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H-1B Visa Application Season 2014

Happy new year and the roulette wheel of H-1B visas is just around the corner again for the plethora of companies that sponsor these visas along with the hundreds of thousands of foreigners hoping for a chance to work in the US.

We don’t use the term roulette wheel to be cute or as a casual throw away line but in the sense of both how random the process is but also to emphasize how we are literally playing games with millions and billions of dollars of wealth gained and lost in the US through this game of luck system we have.

As a quick refresher on the H-1B visa there are 65,000 general visas issued each year and 20,000 additional visas issued under an Advanced Degree Exemption for foreigners who have obtained graduate degrees or higher from a US University. So that gives a total of 85,000 visas issued to professional foreigners who have to paid a typical professional wage. This is determined by  their career position and locality which is equivalent at minimum to the average salary paid to US worker in the same role an place and is know as a prevailing wage.

Why the above is a significant point to take note is multiple fold  as it affects society, families, foreigners, us companies, the economy and immigration simultaneously. Ultimately none of it is good for the US although  depending on who you listen to the H-1B visa might be the scourge of America. The sad reality is if you listen to rhetoric, ad hoc anecdotes and misinformation you could be convinced. If nothing else you should listen to the facts and decide for yourself;

  • Each month foreigners start more businesses than US born citizens
  • Foreigners earn 3x patents of US born citizens
  • Foreigners found more Silicon Valley companies than US born citizens
  • All PhD educated growth from US Universities in last 40 yrs is from foreign students
  • Immigrants as a whole pay more in taxes than receive in benefits and more ….

As it stands now US companies are restricted in hiring the best and brightest and talented foreigners are leaving the US in droves often with US degrees and founding companies and creating wealth and jobs elsewhere. The proposed US Immigration Reform 2013 passed by the Senate hopes to address this in many ways, however it has gone nowhere in the house and as it stands will have no affect on the H-1B visa season due to being on April 1, 2014.

If you are a foreigner or potential employer then we suggest you complete all your hiring and do your immigration paperwork now so you can send it to the USCIS (United States Custom & Immigration Service) to be received by FedEx on April 1. Last year there was an H-1B visa lottery for the first time since 2008 and likely this year will be even more competitive with the improving economy so your package needs to be in at earliest possible moment.

Good luck this season and we have pasted a summary of all the relevant fees and steps for Immigration part although they are always subject to change;

H1B Visa Fees 2014

To Apply for the Visa; (all USD)
1. USCIS Filing Fee with USCIS $325 – Form I-129 (Spouse optional H4 Fee is $300)
2. Fraud Detection Fee with USCIS $500

3. LCA Filing Fee with Department of Labor FREE – Form ETA 9035/9035e (a small win here…although am sure will change one day)
Also have to ensure prevailing wages are met as well in this part so you are paid the same or more as a US worker in same position)

4. Premium Filing Fee $1,225 (optional – Form I-901) – excessive designed to help process where your legal representative has access to case officer phone number and decisions are made fast in 15 days and can also aid spouse partner H4 visa process

5. Public Law 111-230 $2,000 – (dependent) to be submitted by a petitioner which employs 50 or more employees in the United States where more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States are in H-1B or L-1 nonimmigrant status.

6. ACWIA Fee $750 or $1,500 – if your petition is successful this goes to a training fund for US workers and is $1,500 unless you have less than 25 full time employees. Some government, education and non-profit institutions are exempt from this fee

ADDITIONAL FEES FOR VISA STAMPING IN FOREIGN COUNTRY
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7. Consular Application Fee $131 (x2 for spouse)
8. Visa Issuance Fee $100 (x2 for spouse) (but varies by country so check the Visa Reciprocity Section of the USCIS

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USCIS ELIS – Pay your Immigration Fees & Manage your Account Online

Since the Obama administration came to power in 2009 there has been a definitive shift towards modernizing the mechanics of the US Immigration system albeit long overdue and very stage based. This is in stark contrast to the actual US Immigration laws itself which are still very much in the dark ages.

Prior to September 11, 2001, the US Immigration mechanics while still arcane were at least somewhat practical and logical albeit with a few holes. Immigrants who wanted to do things like Visa Renewals, US Consular Interviews, Green Card Processing, etc. could have done things at a minimum in a fairly practical way and certainly far more timely way that exists today. After that fateful day, all aspects of the US Immigration system returned to the dark ages and became hostile and illogical.

As the Internet age was taking hold in the first decade of the 2000s and information systems became the norm instead of a fantasy, the US Immigration system was in a pattern of 10 years plus waits for processing, endless duplicate and redundant forms which were all paper based, manual checks on individuals, disconnected and old fashioned payment systems and the list goes on.

So more recently from 2012 into 2013 we now have another rollout of the United States Custom & Immigration Service (USCIS) new Immigrant self management system called simply ELIS (Electronic Immigration System).

Currently now it is for a select portion of people in the US Immigration system being those eligible and applying for Green Cards from outside the US, non immigrant visa holders in B-1, B-2, M-1, M-2 F-1, F-2, J-1 and J-2 status who want to extend or change their stay depending on the individual visa and immigrant eligibility. Essentially this is filing form Immigration form I-539 online via ELIS.

So it is very limited in its scope but the reality is this should be the standard for managing USCIS cases and Immigration processing across most of the system for all stakeholders being the Immigration individuals, their employers and families and where necessary (but hopefully less of), immigration lawyers.

There is still some limitations as outlined in the ELIS FAQs, such as the Internet browsers that can be used as well edge cases where they may be fee waivers. However in the true traditions of a good tech company they are piloting a technology which then should be rolled out system wide with most, if not all, bugs fixed.

CJ

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