In the last month, usage of H-1B numbers have continued to crawl upwards:

  • The regular H-1B cap has seen an increase from 25,300 petitions received to 32,200 as of September 9, 2011
  • The advanced degree cap has moved toward the 20,000 cap from 14,700 petitions received to 16,700 received as of September 9, 2011
  • chocolate.jpgRecently, the news — local Pennsylvania news, the Associated Press, and even The New York Times — has been filled with a story about foreign students who came to the USA to participate in an “exchange program,” who ended up working under allegedly harsh conditions at the Hershey chocolate factory in Pennsylvania. Here at Fong & Aquino, we began to get calls from people around Los Angeles, as well as throughout the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs and Palm Desert), about these exchange visitor visas.

    Essentially, the J visa program was created as a foreign-policy tool to encourage international understanding, to provide a way for foreigners to get to know American life and work. It also allows a freer exchange of information, permitting professors and researchers to continue their studies and presentations in the USA. The visa is for a:

    * professor or research scholar,

    handshake.jpgFong & Aquino serves the entire Los Angeles area, including Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, Long Beach, and indeed, clients all around the United States. We handle family visas, business and investor visas, and removal / deportation cases. Our attorneys frequently encounter people who come in and say that they have been working with an “immigration service” or “immigration consultant” or “notario” or “notary public” for the processing of their paperwork. In the vast majority of these cases, the results obtained by these so-called service-providers have been devastating.

    The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a nationwide program to target non-attorney notaries and others who are advising and preparing paperwork for clients. The immigration system is complex, and although DHS often views attorneys as a hinderance to its work, DHS also understands that the only way an immigrant gets proper representation, a fair hearing, is through a competent, licensed attorney.

    This is a difficult subject, because those of us at Fong & Aquino have met and seen the work of a few excellent, conscientious, knowledgeable notaries. However, to be frank, these are a great exception. In truth, notaries have no legal training and have no requirement to stay up-to-date in their knowledge. Attorneys do.

    It has been a while since I have posted H-1B quota numbers but here is the most recent update from USCIS as of August 12, 2011:

  • Approximately 25,300 petitions received for the regular H-1B quota.
  • Approximately 14,700 petitions received for the advanced degree H1B quota.

    H-1B processing times remain the same: slow. Cases that were filed in May can still be pending if an RFE has been issued. Those who were planning on beginning work on October 1, 2011 can still request premium processing on pending cases if petitioners wish to have an approval notice in hand on that date. If your H-1B case is still pending and is outside processing and you wish to inquire about the status of your case, petitioners can use the USCIS 1-800 customer service center number and ask for a status inquiry. —ecf

  • Job Search Handwritten note.pngAnd so the saga continues. I have received a lot of phone calls from H-1B hopefuls, many in the same situation: highly qualified individuals with marketable skills with either no job offer in hand or a tenuous job offer from an employer not willing and able to withstand the challenges of submitting an H-1b petition. It’s no wonder that the quota numbers are extremely low.

    The most recently updated H-1B cap numbers as of July 13, 2011:

    Approximately 19,000 petitions received for the regular H1B quota.

    man running against time.png H-1B cap numbers as of July 1, 2011:

    Steady usage of the Bachelor’s degree H1b quota with about 1,000 more petitions received since last count, resulting in 18,400 cases received as of July 1, 2011.

    The H1B advanced degree cap has advanced by about 600 cases resulting in 11,900 H-1B petitions received as of July 1, 2011.

    Mind the Gap.pngWhat is the H-1B cap gap?? F-1 students seeking first-time H-1B status are often in some period of OPT (optional practical training) when submitting an H-1B petition. “H1B Cap gap” is the term that USCIS refers to as an extension of either the F-1 student’s status and/or the student’s OPT period before October 1 of each year.

    Here are some nuggets of useful information for students seeking clarification of how OPT can be properly utilized and extended with the H-1B cap gap:

  • If a cap gap H-1B applicant receives an H-1B denial at anytime (before or after October 1), s/he cannot continue working but is still allowed the 60-day grace period to depart the US as long as the H-1B was not denied or revoked due to fraud or misrepresentation
  • couple hold hands.jpgCongratulations to the citizens of New York for the practical and humane approach taken by their Legislature and Governor in the approval of same-sex marriage last week! As leading advocates for immigrants in the gay and lesbian community, the attorneys at Los Angeles’ Fong & Aquino have counseled thousands of clients from all over the nation and the world about uniting families which are not traditionally shaped.

    Beware! It is still NOT possible for same-sex couples to marry and to have the US citizen spouse petition for legal permanent resident status (the so-called green card) for the foreign spouse. This prohibition applies even when the couple both marries and resides in New York.

    A same-sex marriage in New York (or from any other state or country, for that matter) will not be recognized for purposes of Federal immigration benefits. This includes Family Petitions for alien spouses, and also includes spouse-as-dependent on any other residency application. The culprit here is the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

    mailbox2.jpgBeginning 15 August 2011, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will change the way I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is filed. Although Fong & Aquino are an immigration law firm in Los Angeles, we represent clients on every continent of the globe (except Antarctica), and we have filed I-130 Petitions all over the world.

    Beginning on 15 August, I-130s from Petitioners living outside the USA may be filed at the USCIS Chicago Lockbox facility. Petitioners who live outside the USA in a country where there is a USCIS office still have the option to file the I-130 at that USCIS office. –jcf

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    The H-1B job search continues! The H-1B quota is still wide open for those who are still job searching. Just released today are the numbers from USCIS as of June 17, 2011:

    The H-1B quota (regular degree cap) is moving slowly, but steadily with 16,300 applications received out of the 65,000 available.

    The advanced degree H-1B quota (advanced degree cap) has slowed somewhat, with 10,800 receipted out of the 20,000 available.