In late June, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) held its annual immigration law conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The conference featured a series of open forums where representatives from a number of government agencies met with immigration attorneys to discuss key updates and address specific questions about immigration adjudications, trends and policy.
Below is a summary of points that may be of particular interest to our employer clients and their ongoing efforts to employ foreign nationals in the United States:
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): USCIS reported capacity issues which have resulted in slower processing times for immigration benefits, particularly for H-1B petitions. USCIS is prioritizing cases filed under this year’s H-1B Cap where beneficiaries are receiving “cap gap” status and work authorization extensions through September 30, 2016. H-1B extensions in particular are taking approximately 8+ months to adjudicate, so employers and employees should plan accordingly. Employers should contact their Jackson Lewis attorney to discuss alternative strategies, such as premium processing, as necessary.
- U.S. Department of Labor (US DOL): The US DOL Office of Foreign Labor Certification reported that its overall workload is increasing, and noted a particular increase in PERM labor certification filings. At present, it is taking DOL approximately 4-5 months to adjudicate PERM applications. The agency recently reorganized to address the increased workload, but employers should expect PERM processing times to slow over the coming months. Prevailing wage determinations are expected to continue to take approximately 10 weeks. Additionally, the DOL reminded attendees that new prevailing wage information would be published on July 1, 2016, so employers should anticipate that any determinations issued after this date will contain the new wage data.
- U.S. Department of State (US DOS): The US DOS reported extensive wait times for nonimmigrant visa appointments at consular posts in India. The DOS is working to resolve the backlog, but at present, some posts are experiencing wait times of more than 100 days. Obtaining an expedited visa appointment for an urgent business matter is rare. Employers filing nonimmigrant visa petitions with USCIS requesting consular notification or those seeking to transfer employees from abroad pursuant to the Blanket L process should therefore plan for delays, as should employees currently in the United States who need to apply for a visa the next time they travel to India.