A Report on the Current State of Immigration Reform

Last week one of our partners, Tara Goldsmith, attended the Council for Global Immigration Symposium in Washington, DC.

Our annual participation at this event provides us with some key insights into immigration related issues that companies doing business in the US continually face. It also provides the opportunity for us to meet with key personnel from the Department of Labor, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of State, as well as congressional leaders who are very involved in trying to pass immigration reform.

While the mood at last year’s conference was optimistic and hopeful, unfortunately this year, the general message is that the likelihood of passing some type of immigration reform in the near future is very small.

The small window to pass bipartisan immigration reform in the US House of Representatives is only this June and July, because of the Congressional August recess, and before the political considerations which control the November midterm elections.

While impossible to summarize everything that was discussed, here is some practical information that Tara wanted to share: 

  • As we all know, I-94 cards are no longer issued at the border upon reentry into the US. There is now an automated system that is accessed online. In May 2014, USCIS made some changes to the website, and it should now be easier for foreign nationals to obtain their record and get a history of their admissions into the US. Typically the website is updated between 24-48 hours after admission. Best practice is for foreign nationals to obtain their records as soon as possible so that, if a mistake has been made on the entry data, it can be identified and corrected immediately.

  • Department of Labor is seeing a reduction in the number of permanent Labor Certification Applications filed than in years past. Processing times remain pretty consistently at 7-8 months.

  • Department of State (DOS) provided projections regarding immigrant visa numbers availability. As you may know, there is a statutory limit to the number of immigrant visas (green cards) that are issued in an immigration fiscal year. For the EB2 India category, projection is to reach an early 2009 priority date as of August 2014, and late 2009 as of September 2014. Unfortunately, EB3 India is likely to move just about one week per month for the next few months, causing an even greater backlog. The good news from DOS is that they have been working very hard at the Consular posts to reduce the wait time for an appointment abroad for a non-immigrant immigration visa application. In the past, it could take 2-3 months just to get an appointment. Now, 80% of the Consulates are reporting a less-than-3-week wait (and this includes busy consulates such as Beijing, São Paulo, and many posts in India). That said, we still always recommend to our clients to plan their consular appointments and trips abroad with as much notice as possible.

  • USCIS is very optimistic that the final rule regarding employment for certain H4 spouses will be implemented soon. They are currently in the comment period, and they received a significant number of comments to the rule. While the proposed rule is still somewhat limited (only spouses of H1B workers that are at a certain stage of the green card process are eligible to apply), we are hopeful that, if enacted, this might impact the number of H1B petitions filed next year, and thereby increase the likelihood for our clients obtaining an H1B number. 

We hope our participation at this type of symposium, as well as our involvement at industry events, allows us to stay ahead of the curve and provide you with updated and relevant information.

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