Department of Labor Backlog Processing
As discussed in previous issues of Immigration Update, all labor certification cases filed with the Department of Labor (DOL) before March 28, 2005 were forwarded to Backlog Processing Centers (BPCs) when the new PERM system went into place. The latest information on the BPCs came from the DOL at an American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) meeting in Washington DC on May 23, 2005.
Once the cases are entered into the BPC system, a "45-day letter" is sent out to the employer and the attorney on the case, asking that they confirm within 45 days whether the employer still wishes to pursue the case. As of May 23, 2005, the BPCs had entered about half of the cases into their system. The rest of the cases are still in boxes, waiting to be entered. Though states were instructed to send cases in First-In / First-Out (FIFO) order, some states were unable to do so. Therefore, for instance, it is possible that a case filed in a particular state in 2004 may have received the 45-day letter from the BPC before a case that was filed in the same state in 2002.
At the meeting, many attorneys voiced their concerns about the problem of cases being closed even when a timely response was sent to the 45-day letter. The DOL has not devised an efficient system for fixing this matter, particularly for obtaining proof that the case has been reopened. The DOL indicated that the sending of these "closed" letters was a computer glitch and stated that, if proof of the response to the 45-day letter is sent, the case will be "reset" and a letter will be issued to that effect. This reopening will not change the priority date. Also, given this issue, the number of completed cases may be overstated.
DOL is also working with the USCIS to determine acceptable proof that a labor certification has been filed in order for USCIS to grant one-year incremental extensions of H1B status to qualified persons who filed labor certifications more than 365 days prior. This is additional critical and time-sensitive evidence that the DOL is required to provide so that the USCIS may approve H1B extensions for eligible H1B employees.
Perm Labor Certification
At the same meeting, DOL officials announced that they had begun approving PERM labor certifications earlier that very day. According to the DOL, the first approval was issued from the Chicago PERM processing center on May 23, 2005. The Atlanta PERM center followed with its first approval/s the following day.
Few attorneys are reporting approvals, however. The overwhelming response from those applying has been that many cases are being denied immediately on technical grounds. Many received status messages indicating that a case was "denied," but no letters explaining the denials. Some who did receive letters explaining the denials found that these denials seemed to be plainly in error. AILA's liaison contacted DOL to get this issue addressed. The DOL recognized that, in some of these cases, the denials were indeed in error, and were the result of the decision logic of their automated system. At that time, the DOL halted sending denial letters until it could get its system re-programmed. And that has now been done. All cases previously denied are now being run through the system again. However, many problems persist with this system. We will keep Khabar readers updated with the latest information on this process.
CIS Update Regarding H-B Cap Exempt Petition
US CIS announced that as of May 20, 2005 it had received approximately 6,393 H1B petitions that will count against the exemption cap for fiscal year 2005, established by the H1B Visa Reform Act of 2004. The new regulations, which took effect May 5th, 2005, changed the H1B filing procedures for FY 2005 and for future fiscal years. The regulations make available 20,000 new H1B visas, only for foreign workers with a minimum Master's level degree from a U.S. academic institution, in addition to the Congressionally mandated annual cap of 65,000 H1B visas. Please refer to the June 2005 issue of Khabar to read more on these petitions, in our Immigration Update column.
USCIS Announces Release of New Guide for Immigrants
This comprehensive guide contains practical information to help immigrants settle into everyday life in the United States, as well as basic civics information that introduces new immigrants to the U.S. system of government. Welcome to the United States also gives new immigrants tips on how to get involved in their new communities, and how to meet their responsibilities and exercise their rights as permanent residents. The free guide is available on-line in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese at: http://uscis.gov/graphics/citizenship/
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