Issue 130 July 2019

Sen. Paul Blocks Bill to Eliminate Per-Country Cap on Employment-Based Green Cards

The "Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019" (S. 386), a bill that would eliminate the 7 percent per-country cap (numerical limitation) on employment-based immigrants, among other things, was blocked in the Senate by Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who wants to amend the bill with an accommodation for EB-3 nurses. The legislation is expected to benefit primarily Indian and Chinese workers, who constitute the largest proportion of foreign H-1B skilled workers waiting for years in the green card backlog.

Other recent developments included the addition of provisions strengthening H-1B specialty occupation enforcement by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). As of press time, S. 386 had 34 bipartisan co-sponsors; the House version, H.R. 1044, which does not include the H-1B provisions, had 311.

Details: Senate version of the bill, http://src.bna.com/JDP; Text and history of the House version, https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr1044; news reports, https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/green-card-cap-legislation-remains-blocked-despite-h-1b-deal, https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900077471/mike-lee-kamala-harris-rand-paul-immigration-reform-bill-blocked.html

Don't Accept Restricted Social Security Cards for I-9 Verification, E-Verify Warns

E-Verify recently reminded employers not to accept restricted Social Security cards as List C documents on the I-9 work authorization verification form. Form I-9 List C documents verify an employee's authorization to work.

Employers should not accept a restricted Social Security card that is stamped with one of the following:

  • Valid for work only with DHS authorization
  • Valid for work only with INS authorization
  • Not valid for employment

Details: E-Verify announcement, https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDHSCISEVERIFY/bulletins/24dfc6b; List C documents that establish employment authorization, https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/133-list-c-documents-establish-employment-authorization; Form I-9 acceptable documents, https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/acceptable-documents/list-documents/form-i-9-acceptable-documents?topic_id=1&t=c

USCIS Aims to Decrease Processing Times Based on Location for Applications for Naturalization and to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it will implement a "national strategy" to decrease differences in processing times based on location for the N-400 Application for Naturalization and I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

USCIS said this may mean scheduling applicants to appear for an interview at a field office outside of their normal jurisdictions. Applicants may receive an interview appointment notice or other types of notices (such as a Request for Evidence) from a field office outside of their normal jurisdiction. However, the agency will still direct applicants to the "nearest application support center" to complete their biometrics appointments. "Applicants should follow the instructions on any notices they receive from USCIS," the agency said.

Details: USCIS announcement, https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-aims-decrease-processing-times-n-400-and-i-485

Green Card Backlogs Are Long, Growing, and Inequitable, CATO Institute Says

A new CATO Institute report says that immigration wait times have doubled since 1991 for applicants immigrating through both employment-based and family-sponsored "quota" categories, from an average of 2 years and 10 months to 5 years and 8 months. In 2018, more than 100,000 legal immigrants waited a decade or more to apply for permanent residence (green card) in 2018. Almost 5 million immigrants are waiting for their green cards now, the report says.

The report concludes that "Congress should eliminate the country quotas, exempt spouses and minor children from the overall quotas, and instead link quotas to population and economic growth."

The report also notes that the quotas (numerical limits) on green cards for individual nationalities are causing longer waits from countries with the highest demand. Indians averaged the longest wait because of such limits—more than 8 years and 6 months. "It will take decades and—in some categories—a half century or more to process everyone else waiting now," the report notes.

Details: "Immigration Wait Times from Quotas Have Doubled: Green Card Backlogs Are Long, Growing, and Inequitable," by David J. Bier, https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa_873.pdf

Visa Bulletin for July Notes Slowdowns or Retrogressions (Visa Unavailability)

The Visa Bulletin for July notes slowdowns or retrogressions (visa unavailability) in several employment-based immigrant visa categories.

Details: Visa Bulletin, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/visa-law0/visa-bulletin/2019/visa-bulletin-for-july-2019.html

New Zealand Nationals Eligible for E-1 (Treaty Trader) and E-2 (Treaty Investor) Visas

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that effective June 10, 2019, certain New Zealand nationals can request a change of status to E-1 treaty trader or E-2 treaty investor. This means that New Zealand nationals now have enhanced access to pursue trade and investment activities in the United States. According to USCIS:

  • Eligible New Zealand nationals already in the United States in lawful visa status can file a petition to request a change of status to E-1 or E-2 visa classification, or a qualifying employer can file such a petition on their behalf.
  • Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of E-1 and E-2 visa holders, and employees who are already in the United States, may also seek to change status to E-1 or E-2 as dependents.

Details: USCIS announcement, https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/new-zealand-nationals-eligible-e-1-and-e-2-nonimmigrant-classifications

SSA Responds to California Lawmakers' Questions on 'No-Match' Letters

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently responded to a letter sent on April 11, 2019, from Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.), along with several California legislators, questioning the decision to reinstate the practice of sending "no match" letters to businesses nationwide. Such letters notify employers when an employee's Social Security number does not match official records.

Nancy Berryhill, Acting Commissioner for the SSA, responded that the letters advise employers that corrections are needed for the agency to properly post an employee's earnings to the correct record, while educating employers to use SSA's online wage reporting tools to improve the accuracy of their wage reporting. She said the no-match letters are "educational."

The Acting Commissioner said the SSA encourages employers to "take timely action on no-matches," but noted that "we do not take any action, nor are there any SSA-related consequences, for employers' non-compliance with our letters." She also noted that the letter "specifically advises employers not to take an adverse action against an employee based on the letter."

Details: SSA response (which includes the questions from the legislators), http://www.laborcounselors.com/files/ACOSS_to_Costa-__EDCOR_-_Signed_6319.pdf

Premium Processing Begins for Remaining H-1B Cap-Subject (Lottery) Petitions

On June 10, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began premium processing for all remaining fiscal year (FY) 2020 H-1B lottery petitions. Employers may file a request for premium processing conversion with the USCIS service center that is processing their petition.

USCIS noted that it is offering premium processing in a two-phased approach during this year’s cap season "to best manage premium processing requests without fully suspending it.

  • The first phase, which started on May 20, 2019, included H-1B lottery petitions requesting a change of status, and the second phase includes all other H-1B lottery petitions. Premium processing for H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap, such as extension-of-stay requests, remains available.

Details: Latest USCIS notice, https://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/premium-processing-begins-remaining-h-1b-cap-subject-petitions-june-10; USCIS previous announcement, https://www.uscis.gov/news/news-releases/uscis-announces-fy-2020-h-1b-cap-season-start-updates-and-changes