Visa Delays World Wide
The Department of State (DOS) has announced that due to a central computer hardware problem, visa issuance has temporarily stopped.
Applicants interviewed after June 9 will experience delay. DOS recently indicated that they believe the problem will take a week to resolve. However, visa issuance may not catch up for a few weeks if past experience in similar problems is any guide.
The system affected is the one that checks visa applicants' backgrounds for national security purposes. Visas in any category may not be issued without security background checks except in the case of dire emergency.
Applicants may be contacted to delay visa appointments or may have appointments but have to wait for the visa to be issued. If needed, passports can be returned during the waiting period.
Those traveling to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days may usually reenter the U.S. without a visa if they have not applied for a new visa. However, exceptions do apply, so as always, check with immigration counsel before traveling.
While it is possible for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to waive the visa requirement, this will only be done in an unusual situation and you should not count on this discretion. If refused entry, you will face a very unpleasant experience in what is basically detention at the airport and be sent back on the next return flight.
H-1B Cap Update
We have begun to receive rejections for those cases that were not chosen in the H-1B lottery. We will notify our clients to stop work if you are on Optional Practical Training (OPT) cap gap extension. We have notified those who were selected and we can expect rejections if you have not been notified of receipt (although we did have one pleasant surprise this year so far).
H-1B Premium Processing Suspension
To address the need for resources for H-4 work permit issuance, premium processing has been suspended until July 27 for H-1B extension requests. The suspension does not affect changes of status, amendment or consular processing petitions.
One effect of this change is the inability to receive a decision in time to renew a driver's license. In Iowa, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will give 60-day renewals if you bring your original receipt. If you do not have the original receipt, the DOT will accept a copy received directly from an attorney. However, you may need to ask to speak to a supervisor in this instance.
H-1B Location Change Guidance
After years of inconsistent guidance on what to do when a person working in H-1B status changes job location, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has announced new binding guidance.
If the move is in the same metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or place of intended employment (as defined in the regulations) then no H-1B amendment is needed, but the existing Labor Condition Application (LCA) must be posted at the new worksite before the transfer.
If the move is outside the MSA, then not only is a new LCA needed, but also an H-1B amendment must be filed.
Because USCIS recognizes this guidance as a change in policy, employers are given until August 19 to come into compliance.
The guidance notes that certain situations are not a change of location, including non-worksite locations or short-term placements.
Also, work at the new location may commence "immediately" according to the guidance. However, we recommend waiting until a receipt is received to be sure the amendment has been accepted to avoid an inadvertent violation.
USCIS will not penalize those employers that acted contrary to the guidance if a correction is made by August 19, 2015. While we are trying to identify any affected H-1B workers among our clients, please let us know if you think you or your workers are affected so we can file any amendment needed by August 19.