U.S. Visa

Monthly U.S. immigration law news roundup: Nonimmigrant visa domestic renewal pilot program opens

Welcome to the Garfinkel Immigration news roundup, where every month we will summarize and provide links to the latest stories impacting U.S. immigration.

Below is the January 2024 edition of the Garfinkel Immigration news roundup:

Addressing the healthcare worker shortage: Here’s how foreign nationals could help alleviate the shortfall, the available immigration options and potential beneficial legal changes

Foreign nationals could help alleviate some of the issues caused by the current healthcare worker shortage in the United States. However, for some key positions there are few viable work visa options available to bring them to the country.

The United States is expected to face a shortfall of 37,800 to 124,000 doctors by 2034, according to a 2021 study conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges, while the “total supply of RNs decreased by more than 100,000 from 2020 to 2021,” a study published in Health Affairs in early 2022 found.

There are many reasons for the shortages, including an increase in employees leaving the industry because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a “significant segment of the nursing workforce reaching retirement age,” with more than a million RNs projected to retire by 2030, according to Health Affairs.

Many foreign national healthcare workers are ready, willing and available to come to the United States to fill open positions. Yet, there are significant barriers that prevent foreign nationals in the industry, especially nurses, from seeking work in the country, despite some healthcare systems being in dire need of employees, Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm Partner Meredith W. Barnette said during a recent interview.

“There are a lot of foreign national healthcare workers available who are outside of the U.S.,” Barnette said. “They have to go through credentialing and evaluation to make sure they have the foundational knowledge and the same type of educational training as someone in the U.S. who received their nursing degree. It is not a question about whether or not they’d be able to do the job, at least from a training standpoint.”

Read the full story here.

USCIS launching organizational accounts for H-1B filings

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unveiled earlier this month a set of “customer experience improvements” for H-1B applicants.

In mid-February, USCIS will debut “organizational accounts” for fiscal year (FY) 2025 H-1B cap filings as well as cap-exempt petitions. Multiple members of an organization, including both business and legal representatives, can work together inside the organizational account portal to complete the H-1B registration; the Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and the associated Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service.

The Form I-129, H-1B petitions and the Form I-907 premium processing request for the Form I-129 H-1B petition can be filed online via the organizational account.

“USCIS is always striving to improve and streamline our processes, and this is a big step forward,” USCIS Director Ur M. Jaddou said in a statement. “Once we launch the organizational accounts and online filing of I-129 H-1B petitions, the entire H-1B lifecycle becomes fully electronic — from registration, if applicable, to our final decision and transmission to the Department of State.”

Learn more here.

H-1B domestic renewal pilot program begins as demand soars

This story from Bloomberg Law examines the new nonimmigrant visa domestic renewal pilot program, which opened its first set of 4,000 slots on January 29, 2024.

“A website released by the State Department ahead of the pilot’s launch allowed visa holders to confirm their eligibility,” the Bloomberg Law story read. “Applicants could fill out a visa application form on the agency’s website last week, although they couldn’t be submitted until (January 29). A State Department spokesperson said they were unable to quantify demand so far.”

The domestic renewal pilot program will initially be limited to 20,000 applicants, with 4,000 spaces becoming available each week from January 29 through February 26, 2024.

Specifically, the only foreign nationals who are eligible to participate in the domestic renewal pilot program are those with an H-1B visa approved by Mission Canada with an issuance date from January 1, 2020, through April 1, 2023, or by Mission India with an issuance date of February 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021.

“The option to renew the visas within the U.S. was discontinued in 2004 when new post-9/11 security measures required the collection of fingerprints for all visa applicants,” the Bloomberg story read. “Unlike initial visa applicants, the workers eligible for the pilot have already submitted fingerprints when they initially applied for the H-1B category.”

Only the principal H-1B recipient can utilize the initial domestic renewal program, as spouses and dependents in H-4 status are not included in the pilot stage, which was “a source of frustration that many workers expressed when eligibility details emerged,” the Bloomberg story noted.

Read the full Bloomberg Law story here.

Nine U.S. governors call for action on immigration reform

Multiple governors from states across the country called for immigration reform at the national level, according to this story published by VOA in late January.

The Democratic leaders of nine states sent a letter to President Joe Biden and congressional leaders demanding they “make ‘a serious commitment’ to improving a national immigration system that is ‘outdated and unprepared to respond’ to a recent surge in migrants across the southern border,” the VOA story read.

“The sustained arrival of individuals seeking asylum and requiring shelter and assistance, due to lack of Congressional action on infrastructure and policies, can only be addressed with federal organizational support and funding to meet the public safety and humanitarian needs of our local communities,” the letter read (via VOA).

The signees of the letter included governors from Arizona, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and New York.

Read the full VOA story here.

NFL punters from Australia follow path of immigrant engineers

This story written by Forbes Senior Contributor Stuart Anderson explores the recent uptick in foreign national punters who reach the NFL.

“Six of the 36 punters who played for National Football League teams this season (as of November 2023) were born in Australia, according to a National Foundation for American Policy analysis. Each saw a niche for men who could accurately kick a football great distances,” the Forbes story read. “Two other punters came to the United States from other countries. Jamie Gillan, a punter for the New York Giants, was born in Scotland. … Daniel Whelan, a punter for the Green Bay Packers, immigrated to the United States at 13 from Ireland.”

Anderson notes that many of the foreign national punters follow a path similar to “many immigrant engineers” who study at U.S. universities before “attempting to enter the American labor market.”

The story added: “Immigration history contains many examples of groups filling niches in the U.S. economy. … Most recently, Australians have become international students and found jobs punting footballs on Sunday afternoons for teams in the NFL.”

Find out more via Forbes here.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm at 704-442-8000 or via email with any questions.

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