Category Archives: Greenhandshake Blog

Fundamentals of Filing H-1B in FY 2017 Lottery

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Here are some basic points for those who are not familiar with the H-1B lottery process.

New visa petitions (non-immigrant workers) may be filed with the USCIS or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services starting April 1, 2016. The yearly cap for H1-B may be reached by the 1st week of April. It is anticipated that demand will exceed the quota. In this connection, USCIS will implement a lottery system to select petitions for processing. The April 1 filing date is not an assurance that Visas will be issued. Petitions not selected will be returned with filing fees.

This visa is an attractive option for employers not depending on short-term employment of foreign professionals. The category offers authorization for foreigners in specialty occupations. It is generally defined as a position calling for a minimum bachelor’s degree in specific academic fields.

US Congress set a new quota of 65, 000 visas for each fiscal year – October 1st to September 30. An extra 20, 000 (visas) are reserved for every fiscal year. This is for applicants with advanced degrees from US universities/colleges. The limitation does not include international degrees. Likewise, not all degrees obtained in the US are qualified. Section 101 (A), Higher Education Act (1965) states the school issuing the degree must meet the definition of institution of higher education.

The institution should be a public, non-profit institution. It must be legitimate, accredited or given pre-accreditation status by an accrediting association recognized nationwide or the education secretary. A private and unaccredited school is not regarded as an institution of higher education based on this law. The USCIS will conduct the lottery initially for petitions of advanced degree exemptions. Those not selected will also be included in the 65, 000 limit lottery. Last year (2015), petitions filed for the master’s quota began receiving notifications via email during the middle of April.

Each year, some petitions are filed promptly but are not included in the lottery due to incorrect filing. Bear in mind that being chosen is only the first step. It does not mean that the visa will be given approval right away. The USCIS officer will forward a request for additional requirements/documents once an application is chosen. This is called a Request for Evidence or RFE.

It is important to prepare early and be familiar with all the aspects of this H1-B procedure. This is meant to maximize the person’s chances that their H-1B petition. All Labor Condition Applications (LCA) must be submitted to the Labor Department by the start of March. Petitions must be filed on or prior to April 1, 2016. In other words, this is the right time to get ready for this application process. The whole procedure consists of putting together education credentials and relevant documents; writing and signing letters and forms; submitting the LCAs to the Department of labor. Said tasks will certainly entail a lot of time son see to it that you work on this right away.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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Latest News about OPT STEM Litigation

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United States District Court Judge Ellen Huevelle has granted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extension of STEM OPT until May 10 of this year.

This is certainly good news for all F-1 international students who are currently studying and residing in the United States.

Under Rule 60 (B), the district court is given discretion to relieve parties from conclusive orders due to particular reasons or cause that validates relief. These include the following: None of the cited arguments for relief are appropriate; the motion was put into effect within a realistic time-frame; and, the requested reprieve is substantiated by exceptional circumstances beyond the petitioner’s control.

The Notice of Appeal is within the Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction while the district court relinquishes its control over portions of the case implicated in said petition. The court should determine if consideration of this “stay extension” will lead to turmoil and inefficiency. Changed conditions prove assumptions essential to the stay’s duration are impractical. Thus, ending the deferment after six months is not reasonable. Unnecessary hardship for STEM OPT members as well as employers is the same.

There are around 23, 000 participants in STEM OPT with 8, 000 applications awaiting approval and another 434, 000 international students qualified for authorization. Many will be affected if this stay is not extended. On the other hand, the technology sector can lose workers while educational institutions in the US will lose their appeal to foreign students.

The fact that the Department failed to implement corrective measures in the past to anticipate the court ruling last year prohibits it from respite. The court ruled there is no merit in the argument that changes suggested by DHS or ambiguity changes have caused disqualify the Agency from the relief it was seeking.

Petitioner pointed out both parties will go back to court even if the motion of DHS was granted because of the replacement rule. The court does not have many reasons to doubt said claim but this rule can only be disputed in future proceedings. The district court has to protect decisiveness of its judgments but it presumed the limited amendment was necessary.

Some of the queries of students include an initial OPT that was about to expire before May 10. Will the student be allowed to file for an extension of 17 months? The answer is yes. If the OPT expires between today and May 10, it is possible to file the extension as soon as possible under the 2008 rule.

Another is an OPT expiring on or right after May 11. Is a 17-month extension applicable? The answer is most probably yes. There are two options. Foreign students can file for extension and probably be given the 17-month term covered by the new ruling. Once this is in place, the students concerned can apply for the other seven months to earn the full 24 months. This will also reveal how the Department of Homeland Safety will cope with the in-between situation.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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An International Student’s List of Things to Prepare For

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When you study abroad as an international student, you bring with you a different and unique perspective based on education and culture in your country. Surely, there would be policies in your new school that would seem confusing to you. Other people may also feel awkward about some of the mannerisms you’re used to. Though these would all be good memories in the future, you need to ensure that you keep constant communication with your friends and relatives at home. This would allow you to cope from the inevitable culture shock you would experience in the new environment. 

Before you arrive at the country of the international college you’re going to study at, you need to accomplish your paperwork and you must consider and use some tips so you can have a good start.

International Students Office

When it comes to travel arrangement plans, you can get help from the international student’s office in your school. The office can help you arrange travels specifically in the immediate areas within the school. In particular, you can get help for concerns such as financial aid, applications, and others. You should grab the opportunity of contacting the school to ask for professor recommendation. This is particularly helpful if you are going to take any degree related to public administration. Asking for recommendations would give you an idea about how you would feel when already getting the degree.

Travel Visa

It is important that you know the three basic types of visa. These are M1, J1, and F1 Visa. Each type will have a different effect on the kind of work or job you can get when abroad. The M1 Visa won’t allow you to work. It will only allow you to stay in the U.S. for vocational or non-academic school. The J1 Visa has some restrictions when it comes to work. The restrictions depend on your sponsor’s visitor program. It will allow you to have access to practical trainings that are not available in your own country. Lastly, the F1 Visa will allow you to work for one year in the U.S. but only after you have graduated in your chosen degree. So, this type will allow you to enter the U.S. for academic studies and then work later after graduation.

Travel Expenses

Generally, traveling abroad particularly to the U.S. is expensive. However, you may be able to cut on travel expenses depending on the type of transportation you use. You can greatly cut on your cost when you book weeks or months before your flight schedule. It would also help you to get the best deal when you look for bus and train rates online. The Southwest Airlines, for example, can give you the best rate when you book directly with them.

The Means Test

You won’t be allowed to study in the U.S. if you haven’t proved you can support yourself. Savings is the only way to prove it. Potential income and work in the U.S. while you study won’t help you.

With these, it is really crucial that you have clear plans and that you have talked with the department in the school you are interested to study in.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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New Proposed OPT Rules for STEM: Up to 3 Years OPT plus Cap-Gap Relief

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has proposed an amendment in its regulations pertaining to the optional practical training or OPT program. The proposal seeks to allow international F-1 students who are currently holding a U.S. degree in sciences, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) to extend their OPT period from 12 months to 24 months. To be qualified, they must have attained their degree from any accredited institution. The extension in OPT period aims to allow them to have more time to pursue work experience that are related to their degree. Currently, the extension available to STEM degree holders is up to 17 months. The proposal would supersede this current extension.

However, the extension has some conditions that come with it. One is the inclusion of an increased oversight on the employment of the beneficiaries of STEM OPT. Employers also have to satisfy specific requirements such as enrollment in the verification program called E-Verify employment eligibility. They must also implement training plans, formal mentoring, and make specific attestations, which are similar to what other employment-eligible visa categories require.

Employers must also attest that:

1.) There are available equipped personnel and sufficient resources so they can provide appropriate training and mentoring;

 2.) The opportunity significantly helps students in accomplishing his or her objectives in the training;

3.) The compensation, duties, and hours are proportionate with workers under the same situation in the U.S.;

4.) There will be monitoring of ongoing reporting requirements; and

5.) There will be no furloughs or lay-offs of workers that came from the student’s training of STEM.

Aside from the extension, the proposal also supports the continuous Cap-Gap relief. In an H-1B cap petition that is timely filed, the F-1 student who is named as the beneficiary is allowed extension for his or her OPT duration status of up to October 1st under the fiscal year when the visa for H-1B is requested.

The proposed regulations in the DHS improve the STEM OPT program’s integrity because it encourages students to gain STEM experience that are practical and valuable. At the same time, the proposal also prevents the U.S. workers from suffering from the adverse effects of the program. Students are expected to be better in terms of their qualification to the careers they chose in their respective study field. This happens when they have enhanced functional understanding of academic knowledge application in a work setting. It should be noted that only employers who are committed to develop the skills that are honed through practical application and knowledge of students can provide these on-the-job experiences. In addition, the proposal to amend the rules aims to make the U.S. more competitive in attracting STEM students from all over the world to study and remain in the country lawfully.

The proposed rule is a response to a court decision that vacates a similar DHS regulation in 2008. The regulation was vacated due to procedural grounds. Public comments are accepted for the proposal, which is available at http://federalregister.gov/a/2015-26395. Comments are accepted until November 18, 2015.  

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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