USCIS Temporarily Accepts Incorrectly Denied LCAs for Certain H-1B Cases
In August and September 2009, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) ombudsman received complaints about H-1B cases with incorrectly denied labor condition applications (LCA/ETA-9035) filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The ombudsman said that LCA processing delays and errors at the DOL, when coupled with USCIS’s current H-1B petition initial filing requirements, “are prejudicing employers and individuals who are unable to timely file original or extension H-1B visa petitions.” Untimely H-1B petition filings lead to problems, the ombudsman noted, including: (1) the potential loss of employees’ legal status; (2) business operation disruptions due to the loss of continuity in the employment of key employees; and (3) economic loss to employees in the form of lost wages and costs of travel overseas because of the loss of status.
The ombudsman said that USCIS has the authority to mitigate these effects. The ombudsman recommended that USCIS: (1) reinstate its previous practice of temporarily accepting an H-1B petition (Form I-129) supported by proof of timely filing of an LCA application with the DOL, and issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) whereby the H-1B petitioner later provides the certified LCA; and (2) establish a temporary policy under which USCIS would excuse late H-1B filings where the petitioner has documented an LCA submission to DOL that was improperly rejected.
On November 5, 2009, USCIS announced that it would temporarily accept H-1B petitions filed without LCAs that have been certified by the DOL for a 120-day period, through March 4, 2010. USCIS noted, however, that it will only accept such H-1B petitions if they are filed at least seven calendar days after the LCAs were filed with the DOL and include evidence of these filings. The only acceptable evidence of filing is a copy of the DOL’s e-mail giving notice of receipt of the LCA.
Petitioners who seek to take advantage of this temporary flexibility in the normal filing procedures for H-1B petitions must wait until they receive a request for evidence (RFE) before they submit the DOL-certified LCA to USCIS in support of the H-1B petition, USCIS said. The agency will give petitioners 30 calendar days within which they must send in a DOL certified LCA in response to the RFE. USCIS will only approve H-1B petitions that include certified LCAs. (PDF)
The ombudsman’s report, “Temporary Acceptance of Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) for Certain H-1B Filings,” was released on October 23, 2009, and is available (PDF).