USCIS Resumes Premium Processing for H-1B Petitions Filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018

USCIS will resume premium processing on Tuesday, Feb. 19, for all H-1B petitions filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018. If you received a transfer notice for a pending H-1B petition, and you are requesting premium processing service, you must submit the premium processing request to the service center now handling the petition. You should also include a copy of the transfer notice with your premium processing request to avoid possible delays associated with the receipt of your premium processing request. Additionally, if you received a request for evidence (RFE) for a pending petition, you should also include the RFE response with the premium processing request. If your petition was transferred and you send your premium processing request to the wrong center, USCIS will forward it to the petition’s current location. However, the premium processing clock will not start until the premium processing request has been received at the correct center. 

Please use the below table to determine where you should send your premium processing request if USCIS transferred your petition:

If your petition was transferred to the…

Send your premium processing request to…

Nebraska Service Center

USPS:

USCIS Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87129
Lincoln, NE 68501-7129

FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS Nebraska Service Center
850 S Street
Lincoln, NE 68508

Vermont Service Center

USPS, FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS Vermont Service Center
Attn: I-129 H-1B
30 Houghton Street
St. Albans, VT 05478-2399

When an H-1B petitioner properly requests the agency’s premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-day processing time. If we do not take certain adjudicative action within the 15‑calendar day processing time, USCIS refunds the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continues with expedited processing of the petition.

The previously announced temporary suspension of premium processing remains in effect for H-1B petitions to which it applied that were filed on or after Dec. 22, 2018. On Jan. 28, we resumed premium processing for FY 2019 cap-subject petitions, including those eligible for the advanced degree exemption. We plan to resume premium processing for the remaining categories of H‑1B petitions as agency workloads permit.

We will continue to notify the public via uscis.gov when we begin accepting premium processing for other categories of H-1B petitions.

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USCIS Strengthens Guidance on Spousal Petitions Involving Minors

Guidance Clarifies Agency Requirements for Petition

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it is publishing guidance for its officers to consider when adjudicating spousal petitions involving minors.

The guidance, published as an update (PDF, 210 KB) to the USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM), clarifies age requirements for a petitioner filing an Affidavit of Support for a spouse in conjunction with a concurrently filed I-485, and identifies factors officers should consider when adjudicating a Form I-130 spousal petition involving a minor.

“USCIS is taking action to the maximum extent permitted under current immigration law to highlight special considerations in the adjudication of  marriage-based immigrant petitions involving a minor,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. “Our updated guidance complements the flagging system USCIS created to identify minor spouses. While these are steps in the right direction, ultimately it is up to Congress to bring more certainty and legal clarity to this process for both petitioners and USCIS officers.”

While there are no statutory age requirements to petition for a spouse or be sponsored as a spousal beneficiary, USCIS will consider whether the age of the beneficiary or petitioner at the time the marriage was celebrated violates the law of the place of celebration and is recognized as valid or violates the public policy of the state where the couple resides or plans to reside. In some U.S. states and in some foreign countries, marriage involving a minor might be permitted under certain circumstances, including where there is parental consent, a judicial order, emancipation of the minor, or pregnancy of the minor.

The updated guidance stresses to adjudicators that marriages involving a minor warrant special attention. When considering a petition, USCIS officers should ensure that:

  • The marriage was lawful in the place it was celebrated;
  • If the couple resides outside the place of celebration, the marriage is recognized as valid in the U.S. state where the couple currently resides or will presumably reside and does not violate the state of residence’s public policy, and;
  • The marriage is bona fide, and the minor(s) provided full, free, and informed consent to enter into the marriage.

This AFM update is part of a continuing effort by USCIS to ensure that our policies and processes remain current and are in keeping with existing immigration law.

Prior to this AFM update, USCIS created a flagging system that sends an alert in the electronic system at the time of filing if a minor spouse or fiancé is detected. After the initial flag, the petition is sent to a special unit that verifies that the age and relationship listed are correct before the petition is accepted. If the age or classification on the petition is incorrect, the petition will be returned to the petitioner for correction.

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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USCIS to Publish Revised Form I-539 and New Form I-539A

We have revised Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status and will publish the revised form on our website on March 11, 2019. Starting on March 11, 2019, we will only accept the revised Form I-539 with an edition date of 02/04/19. We will reject any Form I-539 with an edition date of 12/23/16 or earlier. We will also be publishing a new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, on the Form I-539 webpage on March 11. Form I-539A replaces the Supplement A provided in previous versions of Form I-539. Form I-539A can only be submitted with Form I-539; it cannot be filed as a standalone form.

The revised Form I-539 includes the following significant changes: 

  • Every co-applicant included on the primary applicant’s Form I-539 must submit and sign a separate Form I-539A, which will be available on the Form I-539 webpage on March 11. Parents or guardians may sign on behalf of children under 14 or any co-applicant who is not mentally competent to sign.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometric services fee, except certain A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants as noted in the new Form I-539 Instructions to be published on March 11.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice, regardless of age, containing their individual receipt number. The biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the primary applicant’s address. Co-applicants who wish to be scheduled at a different ASC location should file a separate Form I-539.

USCIS will reject any Form I-539 that is missing any of the required signatures or biometrics fees, including those required for Form I-539A.

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Update to Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion; New Edition Dated 05/17/2018

Number of Pages

Form 6; instructions 9.

Edition Date

05/17/18. You can find the edition date at the bottom of the page on the form and instructions.

Where to File

File your appeal or motion at the appropriate address listed on our Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion page. Do not file Form I-290B directly with the Administrative Appeals Office. 

We recommend reading our tips for filing forms with USCIS

Filing Tips for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion

Complete all sections of the form that apply to you. We will reject the form if it is the incorrect version, if the fee is incorrect or not paid, or if the following fields are left blank:

  • Part 1 – Information About the Applicant or Petitioner
    • If you are the beneficiary of a revoked Form I-140 with a favorably adjudicated porting request, and we have advised you that you may file an appeal using Form I-290B, provide the information about you in Part 1.
  • Family Name or Complete Name of Business/Organization
    • Mailing Address
  • Part 2 – Information About the Appeal or Motion
    • You must select only one box indicating that you are filing an appeal or motion, not both. If you select more than one box, we may reject your filing.

For additional filing assistance, please visit the AAO Practice Manual.

Don’t forget to sign your form! We will reject and return any unsigned form.

Filing Fee

$675. You may pay the fee with a money order, personal check, or cashier’s check.  When filing at a USCIS Lockbox facility, you may also pay by credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Service centers cannot process credit card payments. Use our Fee Calculator to help determine your fee.

We will not refund any fees, regardless of the action we take in your case.

If you are a special immigrant Iraqi or Afghan national who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government, you do not need to pay a fee when you file Form I-290B to appeal a denial of a petition for a special immigrant visa.

Special Instructions

Related Links

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Update to Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service; New Edition Dated 10/01/18

Employers may use this form to request faster processing of certain employment-based petitions and applications. Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, have been designated for premium processing. Not all designated classifications within these forms are eligible for the immediate use of this service. Premium processing for the R-1 classification is only eligible after the petitioner passes an on-site inspection at the beneficiary’s place of employment. For more information on eligible premium processing categories, please visit our How Do I Use the Premium Processing Service? page.

Number of Pages

Form 7; instructions 7.

Edition Date

10/01/18. Starting 12/03/2018, we will only accept the 10/01/18 edition. Until then, you can use the 06/26/18 edition. You can find the edition date at the bottom of the page on the form and instructions.

Where to File

The filing location for Form I-907 depends on whether you are requesting premium processing for Form I-129 or Form I-140.

Please visit the Form I-129 or Form I-140 webpages to find the correct address. Do not send requests for premium processing to a USCIS Lockbox facility.

Don’t forget to sign your form! We will reject any unsigned form.

Filing Fee

$1,410. This fee is effective Oct. 1, 2018, and is required in addition to all other filing fees required by the application or petition you are submitting. If you are paying by check, please make it payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Special Instructions

Religious Workers (Form I-129 R-1 classification): We will accept your Form I-907 if you have previously completed a successful on-site inspection at the beneficiary’s place of employment.

Related Links

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USCIS Now Accepting Copies of Negative P Visa Consultations Directly from Labor Unions

Effective immediately, USCIS will begin accepting copies of negative consultation letters directly from labor unions relating to a current or future P nonimmigrant visa petition. A consultation letter from a U.S. labor organization is generally required for petitions in the P visa classification, which covers athletes, artists, entertainers and their essential support personnel.

Typically, a petitioner submits the necessary P visa consultation with the petition, and that process requirement remains unchanged. After reported concerns from labor unions that some consultation letters, also known as advisory opinions, may have been falsified by petitioners and submitted to USCIS as no-objections or favorable consultations, when in fact they were negative, USCIS announced that it would begin accepting copies of negative consultation letters for O visa petitions. USCIS is now expanding this to P visa petitions, and labor unions are now able to send copies of negative O visa petition or P visa petition consultation letters directly to USCIS so that they can be compared to the consultation letter submitted by the O or P petitioner. 

P nonimmigrant visas are available for individuals coming to the U.S. temporarily to:

  • Perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance (P-1A nonimmigrant classification). P athletes include:
    • Internationally recognized athletes
    • Certain professional athletes, certain amateur athletes or coaches, and professional or amateur athletes performing in a theatrical ice skating production under the COMPETE Act
  • Perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding in its discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time (P-1B nonimmigrant classification);
  • Perform as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group, who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the U.S. and an organization in another country (P-2 nonimmigrant classification); or
  • Perform, teach, or coach as artists or entertainers, individually or as part of a group, under a program that is culturally unique (P-3 nonimmigrant classification).

Labor unions should send copies of negative P nonimmigrant consultation letters to [email protected]. Unions should only send copies of negative consultation letters for O and P petitions to USCIS at that email box. To ensure USCIS matches the consultation letters to the appropriate petitions, labor unions should include each beneficiary’s name and the last five digits of the beneficiary’s passport number on the consultation letters.

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USCIS Statement on the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

On Feb. 6, 2019, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) join other U.S. government agencies and the international community in calling for an end to the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C). 

FGM/C is the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for no medical reason.

The United Nations reports that more than 200 million women and girls around the world have undergone some form of FGM/C. On Zero Tolerance Day, we are raising awareness about this practice, which is happening here in the United States, in small towns and big cities alike. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates approximately 500,000 girls in the United States are at risk of having FGM/C performed on them.

FGM/C is a human rights violation and a crime under federal law and in 28 states. When committed against children, it is a form of child abuse. People who commit this crime can face prison time and significant immigration consequences. We support ongoing efforts nationwide that uphold laws criminalizing FGM/C.

We continue to work with interagency partners to implement the Department of Homeland Security’s Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C) Outreach Strategy (PDF, 263 KB) and provide resources highlighting FGM/C-related assistance to women and girls who have undergone or are at risk of FGM/C. We will continue to identify opportunities to #EndFGM in the United States and worldwide. 

Read more information about the practice of FGM/C in the USCIS FGM/C brochure (PDF, 714 KB), the U.S. Government Fact Sheet (PDF, 573 KB), and on the United Nations’ Zero Tolerance Day website.

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Owner of Information Technology Staffing Company Charged With Visa and Naturalization Fraud

NEWARK, N.J. – A Middlesex County, New Jersey, man was arrested this morning for allegedly submitting 11 fraudulent H-1B visa applications as well as fraudulently procuring his own citizenship, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Neeraj Sharma, 43, of Piscataway, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with one count of visa fraud and one count of naturalization fraud. Sharma is scheduled to make his initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Hammer in Newark federal court.

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

Sharma recruited foreign workers with purported IT expertise who sought work in the United States. When submitting the potential staffers’ H-1B visa paperwork to U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services, Sharma falsely represented that the foreign workers had full-time positions awaiting them at a national bank, a prerequisite to securing their visas. In fact, Sharma had never secured work for the applicants and submitted phony letters to USCIS on the bank’s letterhead with forged signatures of bank executives. The H-1B program applies to employers seeking to hire nonimmigrant aliens as workers in specialty occupations or as fashion models of distinguished merit and ability.

The visa and naturalization fraud charges carry a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Newark Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian A. Michael, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, New York Region, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael C. Mikulka, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office of Fraud Detection and National Security, Vermont and Newark Field Offices, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan L. O’Neill of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Public Protection Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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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USCIS to Close the Moscow Field Office

Due to a significant decrease in workload, USCIS will permanently close its field office in Moscow, Russia, on March 29, 2019. The last day the office will be open to the public and accepting applications is Feb. 28, 2019. The USCIS field office in Athens, Greece, will assume jurisdiction over immigration matters in the Russian Federation, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.  The U.S. Embassy in Moscow will assume responsibility for certain limited services previously provided by USCIS to individuals residing in Russia (see table below). The USCIS Refugee Affairs Division will assume primary responsibility for adjudicating refugee cases presented for interview in the region.

Beginning on March 1, 2019, individuals who live in the aforementioned countries must follow these filing instructions:

Service/Form

Filing Instructions

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

File your petition by mail with the USCIS lockbox facility in Chicago. You can find additional filing information on the Form I-130 Web page.

USCIS may authorize the Department of State to accept a petition filed with a U.S. embassy in some limited circumstances (PDF, 61 KB).

Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation)

If you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR) who has lost your LPR card and/or re-entry permit and you need travel documentation to return to the U.S., you can file your Form I-131A with any U.S. embassy consular section or USCIS international field office

Form I-407, Record of Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status

Form I-407 may be submitted by mail to the nearest USCIS international field office.  

In rare circumstances, a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate without a USCIS international field office may allow you to submit a Form I-407 in person if you need immediate proof that you have abandoned your lawful permanent resident status.

Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition

You must file your petition with the Nebraska or Texas Service Center, depending on where you live in the United States.

For beneficiary interviews/processing, contact the U.S. embassy consular section in the country where the beneficiary resides.

Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

If you are a member of the U.S. military and are stationed overseas, please see the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization page or call 800-375-5283 for the most current filing instructions. USCIS will forward the application to the appropriate international field office for processing. For qualified children of active-duty service members stationed abroad, the proper form to file is the N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322.

General information about the U.S. Embassy Moscow is available on the embassy website. You may also contact the embassy by calling 011-7 (495) 728-5000 or by mailing:

U.S. Embassy Moscow
Bolshoy Deviatinksy Pereulok No. 8
Moscow 121099
Russian Federation 

For more information on the services USCIS provides in the region, please contact the USCIS field office in Athens.

You can find contact information for USCIS Athens on the USCIS website.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, visit www.uscis.gov.

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DHS Announces Final Rule for a More Effective and Efficient H-1B Visa Program

WASHINGTON—The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) posted today for public inspection, a final rule amending regulations governing H-1B cap-subject petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. The final rule reverses the order by which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, and it introduces an electronic registration requirement for petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions. The rule will be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 31, and will go into effect on April 1, though the electronic registration requirement will be suspended for the fiscal year (FY) 2020 cap season. 

“These simple and smart changes are a positive benefit for employers, the foreign workers they seek to employ, and the agency’s adjudicators, helping the H-1B visa program work better,” said USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna. “The new registration system, once implemented, will lower overall costs for employers and increase government efficiency. We are also furthering President Trump’s goal of improving our immigration system by making a simple adjustment to the H-1B cap selection process. As a result, U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery in years of excess demand for new H-1B visas.”

Effective April 1, USCIS will first select H-1B petitions (or registrations, once the registration requirement is implemented) submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will then select from the remaining eligible petitions, a number projected to reach the advanced degree exemption. Changing the order in which USCIS counts these allocations will likely increase the number of petitions for beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to be selected under the H-1B numerical allocations. Specifically, the change will result in an estimated increase of up to 16% (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected petitions for H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.

USCIS will begin accepting H-1B cap petitions for FY 2020 on April 1, 2019. The reverse selection order will apply to petitions filed for the FY 2020 H-1B cap season. Petitioners may file an H-1B petition no more than six months before the employment start date requested for the beneficiary. USCIS will provide H-1B cap filing instruction on uscis.gov in advance of the filing season.

Importantly, after considering public feedback, USCIS will be suspending the electronic registration requirement for the FY 2020 cap season to complete user testing and ensure the system and process are fully functional. Once implemented, the electronic registration requirement will require petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap petitions, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption, to first electronically register with USCIS during a designated registration period. Only those whose registrations are selected will be eligible to file an H-1B cap-subject petition. USCIS expects that the electronic registration requirement, once implemented, will reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for USCIS and petitioners.

Additionally, USCIS will publish a notice in the Federal Register to announce the initial implementation of the H-1B registration process in advance of the cap season in which it will implement the requirement. Prior to implementation, USCIS will conduct outreach to ensure petitioners understand how to access and use the system. Once implemented, USCIS will announce the designated electronic registration period at least 30 days in advance for each fiscal year it is required.

On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, instructing DHS to “propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of U.S. workers in the administration of our immigration system.” The executive order specifically mentioned the H-1B program and directed DHS and other agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”  

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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