Recently, the DOS introduced a new on-line portal where you can check the status of both immigrant and non-immigrant petitions pending at U.S. Consulates worldwide.
The DOS has released the February Visa bulletin and there are no surpises. The world-wide EB3 category continues to move at a pace of 6 weeks per month and both EB2 and EB3 categories for PRC nationals show movement in excess of 1 month but, there was only a 1 week forward movement for EB3 India and EB3 Philippines and no movement for EB2 India.
Effective Jan 22,2013, the USCIS will begin implementing a new policy manual designed to create consistency among its adjudicators in different field offices and service centers. What a novel concept ? Of course, anyone that believes the introduction of a new policy manual will stop the service centers, particularly the California Service Center from simply ignoring USCIS HQ directives and applying its own set of policies and positions, has probably also considered investing in oceanfront property in Nebraska. The CSC and to a lesser degree the VSC have long traditions of ignoring HQ directives and until HQ shows some teeth and demands conformity, the introduction of a new manual is nothing but window dressing.
Last week, the Information Technology Industry Council, Partnership for a New American Economy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a new study, “Help Wanted The Role Of Foreign Workers In The Innovation Economy”. At a time when the focus of the U.S. Congress is on providing amnesty (a path to citizenship) for millions of undocumented persons, we need the message to be heard of the dire need for improvement and greater access to foreign talent so important to innovation. Check out the study; it is short and pass it onto your Congressmen and tell them how foreign workers have helped your business grow or if you are a foreign entrepreneur or innovator, tell them your story.
The DOS has released the January Visa Bulletin and for persons in the EB3 category “all chargeability except” and for persons from PRC, the news was good as the priority dates jumped forward. For persons from India and the Phillipines, there remained little to no forward progress. The lack of movement for the EB3 category for persons from the Philippines was particularly disheartening as the DOS had been predicting movement of up to three (3) weeks each month. There was no explanation from the DOS for the lack of movement.
Earlier this week, the USCIS released a report which provided data on H-1b cap cases filed from FY 2009-FY 2011. What’s most interesting about this report are 2 things: 1. the small number of denials reported and 2. the almost precise arrival at 85,00 each year. Now, I am not a conspiracy theorist but, it is odd that this latest report is significantly different than the data that the USCIS was forced to release pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this fall and reported by our friend and fellow immigration attorney Greg Siskind. Which report is correct ? We can count on the fact that our government never miscounts nor lies to us so we must just be reading the charts wrong !
With the announcement two weeks ago of the availabilty for certain H and L holders to have their visas re-stamped without an interview, many of us are hopeful that there has been a shift by the U.S. Consulates in India regarding the treatment of professionals working in the U.S. The last several years have seen a tremendous and unquestioned abuse of power by the US Consulates in India (and to a lesser extent in Manila) in the handling of H and L visa applicants. The U.S. Consulates have shown a propensity to re-adjudicate petitions and substitute their judgement for those of USCIS officials without any statutory or regulatory basis. Unfortunately, their interpretation of USCIS and DOL regulations, of which they have never been trained, left a lot to be desired. Whether their backlash against H and L holders was simply a reaction to the recession and high rate of unemployment or whether it was the result of a directive from the current Administration is open to conjecture. Nonetheless, 221g notices became the bane of visa applicants and U.S. employers. Often these requests called for documentation and information that was wholly irrelevant and to many, simply designed to harass and discourage visa applicants. Among the requests that we often saw, sought records of all of the employees of a U.S. company including personal information, job titles, job descriptions, salaries, etc. Even when a U.S. employer was able to provide the information requested, the U.S. Consulates often took 6 months or more to review the additional information. A visa delayed is a visa denied. We recognize that the U.S. Consulates have a tough job but, in this blogger’s humble opinion, their job would be much easier if they focused on doing their job and stopped trying to do the job of the DOL and USCIS. Let’s hope this new policy is but the first step in a return to the fair and legal treatment of H and L visa applicants in India.