Employer registration for the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY 23) H-1B “cap” lottery opens at noon, eastern standard time, on March 1, 2022. The registration will run until noon, eastern standard time, on March 18, 2022. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) H-1B registration process is rooted in the annual limits on first-time H-1B petitions. The online mechanism is used to narrow the number of applicants, consistent with the annual limits.

The H-1B visa classification is widely used by US employers to sponsor degreed professionals. This category is commonly relied upon by employers of IT professionals and others in STEM fields. However, the category encompasses a wide range of other positions which require at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific field or narrow range of fields. Employers must identify their needs now to sponsor H-1B employees and initiate evaluation and preparation in order to register their case(s) before the registration deadline of March 18, 2022.Continue Reading H-1B Work Visa Cap Lottery Registration Opens March 1, 2022. Time for Employers to Prepare

The US Department of State has expanded the exceptions to in-person visa interview requirements for certain temporary visa applicants. The visa categories which benefit from these changes, effective December 23, 2021, include: H-1, H-3, H-4, L, O, P, and Q visas as well as F, M and academic J applicants.

As set forth below, the consular officers have discretion to waive standard interview requirements in these categories for individuals who have previously been issued visas in any category or traveled under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval. These changes, valid through December 31, 2022, are aimed at conserving limited consular resources and alleviating backlogs.Continue Reading Exceptions to In-Person Visa Interview Requirements at US Consulates Expanded for Temporary Visa Categories

Recent changes to US immigration policies and interpretations regarding employment eligibility should reduce uncertainties and delays for dependent spouses in the H-4, L-2, and E visa categories. The changes, which arise from a litigation settlement, are important and address two categories: i) employment authorization incident to status; and ii) 180-day automatic Employment Authorization Document (EAD) extensions. Spouses in the L-2 and E categories qualify for both of these changes. Work-authorized H-4 spouses qualify only for the 180-day EAD extension.
Continue Reading US Immigration Announces Employment Eligibility Changes for H-4, L-2 and E Spouses

On September 20, 2021, the Biden administration announced its intention to end all COVID-related geographic travel suspensions, beginning in November 2021. Travel suspensions are currently in place for Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Iran, the Schengen countries, South Africa, and the UK. In lieu of these restrictions, all travelers to the United States will be required to verify full COVID vaccination. The vaccination requirement is in addition to the current requirement that all individuals present proof of a negative COVID test as a condition of embarking on travel to the United States.
Continue Reading Travel Suspensions Ending: Vaccinations to be Required for Entry to United States

The Biden administration has reactivated a long-delayed immigration program for early-stage international entrepreneurs. The International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) is intended to benefit the US economy by filling a gap in US immigration options for individuals who are positioned to develop high-growth potential start-up companies. Under the IER, qualified entrepreneurial foreign nationals will be eligible to

With daily news reports of India’s current COVID crisis worsening, President Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation, effective May 4, 2021, suspending entry to the United States from India for individuals in temporary immigration statuses who have been present in India within the prior 14-day period. The travel restriction does not apply to US citizens or permanent residents or certain relatives of citizens and permanent residents. The Proclamation will remain in effect indefinitely, ending only upon termination by the president.

Economic Travel Suspensions End; Geographic Travel Suspensions Expand

With the change in presidential administrations, travel suspensions which created bars to entry to the United States for many immigration categories that were justified on the basis of economic protection have either been revoked or allowed to expire. (Details of these developments are set out in our February 25, 2021 and April 5, 2021 posts, Biden Administration Revokes Order Suspending Entry into the United States by New Green Card Holders | International Compliance Blog (steptoeinternationalcomplianceblog.com) and Entry Suspension on Temporary Work Visa Categories Ended | International Compliance Blog (steptoeinternationalcomplianceblog.com).) Conversely, health related travel suspensions which limit entry to the United States from designated countries or regions have expanded, with India being the latest addition.Continue Reading President Suspends Travel from India Effective May 4 Due to COVID Risks

The Presidential Proclamation prohibiting entry to the US by foreign nationals in key temporary, employment-based, immigration categories expired on March 31, 2021. As expected, the Biden administration permitted Presidential Proclamation 10052 to remain effective through to expiration, but did not extend the broad restrictions on certain H-1B (temporary professional), H-2B (temporary non-agricultural worker), J (exchange visitor) and L-1(intra-company transferee) foreign nationals. This reversal of a policy which began on June 22, 2020, is significant for multinational companies and others who rely upon foreign talent within the specified categories.

Economic Travel Suspension Background and Developments

The economic hardships experienced as a result of the COVID pandemic served as the basis for Presidential Proclamations limiting the ability of foreign nationals to enter the US in specific immigrant (permanent) and temporary (non-immigrant) immigration categories.  These broad Presidentially-created restrictions, precluded large numbers of foreign nationals who otherwise met existing legal and regulatory immigration requirements from obtaining visas and/or entering the US. As of March 31, 2021, both restrictions have ended.

We discussed the termination of the economically-based immigrant suspension in our February 25, 2021 Client Alert, Biden Administration Revokes Order Suspending Entry into the United States by New Green Card Holders. As noted in that Alert, the President proactively revoked the immigrant (green card) suspension, but allowed the non-immigrant (H-1B, H-2B, J and L-1) restrictions to remain in place. With the passage of time (and with the absence of an extension) the non-immigrant restrictions are now seemingly safely in the past.Continue Reading Entry Suspension on Temporary Work Visa Categories Ended

The Biden administration continues to undo the expansive immigration restrictions put in place by the former president. The latest measure to fall: Presidential Proclamation 10014, an economically-based suspension initiated on April 22, 2020, which barred many new permanent residents from entering the United States as permanent residents (“green card holders”). The Presidential Action of February 24, 2021 puts an immediate end to this twice-extended suspension in advance of its slated expiration date of March 31, 2021.

Economic Travel Suspension: Extensions and Impact

As explained in our April 23, 2020 Client Alert, “COVID-19 Immigration Suspension Proclamation Has Limited Scope,” the impact of  Proclamation 10014 was initially muted due to the practical realities of consular closures. However, in time, its broad provisions and the freeze on action on these cases created substantial backlogs, family separation, and notable litigation related to the time-bound immigrant visa lottery category. The impact to visa lottery candidates, who lose visa eligibility if their cases are not processed within set fiscal year time frames, was specifically mentioned in the revocation of Proclamation 10014. The revocation stated that Proclamation 10014 (and subsequent extensions) harmed the United States, rather than advancing national interests. The harm cited was both family separation and economic harm to industries which depend upon global talent.Continue Reading Biden Administration Revokes Order Suspending Entry into the United States by New Green Card Holders

Two important actions by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have provided clarity on the process and time frame for employers to register for the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY 22) “cap” lottery on H-1B temporary work visas. The H-1B visa classification is familiar to many US employers, as it is used for a multitude of professional positions across many industries, most notably IT and other STEM-based positions.

Employers who need to sponsor recent college graduates or other foreign nationals under the H-1B cap must prepare now for the March 2021 limited registration period. The demand in the H-1B, temporary professional worker category, greatly outpaces annual limits.Continue Reading Client Alert: Biden Administration Clarifies Process for H-1B Work Visa Cap

The Biden administration has taken an important step to stabilize employment eligibility within the H-4 immigration category.

On January 25, President Biden terminated the prior administration’s unfinished efforts to end H-4 eligibility for Employment Authorization Documents (EADs). This action by the Biden administration is consistent with the President’s January 21, 2021 Regulatory Freeze of unpublished rule making left over from the prior administration. The beneficiaries of this action include the US businesses which employ the approximately 100,000 work-authorized H-4 visa holders. As explained below, in recognition of the value of this largely well-educated workforce, the Biden administration plans to further secure and expand H-4 employment eligibility benefits.Continue Reading President Biden Acts to Stabilize H-4 EAD Workforce, Extend Employment Eligibility for Spouses of H-1B Workers