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.
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.
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]
New American Economy has collected and published data about immigrant demographics and economic contributions to Maine. You can see summary data, and download their full report published in August 2016.
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.