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Past Articles

2016 ()

New Green Card Laws 
In an exciting announcement the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released information regarding revisions for determining visa availability for those waiting to file an adjustment of status (i.e. green card) application. The revisions implement a highly anticipated part of the November 2014 Obama immigration Executive Actions: early green card application filings, which we discussed in our December 1, 2014 bLAWg post.

Starting with the October 2015 Visa Bulletin and going forward, there will be two charts each for employment- and family-based preference category. The first chart, called Application Final Action Dates, provides the dates when green card applications are eligible for decision. The second chart, Dates for Filing Applications, tells you the earliest date when a green card application can be filed. Here is an example:

APPLICATION FINAL ACTION DATES Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 2.51.43 PM

DATES FOR FILING APPLICATIONS Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 2.52.44 PM
Although your application will not be eligible for a decision right away, since the Final Action Date for EB-3 India is March 8, 2004, your application will remain pending. While the application is pending, you will be eligible to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and Advance Parole Travel Document (AP), and can continue to renew those as long as your application remains pending.

Looking at these charts, if you were born in India and have an employment-based third preference (EB-3) I-140 petition approved, pending, or eligible for filing, with a priority date of July 1, 2005 or earlier, you will be eligible to file your green card application as of October 1, 2015 (i.e. the date the Visa Bulletin goes into effect).

This new Visa Bulletin process will allow DOS to more accurately predict overall visa demand and better determine the appropriate dates for upcoming Visa Bulletins. Additionally, the new process is expected to greatly reduce typical month-to-month fluctuations in the Visa Bulletin. Hopefully this will lead to maximum number of green cards issued to intending U.S. immigrants.

Interested in filing for your green card? Questions on whether you qualify? Need more explanation of what a Visa Bulletin tells us? GoffWilson is here for you! Contact our office today for more information.

 OPT STEM ending

On August 12, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision, Washington Alliance of Technology Workers v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, impacting employees working pursuant to Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) and their employers.

According to the decision, the 2008 immigration rule, which allowed OPT individuals to request a 17-month extension of their OPT status based on having a degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (“STEM”) field, was procedurally invalid. The court held that the passage of the rule did not follow mandatory federal administrative rulemaking procedures. Therefore, the court vacated the rule.

Due to the tremendous impact this stands to have on OPT workers and employers, the court stayed the vacatur until February 12, 2016, which means the current rule will remain in effect until that date.

During the next 6 months, the situation is expected to be remedied by the passing of a new administrative rule allowing for continued OPT STEM Extensions. However, if a new rule is not passed prior to February 12, 2016, those currently in the U.S. pursuant to a STEM Extension may be ineligible to continue working. Additionally, those in 12-month OPT status will be ineligible to apply for a 17-month STEM Extension. As of now, individuals are permitted to continue working in OPT status.

Stay tuned for updates on the decision and its impact, as well as the new rule, if and when promulgated. Questions on the decision or interested in moving from OPT to another immigration status? GoffWilson can assist you! Contact our office today.

On April 9, 2015, the Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO”) issued a precedent-setting decision, Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC, impacting H-1B workers and their employers.  According to the decision, a change in the work location of an H-1B worker now requires the filing of an amended H-1B petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).  Previously, H-1B employers were permitted to simply file a new Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) for a change in H-1B work location.  Under Simeio, this practice is no longer allowed.

Each amended H-1B filing requires a $325.00 filing fee to the USCIS.  Additionally, amended H-1B petitions are subject to the same rigorous scrutiny as any new H-1B petition submission and require the same extensive documentation, such as proof of client contracts for H-1B workers stationed offsite.  Furthermore, if the amended petition is approved, the H-1B expiry date will remain the same as the original H-1B.  Thus, employers could end up filing multiple H-1B petitions for the same authorized work period.  For businesses that require H-1B employees to frequently change work locations, this new rule could mean processing changes and advanced planning for the employers.

It is important to note, however, that a work location change within a normal commuting distance from the location listed in the existing H-1B petition remains unaffected by Simeio.  There is no specific measure of distance defining a normal commuting distance—it depends on the circumstances in the individual work location area.  Not sure whether you require an amended H-1B petition or other possible ways around this new requirement? The GoffWilson team is here to help. Contact our office today for assistance. Immigration is what we do!

On April 13, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced that nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions were received for fiscal year 2016 which begins on October 1, 2015.  The number tops last year’s record by more than 60,000 petitions. This is an indication of the number of positions in the US that are a specialty occupation where the US Employer seeks to fill with a foreign worker. As a result of the high number of filings, USCIS conducted a computer-generated random selection process (i.e. lottery) to choose which of the petitions would be considered for an H-1B visa.  Given that there are only 85,000 H-1B visas available under the statutory cap, including 20,000 specifically reserved for U.S. Master’s degree recipients, thousands of talented foreign workers will be denied the opportunity to live, work in the U.S. and contribute to our society.  All non-selected H-1B petitions will be returned to the petitioners, along with the filing fees later in May or June.

USCIS also issued an update to its earlier projection of premium processing timelines for those chosen in the lottery on April 14, 2015, stating that the 15-day processing period for premium processing cap-subject H-1B petitions will begin on April 27, 2015.  This start date will apply regardless of the receipt date listed on the H-1B petition receipt notice.

USCIS will continue to accept and process cap-exempt H-1B petitions, including petitions to extend or amend existing H-1B status, change employers, or concurrently work for a second employer.

Interested in filing a cap-exempt H-1B petition? Contact GoffWilson today for assistance. We are the immigration pros.

GoffWilson will conduct the popular training seminar for employers and human resource professionals, Advance Your I-9 Skills — 2015 I-9 Workshop on June 11, 2015 in Concord.

Always sold out, the training workshop will take place on the first Thursday in June from 8 a.m. to noon at the Delta Dental Auditorium in Concord, NH. Participants earn three Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) continuing education credit hours for completing the training.


The registration fee for the seminar is $115, which includes intensive Form I-9 training, the updated 2015 version of the GoffWilson proprietary I-9 manual, breakfast, and three hours of HRCI credit. Early registration is recommended as space is limited.

To purchase tickets, head to the Eventbrite listing.


8 AM: Registration and breakfast

8:30 AM: Seminar begins—Introduction

8:45 AM: Intensive Training Part I: Completing the I-9 Form

  • Overview
  • Lists of Acceptable Documents
  • Receipt Rule Samples and Establishing Office Procedures

10 AM: Break

10:15 AM: Intensive Training Part II: Retention and Maintenance

  • Issue Spotting, Retention Requirements, Social Security
  • No-Match Letters, E-Verify requirement
  • Federal Contractor, I-9 Compliance Resource Guide

11:45 AM: Questions and Answers

12 PM: End of seminar

How To Get H1-B Visa

If you are looking to sponsor an H-1B employee this year, you still have a chance. But don’t delay! The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced yesterday that it will accept H-1B visa petitions filed during the first 5 business days of April.

Therefore, as long as your H-1B petition filing is received by April 7, 2015, you still have a chance at being selected in the lottery (i.e. the computerized random selection process used by USCIS to fill the H-1B CAP).

As discussed in our February 17th bLAWg post, the H-1B CAP is the available quota of new H-1B visas for each fiscal year.  USCIS will accept 85,000 H-1B petitions in the CAP, with 20,000 being reserved for U.S. Master’s degree recipients.  Premium processing (i.e. expedited processing, which results in a quicker case decision in 15 days) is available on the petitions for an extra $1,225.00 fee.

Should you decide to file your H-1B petition using premium processing, you will not necessarily have a better chance in the lottery; however, you will know whether your petition has been selected much sooner.  USCIS announced on March 12, 2015 that it will begin processing selected premium petitions no later than May 11, 2015.

Willing to try your luck in the H-1B lottery? Contact GoffWilson today for assistance. We are here for you.

In our recent bLAWg post on December 10, 2014, we mentioned the possibility of work authorization being extended to certain H-4 dependents in the near future.

As we predicted, H-4 work authorization has been enacted and, beginning May 26, 2015, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be accepting Applications for Employment Authorization for eligible individuals.

To qualify, applicants must:
  1. Be in valid H-4 status; and
  2. Have a spouse in valid H-1B status, who has either an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, or an approved Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, granting H-1B status past the six-year limitation.

It is important to note that applicants will not be permitted to commence employment until the Application for Employment Authorization is approved and an Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card) is issued.

Processing times are expected to range from 3–5 months. Need assistance with filing for H-4 work authorization?

GoffWilson is here to help! Please contact our office today for more information.

April 1st, the opening day for filing H-1B visa petitions, is just around the corner. Arguably the most sought-after nonimmigrant visa, the H Visa is available for professionals to work in a specialty occupation (i.e. requiring a Bachelor’s degree or higher).

Looking to Hire an H-1B Employee?

If you are an employer seeking to hire one of these professionals, you better act fast as there are only 85,000 new H-1B visas available each fiscal year—broken down as 20,000 for individuals possessing a U.S. Master’s degree or higher and 65,000 for all other applicants possessing a Bachelor’s degree.

The H-1B CAP

This quota is referred to as the H-1B CAP. Last year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received approximately 172,500 CAP-subject H petitions and the predictions for this year are even higher!

If the number of petitions filed with USCIS on April 1st exceeds the available amount of H-1B visas, which is very likely given the improving economy and lack of highly skilled workers in the US, a random selection lottery will be conducted.

Benefits of H-1B Visa for Employers

Even with the lottery, you still want to file for an H Visa as the benefits outweigh the risks: your employee will receive a 3-year H-1B visa, which can be renewed for an additional 3 years.

Additionally, H-1B visas allow for dual-intent, which means you can sponsor your employee for permanent residency (i.e. green card) and they can continue working for your company in the U.S. without interruption.

How to File an H-1B Petition

Complete H-1B petition packages include the required USCIS forms and filing fees, a Labor Condition Application (LCA), information surrounding the employer and the offered position, and documentation regarding the employee.

Not sure where to begin? Contact the GoffWilson H-1B Team for assistance. Our office has successfully assisted thousands of employers and employees with their H-1B petitions. Contact us today for more information and be a winner all the way around!

US Canada Employment Program

Are you a U.S. employer interested in hiring a Canadian citizen? Are you a Canadian citizen interested in pursuing U.S. employment? This year, the process may become easier.

On January 8, 2015, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its consideration of a “Known Employer” Pilot Program. The program would create a more efficient adjudication process for certain types of employment-based immigration petitions filed by eligible employers.

The program would also reduce costs, paperwork, and delays related to petition processing. Another goal of the program is to expedite legitimate cross-border business travel between Canada and the U.S.

DHS is expected to commence the Pilot Program by late 2015.

Need immigration assistance? GoffWilson is here to help! Please contact our office today for more information.

H-4 Work Authorization

Is employment authorization for H-4 nonimmigrants a reality?

Not just yet, but it is getting closer.

By definition, individuals holding an H-4 visa are dependent family members of those in H-1B status (nonimmigrant professionals with specialized knowledge). Typically, H-4 visa holders are not allowed to work while in that status.

In May 2014, the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule in the Federal Register pertaining to employment authorization for certain H-4 dependent spouses. The rule proposes to amend existing regulations to allow employment authorization for H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status in the United States.

If the rule is enacted, H-4 nonimmigrants would need to apply for employment authorization using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

The comment period on the proposed rule ceased in July 2014. Many organizations and individuals submitted comments during the open period, with over 13,000 comments received. Most comments called for an expansion of the proposed rule to allow ALL H-4 nonimmigrants, not only those with a spouse, to apply for employment authorization. Comments also suggested H-4 dependent children should be included.

In August 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) Director, Leon Rodriguez, stated that USCIS is reviewing the comments received and plans to complete the review process as quickly as possible. Thus far, no further update has been issued. However, with the midterm elections behind us, we think a change may be coming very soon.

We at GoffWilson are watching this important development closely for all our affected clients and we will keep you informed on all developments relating to H-4 work authorization as we learn anything.

Please check our bLAWg for all the latest news and updates on changes in immigration rules and regulations that may affect you and or your family members. If you have any questions, please contact us for more information.

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