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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H1b lottery - 3 out of 5 petitions will be rejected

USCIS is going to start accepting new H1b visa applications for fiscal 2018 in a week. Labor Condition Approval (LCA) is a prerequisite for applying H1b visa. LCA data indicates robust demand for this year. We estimate that,

3 out of 5 new H1b petition will be rejected in the lottery.

Every year USCIS starts accepting new H1b visas starting in April. Before applying for the H1b visa, sponsoring employers have to get LCA approved. USCIS doesn’t make the actual H1b data public. But LCA is published regularly by DOL. Hence LCA can be used as an approximate proxy to predict the number of H1b petitions this year.

Despite H1b becoming an election issue, no law changes happened for this year’s quota. So our estimate for this year is 230,000 (+- 10%) petitions for the available quota of 85,000 visas. That roughly means 3 out every 5 new H1b visas would be rejected. Here is the data that we publish by tracking LCA data published by DOL.

H1b-lottery-prediction

The above data is frequently updated. Hence, the estimation might vary as we get closer to the lottery. H1b visa became an election issue in the last year’s presidential election. So far in 2017 there has been several H1b bills introduced in congress. And more are being announced every passing week. Since it takes a while for a bill to be passed into a law, there is not sufficient time left to make changes for this years quota. Though legally there are no changes, employers who depend on H1b already are making adjustments. For example,

  • Infosys, a top H1b dependent announced it won’t apply H1b for junior positions this year
  • TCS another major H1b user, mentioned that it reduced the number of new H1b visas even last year

But not all of the employers may react the same way. It’s certain that some new regulation may come into effect next year. So this year may be the last chance for H1b dependent employers . So employers may try to grab as many H1b visas as possible. How all of this shake out can be known in 2 weeks. But to some extent we can estimate by tracking LCA. Demand has been strong for the last 3 years. With economy doing well it may be the case this year too. Here are the historical trends about the H1b lottery.

H1b-lottery

LCA data indicates robust demand. In fact, the last update indicates some uptick in LCAs comparable to last 2 years at this time. Whether this is just random or becomes a trend we will see in the coming days. You can follow us on H1b 2018 trends.

Some notes on how we estimate the numbers. LCA is not just required for new H1b visas. It’s also required for extensions, transfers and amendments. LCA data does not call out the purpose. So we do some custom analytics to map LCAs that probably belong to a new petition. A single LCA can be used for multiple H1b petitions. And a single LCA application can be used for new H1b, extensions etc. We do not track the data that granular. So that could also affect the estimates. We also don’t do a fine grain analysis of normal petitions vs advanced degree petitions. While we do our best to help our readers with estimates, it may not be accurate. So our estimates have risks and hence do your own due diligence.


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L1 vs H1b - path to green card

This is part 2 of our H1b vs L1 visa comparison. H1b vs L1 part 1 for more details.

In this post, we are comparing the path to permanent residency (green card) of H1b worker compared to L1 worker.

L1 vs H1b to green card

Both H1b and L1 visas are temporary non-immigrant visas. But people entering the U.S. can then apply for permanent residency (green card). However, H1b to green card can be very different from L1 to green card. Typically, H1b workers obtain green card through permanent visa categories called Eb2/3. And some L1 visa workers follow the same path as H1b workers. But there is a sub category of L1 visa called L1a. These workers typically obtain green card through a category for international managers called Eb1c. Eb2/3 and Eb1c process are vastly different. Eb1c also takes the shortest time to obtain. No wonder the demand is becoming high.

L1 visa internally have 2 sub-categories L1A and L1B. L1B typically follow the same options as H1b visa holders. i.e., applying through the employers for Eb2 or Eb3. And L1A in some cases apply for Eb2 and Eb3. But in some cases their employers apply for them in Employment category 1, commonly referred to as Eb1C. People who qualify as “international managers” typically go through Eb1C. So, the primary path is Eb2/Eb3 or Eb1C. There are other Eb1 categories, but the qualification for those positions are very high and few people actually qualify.

The difference between these categories are significantly different in terms of the process and also the time duration. In both Eb2 and Eb3 categories, the employers have to follow a lengthy process to prove that the positions that are being filled by foreign nationals could not be filled by American workers. This is proved by ensuring a salary according to the prevailing job market is paid and also recruitment process that run over a few months to try to hire a U.S. worker. Eb1C process skips all these steps and hence more quicker. That’s the reason the demand has also increased in recent years. For example, Eb1C visas issues to Indians has doubled in the last 2 years compared to years prior.

Attribute H1b to Eb2/Eb3 L1A to Eb1c
Prevailing wage determination Sponsoring Employer should get approval from Dept. of Labor (DOL) on the salary to be paid to the foreign national. DOL verifies that the foreign worker wage and working conditions are similiar to comparably employed U.S. workers Waived
Job Advertisements The employer is required to advertise the job on it’s own website, national & local newspapers and DOL’s job bank Waived
American First The employer should try to recruit a U.S. worker for the advertised position atleast for 60 days. The resumes received, interviews conduted should be clearly documented Waived
U.S. market standardization of qualifications Market labor test ensures job descriptions, qualifications and salary are normalized to US market. USCIS regulations also govern the job description and qualifications. Employer primarily defines the qualifications for the employee. Comparison to U.S. market standards doesn’t happen because there is no labor market test.
Wait times 10+ years for employees born in countries like India and China. Immediate for other countries Immediate for everyone including Indians.
References

Eb1C data obtained from USCIS


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