H-1B visa numbers remain available for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, many believe due to the economic downturn. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that, as of June 19, 2009, approximately 44,500 H-1B cap subject petitions have been received and counted towards the 65,000 H-1B cap. Approximately 20,000 petitions qualifying for the advanced degree cap exemption have been received. Until USCIS announces that the respective caps have been met, employers can continue to file H-1B temporary worker petitions for foreign nationals requesting an employment start date on or after October 1, 2009. The continued availability of H-1B visa numbers comes in stark contrast to last year when the H-1B caps were reached within the first five business days of filing.  

The availability of H-1B visa numbers presents a great opportunity for employers to meet their hiring needs for the coming year. The H-1B visa is one of the few nonimmigrant visa options available to employers seeking to fill openings in "specialty" occupations. Many foreign national students who were unable to file H-1B visa petitions on April 1, 2009 because they had not yet graduated are now eligible for H-1B sponsorship. We encourage employers to consider their hiring needs and start interviewing potential H-1B candidates and finalizing job offers immediately. Once the H-1B cap is reached, employers will not be able to obtain new H-1Bs until October 1, 2010.  

It is important to remember that the cap only applies to new H-1B cases and not to extensions of H-1B status or a transfer of an H-1B visa from one employer to another. The cap does, however, affect those foreign nationals who are in H-1B status seeking to work for new employers but who are currently exempt from the cap based on employment with an institution of higher education or not-for-profit or governmental research organization.

If you are considering the hiring of a foreign worker who will need H-1B sponsorship, we encourage you to contact one of our immigration attorneys as soon as possible to review your hiring plans. In the meantime, we will continue to provide you with the latest developments on the H-1B numbers.  

USCIS Announces Permanent Resident Card Production Delays

USCIS has published a notice on its website that applicants may experience a delay of up to eight weeks in the delivery of their permanent resident card, also commonly referred to as a "green card." USCIS is in the process of upgrading its card production equipment. Applicants approved for permanent residence and simply awaiting the delivery of their green card can visit their local USCIS field office to receive an I-551 stamp in their passport. The I-551 stamp serves as temporary evidence of the applicant's permanent resident status and is valid for work and travel.

In order to request an I-551 stamp, applicants must schedule an appointment to visit the local field office through USCIS' online Infopass appointment system (https://my.uscis.gov/appointment). Applicants must bring their passport to the appointment along with evidence of the permanent residence approval. Our immigration attorneys are available to assist you with any questions you may have about this temporary delay or about how to schedule an Infopass appointment with the local field office.