Business Immigration Weekly for the Week of March 5, 2012

Date: 3/8/2012
 Business Immigration Weekly for the Week of March 5, 2012

NEW VISA PROCESSING PROCEDURES AT THE US EMBASSY AND CONSULATES IN JAPAN

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo announced new procedures for scheduling interviews and paying for the visa application fees.

Visa applicants scheduling interviews at the U.S. Embassy to be held on or after March 27 or scheduling interviews at the U.S. Consulate in Osaka on or after March 26, will need to pay the visa application fee through a new payment system and not through the system currently in use using ATMs. The new payment system will be available on March 23.

Visa applicants scheduling interviews in April or afterwards, will first need to pay through the new payment system prior to scheduling the interview.

The new payment system will be operated by Stanley, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CGI Federal. Specific details of the change and contact information can be found at the following website:

http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ComingSoon/jp/index.html

Currently, interviews at the US Embassy in Tokyo for the month of March 2012 are full and interviews at the US Consulate in Osaka for the month of March 2102 are quickly filing up. Interviews for April cannot be scheduled until the new payment system is available on March 23, 2012.

L VISAS CAN BE ISSUED FOR FIVE YEARS

The U.S. Department of State announced that effective February 14, 2012, L visa validity durations can be issued to the period of time as provided on the reciprocity tables provided to consular officers by the Department of State. For Japanese citizens, the reciprocity table provides for multiple entry visas for a period of 60 months. The reciprocity tables for every country in the world is available at:

http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/fees/fees_3272.html

The prior regulations required that the L visa duration be limited to the validity period on the approved L petition from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Under the current regulations, USCIS cannot approve L petitions beyond three years. The petitioners may apply for extensions of the petition validity in increments of up to two years for a total of five years for individuals employed in a specialized knowledge capacity and up to seven years for individuals employed in managerial or executive capacity.

This change will benefit foreign nationals in L visa status who have extended their L visa stay by filing a petition with USCIS while in the United States, because they will no longer need to apply again for an L visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas if they travel outside the United States during the five year period issued on their initial L visa. The individuals will still need to have a valid L petition in order apply for admission in L status, so it will be important for the individuals to carry their I-797 Approval Notices with them when traveling internationally.

H-1B PETITIONS CAN BE FILED AS EARLY AS APRIL 2, 2012 FOR EMPLOYMENT TO BEGIN ON OCTOBER 1, 2012

There is a cap of 65,000 new H-1B petition that USCIS may approve each year with an additional 20,000 new H-1Bs that can be approved for those who have Master's or higher degrees from a U.S. institution of higher education.

The U.S. federal government fiscal year is October 1 to September 30. H-1B petitions may be filed as early as six months before the requested effective date. Therefore, H-1B petitions for employment to begin on October 1, 2012 can be filed on April 2, 2012 to try to be certain that the petition will be processed before the cap is reached.

For the current 2012 fiscal year (October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012), the regular H-1B cap was reached on November 22, 2011. In fiscal years 2008 and 2009, the regular H-1B cap for employment was met during the initial filing period.