Refugee and Asylum Report for 2014
The Office of Immigration Statistics for the Department of Homeland Security released information on the Refugee and Asylum programs for 2014. Here are some highlights:
- 69,975 people were admitted as refugees. Iraq, Burma, Somalia, and Bhutan were the leading countries of nationality. 74% of all refugees came from those four countries. The refugee cap was 70,000 for the year.
- 23,533 people were granted asylum. DHS granted asylum to 14,758 of them. The Executive Office for Immigration Review granted asylum to the remaining 8,775 people.
- 55% of admitted refugees live in ten states. Texas, California, New York, Michigan, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Illinois are the states in order of highest number of arriving refugees.
- China, Egypt, Syria, and Ethiopia had the most granted asylum cases. China accounted for over a third of all asylum grants. Mexico was number 7, Haiti was number 9, Guatemala was number 10.
- 47% of those individuals granted asylum in 2014 reside in California.
DMV and Lengthy Adjudication Issues for H-1B and L-1 Nonimmigrants
The USCIS Ombudsman held a teleconference on DMV issues for H-1B and L-1 visa holders in the United States who are in their 240 days of automatic employment authorization extension. This extension goes into effect if an extension petition is timely filed by the beneficiary’s petitioner and the beneficiary’s original expiration date has been reached. If an H-1B’s petition end date is September 30, 2016, the automatic 240 days of employment authorization go into effect on October 1, 2016, so that the beneficiary maintains her lawful presence while the extension petition is pending.
There are DMV issues because states act differently when it comes to issuing driver’s licenses during that period of employment authorization. The 240-day extension provides for lawful presence, but it does NOT provide for lawful status. The law that governs driver’s licenses emphasizes lawful status, not presence. This has caused problems for multitudes of H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrants, especially in recent months. Both the California and Vermont Service Centers are taking an uncharacteristically long time to adjudicate H-1B and L-1 extension petitions. Both service centers have a track record of spending around 2 months on adjudication, which is their goal. They are still adjudicating petitions from the summer of 2015. This is incredibly problematic for H-1B and L-1 visa holders and their employers. The earliest an extension petition can be filed is 180 days in advance. USCIS is taking longer than 180 days to adjudicate regularly filed petitions, so the 240-day extension goes into effect and the beneficiary loses lawful status. That can have ramifications, such as the loss of a driver’s license. That affects the beneficiary’s ability to drive to work and live life normally, if the state is unwilling to extend the driver’s license. Some states have taken a hybrid approach, granting a temporary driver’s privilege card while the 240-day extension is in effect.
The Ombudsman concluded that it was monitoring the situation. It has been known for months that USCIS is taking an unusually long time on adjudicating these petitions, much to the detriment of employers and employees. AILA has published a scathing letter critiquing the delays and lack of remediation. The lengthy delays are constructively forcing employers to pay $1,225 for premium processing, on top of the other fees that those petitions entail.
USCIS Processing Times
Processing times have been released for USCIS applications. They are updated as of February 29, 2016. These are available for the service centers. Applications that are processed through the local field offices are not available in these updates. H-1B extensions are still taking an excruciatingly long time. Vermont is backed up to July 20, 2015. California is backed up to September 18, 2015. They are pretty much demanding that premium processing is needed for a timely decision. U visa applications are badly backed up. Employment authorization applications are also taking a long time. That is why there have been so many transfers to different service centers. Notably, there are still not available processing times for applications that are pending at the Potomac Service Center in Arlington, Virginia. Many Family-Based petitions, DACA, and Employment Authorization applications are being processed at the Potomac Service Center, which is designated as YSC in the receipt notice.
May 2016 Visa Bulletin Released
The Department of State has released the 2016 May Visa Bulletin.
Employment Based-2 and Employment Based-3 categories for India moved only a few weeks. The filing date is July 1, 2009 for EB-2 India. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have their own chargeability in the employment-based category but not in the family-based category.
Family Based-2 for all non-listed chargeabilities is June 15, 2015 (spouses of LPRs). There is no filing date for the family-based categories. That will be released later this month, according to the State Department.
USCIS Completes H-1B Lottery
USCIS has completed the H-1B lottery and receipt notices for cases selected in the lottery are in the mail. Those cases that are not selected will receive notices and returned checks later. The lottery is necessitated because of the 85,000 cap for H-1B visas per fiscal year (65,000 regular, 20,000 US Master’s). USCIS reports having received 236,000 H-1B visa petitions this year, meaning that 151,000 petitions will not be selected.
USCIS has announced that will begin adjudicating premium processing cases no later than May 16. Premium processing means that USCIS will render a decision within 15 days (for a fee of $1,225). The earliest start date for beneficiaries who are approved for an H-1B change of status or H-1B visa is October 1.
Cap exempt H-1B visas can be filed at any time of the year. Cap subject H-1B visas were only able to be filed between April 1 and April 7 because of the 85,000 visa cap. The cap has not been increased since 2003. The cap used to be at 195,000, but is now at one third that number.