Published: Dec 12, 2019, Updated: Dec 12, 2019
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that a pilot testing phase for the H-1B electronic registration process has successfully been completed. Employers who wish to apply for H-1B cap-subject petitions for the following fiscal year must now register electronically. An associated registration fee of $10 must be paid. This also applies to those exempt under the advanced degree category.
The new electronic system is designed to reduce waiting times and save costs to employers by reducing data exchange and paperwork. In the past, employers had to file their complete and often lengthy H-1B cap-subject petitions.USCIS would randomly select petitions that met the eligibility conditions. This not only created a significant amount of paperwork but also mailing expenses for both USCIS and the petitioner.
Under the new procedure, an employer who is seeking for employees subject to the H-1B cap will only need to provide basic information about their business and about each requested employee. An initial registration period will be opened by USCIS, planned to run from 1st to 20th March 2020. If necessary, the H-!B random selection procedure will then be run on the electronic registrations. Applicants with selected registrations will then be eligible to file petitions in the H-1B cap-subject category.
Registrants will be able to follow step by step instructions on completing their registration on the USCIS website and will be notified of essential dates and schedules as the period for initial registration draws closer. USCIS is also planning to increase engagement with the public to make sure that all affected persons are made aware of the new arrangements for registration. If USCIS does not receive enough registrations and associated petitions to fulfil the allocated numbers, a further registration period may be opened.
The ruling “Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap-Subject Aliens” was created by the Department of Homeland Security on 31st January 2019 and came into effect on 1st April 2109. Over the coming weeks, DHS is planning to publish a formal announcement of the implementation of the H-1B electronic registration system and will also provide further details on how to apply. The final ruling establishing the $10 fee for H-1B registration was published on 8th November 2019 and this will be effective form 9th December 2019. The fee will apply to all registrations during the initial as well as any future periods of registration.
The building of a border wall by private companies in Texas continues apace despite a court order to suspend construction.
The court injunction was served to WBTW (We Build The Wall), an anti-immigrant group led by the right-wing former advisor to the White House Steve Bannon, and the owners of the land on the banks of the Rio Grande in Hidalgo County. A privately funded concrete wall 3.5 miles long is planned in the area along the US border with Mexico.
The court order cites irreparable and imminent damage to a riverside nature reserve, the National Butterfly Center adjacent to the land on which the wall is being constructed. The fear os that the wall will act as a dam when the river is in flood, causing flooding of the nature reserve and destroying the unique ecosystem inhabited by native birds and butterflies.
The local sheriff’s office report that the construction workers have said they are not intending to stop construction in spite of the court order.
On December 5th, the federal government began a separate court battle to halt the construction, as it is seen as violating the obligations of a binational treaty with neighbouring Mexico. US District Judge Randy Crane granted a temporary injunction on behalf of IWBC (the International Water and Boundary and Water Commission). The lawsuit claims that studies to prove that the wall would not increase the risk of flooding have not been properly completed and the company has not submitted sufficient detail about the construction plans.
However, Judge Crane has dismissed WBTW as a defendant in the case as their lawyer claims they are a passive investor, providing only 5% of the funding. This raises further questions about the finances of WBTW - their supporters have raised over $25m to build a wall, which the group now claims not to be financing.
28 environmental laws have been suspended by President Trump’s administration in order to expedite the building of the wall. However, these waivers only apply the wall being officially constructed by the government. Privately funded “rogue” projects have to obey all treaties and laws. The court battle looks set to continue.