Premium Processing Begins for Certain Cap-Subject H-1B Petitions on May 20

On May 20, USCIS will begin premium processing for FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitioners requesting a change of status on their Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Petitioners who do not file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, concurrently with an FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petition requesting a change of status must wait until premium processing begins on May 20 to submit Form I-907.   

On March 19, we announced that we would offer premium processing in a two-phased approach during the FY 2020 cap season to best manage premium processing requests without fully suspending it. In the past few years, we had to suspend all premium processing for H-1B petitions due to high demand. Based on feedback from the public, we are using this phased approach to benefit petitioners and ensure efficient premium processing. The first phase includes FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status and the second phase will include all other FY 2020 cap-subject petitions.

Premium processing for all other FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions will not begin until at least June 2019. We will notify the public with a confirmed date for premium processing for cap-subject petitioners not requesting a change of status. At this time, premium processing for H-1B petitions that are exempt from the cap, such as extension of stay requests, remains available. 

Pre-paid Mailer Temporary Suspension

Starting on May 20 and continuing through the end of June 3, we will not use pre-paid mailers to send out final notices for premium processing for FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions requesting a change of status. Instead, we will use regular mail. We will be doing this due to resource limitations as we work to process all premium processing petitions in a timely manner. The process for printing approval notices and sending them by regular mail is fully automated, whereas use of the pre-paid mailers requires a separate and more time-consuming manual process. As such, and given the initial surge of premium processing requests for H-1B cap petitions and its impact on USCIS resources, using pre-paid mailers may actually delay the issuance of an approval notice, compared to the standard process or otherwise negatively affect our ability to timely process premium processing petitions. After the two-week period, we intend to resume sending out final notices in pre-paid mailers provided by petitioners, when operationally feasible. We will be following a similar process when premium processing resumes for the second phase of FY 2020 cap-subject H-1B petitions.

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CW-1 Filings for Fiscal Year 2020 Must be Accompanied by an Approved Temporary Labor Certification

USCIS will begin accepting petitions for employment with start dates in fiscal year (FY) 2020 under the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Worker program (the CW-1 program) on April 4, 2019. However, all CW-1 filings for FY 2020 must include an approved temporary labor certification (TLC) from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). USCIS will reject any CW-1 petition with an employment start date on or after Oct. 1, 2019, filed without the approved DOL TLC.

As required by the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018 (Workforce Act), DOL has announced that they will soon publish an Interim Final Rule in the Federal Register. The rule, effective April 4, 2019, will outline how CW-1 employers will obtain a prevailing wage and TLC to use when petitioning for an FY 2020 CW-1 visa. The TLC will confirm to USCIS that there is not a qualified U.S. worker available to fill the employer’s job opportunity in the CNMI, and that the employment of a CW-1 worker will not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

In July 2018, President Trump signed the Workforce Act, extending the CW-1 program and setting CW-1 caps through 2029. The Workforce Act modifies certain CW-1 eligibility requirements, including a new requirement that an employer must first obtain an approved TLC from DOL before filing a CW-1 petition with a start date in or after FY 2020.  

Other than complying with the TLC requirement applicable to CW-1 petitioners with employment start dates on or after Oct. 1, 2019, CW-1 petitioners should continue to follow current USCIS regulations, procedures, and forms. In the coming months, USCIS will announce further guidance for CW-1 worker petitions.

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Owner of Information Technology Companies Sentenced To 15 Months in Prison for Visa Fraud and Tax Fraud

USCIS Identified H-1B Visa Fraud and Initiated Investigation

NEWARK, N.J. – An owner of two information technology companies was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison for his role in using phony documents to fraudulently obtain H-1B visas for foreign workers and submitting false tax returns, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) officer at the Vermont Service Center identified fraud and provided support to the investigation in this case. The FDNS Unit of the Newark Field Office then provided significant support to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and other law enforcement partners during the criminal investigation that led to the confirmation, prosecution and conviction of visa fraud.

Sowrabh Sharma, 34, of New York, New York, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court to a superseding information charging him with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and with subscribing to false tax returns. Judge McNulty imposed the sentence Wednesday in Newark federal court.

According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

SCM Data Inc. and MMC Systems Inc. offered consultants to clients in need of IT support. Both companies recruited foreign nationals with purported IT expertise, often student visa holders or recent college graduates, and sponsored them for H-1B visas with the stated purpose of working for SMC Data and MMC Systems’ clients throughout the United States.

Sharma admitted that from 2010 through April 2015, he and others falsely represented to USCIS that dozens of foreign workers had full-time “in-house” positions, and would be paid an annual salary, as required to secure the visas. However, Sharma and his companies only paid the foreign workers when they were placed at a third-party client, or a company that entered into a contract for services with SCM Data and MMC Systems. Sharma further admitted that he and SCM Data and MMC Systems were violating U.S. Department of Labor regulations by not paying workers who were “benched,” or not working on a project.

Sharma also admitted that in some instances, foreign workers who were “benched” between projects and not working were told that if they wanted to maintain their H-1B visa status, they would need to come up with what their gross wages would be in cash and give it to SCM Data and MMC Systems to generate phony payroll checks.

Sharma also admitted that he intentionally overstated and claimed false expenses pertaining to SCM Data and MMC Systems on his U.S. Individual Tax Returns for 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 that resulted in a tax loss to the United States of over $1.1 million.

In addition to the prison term, Judge McNulty sentenced Sharma to one year of supervised release. Sharma made payment of the $1.1 million tax loss and penalties to the IRS prior to sentencing.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito praised special agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian A. Michael, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael C. Mikulka, in New York, and IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of John R. Tafur, with the investigation.

For more information on USCIS and our programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook (/uscis), and LinkedIn (/uscis).

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Rochester Man Sentenced For Visa Fraud

USCIS assisted in case combatting H-1B Visa Fraud

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced last week that Anjaneyulu Katam, 46, of Rochester, NY, who was convicted of visa fraud, was sentenced to serve 12 months and one day in prison and fined $5,000 by Chief U.S. District Judge Frank P. Geraci. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle Rossi, who handled the case, stated that between 2011 and 2017, Katam ran businesses in which he falsified immigration documents for Indian nationals to enter the U.S. and work in tech industries involving computer programming. The defendant manipulated the H-1B visa program, which allows U.S. employers temporarily to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. Katam falsified visa applications, work experience documents, and work contracts, which he then submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State, in order to secure illegal H-1B visas for Indian nationals. This resulted in the unlawful entry and employment of several Indian nationals within the United States.

A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) officer in Buffalo identified fraud in this case.  USCIS FDNS then reached out to and coordinated with the investigating agencies, leading to the confirmation and prosecution of visa fraud.

As part of the investigation, federal agents identified multiple assets, including strip malls, and bank accounts, Katam acquired using proceeds from the visa fraud. The defendant will forfeit approximately $1,090,490.32 to the Government.         

The sentencing is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations-Labor Racketeering and Fraud, under the direction of Michael C. Mikulka, Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Region; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; and the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, under the direction of the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office, Timothy Dumas.

For more information on USCIS and our programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), Instagram (/uscis), YouTube (/uscis), Facebook (/uscis), and LinkedIn (/uscis).

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Update to Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker; New Edition Dated 01/31/19

Petitioners use this form to file on behalf of a nonimmigrant worker to come to the United States temporarily to perform services or labor, or to receive training, as an H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1 or R-1 nonimmigrant worker. Petitioners may also use this form to request an extension of stay in or change of status to E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B1 or TN, or one of the above classifications for a foreign national.

Number of Pages

Form 36; instructions 29.

Edition Date

01/31/19.  Starting 05/20/19, we will only accept the 01/31/19 edition. Until then, you can use previous editions: 01/17/17, 12/23/16, 08/13/15, 03/26/15, and 10/23/14. If your filing is postmarked 12/23/16 or later, you must include the new fees or we will reject your petition. You can find the edition date at the bottom of the page on the form and instructions.

Where to File

Filing Fee

$460.

When you send a payment, you agree to pay for a government service. Filing and biometric service fees are final and non-refundable, regardless of any action we take on your application, petition, or request, or if you withdraw your request.

Checklist of Required Initial Evidence (for informational purposes only)

View the checklist of required initial evidence.

Special Instructions

Duplicate Copies:

Please provide a duplicate copy of Form I-129 and all supporting documentation at the time of filing if the beneficiary is seeking a nonimmigrant visa abroad, a change of status, or an extension of stay. Additionally, please provide duplicate copies of all documents sent to us in response to a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny. We will not make duplicate copies.

Failure to submit duplicate copies may cause a delay in the Department of State issuing a visa abroad. To speed processing, copies should be double-sided and bound with a single binder clip. Please do not include staples, ribbons, or tabbed dividers in the duplicate copy.

Extension of Stay Requests for Beneficiaries Who Entered the United States Based on an Approved Blanket L Petition:

All petitioners requesting an extension of stay for a beneficiary who entered the United States based on an approved blanket L petition must file the following:

  • Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker,
  • Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition (the 06/02/16 edition only), and
  • A copy of their previously approved Form I-129S.

We may reject any Form I-129 for an L-1 blanket extension of stay request that does not also include Form I-129S.

Change of Status Request for Beneficiaries Who are in the United States:

All petitioners requesting a change of status to L-1 based on an approved blanket L petition for a beneficiary who is currently in the United States must file the following:

  • Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and
  • Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition (the 06/02/16 edition only).

We may reject any Form I-129 for an L-1 blanket change of status request that does not also include Form I-129S.

Evidence of Petition Approval Needed When Traveling:

Along with a valid passport and visa (if applicable), the foreign national beneficiary should carry the following documents when traveling to the United States:

  • Form I-797 USCIS petition approval notice; or
  • A copy of the approved Form I-129S (if applicable)

The beneficiary should present this documentation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection when seeking entry or re-entry into the United States in the approved Form I-129 employment classification.

Evidence of a petition approval is not a visa and the beneficiary must possess the appropriate nonimmigrant visa, if one is required, before applying for admission into the United States.

Form I-94 Validity:

When the beneficiary with an approved Form I-129 is admitted to the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Protection grants the beneficiary a period of stay documented on Form I-94 or as noted in the passport or travel document.

If the expiration date on Form I-94 ends before the end of Form I-129’s validity period (as shown on Form I-797 approval notice) one of the following must occur before the expiration date on Form I-94 or as noted in the passport or travel document:

  • A petitioner must file a request for an extension of stay on behalf of the beneficiary using Form I-129; or
  • An application for some other immigration benefit that would allow the beneficiary to remain in the United States must be filed; or
  • The beneficiary must depart the United States.

If the nonimmigrant worker’s stay is limited as described above, any dependent family members who accompanied or followed to join the beneficiary must also:

  • Request an extension of stay using Form I-539;
  • Apply for some other immigration benefit that would allow the family member to remain in the United States; or
  • Depart the United States, before the expiration date on the family member’s Form I-94 or the date noted in the family member’s passport or travel document.

Part 6 – Certification Regarding the Release of Controlled Technology or Technical Data to Foreign Persons in the United States:

Petitioners must complete Part 6 of Form I-129 if they are seeking to classify a nonimmigrant worker as H-1B, H-1B1 Chile/Singapore, L-1, and O-1A. Part 6 is not required for petitions for all other classifications, including but not limited to blanket L petitions (LZ). See our Part 6 of Form I-129: Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Troubled Asset Relief Program:

Employers who received funds through the Troubled Asset Relief Program or under section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act (“covered funding”) are no longer required to answer question 1d in Part A of the H-1B Data Collection and Filing Fee Exemption Supplement.

For Residence in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI):

You must follow additional guidance if you are requesting an initial grant of nonimmigrant status in the CNMI. For more information, please visit the grants of status webpage.

When completing Form I-129, please list your CNMI P.O. box when asked for a street or physical address. File your petitions for employment or services in the CNMI, regardless of classification, with the California Service Center.

U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

California Service Center
P.O. Box 10698
Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1098

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

California Service Center
24000 Avila Road, 2nd Floor, Room 2312
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

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