Monday, June 10, 2013

Proposed Immigration Reforms by Gang of Eight and its Impact on H-1B Category

 

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernisation Act (SB 744) was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 13 to five, and is likely to come to the floor of the Senate to be voted on in June 2013. The House of Representatives has drafted its own bill for immigration reform. However, there are reports of disagreements among lawmakers in the House of Representatives over provisions in the house's bill. Both pieces of proposed legislation represent a concerted effort among lawmakers to reform the immigration laws. The next few months will be pivotal with respect to whether immigration reform legislation is passed in the United States during 2013.

Introduction

The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernisation Act (SB 744) was introduced into the Senate on April 16 2013 by Senators Schumer, Durbin, Bennet, Menendez, McCain, Rubio, Flake and Graham (referred to as the 'gang of eight'). This comprehensive piece of immigration legislation addresses border security issues and has provisions to reform the H-1B and L-1 non-immigrant visa categories. It creates a path towards citizenship for those who are undocumented, creates a merit-based visa and reallocates the distribution of visas. The bill appears to have a decent amount of support among a large bipartisan group of US senators. As a result, there is a good chance that this bill may pass the Senate and eventually become law. Naturally, the bill is receiving widespread attention among various media outlets, and is being monitored closely by US employers and the public.

Several key provisions of the bill may have an impact on US employers sponsoring foreign nationals for the H-1B and L-1 categories.

H-1B

The new bill proposes the following general changes to the H-1B category:

  • It creates a floor of 110,000 and ceiling of 180,000 for the H-1B cap.
  • It increases the master's cap from 20,000 to 25,000.
  • It creates a new wage level system.
  • It prohibits H-1B-dependent employers from using the Level 1 wage rate.
  • it requires H-1B employers to advertise for the H-1B position on the Department of Labour website for a 30-day period.

In relation to dependent employers, the bill proposes as follows:

  • It will prohibit outplacement, outsourcing or placement of H-1B workers by H-1B dependent employers.(1)
  • It will allow outplacement, outsourcing or placement for non-dependent H-1B employers, but impose an additional filing fee of $500.
  • Employers (other than educational or research employers) that employ 50 or more workers in the United States are banned from sponsoring H-1B workers if more than 75% of their workforce is in H-1B status (in 2015), changing to 65% in 2016 and 50% in 2017.
  • The May 3 2013 amendment to bill defines an 'intending immigrant' for the purposes of calculating H-1B dependency as a H-1B worker who has a pending or approved labour application, rather than requiring a labour application pending for one year or more.

In relation to reporting, the bill requires all H-1B-dependent employers to submit an annual report to the Department of Homeland Security, including W-2s for all H-1B workers employed during the previous fiscal year.

In regard to the Department of Labour and labour condition applications, the bill:

  • changes the standard of review of labour condition applications by the Department of Labour from reviewing for completeness to reviewing for completeness and evidence of fraud;
  • changes the timeframe for processing labour condition applications from seven to 14 days;
  • allows employers to file the Form I-129 with an uncertified labour condition application;
  • removes the reasonable cause requirement for conducting a Department of Labour investigation and replaces it with the provision that the departement may initiate an investigation;
  • requires the Department of Labour to conduct annual compliance audits of each employer with more than 100 employees, if more than 15% of the employees are in H-1B status, and requires these audits to be available for public inspection;
  • increases Labour Condition Application fines from $1,000 to $2,000 for misrepresentation, and from $5,000 to $10,000 for wilful misrepresentation; and
  • allows Department of Labour employees to file complaints regarding labour condition applications and eliminates the requirement that the Department of Labour know the tipster complaining of the labour condition application violation.

The new bill proposes to amend filing fees as follows:

  • It requires H-1B-dependent employers with 50 or more employees to pay an extra filing fee of $5,000 for each H-1B petition filed each fiscal year, beginning in FY 2015 (October 1 2014 to September 30 2015), if 30% to 50% of the H-1B employer's employees are in H-1B or L-1 status. The amended bill imposes the same filing fee on employers that file L-1 petitions, if 30% to 50% of the L-1 employer's employees are in H-1B or L-1 status, but imposes the fee in FY 2014 (October 1 2013 to September 30 2014), rather than 2015.
  • It requires H-1B-dependent employers with 50 or more employees to pay an additional fee of $10,000 for each H-1B petition filed each fiscal year, beginning in FY 2015 (October 1 2014 to September 30 2015), and continuing through the 2017 fiscal year, if 50% to 75% of the H-1B employer's employees are in H-1B or L status. The amended bill imposes the same filing fee on employers who file L-1 petitions, if 50% to 75% of the L-1 employer's employees are in H-1B or L-1 status, but imposes the fee in FY 2014 (October 1 2013 to September 30 2014), rather than 2015.
  • It imposes an additional fee of $1,250 for each H-1B or L-1 petition which has at least 25 full-time employees.
  • It imposes an additional filing fee of $2,500 per H-1B or L-1 petition for an employer that employs more than 25 employees.

The above additional fees are on top of the other filing fees already imposed on employers filing H-1B and L-1 petitions.

Further, the bill imposes a $500 fee for filing an application for permanent employment certification (Form 9089).

L-1

In relation to L-1 visas, the new bill will:

  • prohibit the outplacement or outsourcing of L-1 workers, if not controlled or supervised principally by the sponsoring employer; and
  • impose a requirement that if an L-1 worker is placed at a third-party location, the third party attests that the worker has not displaced and will not displace a US worker for 90 days before or after the date of the filing the L-1 petition.

In regard to filing fees, the bill:

  • requires L-1 employers with 50 or more employees to pay an additional $5,000 filing fee if 30% to 50% of its workforce is in H-1B or L-1 status;
  • requires L-1 employers with 50 or more employees to pay an additional $10,000 if 50% to 75% of its workforce is in H-1B or L-1 status;
  • imposes an additional fee of $1,250 for each L-1 petition for employers that employ 25 or fewer full-time employees; and
  • Imposes an additional filing fee of $2,500 per L-1 petition for an employer that employs 26 or more employees.

Endnotes

(1) An employer is considered to be an H-1B dependent employer if it has:

  • 25 or fewer full-time equivalent employees and at least eight are in H-1B status;
  • 26 to 50 full-time equivalent employees and at least 13 H-1B non-immigrant workers; or
  • 51 or more full-time equivalent employees, of whom 15% or more are H-1B non-immigrant workers).

[Source – International Law OfficeCopyrights]

Delay in Visa Stamping–Send Inquiry to US Embassy / Consulate

 

Make sure:

  1. You have checked the Visa Processing or Stamping for your Location and that duration has been surpassed.
  2. OR, if your case has been referred to 221(g) Administrative Processing than you have waited for at least 60 days.

Also, make sure you have checked your Visa Application Status Online.

There are two ways you can send your queries to US Embassy or Consulate in your Location

  1. You can send queries to designated email address displayed on US Embassy or Consulate website. For example for US Consulate Karachi the email address is KarachiVisaQuery@State.gov
    us consulate karachi contact information
  2. You can also send your inquiries using “Non Immigrant Visa Unit’s Web Based Email Submission Form” available on US Embassy or Consulate website. For example, following form available on US Embassy Islamabad’s website.
    non immigrant visa unit web based email submission form

Friday, June 7, 2013

Check Current H-1B Visa Application Processing or Wait Time

 

From US Department of State Website, you can now check:

  1. Current Wait Time for H-1B Visa Interview Appointment
  2. Current Processing Time or Wait Time for H-1B Visa Application (for cases which are not referred to 221(g) Administrative Process)

All you have to do, is to go to US Department of State Website

visa application processing wait time 1

Select your desired Location from the drop down list and click “GET WAIT TIMES” button. Both Wait and Processing Times of selected Location will be displayed on the following page.

visa application processing wait time result page

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Electronic Form I-94–Automation Started by CBP

 

Due to the Automation Process started by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from 30th of April, 2013, USCIS has begun updating certain forms requesting applicants and petitioners to enter the admission number from their Form I-94 and/or their:

  • Passport information, including passport number, country of issuance and expiration date; and
  • Travel Document information, including Travel Document number, country of issuance and expiration date.

[Source – USCIS]

So, prior to this automation, the Form I-94 which was given to you by the airline staff to fill up and submit it to CBP at the port of entry, is not needed anymore.

You can pull your electronic Form I-94 in paper format from CBP’s website (www.cbp.gov/I94).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Check Your Visa Application Status Online

 

Click here to check your Visa Application Status Online.

For H-1B Visa Application, select NONIMMIGRANT VISA (NIV) from Visa Application Type.

Select a location from second drop down.

Enter your Application ID or Case Number. It is the same number that is allotted to you once you fill an online DS-160 form.

visa status check us department of state

NOTE – Click here to check Current Visa Application Processing or Wait Times

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

In USA on H-1B–International Driving Permit, Foreign Driver License, Interim Permit and Learner Permit

 

If you have your International Driving Permit - IDP along with your Foreign Country’s Driver License, you can drive up to 6 months or so, depending upon which state you are in. But you ultimately going to need a USA Driver License.

To start with, you will have to apply for a Learner’s Permit, which requires you to appear for a written test at your nearest DMV office. Depending upon which state you are in, you can download the State-Specific Driver’s Manual from State’s DMV Website. For example, for New York State, you can get the Driver Manual from New York’s DMV Website. Besides that you can also get a printed copy, free of charge, of the same Driver’s Manual from a nearby local DMV Office.

You need to have at least 6 points of proof of identity. For any new arrival, following can be used to accumulate 6 points:

  1. Foreign Passport with I-94 – Primary ID – 4 points
  2. Social Security Card – Secondary ID – 1 point
  3. ATM or Debit Card – Secondary ID – 1 point

Click here for an Online 6 Point Document Selector for the state of New Jersey.

Fees (Source: NY DMV):

fee for learner permit and driver license new york state

Once you successfully passed the Test, you will be given an Interim Permit immediately, which looks like:

interim permit nys department of motor vehicles part 1

interim permit nys department of motor vehicles part 2

Within two weeks you will receive the original Learner Permit in your mail box, which looks like:

learner permit new york state

learner permit new york state back

Monday, June 3, 2013

In USA on H-1B–Finding an Apartment on Rent

 

Some useful tips on finding a suitable apartment are:

  • Always prefer shorter lease terms, monthly would be the best option, quarterly is also good. Do not un-necessarily bound yourself for longer lease terms, you don’t know when you have to relocate for new project or contract, etc.
  • If you are alone, prefer apartment in those buildings which have a door-man. It helps when your shipment arrives for any orders that you might place. I had a bad experience, when the rider tries 3 times to deliver a package, but I was not at home and then I had to spend $60 in Taxi to go to their Distribution Center and pick up the package myself.
  • Inquire explicitly, which of the following are included in the rent:
    • Heat
    • Hot Water
    • Electricity
    • Cooking Gas
    • Internet
  • Inquire about Parking space/lot/area in building or nearby
  • Lookout for nearby Bus Stops and Subway Stations
  • Lookout for nearby Mosque and Halal Market

 

Usually, owner asks for Security Deposit (refundable) equivalent to a month’s rent and one month advance rent.

You might be asked for a clearance letter from your previous landlord.

The owner will also verify your credit history/report, before signing of the lease contract. Some of them might also charge you the fee (around $50) for credit checking.

 

Based on my personal experience, I would recommend two websites, which would be very helpful for you in your search for an apartment.

Craiglist – The updated craiglist interface features are very useful, specially the map view.

craiglist

Zillow – Extremely usable filter options and great interactive interface with tons of posting.

zillow

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Job Hunting in USA on H-1B–Initial Screening, Telephonic and Face to Face Interview

 

Usually the selection process starts with Initial Screening by the recruiter. In initial screening, recruiter will call you on your phone and will go through your resume/cv verifying what you’ve mentioned in your resume/cv regarding your education background and work experience.

Recruiter might also setup a first telephonic interview with one of the technical staff member from recruiter’s technical interviewer’s panel, to make sure you score well in end client’s interview.

Technical interviews, be they telephonic or face to face, can include:

  • Typical What-is questions – What is OOP?
  • Copy-paste bookish questions – How IoC is different from DI?
  • Real-life troubleshooting questions
  • Scenario based problems

[ Click to view list of topics for Java Developer roles (under section “Selection and Interview Process” ]

Make sure you know every single thing that you’ve mentioned in your resume/cv.

Make sure you state clearly, if you are guessing some thing and are not sure about it, honesty is very very important in such interactions.

It is recommended to always go for the face to face interview option; it is far more effective than telephonic or video interviews. You can communicate more effectively when you are interacting directly, you can make long lasting impression, you can establish more effective connections.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Job Hunting in USA on H-1B–Preferred Vendor, Direct Client and Sub Contracting

 

One of the important thing to understand is how recruitment process works in USA? Not all companies hire resources directly, in fact they outsource that work to recruitment companies who specializes in Human Resource Staffing. For example Company A, sign a contract with a recruitment Company R to channel quality Human Resources to Company A. So Company R will now become a Vendor for Company A. Company A, might also sign contract with other Recruitment Companies and based on their understanding Company A can nominate (based on the contract) which of them are Preferred Vendors.

Whether a recruitment company is a Preferred Vendor or not, it can channel human resources directly to the Company or it might delegate that work (keeping its percentage) to other recruitment companies, and that second level (up to nth level) of delegation is called Sub Contracting.

For you, an employee on H-1B Visa, it is important that you know whether:

  • The recruiter you are engaged with is a Preferred Vendor or not? you should prefer those job opportunities whose recruiting company is a Preferred Vendor of the Client.
  • Whether the Client mentioned in the job description is a Direct Client of the recruiter or is recruiter a Sub Contractor (more recruiting companies in between)? you should prefer working with those recruiters who are directly dealing with the Client, because the more the Sub Contractors involved the less the share you’ll get. Every recruitment company keeps a slice of its share from the original compensation offered by the Client against the job opportunity.

Preference Order:

  1. Preferred Vendor
  2. Direct Client
  3. Sub Contractor