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Employment Immigration

Employment Immigration, Family Immigration, Fees, Naturalization

New Year, New Immigration Fees and Forms

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2017! A new year is a time for goals and resolutions, which may include applying for US citizenship, renewing a green card, or meeting with an attorney to discuss available immigration paths.

Applicants should be aware that USCIS is beginning the new year with recently updated fees and forms for almost all immigration cases.  Continue Reading

Employment Immigration, F-1, Family Immigration, OPT, Student Visa

OPT is almost finished, what’s next?

Q: I’m on an F-1 OPT visa right now after completing my master’s degree. My OPT finishes in August and I’d like to stay longer. What options would I have?

A:Congratulations on completing your master’s degree, and I hope your OPT internship is going well.

Yes, this is a common situation for F-1 students. As you are likely aware, it does not sound like you would be eligible for a STEM OPT extension, even if you have stem-based OPT since your current program is not valid for an additional 150 days. You may have a few options, though.  Continue Reading
Employment Immigration, H-1b

H-1b cap completed for 2017

236,000 apply for H-1b visas, about 1 in 3 will be approved

On April 7th, 2016, USCIS announced it had completed the H-1b cap random selection process. The H-1b visa allows certain foreign national workers holding a bachelor’s or higher-level degree or  to be temporarily employed in the US. Employers apply for the visa on behalf of foreign national employees, and the visa allows the employee to work for that employer.

H-1b visas are capped at 65,000 plus an additional 20,000 for applicants with US master’s degrees. As the number of applicants usually exceeds 85,000, USCIS uses a lottery system to select petitions to approve. This year USCIS received 236,000 applications for H-1b visas, so only about 1 in 3 will be approved. The number of applicants only increased a small amount from last year, as shown in the table below. Continue Reading

Citizenship/Naturalization, Employment Immigration, Family Immigration, Naturalization

Overcoming trips outside the US when applying for Naturalization

Q: I applied for US citizenship by submitting the n-400, but I have 2 trips within the last 5 years that lasted 9 months. What can I do?

A: Among many other requirements, those who apply for naturalization need to show they meet continuous residence and physical presence.

Continuous Residence means the applicant has resided in the US for 5 years before applying, or resided continuously for 3 years if he or she is a qualified spouse of a US Citizen. Trips outside the US that last more than 6 months can disrupt continuous residence, as can trips longer than 1 year.

Physical Presence means the applicant was physically present in the US more than half of the time. Applicants need to show they were present in the US for thirty months or more within the last 5 years (or 18 months out of the last 3 years for qualified spouses of US Citizens.) Also, US law requires that applicants have resided for at least 3 months in state where they apply for naturalization before submitting the application.

Since you mentioned two trips that were between 6 months and 1 year, this response will focus on continuous residence, though you should also check to make sure you meet physical presence requirements. This information is meant to be general and review the most common situations. For specific advice related to your case, be sure to speak with a qualified immigration attorney. Continue Reading

Employment Immigration, Family Immigration, Green Card

My Green Card is expired. Have I lost my permanent residence status? What should I do?

Q: My Green Card is expired. Have I lost my permanent residence status? What should I do?

A. Your status as a permanent resident does not change just because your card is expired. You remain a permanent resident unless your status is terminated by “final administrative order of exclusion, deportation, removal, or rescission (8 CFR § 1001.1(p)). Also, an expired permanent resident card only shows that a person’s card has expired. It does not show that the person’s work authorization has expired (8 CFR § 274a.12(a)(1)).

Continue Reading

Adjustment of Status, Employment Immigration, J visa

Working as an Au Pair on a J visa — host family wants to sponsor me to stay permanently

I’m working as an Au Pair on a J visa. My host family would like to sponsor me as a permanent resident. Can they help me stay in the US permanently?

Probably not. An employer can sponsor a foreign national for permanent residence in only very specific cases. The employee needs to meet specific requirements (example: exceptional ability, outstanding professor, or employment that requires a bachelor degree and there are no qualified US workers available for the position. See more here.

Also, as a J1 visa holder, you may be subject to the two-year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement based on section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

You may have other options for remaining in the US. You should consult with an immigration attorney who could review your options and history and goals in detail. Good luck!

Adjustment of Status, Employment Immigration, Family Immigration

*UPDATE* October 2015 visa bulletin helps with backlog

***UPDATE 9/25/2015

[From American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)]

Update: On September 25, 2015, the Department of State published a revised Visa Bulletin for October, rolling back the “Dates for Filing” for several visa categories. This “Revised September 25, 2015″ Visa Bulletin supersedes the previous Visa Bulletin for October, which was published on September 9, 2015.

Please note that the following “Dates for Filing” have changed:

Category (9/9/15)
Filing Date
NEW (9/25/15)
Filing Date
EB-2 China 5/1/2014 1/1/2013 1 year, 5 months
EB-2 India 7/1/2011 7/1/2009 2 years
EB-3 Philippines 1/1/2015 1/1/2010 5 years
FB-1 Mexico 7/1/1995 4/1/1995 3 months
FB-3 Mexico 10/1/1996 5/1/1995 1 year, 5 months


October 2015 Visa Bulletin allows some to apply to adjust status years before priority dates are current

The October 2015 visa bulletin has something new to help with backlogged categories! It includes separate charts with new dates for employment-based (EB) and family-based preferences who are adjusting status in the US. Starting October 1st, these I-485 adjustment applicants can apply to adjust status based on dates from this new chart. Those filing for the adjustment of status will be able to apply for work permits, social security numbers, and Advance Parole travel documents. Note, however, that although these individuals can apply to adjust status, they will still need to wait for the priority dates to become current before USCIS will approve the adjustment to permanent resident.

For example, citizens of India in the EB-2 category can use the priority date of 7/1/2011 to apply for an adjustment of status, rather than waiting to apply for adjustment based on the 5/1/2005 date. When applying for the adjustment of status, applicants can apply at the same time for work permits and travel documents. These applicants would then wait for green card approval until the priority date became current (by watching section A of the employment-based preferences, which currently has a date of 5/1/2005). However, during the wait, they could have a pending I-485, a work permit and a travel document.

See more information from Lexology, and from the National Law Review.

Employment Immigration, F-1, Student Visa

I have an F-2 visa. How can I join a masters program or seek a job?

Question: I have an F-2 visa. How can I join a masters program or seek a job? I passed nursing License exam NCLEX but I am unable to get license because I don’t have a SSN.  I need a nursing license to get admitted into a Master’s of Nursing program.

You’re correct that you won’t be able to obtain a SSN and can’t work while in F-2 status. One idea is to try to explain your situation to admissions at the Nursing school. Maybe they will be able to admit you and issue a new I-20 first — either to the Masters program, or a different program that would help prepare you for the Masters. Then you can apply for the SSN after you’ve been admitted and reported to the school. Talk to the school – in fact, talk to several schools to see what they will do, then you could discuss the different options from the schools with an immigration attorney.

Employment Immigration

I heard the H-1B cap was met for 2016. What does this mean?

On April 7th, 2015, USCIS completed its H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for H-1B visas. The H-1B visa allows certain foreign national workers holding a bachelor’s degree to be temporarily employed in the US. The employer applies for the visa on behalf of the foreign national, and employment based on the H-1B visa is limited to the sponsoring employer.

H-1B visas are capped at 65,000 with an additional 20,000 given to applicants with a master’s degree. Because the number of applicants exceeds 85,000, USCIS uses a lottery system to select petitions to approve. If approved, the employee can begin work as soon as October 1st, and USCIS returns filing fees for those not selected in the lottery. During the last 3 years, the number of H-1B applicants has been rising quickly. Here’s a breakdown of recent number of applicants for the last 3 years:

  • Fiscal Year 2016
    • 233,000 H-1B applications received
    • 85,000 awarded (20,000 for master’s degree holders)
  • 1 year ago
    • 172,500 H-1B applications received
    • 85,000 awarded (20,000 for master’s degree holders)
  • 2 years ago
    • 124,000 H-1B applications received
    • 85,000 awarded (20,000 for master’s degree holders)

For the many qualified H-1B applicants who don’t receive a visa in the lottery, there may be other options for living or working in US. Certain educational and non-profit employers can file cap-exempt H-1B petitions. Also, some foreign nationals may be eligible for another employment-based or family-based immigration path. Talk with an experienced immigration attorney to review your options.