(1) H-1B visa numbers are still available!
USCIS recently advised that, as of September 3, 2010, approximately 36,600 H-1B cap-subject petitions were receipted. Additionally, USCIS has reported receipting 13,400 H-1B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees. Therefore, more than 35,000 new H-1B visas are still available for fiscal year 2011 (which ends September 30, 2011). Given the current usage and demand, it is anticipated that the H-1B cap will be reached sometime in the first quarter of 2011 (with no new visa numbers available until October 1, 2011).
(2) China Reciprocity schedule amendment!
Effective July 9, 2010, the Department of State's reciprocity schedule for China has been amended to allow for a 12 month multiple entry visa for qualifying H visa applicants. This is certainly welcome news to Chinese nationals who, on account of the pre-existing reciprocity schedule that has been effect for years, were given only single entry visas valid for 3 months—severely restricting travel of Chinese nationals on H-1B visas.
USCIS implements fee increase for certain H-1Bs and L-1s
On August 13, 2010, President Obama signed into law Public Law 111-230 to enhance our border security. The new law contains provisions that require petitioners to pay an additional $2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and an additional $2,250 for certain L-1 petitions postmarked on or after August 14, 2010. These additional fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A, L-1B and L-2) nonimmigrant status. Petitioners meeting these criteria must submit the fee with an H-1B or L-1 petition filed for a new H-1B worker and one changing H-1B employers. USCIS has indicated it expects this additional fee to be paid by the employer.
THE "SOMEWHAT" UGLY:
DOL obtains nearly $1 million in back wages and interest for H-1B workers due to alleged violations of the H-1B Program
A computer consulting company based in Suwanee, Georgia, Smartsoft International Inc., has agreed to pay nearly $1 million in back wages and interest to 135 nonimmigrant workers temporarily employed by the company under the H-1B visa program. DOL reached this agreement following a determination by the department's Wage and Hour Division that the company violated the H-1B program's rules.
The Wage and Hour Division investigation resulted in the following findings: (i) that some H-1B employees were not paid wages at the beginning of their employment (ii) that others were paid on a part-time basis despite being hired under a full-time employment agreement; and finally (iii) that several employees were paid less than the prevailing wage applicable to the geographic locations where such employees performed their work.
This case demonstrates the basic regulatory protections for H-1B workers inherent in the H-1B program. For example, sponsoring employers are required to attest to the DOL that they will pay wages to H-1B nonimmigrant workers that are at least equal to the actual wages paid to other workers with similar experience and qualifications for the position in question, or the prevailing wage for the occupation in the area of intended employment, whichever is greater. The program also establishes certain standards in order to protect similarly employed U.S. workers from being adversely affected by the employment of the nonimmigrant workers.
With H-1B public access file audits and unannounced site inspections increasingly on the rise, it behooves H-1B employers to conduct self-audits of their public access files and insure that its H-1B workers are being paid the proper wage.
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Post Authored By: Anthony F. Siliato, Esq. and Scott R. Malyk, Esq. of Meyner and Landis LLP