As we approach the filing deadline for FY 2018 H-1B cap petitions, there are a couple of updates of which you need to be aware.
First, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has just announced that starting April 3, 2017, it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. Premium processing allows employers to expedite the adjudication process by paying an extra fee of $1,225. Unlike in previous years, where premium processing was available to H-1B cap filings (at least initially), USCIS will not make this option available to any cap petitioners this year. Further, this suspension applies to cap-exempt H-1B filings as well, such as extension of status petitions that will be filed on or after April 3. USCIS did not specify when the suspension will end, but it has stated that it “may last up to 6 months.” For employers with employees in H-1B status, they should contact those employees to check if any of them will be traveling and will need to renew their H-1B visa before returning to the U.S., as they must have the H-1B extension approved before they can make the trip.
Second, in case you do not already know, Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) (M-274) is an excellent guide on how to complete the I-9 form. In line with the new version of the Form I-9 that went into effect on January 22, 2017, USCIS has now published a revised version of the Handbook for Employers, available at the USCIS website (https://www.uscis.gov). Below are some of the key changes that appear in this new version of the Handbook:
- A P.O. Box address for the employee is no longer prohibited.
- If the employee did not use a preparer and/or translator to complete the I-9, they must check the “I did not use a preparer or translator” box in the Preparer and/or Translator Certification block.
- In Section 2, there is an “Additional Information” space. Employers can use this space for notes such as employment authorization extensions for F-1 OPT STEM students, employment termination dates and I-9 retention dates, and E-Verify case verification number (if it is not already the company’s procedure to attach the E-Verify case sheet or write it in the margin).
- Information is provided about certain employees whose Employment Authorization Document is automatically extended, what the employer should collect and document, and the employer’s obligations if an employee fails to present the necessary documents.
- More information on an employer’s obligations when providing practical training opportunities to STEM OPT students.
In addition to this useful Handbook, the most up-to-date information on how to properly complete the Form I-9 is available at I-9 Central (https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central), so be sure to check that site as well. And of course, we remain available for your questions at any time – just give us a call!