USCIS wants to increase fees!

USCIS proposes increasing filing fees of a lot of commonly used applications.  Most of them are for business immigration filings and family based immigration applications.  See some of the proposed fee increases below.

You can make a comment on the fee increase until July 5, 2016. USCIS depends on the fees to pay for its services. So USCIS was one of the few agencies not affected by the government shut down last year.

Proposed fees

Form Purpose Current Fee Proposed Increase Change
I-129 For Worker $325 $460 +$135
I-130 For Family immigration $420 $535 +$115
I-140 For Work based immigration $580 $700 +$120
I-485 Work/Family GC* $1,070 $1,225 +$155
I-539 Change visas $290 $370 +$80
I-765 Work authorization $385 $410 +$30
I-90 Renew GC $365 $455 +$90
I-129F Fiancé Visa $340 $535 +$195
I-751 Get a 10 year GC* $505 $595 +$90
N-400 Naturalize $595 $640 +$45
N-600 Citizenship Certificate $600 $1170 +$570

*Green Card

Nalini S Mahadevan, Esq

P: 314.932.7111  nsm@mlolaw.us   www.mlolaw.us

Disclaimer: Please do not rely on this blog for legal advice.  Call me if you want to get advice and sign an engagement letter with my law firm.

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How to Employ A Foreign Student

Last year I gave a presentation at a local University to employers about the advantages of employing students from foreign countries, here in student visa status.  The Director of the Career Center told me that local employers were afraid of the process involved in hiring them!

To this I say Pshaw!!!  Look at the untapped potential for a wonderful talented employee, who is willing and wanting to learn and be part of the employing company.  Imagine that student has already passed several hurdles such as qualifying to enter a prestigious University, probably has a revealed a superior understanding of her subject and has demonstrated to University admission officers and professors at their college that she can match the best of any local talent!  These students have probably passed several more exams in an effort to enter an American University!  Does that not show grit and hard work – truly American as apple pie! Like the old E.F. Hutton ad said, “they earned it”.

How to hire a student on an F-1 visa?

  • Do they have an OPT (Optional Practical Training) granted at the end of a course of academic education. If yes, Non STEM students can work up to 12 months and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students can work for up to 29 months for an employer.
  • STEM students have 2 bites at the H1B apple. STEM students can apply twice for an H1B visa while in OPT status and can stay employed for at least 6 more years with the employer, so the training is not wasted!
  • The student should be in valid F-1 status
  • Proposed employment should relate to the student’s academic work
  • New Obama executive orders will expand and extend the use of OPT
  • CPT – Curricular Practical Training A student can work either part time or full time for an employer during the course of their study as either an employee, an intern (paid or unpaid), in a cooperative (co-op) educational experience, or as a practicum participation in the field of their major.
  • Full time CPT will reduce entitlement to OPT.

This is a great way to test the waters.  There are many foreign students with experience who are at University in a Master’s program or even a second Bachelor’s degree.

Caveat! Employ a student from an accredited University, please.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Contact: nsm@mlolaw.us

This blog is not intended as legal advice nor is it to be construed as creating a attorney client relationship!

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Afraid you won’t make the H-1B cap?

  • Prepare now.  If you are a student, on F-1 visa, enroll in college for initial or subsequent Degree programs
  • If you are from a Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor Country, start a business to become eligible for an E-1 or E-2 visa
  • If you are a citizen of Canada or Mexico, change status to a TN visa
  • If you are a spouse of an employee, you may be eligible for a work permit, under current regulations and when regulations under Obama’s executive order are issued.
  • There are H-3, J-1, B-1 in lieu of H-3 visas available for persons who qualify
  • If you have outstanding achievements in the science, arts, education, business or athletics, you could be eligible for an O-1 visa.

Contact us for your new visa filings at nsm@mlolaw.us.  We are a full service immigration law firm.

This blog is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information contained is strictly for information purposes only.

Nalini S. Mahadevan, JD, MBA

Attorney at Law

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PERM Plans to Modernize Recruitment Process

The US Department of Labor announced that it is modernizing US worker recruitment for the PERM process.

DOL has not comprehensively examined and modified the permanent labor certification requirements and process since their inception 10 years ago. Over the last 10 years, much has changed in our country’s economy, affecting employers’ demand for workers as well as the availability of a qualified domestic labor force. This past fiscal year, employers submitted over 70,000 PERM applications requesting foreign workers. The majority of those job openings were for professional occupations in the Information Technology and Science fields.

Over time, demands for labor have increased, and surpluses for various types of workers have changed. Advances in technology and information dissemination have dramatically altered common industry recruitment practices, and the DOL has received ongoing feedback that the existing regulatory requirements governing the PERM recruitment process frequently do not align with worker or industry needs and practices.

To respond to change, the DOL is working on new regulations for the following:

  • Options for identifying labor force occupational shortages and surpluses, and methods for aligning domestic worker recruitment requirements with demonstrated shortages and surpluses;
  • Methods and practices designed to modernize U.S. worker recruitment requirements;
  • Processes to clarify employer obligations to insure PERM positions are fully open to U.S. workers;
  • Ranges of case processing timeframes and possibilities for premium processing; and
  • Application submission and review process and feasibility for efficiently addressing nonmaterial errors.

The objective of the DOL is to align DOL recruitment methods with that of the U.S. immigration system and needs of workers and employers, and to enhance the integrity of the labor certification process.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri
nsm@mlolaw.us

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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The US needs more H1B visas

The Visa Lottery

On April 7, USCIS announced that it had received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for fiscal year (FY) 2015. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption.

USCIS received about 172,500 H-1B petitions during the filing period which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 10, 2014, USCIS completed a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. For cap-subject petitions not randomly selected, USCIS will reject and return the petition with filing fees, unless it is found to be a duplicate filing.

Advanced Degrees Get Two Bites of the Apple

The agency conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All advanced degree petitions not selected then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.

On March 25, USCIS announced that they would begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than April 28.

Non-Cap-Based H1B Visa Applications

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap will not be counted towards the Congressionally mandated FY 2015 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  •  Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

Premium Processing H-1B Visas

USCIS provides premium processing service for certain employment-based petitions and guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time.

USCIS will continue to accept Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, with fee, concurrently with the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, during the time period that premium processing is unavailable. Petitioners may also upgrade a pending H-1B cap petition to premium processing once USCIS issues a receipt notice.

While the Form I-797 receipt notice indicates the date USCIS received the premium processing fee, the 15-day processing period set by 8 CFR 103.7(e)(2) will begin no  later than April 28, 2014. This allows for USCIS to take-in the anticipated high number of filings, conduct the lottery to determine which cases meet the cap, and prepare the volume of cases for premium and regular processing.

The 15-day processing period for premium processing service for H-1B petitions that are not subject to the cap, or for any other eligible classification, continues to begin on the date that the request is received.

Clearly, since there are so many applications, more visas should be issued. The cost of non-availability of specialized knowledge workers for the US economy is enormous!

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri

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The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan
Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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Can OPT lead to H1B?

As we get into the H1B filing season for 2015 (H1Bs are filed in 2014 for the following year), students on F1 visas and their employers are anxious about being selected in the H1B lottery.

This year like last, I suspect the demand will overwhelm availability of H1B visas for student and other applicants. Last year, USCIS received 124,000 applications for 65,000 H1B visas, including 20,000 H1B visas set aside for US Master degree holders.

STEM Students

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students are at an advantage. They are able to avail of OPT (optional practical training) for 29 months, and hence get two bites of the H1B apple. They can apply this year and the next while maintaining status in F visa and being lawfully present in the US.

The advantage is that the student:

  • Can work full time.
  • Would qualify for the cap gap extension.
  • Can apply for the 17-month extension

The Takeaway

In essence, a STEM student on 29 month OPT gets 2 bites of the H1B apple, because the sponsoring employer is able to apply again the following year if the student is not selected in the H1B lottery the first time.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.

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A Second Look at Comprehensive Immigration Reform

In February, I wrote about why comprehensive immigration reform has a chance to pass this year; now, it’s time to discuss how immigration reform can strengthen the US as a whole.

Immigration reform has heavy bipartisan support, spearheaded by President Obama and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (FL). Sen. Rubio is a member of the “Gang of Eight”, the four Democrat and four Republican Senators who have introduced new immigration legislation to Congress — Rubio has also assumed the role of spokesperson for the pending bill in the Senate. The House is also sponsoring several other bills on immigration.

There are security and economic reasons for the US to reform its immigration policy, both of which will have a major impact on the US economy.

The Security Side and the Impact on Employers

Immigration reform is not going to happen without enhanced border security and metrics to measure the levels of security reached. Another measure of security to guarantee a legal workforce is to make both E-verify and Form I-9 compliance mandatory for all employers.  Senate has already earmarked $110 million dollars to these programs — employers should see new compliance regulations soon after a new immigration bill has passed.

In addition, electronic checking of departures by CBP will ensure that non-immigrants depart on the date their authorized stay expires, according to their Form I-94 record. Departures are currently recorded with a paper I-94, which is surrendered upon exiting the US. The new electronic I-94 will record departures from passenger manifests issued by airlines. Entries are currently recorded, but exits from the US are not recorded uniformly at all ports. In addition, the new bill will mandate that all passports be electronically read, which would reduce human error.

It is a misconception that highly skilled visa holders somehow depress US wages. On the contrary, where certain technical skills are in short supply, employers pay top dollar wages for visa holders and high fees to the federal government, as well as jump through legal hurdles to employ these workers. The cost of employing a foreign worker is more expensive than a domestic worker.

The Economic Side

Granting legal status to more immigrants will relieve our labor shortages in both high-skill and low-skill arenas. The educational background of native-born Americans typically includes high school and college education — few are without high school diplomas, and hardly any have Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). The educational background of immigrants, on the other hand, is quite different: while many lack high school education, others hold Ph.D.s in STEM fields.

Most of the debate on immigration reform has focused on giving legal status to undocumented immigrants, upon the condition that they pay fees and back taxes. This will certainly have positive effects on our economy; however, we have more to gain from immigrants, both young and old, who, after gaining legal status, decide to further their careers in the US. Once these immigrants feel reassured about their future in the US, they will be more willing to invest in their careers.

One of our current problems is that many skill workers have trouble gaining a foothold onto the path to citizenship. Foreign entrepreneurs and technologists who study in the US are often denied works visas and return to their home country to find success. This issue is both stunting economic growth and causing a brain drain in America.

The number of available temporary visas is rarely revised and is still dependent upon caps and quotas. Our economic conditions have not been taken into consideration. Increasing visas both for high skilled workers, and lower skilled entrants in agriculture and forestry, could have a positive effect on wages and reduce the number of illegal entrants and overstays.

Immigrants also bolster our productivity growth. According to the Wall Street Journal, foreign scientists and engineers, who came to the US with an H1B visa, contributed 10-20% of the yearly productivity growth in the US from 1990-2010. Attracting innovators to our country will undoubtedly create more jobs, as more innovation means more labs, universities and companies doing research. Yet, the US’s H1B visa program only creates 65,000 visas per year for highly skilled workers. That amount has proved to be insufficient, as H1B visas quotas fill very quickly as in the last cap.

There are clear economic and security needs for streamlined and comprehensive immigration reform, and lawmakers and politicians must take action. Congress is set to vote on immigration reform before the July 4 congressional recess.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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H1B cap has reached!

USCIS received 124,000 H1B visa applications from Monday April 1, 2013 to Friday April 5, 2013 — the cap has not been filled this fast for about 4 years. The number of applications received includes both cap subject bachelor degree holders and US Master Degree holders for whom a special 20,000 visas are allotted.

US Master degree holders get two bites of the apple, when it comes to ‘cap’ time. All US Master degree applications not counted towards the 20,000 cap will be considered again in the regular cap of 65,000 visas. Master degree applications are subject to the lottery first, before the bachelor degree holders. Please keep in mind also that this 65,000 number is reduced by 5,800 visas set aside for Chile and Singapore, under Free Trade Treaties that the US has signed with these countries. The unused visas from this ‘carve out’ is added back to the general pool of available cap subject visas.

USCIS announced that it conducted a lottery to allot visas using a computer generated selection process on Sunday, April 7, 2013. All those applications not selected will be returned to the employers or attorneys. Of course, the return process may not occur for a while, as applications are vetted for accuracy and correct application fees. Application fees will be returned with the applications if the package is not selected in the lottery.

H1B applications filed with premium processing will be processed in 15 days, if they are selected in the lottery.

No more applications will be accepted by USCIS, but H1B applications to change employers, or extension of visa applications filed by non-profit employers and concurrent H1B employment, can still be filed with USCIS.

The Takeaway

Contact your Senator and Congressional representative to encourage an increase in the number of visas available for H1B visas. H1B visas filed by entrepreneurs are also subject to the cap. Entrepreneurs are employment multipliers for the U.S. economy.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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Why We Need More STEM Graduates

On October 28, a week before the presidential election, the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard introduced a white paper that lays out a comprehensive plan for Australia to attract qualified Asian immigrants. Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, said that Australia needed to attract highly skilled Asian immigrants to bring their specialist skills to Australia in order to boost the economy. He said the top 10 sources of highly skilled immigrants in Australia were India, which provided 23% of its immigrants in 2011; as well as China, the Philippines  Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam. Australia intends to increase the number of international students in Australian universities by streamlining the immigration process.

Similar white papers have been issued by Canada, which has now made pathways for skilled immigrants and investors to migrate to Canada easier. UK has similar plans, and the UK Border Agency revised its guidance last June for skilled workers and investors.

In the US, foreign students contribute, according to various sources, an upwards of $21 billion to our economy — no small chump change. It is good business for the US economy that we continue to encourage and seek foreign students, and to streamline the process for them to emigrate to the US. That process begins at the consulate, where the welcome mat is laid out for foreign students. I have often had the displeasure of informing highly skilled foreigners completing PhDs and Fellowships that it could take them almost 10 years to obtain their greencards. So it is with pleasure, after this election, that I read that both political parties are willing to exchange and compromise on comprehensive immigration reform that includes good news for STEM graduates and other highly skilled workers who want to come to the US.

The US’s Position

Two-thirds of the US’s immigration is family-based, while the other third is employment-based. This is in stark contrast to Canada, where employment immigration is the major contributor to the Canadian population. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has implored various national leaders and prominent politicians to continue immigration reform. Such politicians include pragmatists like Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schumer and John Boehner; but excludes Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell, who have spoken against immigration reform in the past.

The US proportion of graduating students who attend college in the US is slated to fall to 17.8% by 2020 from 23.8% in 2000, while the share of China will rise 9-13% and India will rise 6.5-7.5%. The implication of this is that India and China will have larger populations of college graduates than the US. The US needs an educated population to remain globally competitive. China has made investments in its workforce, which is the core of its economic strategy; and in India, a culture of higher education propels young people to go beyond the undergraduate level and attain Masters and PhDs.

A Global Force

If the US does not encourage more educated and productive people to enter and remain in the US legally (this includes engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers as well as lower-skilled workers) we will lose the race in global competition. A recent report from Organization for Economic Co-Operation Development (OECD)’s states that, “the balance of economic power could shift dramatically over the next 50 years.” According to this report, China could become the world’s largest economy by 2016.

To ensure long-term increase in productivity, living standards and higher income per capita, the US needs a qualified population. One of the pathways to economic growth is either locally qualified workers or imported workers. According to the Wall Street Journal, citing a recent Deloitte consulting survey, there are about 600,000 US manufacturing jobs going unfilled during a period of high unemployment due to “workforce shortages or skills deficiencies in production positions such as machinists, craft workers and technicians.”  US manufacturers have gotten out of the habit of running in-house apprentice programs; therefore, US manufacturers require ready-made “plug-and-play” workers to fill these deficiencies. We can either use homegrown workers, or “plug-and-play” workers through immigration.

It is an economic necessity, and it in our best interests, to reform our immigration policies — our country must move forward and remain a global force. We need workers both at the high levels, as well as the lower levels, to fill labor-intensive jobs and to reverse brain drain. We need workers who are qualified now.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

The information is not meant to create a client-attorney relationship. This blog is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Situations may differ based on the facts.

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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