H4 EAD documents - popular checklist. Print, follow and avoid mistakes

This is the printable document checklist for H4 EAD application process

H4 EAD Documents checklist

Documents from H4 visa holder
  1. Check for $410, payable to “US Department of Homeland Security”
  2. Two identical 2x2-inch color passport-style photo
  3. Proof of H4 status
  4. Identification document with photo
    • A copy of recent EAD (If available)
    • A copy of passport with biometric information (example: first and last page) and the visa page (if present)
    • A copy of birth certificate with photo ID
    • A copy of national photo ID
  5. A copy of marriage certificate
  6. Completed Form I-765
    • Write (c)(26) for eligibility criteria
  7. Primary H1 visa holder document: A copy of approved I-140 (I-797 approval notice). Request from your Employer or file a FOIA if not available
  8. E-notification (optional): Completed form G-1145

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4 new H1b bills in congress that are trying to make H1b great again

Since the recent presidential elections, H1b visa program has become a hot topic. Several new reform bills are being introduced in the congress. In fact, H1b and EB-5 visa are the two legal immigration programs law makers are trying to reform lately. And there was also the executive order for the H1b. Here is the highlight of the 4 new H1b bills and the rumoured executive order,

New H1b bills

This page will also track employment based legal immigration bills that affects H1b employees.

A quick primer on the bill process in congress. Introduction of the bill is just the first step. It has to go through multiple and lengthier steps before it becomes a law. So, here are the bills introduced so far,

Table of Contents

H1b $100K bill by Darrel Issa

More formally: Protect and Grow American Jobs Act (HR 170) - Darrel Issa - California

  • H1b dependent employers (15% or more employees are H1b) have to pay atleast $100K a year for hiring a new H1b employee
  • Current law stipulates that Employers must pay atleast $60K a year, when hiring a master’s degree employee. Eliminates this exemption

H1b & L1 visa refrom bill by Chuck Grassley

More formally: H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act - Republican Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Democrat Richard Durbin (Illinois)

  • Employers with 50% or more employees on H1b or L1 visa are not allowed to hire additional H1b workers
  • Small employers with under 50 employees are exempted from the above rule
  • Placing a H1b worker at a worksite should not replace or adversely affect a similarly employed American worker at the site. This includes workers placed through other employers too
  • Increase law enforcement mechanisms for the Department of Labor
  • Eliminates the current practice of random lottery when allocating new H1b. Replace it with merit based preference system. Such a system prefers foreign students educated in the US, advanced degree holders, those with high salary and those with high skills
  • Introduce a minimum salary requirement for L1 visa employees
  • Redefine the criteria for issuing a L1 visa to allow only truly key employees

H1b $130K bill by Zoe Lofgren

More formally: High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 - Zoe Lofgren - California

  • H1b dependent employers (15% or more employees are H1b) have to pay atleast $130K a year for hiring a new H1b employee (Exceptions allowed with supporting data)
  • 20% H1b visas reserved for small startup employers with less than 50 employees
  • Replace the current H1b random lottery and award based on the order of salaries, starting from the highest.
  • Eliminate country cap: Employment based immigrant visas should be allocated to the more skilled worker regardless of country of origin. This ensures fairness to H1b worker by enabling them to change jobs and negotiate salary etc. Thus preventing any artificial wage depression caused in the market
  • Remove visa hurdles for US educated foreign students to apply for permanent residency

Fairness bill by Jason Chaffetz

More formally: Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017 - Jason Chaffetz - Utah

  • Eliminates the country cap for the employment based immigrant visas. This stops the H1b worker’s dependency on the employer, there by ensuring easy job mobility and balanced job market.
  • Employees from a single country cannot exceed 85% of total visas issued in a year

Trump H1b visa executive order

And then finally there was the leaked draft executive order by the president Donald Trump. Most of the details of the draft order are vague. And this is still an unconfirmed and unsigned executive order. Here are the top highlights from the draft document.

“restore the integrity of employment-based nonimmigrant worker programs and better protect U.S. and foreign workers affected by those programs”

“make the process for allocating H1B visas more efficient and ensure that beneficiaries of the program are the best and the brightest”

“recommend changes to the immigrations [sic] laws to move towards a merit-based system”

So, the statements in the document seems to be more broad policy direction and doesn’t get into the details of how it would be achieved. So how and when it would impact the current visa programs is just speculation. If at all this order comes through in the same format, it would still take a long time to know what this all means. But one thing that seems to be certain is some kind of merit based system around immigration seems to be the way forward.

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H1b extension processing time track current processing dates

H1b extension current processing times are as follows. H1b extension processing times are obtained from USCIS

Service center Petition number pattern Processing Cases As Of Date
California WAC-XX-XXX-XXXXX July 2, 2016
Vermont EAC-XX-XXX-XXXXX May 30, 2016
Nebraska LIN-XX-XXX-XXXXX October 2, 2016

Note that the data published by USCIS can be delayed as much as 75 days. So, realistic current processing times is likey advanced by approximately 30 days. So to arrive at the current processing dates add a month to the dates above. And this doesn’t include the premium processing times. H1b extension premium processing times continues to take roughly upto 15 days. But USCIS is suspending all H1b premium processing starting April 3rd 2017. This can last upto 6 months.

Following is the historical H1b extension processing times, H1b-extension-processing-times

H1b extension processing by USCIS continues to be slow both at the Vermont and California service centers. The backlogs are a concern because it has other side effects like inability to travel, driving license renewal delays etc. H1b processing times used to be around 4 months. But those days are gone and processing times are inching towards 240 days. 240 days has some ramifications as discussed subsequently in this post. But that used to be rare, but it seems to be a significant cause of concern.

Both Employers and employees have been concerned about the processing delays of H1b extension applications. The additional burden of H1b amendments that USCIS started processing last year might have added to the additional delay. Whatever may be the reason, elongated H1b extension processing times can be problematic. It could mean gaps in employment, inability to travel outside the US etc. The employee can continue to work while the extension processing is pending from the employer. However, the cause of concern is the H1b 240 day rule which is discussed later. The h1b extension processing times are trending towards the 240 days.

This uncertainty can largely be handled by upgrading to premium processing. But that’s additional cost either the employer or the employee has to bear. And if substantial number of employers start upgrading to premium processing, then that could compound the problem for everyone in the long term. For exactly the same reason USCIS suspended premium processing starting from April 3rd 2017. In these uncertain times, it’s essential for every one to be aware of the 240 day rule.

240 Day Rule

When a H1b extension is applied, the employee can continue to work up to 240 days after the current visa expiration. 240 days start from the day of expiration of the current visa, not the time of application of extension. And H1b extension can be filed as early as 6 months before expiry. So in theory if the extension is applied 6 months before expiry, the employer can effectively g get 14 months (6+8) for getting a decision from USCIS about the extension. That’s plenty of time to get a decision from USCIS. So it’s better to apply early to capture as much buffer time as possible from the 6 months window. However, if the 240 days has passed then the employee may have to stop working.

240 day rule also has impact on international travel. While the employee can continue to work in the US as long as the 240 days is not reached according to the above definition. But if the employee leaves the country while waiting, he cannot comeback into the US until the extension is approved by USCIS. 240 day rule doesn’t cover travel. So, H1b workers have to work with the employer’s attorney to manage all situations.

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