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USCIS to accept H-1B applications from April 3

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Murthy Law Firm says it expects more petitions in FY 2018.

In the midst of a heated debate over reforming the current H-1B visa program, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced the dates for filing H-1B petitions for 2018 fiscal year.

The USCIS said in a press release on Wednesday that the H-1B petitions can be filed starting from April 3, 2017, and any petition filed before this will be rejected.

US-based companies depend on H-1B program to employ highly skilled foreign workers with specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming.

US Congress has set a cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year.

An advanced degree exemption from the H-1B cap is available for 20,000 beneficiaries who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher.

Once the caps are filled, the USCIS will notify the public.

This year’s filing season begins amidst an intense debate on the relevance of H-1B.

President Trump had criticized the H-1B program during the campaign, saying that it depresses the wage and harms US workers. In December, after the election, he had vowed to sign an executive order to end H-1B abuses.

The current Congress has also seen a number of bills that seek to crack down on the program, which has benefited Indian nationals more than citizens of any other country.

Last year, the USCIS received 236,000 H-1B applications, almost three times the quota.

Despite the misgivings about H-1B and apprehensions among Indian IT firms, the biggest users of the visas, at least one law firm has said it sees no reduction in the number of H-1B filings this year.

“We are getting overwhelmed with cases and I am almost beginning to think we are getting a much more increased volume for filings,” Sheela Murthy, founder of Murthy Law Firm told the American Bazaar. “The number is not going to reduce, I think it is going to increase.”

Murthy, one of the best-known immigration attorneys in the country, said a lot of people on H4 visas who have Employment Authorization Document are likely to apply for H-1B this year because of the Trump administration’s reported move to end H4 EADs.

“Spouses who come on H4, who are currently on H4, they want to apply,” she said. “And future H4 spouses are apprehensive that EADs may no longer be available, they want to apply for H-1B. Many of the STEM graduates who have finished their one-year or two years of their STEM OPT, they are applying.”

Premium processing

Recently, the USCIS said it was temporarily suspending the facility for premium processing of H-1B petitions. This will be applicable to all petitions filed starting from April 3.

What this essentially means for the petitioner is that they won’t be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification.

USICS warns that using Form I-907 along with the H-1B petition will result in the rejection of the petition. The same is applicable for petitioners who submit one combined check for both the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees, the result will be – both forms will be rejected.

USICS has asked H-1B petitioners to follow all statutory and regulatory requirements as they prepare petitions to avoid delays in processing and possible requests for evidence.

USCIS has also increased the filing fee for Form I-129 to $460 and has also lifted the 14 days additional time to correct a dishonored payment. USCIS has made it clear that it will reject the entire H-1B petition if the payment is rejected by the bank or financial institution and there will be no option for the petitioner to request for reconsideration.

If the USCIS receives an excess of petitions during the first five business days, the agency will use a computer-generated lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to meet the cap. USCIS will reject all unselected petitions that are subject to the cap as well as any petitions received after the cap has closed.

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