25 Feb 2014

Getting Ready for H-1B filings

The deadline to file H-1B petitions for foreign national workers is fast approaching. All new H-1B applications MUST be received at the respective USCIS location on or close to April 01, 2014. This year, like last year, is more likely than not going to result in a lottery as the demand for visas is far higher than the number of visa’s available. Employers interested in filing H-1B’s for prospective employees or current OPT/STEM employees need to start the process now!

Background

The H-1B visa is an attractive option for employers that rely on the temporary employment of foreign professionals in the United States for positions that employers’ often cannot find qualified skilled talent. Specifically, this visa category offers work authorization to foreign nationals employed in specialty occupations, defined as a position requiring at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific academic field. Over teh years, the vast number of H-1B petitions have been filed for employees in the Technology Industry. Employees with degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) account for the largest portion of these visas.

Congress has set an annual limit for H-1B visas at 65,000 per fiscal year (with an additional 20,000 reserved for occupations requiring an advanced degree from a U.S. institution). Given the H-1B visa’s versatility and popularity, this annual quota is often reached shortly after the filing period opens.

The Importance of Early Preparation

The demand for H-1B visas is expected to be even higher this year than last year, when the cap was met during the first week of April 2014. We expect that the cap will be met within the first week of filing this year as well. Petitions are accepted on a “first-come-first-serve” basis. Any applications filed after the cap is met will be returned and cannot be re-filed until the following year.

To maximize the chances that your H-1B petition is included in the cap, Labor Condition Applications (“LCAs”) should be submitted to the DOL by the beginning of March, and petitions should be ready for filing on or before April 1, 2014.

For first time H-1B petitioner, the need to get started now is even greater, as chances are that the company will need to complete an additional verification process before you can even submit the LCA. All petitions need to be supported by adequate documentation of education credentials; employment offer; proof of sufficient work for the duration of the H-1B validity, and ability to pay higher of the prevailing wage or the actual wage.

Our team at Orbit Law, PLLC is ready to handle your H-1B filing needs. Whether this is your first time petitioning for a foreign worker, or whether your company has utilized the H-1B visa in the past, we are ready to provide the level of support and attention you require so please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of service.

 

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14 Jan 2014

WA State House passes “Washington Dream Act”

The Washington State Dream Act was approved by the state House on Wednesday, bringing undocumented students one step closer to being eligible for the State Need Grant.

The measure was approved 77-20, with unanimous Democrat support and a split vote on the Republican side. It was the last piece of House legislation to make it through before the session’s cutoff.

House Bill 1817 would qualify all students who graduated from a Washington high school or earned a diploma-equivalent in the state for the State Need Grant — the state’s largest financial-aid program — as long as they meet other grant requirements. The students must also remain in the state after earning their diploma, until they attend college. The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote.

Please stay tuned for updates as we will be posting any developments on this front as and when there is news to share.

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09 Jan 2014

Republicans to Release “Principles” on Immigration Reform

Speaker John Boehner told rank-and-file Republicans that his leadership team was drafting “principles” for overhauling Immigration laws that will be presented in coming weeks.

The Senate, controlled by Democrats passed a broad Immigration overhaul plan in June 2013. The Senate bill called Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744)allowed for broad overhaul of the current Immigration system, including a path to legalization for the more than 11 Million undocumented individuals currently living in the U.S.

It is unlikely that the GOP controlled House will allow a similarly broad bill to pass; rather, it seems far more likely that the GOP will allow for smaller bills to proceed. Our prediction is that the GOP will move ahead with these three issues:

  1. Adjustment of Status for youth: The Senate bill allows Individuals who entered the U.S. as children adjust status i.e. acquire Lawful Permanent Residence in the U.S.(a smaller component of the originally proposed DREAM Act) A smaller version of this called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or “Deferred Action” is already in process.
  2. StartUp Act: The StartUp Act originally proposed back in 2010 by Senator Kerry, has gone through several revisions and currently stands at StartUp 3.0. The StartUp visa would allow for:
    1. foreign entrepreneurs who will employ at least five full-time workers — who are not family members — to stay in the U.S. for up to three years. Applications would be open to holders of the H-1B or F-1 visas as long as they’ve already raised at least $100,000 in funding and are employing at least two people currently.
    2. create a new five-year visa for foreign students in STEM disciplines who get a job in a technical field. Students would then have the right to become a legal resident and possibly a citizen after that five years
  3. Immigration Innovation Act: This would increase the number of H-1B visas available in any given year; would allow foreign students to have “dual intent” so they do not have to show an intent to return to their home country at the end of their academic program; allow certain job categories like STEM related field to be exempt from employment based Green Card cap

Please stay tuned for updates as we will be posting updates on the Immigration legislation front as soon as we receive them.

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