Ms Melissa B Winkler

Melissa B Winkler



H-1B cap filings have decreased by 20% since Trump took office
USA | 04 May 2018

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced that it received 190,098 H-1B petitions during the filing period for fiscal year (FY) 2019, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. This number is down from the record-breaking filings for FY 2017, during which USCIS received 236,000 petitions, and down from last year. It can be inferred that the changes implemented under the Trump administration have affected the number of H-1B filings.

New H-1B policies following USCIS memo on third-party placement requirements
USA | 27 April 2018

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released a policy memorandum detailing the document requirements for H-1B petitions involving third-party worksites. USCIS has acknowledged that third-party arrangements may be a legitimate and frequently used business model and outlined the documents required to use this model. If employers do not include the mentioned corroborating evidence, USCIS may deny the petition.

10 business-based immigration updates expected in 2018
USA | 26 January 2018

In April 2017 President Trump issued the Buy American, Hire American Executive Order. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has carried out and is considering a number of policy and regulatory changes to fulfil the president's executive order, including conducting a thorough review of employment-based visa programmes. Further, there are several bills being considered in the House and Senate pertaining to immigration.

New DHS immigration policy council: unifying immigration enforcement and decision making
USA | 24 November 2017

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allocated $22.8 billion between 2014 and 2016 to enforce and administer immigration laws, one of its strategic missions. In 2014 a DHS Unity of Effort initiative created the Joint Task Forces to coordinate the department's resources. The DHS Office of Inspector General recently audited DHS to evaluate whether it has been achieving its mission in the most efficient way possible.

USCIS updates policy on burden of proof for extension petitions
USA | 10 November 2017

In April 2017 President Trump signed the "Buy American, Hire American" executive order. Subsequently, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) started working on the necessary rulemaking, policy memoranda and operational changes to implement the executive order. As part of these initiatives, USCIS recently updated agency policy guidance on the burden of proof for extension petitions.

ICE plans to increase worksite enforcement
USA | 03 November 2017

Following the president's "Buy American, Hire American" executive order, companies and immigration practitioners have witnessed increased scrutiny over immigration compliance. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) acting director recently confirmed plans to increase enforcement in order to prevent fraud and abuse. ICE has indicated, among other things, that it will prosecute employers for knowingly hiring or retaining workers who lack valid US employment authorisation.

H-1B visa statistics and anticipated future trends
USA | 11 August 2017

President Trump recently released an executive order in which the secretary of state, the attorney general, the secretary of labour and the secretary of homeland security were prompted to suggest reforms and propose new laws to ensure H-1B visas are awarded to the most skilled or highest paid beneficiaries. In line with these developments, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and the US Department of Labour have published reports detailing the existing H-1B trends.

Increased scrutiny over H-1B visas: beware of Level 1 wages!
USA | 28 July 2017

It is common knowledge that the Trump administration is attempting to tighten immigration. One component that the administration has talked about is converting the employment-based immigration system utilising the H-1B visa to be more merit based rather than lottery based. Immigration practitioners have already seen a trend in this direction with, among other things, more requests for evidence for lower-level professional categories.

Bill to authorise and reform key immigration agencies introduced
USA | 23 June 2017

Two bills to authorise and reauthorise key immigration component agencies at the US Department of Homeland Security were recently sent to the House of Representatives as a whole for consideration, with the goal of ensuring that US immigration laws are enforced and maintaining the integrity of the immigration system. Authorisation bills direct how federal funds should or should not be used and are typically made for single fiscal years, but are often renewed in subsequent law.

Executive order "Buy American, Hire American" impact on H-1B visas
USA | 26 May 2017

President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order entitled "Buy American, Hire American". In the 'Hire American' part of the order, Trump announced that he was directing the Department of Labour, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to review the existing laws governing the H-1B programme and suggest changes to prioritise the most skilled and highest paid positions.

USCIS completes H-1B cap random selection process for 2017
USA | 28 April 2017

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for the fiscal year 2018. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, also known as the 'master's cap'. US businesses use the H-1B programme to employ foreign workers in occupations that require at least a bachelor's degree or equivalent.

Guidance memo on H-1B computer-related positions rescinded
USA | 21 April 2017

US Citizenship and Immigration Services recently released a new policy memorandum, which supersedes and rescinds the memo issued to Nebraska Service Centre employees in 2000. Under the earlier memo, many practitioners claimed that most computer programmer positions qualified as 'specialty occupations'. However, the new memo concludes that a Level 1 designation for a position covered under the computer programmer position classification does not qualify as such.

International Entrepreneur Final Rule under review
USA | 13 January 2017

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently proposed a new rule which would allow the Department of Homeland Security to use its existing discretionary statutory parole authority for entrepreneurs of start-up entities. USCIS recently sent the rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review; however, it is unlikely that the final rule will be effective before the Trump administration takes over.

Employment-based immigration considerations under Trump administration
USA | 02 December 2016

While the incoming Trump administration has not been entirely clear about how aggressively it will pursue changes to employment-based immigration and its primary stated agenda is enforcement action against undocumented immigrants, recent indications from the Centre for Immigration Studies and pronouncements from the new attorney general have foregrounded the potential for immigration reform in the near future.

Significant public benefit parole for entrepreneurs
USA | 26 August 2016

A proposed rule providing parole for entrepreneurs recently reached the Office of Management and Budget for review. The rule comes as a response to the president's executive order to modernise and streamline the US immigration system for the 21st century, which sought to address how the United States can continue to attract immigrants to foster innovation and entrepreneurship, in order to grow the economy and create jobs for citizens.

Bill strives to ensure integrity when allocating visas to highly skilled workers
USA | 01 July 2016

A draft bill in the House of Representatives proposes changes for highly skilled worker visas. The proposed bill would eliminate the per-country limit for employment-based immigrant visas in an effort to ensure that all workers are treated fairly and are subject to the same waiting times for visas. It would also reform the H-1B dependent employer, eliminate the master's degree exemption and allow F-1 students to possess dual intent.

USCIS addresses processing delays
USA | 20 May 2016

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has five service centres that process applications and petitions that do not require a personal interview. As some cases are taking longer to process than usual, USCIS is working to address the staffing shortages and workload issues causing the delays. It recently addressed processing delays and provided specific examples that shed light on the frustrating wait times and recommended solutions.

USCIS reaches 2017 H-1B cap with record-breaking number of petitions
USA | 29 April 2016

On April 7 2016 the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for fiscal year 2017. USCIS also announced that it had received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap.