.   With visas running out a full two months earlier this year than last, the H-2B visa program is becoming an increasingly unworkable solution for seasonal non-agricultural employers, such as the hospitality industry in Maine.

Maine employers who need seasonal foreign workers to supplement their staff during the spring/summer whose H-2B petitions were not received by USCIS by March 13, 2017, should see whether one of the exceptions to the cap applies.  The USCIS announcement and specified exceptions can be found here.

 

Federal Courts temporarily block “Travel Ban”

Two Federal District Courts in Hawai’i and Maryland have temporarily blocked portions of President Trump’s most recent Executive Order (EO) that was due to take effect today.    The ban on visa issuance to and entry into the U.S. of citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and on the entry of refugees from any country, cannot take effect as the challenge to the EO makes its way through the Courts on the merits.  The Courts found that the plaintiffs had a likelihood of success of proving that the travel ban is unconstitutionally based on religion, due to statements made by President Trump and his administration during the campaign and before and after issuance of the first EO travel ban issued on Jan. 27, 2017.

Note that other parts of the EO were not enjoined from taking effect, such as the requirement for in-person interviews for all non-immigrant visa applicants (from any country), including those who previously may not have had to attend an in-person interview.

How does this effect Maine businesses?

  • Any employees (whether naturalized U.S. Citizens, permanent residents, or nonimmigrant visa holders) from the six named countries should be advised to expect a heightened level of questioning at U.S. ports of entry following any travel abroad, despite the injunction preventing the EO’s travel ban portions from taking effect.   They should be advised to consult with a competent immigration attorney before traveling abroad.
  • If you have immigrant employees from any of the six named countries or who entered the U.S. as refugees, be aware that there is still a high level of fear and concern that their relatives whom they were expecting to immigrate soon may not be able to come.
  • If you have an employee who needs to renew her/his work visa abroad, the process may be more complicated and take much longer than usual because of the need for an in-person interview at the relevant U.S. consulate.

For further information:  Contact your business’s immigration attorney, or Beth Stickney at [email protected]

Report: US needs immigrants to avoid labor force shrinkage

The Pew Research Center reported on March 8, 2017 that immigration will be the source of most of the growth of the working age population between now and 2035.  U.S. born children of immigrants will be an important factor as well.   Without immigrants and their children, the U.S. workforce would be contracting.   Pew’s conclusions echo the conclusions about the role of immigrants’ in counteracting Maine’s shrinking labor supply made in separate reports issued in 2016 by Coastal Enterprises, Inc. and jointly by the Maine Development Foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.  See Pew’s report here.

3.6.2017: Newest Executive Order: Impact on Maine business?

On 3/6/2017, President Trump signed a new Executive Order barring entry and visa issuance for certain nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and suspending admission of all refugees from any country.   The E.O. takes effect on March 16, 2017.

What does the new E.O. about the six countries do?

  • Prohibits the entry of, issuance of visas to, or adjudication of applications filed with USCIS in the United States concerning citizens of the six named countries for 90 days. The 90 day period could later be extended.
  • Exempts from the above, entry by:
    • dual  citizens who are traveling on the passport of their non-targeted country (for example, a dual citizen of the U.K. and Iran who is traveling on the U.K. passport)
    • U.S. permanent residents (“green card” holders)
    • those already admitted as refugees or granted asylum in the U.S., and other discrete categories of people already here
  • May permit entry, on a case-by-case basis, chiefly of:
    • nonimmigrants (for example, H-1Bs, L-1s, student (F-1) or exchange visitor (J-1) visa holders) who had already been living in the U.S. and are returning from a temporary trip abroad to resume their work
    • nonimmigrant professional workers such as those listed above or visitors for business, traveling for “significant business or professional obligations"
    • family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents

What does the new E.O. about refugees do?

  • Suspends all refugee admissions to the U.S. for 120 days (which may later be extended)
    • Allows entry of refugees approved prior to March 16th for transit to the U.S.
    • Some case-by-case exceptions allowed
  • Caps refugee admissions at 50,000 for FY 2017 (down from 110,000)

What affect does the E.O have on Maine businesses?

  • Professional nonimmigrant staff from any of the six countries may not be able to reenter the U.S. following travel abroad. Make sure they seek individual legal advice from a competent immigration attorney before traveling, even to Canada.  Consider not traveling abroad during the 90 day period, or any extensions, until we have more information about how the E.O. is actually applied.
  • Future nonimmigrant employees still abroad from any of the six countries who did not receive their visas before 5:00 p.m. EST on 1/27/2017 will not be issued a visa or entry into the U.S. unless a case-by-case waiver is granted, until the suspension is lifted.
  • Visa interview waivers that have been applied to some nonimmigrants, regardless of country, are discontinued.
  • Staff with refugee family members abroad who have been in the pipeline to come to the U.S., may be under severe emotional strain.  This new delay, and the reduced cap, may result in a refugee who was supposed to arrive in the next few months not being able to come to the U.S. for another year or longer.  Consider providing them with support, at a minimum, through your company EAP plan.

For more information, contact your company's immigration attorney, or Beth Stickney at [email protected]

MeBIC in the News

A Maine Sunday Telegram article on 3/5/2017 on the possible impact of Trump era immigration policies on Maine's agriculture sector featured MeBIC Board of Directors member Emily Smith of Smith's Farm in Presque Isle, and MeBIC's Beth Stickney.   See the article here.