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District Office Filings Will Be Sent To National Benefits Center

November 2003
District Office Filings Will Be Sent To National Benefits Center

District Office Filings Will Be Sent To National Benefits Center

USCIS (formerly "INS") has announced that within the next 3 months, and starting immediately in some districts, all new family-based filings that are sent to the USCIS local offices will be forwarded to the National Benefits Center (NBC) for intake and initial processing, including processing of employment authorization documents (EADs) and advance paroles (i.e. travel permission applications). USCIS indicates that this action is being taken to speed processing of the work and travel permits, and of the entire package. After initial processing, the adjustment applications will be returned to the local offices for interviews. Applications should continue to be filed at the USCIS local offices in accordance with local rules, at least until a Federal Register notice is published requiring that applications be mailed directly to the NBC.

H1B1 Cap May Be Reached Earlier Than Expected

As discussed in previous news articles on the October 2003 Immigration Update, on October 1st the H1B cap dropped from 195,000 to 65,000. This maximum limit on H1 visas that can be issued will remain in place unless Congress acts to increase it. This cap is in place for Fiscal Year 2004, which runs from October 1, 2003 to September 30, 2003, and it was recently announced at a meeting of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) in late September that approximately 20,000 FY2004 cap cases are pending at this time. H1B cases can be filed up to six months in advance of the requested start date. If most of these H1B cases are approved, there are already enough cases to account for almost a third of the 65,000 total. This total was calculated before October 1st, when the $1000 training fee was dropped. It is expected that a large number of petitions have been filed in October to take advantage of the lower filing fee, and many of these cases also may apply towards the H1 cap.

Also, President Bush signed two free trade agreements into law on September 3, 2003, which affect the H1 cap. One agreement is with Singapore and the other with Chile. As part of the law implementing the Free Trade Agreements, the portion relating to the H1B cap is amended to provide that 1,400 H1B visa numbers are available for nationals of Chile and 5,400 for nationals of Singapore. These are part of the total 65,000 H1B quota allowed for FY2004. This means that more than 10% of the available H1Bs are earmarked only for people who are nationals of Chile or Singapore.

It should be noted that the cap does not affect the majority of applicants who are transferring from one H1 job position to another. However, those who are subject to the cap, such as first-time H1 applicants, should seriously consider filing to change status without delay. We will continue to post updates on the H1 situation as they become available.

Diversity Visa Lottery Visa Numbers for

2003 Run Out

On September 29th, the State Department notified USCIS District Offices that all of the DV 2003 lottery visa numbers have been used and no more DV 2003 visas are available. Accordingly, the State Department has notified local offices of the cut off.

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