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Archive for January, 2008

H-1B Filing Fees // The Straight Dope

January 31st, 2008 14 comments

Ask three different people about H-1B filing fees and you will get three different answers. Here are the straight facts about the fees required when applying for an H-1B visa petition.

“Premium Processing adds dignity to what can otherwise be a vulgar brawl.”

Base Filing Fee

The standard H-1B filing fee is $320 for the 1-129 petition. This fee is also payable for renewals, transfers, and amendments. Almost everyone has to pay this. There can also be additional fees at the consulate when applying from abroad.

ACWIA (Training) Fee

The employer must pay a fee of $1,500 towards a training fee meant to fund the training of U.S. workers. But if the employer has less than 25 full-time employees, they must pay only one-half of the required fee which is $750 [see Section §214(c)(9) of the Immigration & Nationality Act].

The training fee is paid one time to initially grant the H-1B petition and to extend H-1B status. But if this is the second or subsequent extension with the same employer, then the training fee is not required.

The following are exempt from the training fee: primary or secondary educational institutions, institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations related to or affiliated with any institutions of higher education, a nonprofit organization that engages in established curriculum-related clinical training of students registered at any institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations or a governmental research organizations [see Section 214(c)(9)(A) of the Immigration & Nationality Act and 8 C.F.R. §2l4.2(h)(19)(iii)-(iv).

Fraud Fee

A $500 fraud prevention and detection fee is required for the initial H-1B petition or to switch employers. The fraud fee is not required for extensions with the same employer [see Section 214(c)(12) of the Immigration & Nationality Act].

Optional H-1B Fees

Premium Processing adds dignity to what can otherwise be a vulgar brawl. The $1,000 fee is almost always worth every penny. Decisions are made within 15 business days. Your lawyer is provided a direct telephone number and email address for the office, and the specific officer, handling your matter (should any issue arise that needs attention). And if applicable, your family’s H4 applications will be processed along with the primary H-1B petition at no additional cost.

Family members can apply as dependents of the primary H-1B applicant. The fee is $300. See Form I-539.

Questions?

Determining H-1B filing fees can be very complicated business. The fee overview above is a good starting point. But there are always unanswered questions. Drop any more questions about H-1B fees in the comments below.

USCIS Chart Shows Huge Spikes in Naturalization and Green Card Applications

January 17th, 2008 4 comments

uscis-naturalization-delays-chart.gif
(Click to enlarge)

This USCIS chart was supplied today by Emilio Gonzalez, the USCIS Director, during a hearing on “NATURALIZATION DELAYS: CAUSES, CONSEQUENCES AND SOLUTIONS” before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law. The chart gives a breakdown of naturalization applications (N-400), adjustment of status applications (I-485) and all other USCIS applications filed from 1994 to 2008. Read more…

7th Year H-1B Extensions Under AC21 104(c) and 106(a) – Statutes and USCIS Guidance

January 16th, 2008 17 comments

This article should help you understand the process for extending H-1B status beyond the standard sixth year (a “7th year extension”). I am constantly referring to both the statutes and guidance listed below.

H-1B status can be extended beyond the sixth year in either 1 year or 3 year increments. You can thank the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act (AC21) for that. 7th Year H-1B extensions in 3 year increments = AC21 104(c). 7th Year H-1B extensions in 1year increments = AC21 106(a).

Here’s a quick table of contents to skip ahead.

1 Year H-1B Extension // AC21 106(a)

3 Year H-1B Extension // AC21 104(c)

I’ve cut passages from various USCIS memos that provide guidance on 7th year H-1B extensions under AC21 and pasted those passages directly below the statutes for quick reference.

1 Year H-1B Extension // Statute // AC21 106(a)

Sec. 106. Special Provisions in Cases of Lengthy Adjudications.

(a) Exemption From Limitation – The limitation contained in section 214(g)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC 1184(g)(4)) with respect to the duration of authorized stay shall not apply to any nonimmigrant alien previously issued a visa or otherwise provided nonimmigrant status under section 101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b) of that Act on whose behalf a petition under section 204(b) of that Act to accord the alien immigrant status under section 203(b) of that Act, or an application for adjustment of status under section 245 of that Act to accord the alien status under such section 203(b), has been filed, if 365 days or more have elapsed since —

(1) the filing of a labor certification application on the alient’s behalf (if such certification is required for the alien to obtain status under such section 203(b)); or
(2) the filing of the petition under such section 204(b).

(b) Extension of H-1B Worker Status – The Attorney General shall extend the stay of an alien who qualifies for an exemption under subsection (a) in one-year increments until such time as a final decision is made on the alien’s lawful permanent residence.


USCIS Guidance // Memos // AC21 106(a)

From Pearson Memo, June 2001:

E. AC21 106 — Special Provisions in Cases of Lengthy Adjudication

AC21 106 permits H-1B nonimmigrants to obtain an extension of H-1B status beyond the 6-year maximum period, when:

(a) the H-1B nonimmigrant is the beneficiary of an employment based (EB) immigrant petition or an application for adjustment of status; and
(b) 365 days or more have passed since the filing of a labor certification application, Form ETA 750, that is required for the alien to obtain status as an EB immigrant, or 365 days or more have passed since the filing of the EB immigrant petition.

The Attorney General is required to grant the extension of stay of such H-1B nonimmigrants in 1-year increments, until a final decision is made on the H-1B nonimmigrant’s lawful permanent residence.

1. Procedures for Obtaining Extension of Status in Cases of Lengthy Adjudication

In order for an H-1B nonimmigrant to receive an extension of stay under AC21 106 beyond the maximum 6-year limit, a petitioner must file a Form I-129 on behalf of the nonimmigrant beneficiary. The petitioner may be either the beneficiary’s current employer or a new employer. If the H-1B petition is approved, the petition will be valid for a period of 1 year. One-year extensions of the beneficiary’s H-1B status may continue until a final decision is made on the alien’s lawful permanent resident status. A petitioner is required to file a new Form I-129 and pay the $110 [now $320] filing fee for the request for a 1-year extension of status under AC21 106. Existing guidelines in the instructions to the Form I-129W for payment of the $1,000 [now $1,500] H-1B Nonimmigrant Petitioner Account Fee shall be followed. For example, if the petitioner is a nonprofit research organization or the petition is a second or subsequent request for extension of stay filed by that petitioner on behalf of that beneficiary, the petitioner is exempt from payment of the $1,000 [now $1,500] H-1B Nonimmigrant Petitioner Account Fee.

The status of a dependent of an H-1B nonimmigrant is derivative of and linked to the status of the principal H-1B nonimmigrant. Therefore, dependents are eligible for H-4 status upon the filing of an H- 1B petition on behalf of the principal alien, and the filing of a Form I-539 with filing fee and all necessary supporting documentation for the dependent. Dependents should be advised to file the Form I-539 concurrently, whenever possible, with the H- 1B petition filed on behalf of the principal H-1B nonimmigrant.


From Aytes Memo, May/November 2005:

II. Q & A ON PROCESSING OF H-1B PETITIONS UNDER THE EXTENSION PROVISION OF §106(A) ALLOWING EXTENSION PAST THE H-1B 6 YEAR LIMIT

Question 1. When an alien would otherwise be eligible for an H-1B extension, is it necessary to first file a Form I-129 requesting an extension of time to allow the beneficiary to complete or nearly complete the initial 6 years, and then file an additional Form I-129 requesting an extension of time beyond the 6 years?
Answer:
No. Section 106(a) of AC21 allows an alien to obtain an extension of H-1B status beyond the 6-year maximum period, when:

A. 365 days or more have passed since the filing of any application for labor certification, Form ETA 750, that is required or used by the alien to obtain status as an EB immigrant, or
B. 365 days or more have passed since the filing of an EB immigrant petition.

Once these requirements have been met, the alien may be granted an extension beyond the 6-yearmaximum on or prior to the date the alien reaches the 6-year maximum. Such extensions may only be granted in one-year increments, but may be requested on a single (combined) extension request for any remaining time left in the initial 6-year period. Requiring the filing of two extension petitions merely increases petitioner and CIS workloads, and has no basis in statute. In no case, however, may the total period of time granted on an extension exceed a cumulative total of 3 years. 8 CFR 214.2(h)(15)(ii)(B)(1).

Question 2. How early can a request for an H-1B extension beyond the 6th year be filed?
Answer:
The April 24, 2003 guidance memorandum is modified in the following manner: a petitioner must establish that the above criteria (see Question 1 outlining requirements under Section 106(a)) were or will be met either on or before the requested start date on the H-1B extension application. Thus, an alien is eligible for an extension of H-1B status beyond the 6th year as long as either the qualifying labor certification application or I-140 petition has or will have been pending for at least 365 days prior to the alien’s requested start date, regardless of whether the H-1B extension application was filed prior to the passage of such period If the alien would no longer be in H-1B status at the time that 365 days from the filing of the labor certification application or immigrant petition has run, thus leaving a gap in valid status, then the extension of stay request cannot be granted.

Question 3. Are there cases where an alien, who has been granted an H-1B extension beyond the 6th year, will nonetheless only be allowed to remain for the 6-year maximum period of stay?
Answer:
Yes. As addressed in the April 24, 2003 guidance memorandum, USCIS is required to grant the extension of stay request made under section 106(a) of AC21, in one-year increments, until such time as a final decision has been made to:

A. Deny the application for labor certification, or, if the labor certification is approved, to deny the EB immigrant petition that was filed pursuant to the approved labor certification;
B. Deny the EB immigrant petition, or
C. Grant or deny the alien’s application for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status.

Question 4. In a labor substitution context, can both the original alien and the substituted alien apply for an H-1B extension beyond the 6-year limit based on §106(a) of AC21?
Answer:
No. Only the “current” beneficiary (meaning the alien that was most recently substituted into the labor certification) is eligible to get an H-1B extension beyond the 6-year limit.

Question 5. Does a timely and non-frivolous I-140 appeal pending at the AAO allow an alien to request an H-1B extension beyond the 6-year limit?
Answer:
Subject to regulatory modification, as long as a decision may be reversed on direct appeal or certification to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), USCIS will not consider that decision final for this purpose.

Question 6. Should service centers or district offices deny a request for an H-1B extension beyond the 6-year limit where the labor certification was filed over 365 days ago, has been approved, but the I-140/I-485 has not yet been filed?
Answer:
No. Until further guidance is published, a request for an H-1B extension beyond the 6-year limit should not be denied on the sole basis that an I-140 petition has not yet been filed.

Question 7. Should service centers or district offices deny a request for an H-1B extension beyond the 6-year limit where the labor certification or immigrant petition from an employer who is not the H-1B petitioner was filed for the beneficiary more than 365 days ago?
Answer:
No. The statute does not require that the labor certification or immigrant petition must be from the same employer requesting the H-1B extension.

Question 8. Should service centers or district offices deny a request for an H-1B extension beyond the 6-year limit where the labor certification or the immigrant petition was filed over 365 days ago, but the H-1B nonimmigrant intends to consular process rather than adjust status?
Answer:
No.

Question 9. Are H-4 dependents eligible for an H extension beyond the 6-year limit?
Answer:
Yes. H-4 dependents are eligible for an extension of their H-4 status beyond the 6-year limit provided they meet the H-4 requirements and based on the principal (H-1B) alien’s eligibility for an H-1B extension beyond the 6-year limit. This includes cases where the dependent may have held another status prior to becoming an H-4 dependent. However, in order to qualify for an extension beyond the 6 year limit year of their own H-1B status, the alien must meet all the requirements independently of their H-1B spouse’s eligibility for a 7th year extension.

Question 10. What are the guidelines for processing 7th Year Extensions with the implementation of the new DOL PERM Program?
Answer:
Guidance on this subject will be provided via separate memorandum.


3 Year Extension // Statute // AC21 104(c)

Sec. 104(c) One-Time Protection Under Per Country Ceiling.

Nothwithstanding section 214(g)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC 1184(g)(4)), any alien who–

  1. is the beneficiary of a petition filed under section 204(a) of that Act for a preference status under paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of section 203(b) of that Act; and
  2. is eligible to be granted that status but for application of the per country limitation applicable to immigrants under those paragraphs may apply for, and the Attorney General may grant, an extension of such nonimmigrant status until the alien’s application for adjustment of status has been processed and a decision is made theron.

may apply for, and the Attorney General may grant, an extension of such nonimmigrant status until the alien’s application for adjustment of status has been processed and a decision is made theron.


USCIS Guidance // Memos // AC21 104(c)

From Pearson Memo, June 2001:

The AC21 104(c) enables H-1B nonimmigrants with approved I-140 petitions who are unable to adjust status because of per-country limits to be eligible to extend their H-1B nonimmigrant status until their application for adjustment of status has been adjudicated. An H-1B nonimmigrant is eligible for this benefit even if he or she has exhausted the maximum 6-year period of authorized stay for H-1B nonimmigrants under 8 U.S.C. 1184(g)(4), INA 214(g)(4). The statute states that the beneficiary must:

(a) have a petition filed on his or her behalf for a preference status under INA 203(b)(1), (2), or (3) (an employment based (“EB”) petition); and (b) be eligible to be granted that status except for the per-country limitations.

Any H-1B nonimmigrant who meets the statutory requirements above may be approved as the beneficiary of a request for an extension of H-1B nonimmigrant status until a decision is made on the nonimmigrant’s application for adjustment of status.

1. Procedure for processing “one-time protection” benefits

In order for a nonimmigrant to obtain an extension of H-1B nonimmigrant status under AC21 104(c), a petitioner must file a Form I- 129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with the appropriate signature, fees, and supporting documentation on behalf of the nonimmigrant. Existing guidelines in the instructions to the Form I-129W, “H-1B Data Collection and Filing Fee Exemption” for payment of the $1,000 H-1B Nonimmigrant Petitioner Account Fee shall be followed. For example, if the petitioner is a nonprofit research organization or the petition is a second or subsequent request for extension of stay filed by that petitioner on behalf of that beneficiary, the petitioner is exempt from payment of the $1,000 H-1B Nonimmigrant Petitioner Account Fee. If the petition and request for extension of stay are otherwise approvable, adjudicating officers shall not deny a petition because the nonimmigrant has exhausted the maximum 6-year limit provided for by INA 214(g)(4). Extensions of stay under AC21 104(c) shall be made in increments of three years.

The status of a dependent of an H-1B nonimmigrant is derivative of and linked to the status of the principal H-1B nonimmigrant. Therefore, dependents are eligible for H-4 status upon the filing of an H-1B petition on behalf of the principal alien and the filing of a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status with filing fee and all necessary supporting documentation for the dependent. Dependents should be advised to file the Form I-539 concurrently, whenever possible, with the H-1B petition filed on behalf of the principal H-1B nonimmigrant.


From Aytes Memo, May/November 2005:

III. Q & A ON PROCESSING OF H-1B PETITIONS UNDER THE “ONE-TIME PROTECTION UNDER PER COUNTRY CEILING” PROVISION OF §104(C) ALLOWING EXTENSION PAST THE H-1B 6-YEAR LIMIT

Question 1. Must an alien be the beneficiary of an approved I-140 petition in order to qualify for extension of H-1B status beyond the 6-year limit based on §104(c) of AC21?
Answer: Yes. Consistent with prior USCIS guidance on this subject, an approved I-140 petition is required in order for an alien to qualify for an extension of H-1B status beyond the 6-year limit under § 104(c).

Question 2. If an alien qualifies for an extension past the H-1B 6-year limit under §104(c), may an extension be granted for a period of up to three years?
Answer:
Yes, provided all other H-1B statutory and regulatory requirements are met (e.g., the petition must request three years, and include a Labor Condition Application covering such period).

Question 3. If an alien qualifies for an extension past the H-1B 6-year limit under §104(c), may more than one extension be granted?
Answer:
Yes. USCIS recognizes that in some cases, because of per country visa limitations, it may take more than three years for the alien to be eligible to adjust. Thus, despite the reference to a “onetime protection” a qualifying alien may be granted more than one extension under this provision.


That’s it! If you can help me improve the information above or have any questions, get in touch.

Categories: 7th Year H-1B Extensions Tags:

USCIS Memo on I-485 Porting After 180 Days Under AC21

January 11th, 2008 2 comments

This 2003 Yates Memo provides guidance on processing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, when the beneficiary of an approved Form I-140, Petition for Immigrant Worker, is eligible to change employers under Section 106(c) of AC21.

…if an alien is the beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 and is also the beneficiary of a Form I-485 that has been pending 180 days or longer, then the approved Form I-140 remains valid with respect to a new offer of employment under the flexibility provisions of Section 106(c) of AC21.

Accordingly, if the employer withdraws the approved Form I-140 on or after the date that the Form I-485 has been pending 180 days, the approved Form I-140 shall remain valid under the provisions of Section 106(c) of AC21. It is expected that the alien will have submitted evidence to the office having jurisdiction over the pending Form I-485 that the new offer of employment is in the same or similar occupational classification as the offer of employment for which the petition was filed…

Read the full USCIS memo on I-485 validity (.pdf).

Categories: Memos Tags: , , , ,

USCIS Deference For Visa Extensions With Limited Exceptions

January 11th, 2008 No comments

The deferential policy from a 2004 Yates Memo:

In matters relating to an extension of nonimmigrant petition validity involving the same parties (petitioner and beneficiary) and the same underlying facts, a prior determination by an adjudicator that the alien is eligible for the particular nonimmigrant classification sought should be given deference. A case where a prior approval need not be given deference includes where: (1) it is determined that there was a material error with regard to the previous petition approval; (2) a substantial change in circumstances has taken place; or (3) there is new material information that adversely impacts the petitioner’s or beneficiary’s eligilbity. Material error, changes circumstances, or new material information must be clearly articulated in the resulting request for evidence or decision denying the benefit sought, as appropriate.

Read the full USCIS memo in pdf format explaining deference for extensions (and exceptions).

Categories: Memos Tags: , ,