Last December, the U.S. Congress authorized an “additional” 20,000 H1-B visas for people with graduate degrees from U.S. programs. The USCIS recently announced that it intends to begin accepting those H-1B petitions within the next few days and will also accept H-1B petitons from all candidates not only from people with graduate degrees. Immigration attorneys are puzzled by this announcement because this is clearly broader than what Congress authorized. The USCIS is also advising employers to not file any petitions until the regulations are published. Here’s the announcement:
“USCIS TO IMPLEMENT H-1B VISA REFORM ACT OF 2004Washington, DC U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently is preparing regulations for the implementation of the Omnibus Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2005. Pursuant to an exemption established under this Act, USCIS will be able to process additional petitions for H-1B workers for FY 2005. The available petitions for FY 2005 will be applied to all qualified H-1B nonimmigrant aliens, and will not be limited to those individuals holding a masters degree or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher learning.
USCIS previously reported that the applicable provisions of the H-1B Visa Reform Act become effective on March 9, 2005. The correct effective date is March 8, 2005. However, USCIS advises employers not to file H-1B petitions seeking approval for workers who may benefit from these provisions until USCIS publishes a rule concerning the Visa Reform Act and related issues. USCIS will reject any new H-1B petition that is received prior to the filing date set forth in the regulations.
Complete information, including the exact date and address for filing, will be published in the Federal Register as soon as possible. However, employers also should be aware that the filing date announced in the regulation may occur shortly after publication of the regulation. Employers should monitor the Federal Register and http://www.uscis.gov and prepare their filings accordingly.”