h-1b

Always Remember to Withdraw the H-1B of Employees Who Leave You

On August 1, 2016, a Dept. of Labor Judge ordered ME Global Inc. to pay a former engineer almost $183,000 in back wages. The Judge determined that the employer did not properly notify immigration officials when it fired the H-1B worker in 2008. As you probably know, immigration laws require employers to notify USCIS of the termination of H-1B employees.

Judge Almanza noted that the statute of limitations clock starts on the last date the employer failed to fulfill a condition of the labor condition application and therefore ME Global had “benched” their employee, placing an H-1B worker in a nonproductive status. This meant there was a continuing violation and the employee’s complaint to the wage and hour divisions was timely as long as it was filed within one year of when he left the U.S.

This holding is just another reminder that when an H-1B employee leaves your employment you must notify USCIS and withdraw the H-1B petition your company filed on their behalf.

H1-B and L-1 Reform Bill Introduced

On July 8, 2016, Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat – New Jersey, introduced legislation Thursday designed to “overhaul” the H1-B and L-1 visa programs. H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2016, or H.R. 5657. The bill is being introduced under the guise of protecting workers and cracking down on foreign outsourcing companies that “take high-skill jobs away from Americans.”

Two of the more concerning provisions of the bill include: Requiring employers to conduct a labor market test before hiring H-1B workers and prohibiting companies from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people and if more than half of their workers are H-1B and L-1 visa holders!

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who previously introduced a similar version of the measure in 2010. So, hopefully like last time this bill does not gain enough traction in Congress to move forward. Nonetheless, it is still worrisome to hear that these changes are be given any kind of consideration.

H-1b changes coming ?

Computerworld reported on a discussion in the House on major changes to the H-1b visa and immigrant visas. No bill has been released yet and we are obviously a long way from any change but, at least people known for reasonable stances on business immigration are putting forth ideas. We will keep you updated as information becomes available.

Four Defendants Charged with H1B Visa Fraud

On May 5, 2016, in a California federal court, four people have been charged with conspiring to submit more than 100 fake H-1B visa applications. The prosecution alleges that, “the defendants … knew, these purported end-client companies did not have jobs for the defendants’ H-1B workers, the defendants did not intend to place those workers at those end-client companies, and none of those workers were placed at those end-client companies.” The Department of Justice goes on to say that between 2010 and 2014, a husband and wife used their employment-staffing companies DS Soft Tech and Equinett to sponsor temporary nonimmigrant workers for fraudulent H-1B applications for placements at companies that either didn’t exist or never received the proposed temporary workers and submitted fake documents to government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor. The maximum prison term for visa fraud is 10 years, while mail fraud and witness tampering both hold a maximum penalty of 20 years. While this is an extreme example, it is a good reminder that those that don’t follow the rules eventually get caught.

Technical Problems with the iCERT System

Yesterday, the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (“OFLC”) announced that it is experiencing problems with its iCERT system. While the iCERT Systems’ application and database are working correctly, the network infrastructure that supports the system is having performance issues that are causing delays in processing cases. These delays are currently impacting H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B cases. OFLC has not stated when it expects these problems to be resolved. The Hammond Law Group will keep you updated as further announcements are made on this issue.

Updates to Increases in H-1B and L-1 Petition Fees

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113) was signed into law on December 18, 2015 and increased the fee for certain H-1B and L-1 petitioners. USCIS issued a web alert today that the additional fee now applies when a petitioner employs 50 or more individuals in the United States, with more than 50% of those employees currently in H-1B or L (including L-1A and L-1B) nonimmigrant status.
The additional fee must be included (1) with new petitions seeking H or L status or (2) when the petitioner seeks to have the nonimmigrant in H or L status change employers.

This is a departure from what the previously published regulations on the topic indicated, which also required the additional fee for extensions of H or L status. As things stand today, these are the only types of petitions that requires the additional fee but based on the back and forth that has surrounded this rule’s roll out, we will not know for sure until USCIS revises its instructions for the Form I-129.

DHS releases new proposed rule

The DHS has released the long anticipated proposed regulation which promised to provide greater portability to H-1b workers with approved I-140’s. A copy of the complete rule can be found here. Comments on the proposed rule are due on Feb 29, 2016 and the rule is not in effect until it becomes final, sometime after the comment period. Our office will be providing a detailed summary to clients next week. I hate to throw cold water on what should be a day of celebration but, a quick read through does not indicate that the portability provisions are as gracious as promised. There are however, other really good provisions which will be very positive for international professional workers and their employers. Happy New year and we wish everyone a great 2016.

H-1b and L-1 Filing fees to double

Buried in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that Congress is currently considering is a provision that would re-instate and double the “penalty” filing fee imposed on employers with 50 or more employees where 50% of those employees are H-1b or L-1b visa holders. The new fee would also apply to extensions. The new penalty fee for H-1b petitions would be $4,000 and for L-1 cases, $4500.

H-1b visas in the news

Check out this recent article in the New York Times regarding the H-1b visa program.

Public Law 111-230 Fee Expiration Opens Window

On October 1, 2015, Congress failed to extend the additional filing fees for petitioners whose workforces are heavily reliant on H-1B and L-1 employees. The law, known as Public Law 111-230, required an extra $2,000 fee for certain H-1B petitions, and a $2,250 fee for L-1A and L-1B petitions, whose company had 50 or more employees in the U.S., with over half of those workers on H-1B or L-1 visas.

All H-1B and L-1 fees, filed on or after October 1, should still include the base I-129 fee, Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, and American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) Fee, when applicable. Petitions with incorrect fees may be rejected. However, unless this fee gets reauthorized, petitions should enjoy the reprieve.