EAD applicants can now apply for work permit and social security number on the same form

USCIS announcement on October 2, 2017:

WASHINGTON – Based on a new information-sharing partnership between U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA), foreign nationals in certain categories or classifications can now apply for work authorization and a social security number using a single form – the updated Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.

To lawfully work in the United States, foreign workers in some categories and classifications need both an employment authorization document (EAD) from USCIS, and a Social Security number (SSN) from the SSA. Previously, applicants needed to submit a Form I-765 to USCIS for an EAD, and then submit additional paperwork in-person at their local Social Security office to obtain an SSN.

The revised USCIS form includes additional questions that allow applicants to apply for an SSN or replacement card without visiting a Social Security office. Starting today, USCIS will transmit the additional data collected on the form to the SSA for processing. Moving forward, applicants who receive their approved EADs from USCIS should receive their Social Security card from SSA within the following two weeks.

EADs serve as documentation to show employers that an individual is authorized to work in the U.S. for a specific time period. SSNs are used to report wages to the government, and to determine an individual’s eligibility for certain benefits. USCIS encourages all U.S. employers to verify the employment eligibility of all new hires through E-Verify.

For additional information on applying for employment authorization, visit USCIS’ EAD page or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center.

For more information on applying for a Social Security card, see this fact sheet (PDF).

Premium Processing Now Available for all H-1B Petitions

USCIS announcement on 10/3/2017:

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) resumed premium processing today for all H-1B visa extension of stay petitions. Premium processing is now available for all types of H-1B petitions.

H-1B visas provide skilled workers for a wide range of specialty occupations, including information technology, engineering, and mathematics. When a petitioner requests the agency’s premium processing service, USCIS guarantees a 15-calendar day processing time. If that time is not met, the agency will refund the petitioner’s premium processing service fee and continue with expedited processing of the application….

Details about premium processing are found at the USCIS website.

Trump’s New Travel Ban

On September 24, 2017, the Trump administration imposed new travel restrictions on foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States from eight countries: Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Starting October 18, 2017, the travel ban  applies to individuals of the designated countries who: (1) are outside the U.S. on the applicable effective date ; (ii) do not have a valid visa on the applicable effective date; and (iii) do not qualify for a reinstated visa or other travel document that was revoked under the President’s earlier travel ban.

Although the new travel ban goes into effect on October 18, 2017,  the ban is effective immediately for anyone whose entry to the U.S. was covered by the previous travel ban  (i.e., nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen who do not have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States). After October 18, 2017, citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen are NOT exempt from the new travel ban even if they have a “bona fide relationship” with a U.S. person or entity.

The new travel ban does not apply to:

  • lawful permanent residents of the U.S.
  • individuals admitted to or paroled into the U.S.
  • those with a document other than a visa that allows them to travel to the U.S. if the document is dated on/after the effective date of the new travel ban (such as an advance parole travel document)
  • dual-nationals traveling on a passport from a non-designated country
  • individuals traveling on diplomatic visas, NATO visas, C-2/U.N. visas, or G-1, G-2, G-3 or G-4 visas
  • individuals granted asylum
  • refugees already admitted to the United States, or
  • individuals granted withholding of removal, advance parole, or protection under the Convention Against Torture.

A  waiver is available if an individual can show that being denied entry would cause undue hardship to the individual, that their entry would not pose a threat to U.S. national security or public safety and that their entry “would be in the national interest.”

The new country-specific travel bans are indefinite.

If you are national of any of these restricted countries, consult with a qualified immigration attorney before making any travel plans.

Premium Processing Now Available for Certain H-1B Cap-Exempt Petitions

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will resume premium processing for certain cap-exempt H-1B petitions effective immediately. The H-1B visa has an annual cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year. Additionally, there is an annual “master’s cap” of 20,000 petitions filed for beneficiaries with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.

Premium processing will resume for petitions that may be exempt from the cap if the H-1B petitioner is:

* An institution of higher education;

* A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; or

* A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.

Premium processing will also resume for petitions that may also be exempt if the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity.

Starting today, those cap-exempt petitioners who are eligible for premium processing can file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Form I-907 can be filed together with an H-1B petition or separately for a pending H-1B petition.

USCIS previously announced that premium processing resumed on June 26 for H-1B petitions filed on behalf of physicians under the Conrad 30 waiver program as well as interested government agency waivers.

USCIS plans to resume premium processing of other H-1B petitions as workloads permit. USCIS will make additional announcements with specific details related to when we will begin accepting premium processing for those petitions. Until then, premium processing remains temporarily suspended for all other H-1B petitions. USCIS will reject any Form I-907 filed for those petitions, and if the petitioner submitted one check combining the Form I-907 and Form I-129 fees, USCIS will have to reject both forms.

From the USCIS Press Release

USCIS Moves Cases Between Offices to Balance Workload

A recent email from USCIS:

From January 5 through March 28, USCIS began sending some cases between service centers in order to balance workloads. We have updated our Workload Transfer Updates page with this information:

  • Some Forms I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, for F, M, and J nonimmigrants went from the California Service Center (CSC), the Nebraska Service Center (NSC) and the Texas Service Center (TSC) to the Potomac Service Center (PSC).
  • Some Forms I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, for F, M, J, or B nonimmigrants went from the VSC to the CSC
  • Some Forms I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, for petitioners requesting H-1B nonimmigrant classification went from the VSC to the CSC
  • Some Forms I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for immediate relatives went from the NSC to the PSC and the TSC
  • Some Forms I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, for petitioners seeking L, O, and P nonimmigrant classification went from the VSC to the CSC (except for major league sports-related P petitions which will remain with the VSC)
  • Some Forms I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, for L nonimmigrant classification when from the VSC to the CSC
  • Some Forms I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, for applicants seeking the L-2, O-3, and P-4 nonimmigrant classifications that are filed together with Form I-129 went from the VSC to the CSC (except for major league sports-related P petitions which will remain with the VSC)
  • Some Forms I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, for applicants seeking L-2 status went from the VSC to the CSC

Employers Should Review Form I-9 for Social Security Number Glitch

We received the following email from the USCIS about a form I-9 glitch:

If you used Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, that you downloaded between Nov. 14 and Nov. 17, 2016, review them to ensure your employees’ Social Security numbers appear correctly in Section 1. There was a glitch when the revised Form I-9 was first published on Nov. 14, 2016. Numbers entered in the Social Security number field were transposed when employees completed and printed Section 1 using a computer. For example, the number 123-45-6789 entered in the Social Security number field would appear as 123-34-6789 once the form printed. Employers using a Form I-9 that contains this glitch should download and save a new Form I-9 at uscis.gov/i-9.

Employers who notice their employees’ Social Security numbers are not written correctly should have their employees draw a line through the transposed Social Security number in Section 1, enter the correct Social Security number, and then initial and date the change. Employers should include a written explanation with Form I-9 about why the correction was made in the event of an audit.

USCIS immediately repaired and reposted the form on Nov. 17, 2016.

Badmus commentary:  Employers should be aware, however, the social security number on the I-9 form is optional. In other words, employees are not required to provide their social security number on the form unless the employer participates in the E-Verify program.  Also, if the employee does not yet have a social security number but are work eligible, he or she can work while waiting for the number.  The USCIS specifically advises: “You may not ask employees to provide you a specific document with their Social Security number on it. To do so may constitute unlawful discrimination.”  USCIS Handbook for Employers

USCIS Reminds Beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone of May 21 Termination

USCIS is reminding the public that the designations of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone terminate effective May 21, 2017.

To provide sufficient time for an orderly transition, the Department of Homeland Security gave beneficiaries under these three designations 8 months advance notice of the expiration by publishing 3 notices in the Federal Register on Sept. 22, 2016 (one for each country). These notices urged individuals who did not have another immigration status to use the time before the terminations became effective in May to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States or to apply for other immigration benefits for which they may be eligible.

Although TPS benefits will no longer be in effect starting May 21, 2017, TPS beneficiaries will continue to hold any other immigration status that they have maintained or acquired while registered for TPS. Individuals with no other lawful immigration status on May 21, 2017, will no longer be protected from removal or eligible for employment authorization based on TPS.

TPS-related Employment Authorization Documents issued under the Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone designations are only valid through May 20, 2017, and will not be renewed or extended.

After reviewing country conditions and consulting with the appropriate U.S. government agencies, former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson determined that conditions in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone no longer support their designations for TPS. The widespread transmission of Ebola virus in the three countries that led to the designations has ended.

Additional information about TPS is available at uscis.gov/tps.

(From the USCIS press release)

New Redesigned Green Cards and Employment Authorization Documents Starting May 1, 2017

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced a redesign to the Permanent Resident Card (also known as a Green Card) and the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. USCIS will begin issuing the new cards on May 1, 2017.

These redesigns use enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant security features to create cards that are highly secure and more tamper-resistant than the ones currently in use.

The new card designs demonstrate USCIS’ commitment to continue taking a proactive approach against the threat of document tampering and fraud. They are also part of an ongoing effort between USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enhance document security and deter counterfeiting and fraud.

The Redesigned Cards

The new Green Cards and EADs will:

  • Display the individual’s photos on both sides;
  • Show a unique graphic image and color palette:
    • Green Cards will have an image of the Statue of Liberty and a predominately green palette;
    • EAD cards will have an image of a bald eagle and a predominately red palette;
  • Have embedded holographic images; and
  • No longer display the individual’s signature.

Also, Green Cards will no longer have an optical stripe on the back.

How To Tell If Your Card Is Valid

Some Green Cards and EADs issued after May 1, 2017, may still display the existing design format as USCIS will continue using existing card stock until current supplies are depleted. Both the existing and the new Green Cards and EADs will remain valid until the expiration date shown on the card.

Certain EADs held by individuals with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and other designated categories have been automatically extended beyond the validity date on the card. For additional information on which EADs are covered, please visit the Temporary Protected Status and American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act web pages on uscis.gov.

Both versions are acceptable for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, E-Verify, and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE). Some older Green Cards do not have an expiration date.  These older Green Cards without an expiration date remain valid. Individuals who have Green Cards without an expiration date may want to consider applying for a replacement card bearing an expiration date. Obtaining the replacement card will reduce the likelihood of fraud or tampering if the card is ever lost or stolen.

—from the USCIS press release

2017- 2018 H-1B Cap Has Been Reached but Fewer Applications than in 2016

The government update on H-1B cap visas as of April 17, 2017:

USCIS announced on April 7, 2017, that it has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for fiscal year (FY) 2018. USCIS has also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the U.S. advanced degree exemption, also known as the master’s cap.

USCIS received 199,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 3, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 11, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees, unless the petition is found to be a duplicate filing.

The agency conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All unselected advanced degree petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 cap.

Note:  The 199,000 petitions received this year is  a 15.7 percent decrease from the 236,000 petitions that USCIS received during last year’s filing period.

Immigration Attorneys for Foreign National Physicians