April’s full: Canada and US quotas


THE first day of April is barely a month away, but don’t let the proximity fool you – if you are filing for a US working visa (H-1B) or waiting for your immigrant visa schedule and interview.

April 1st is the day that US employers seeking to sponsor working visas for professionals and skilled workers in the US must submit the complete application package, correct filing fees to the appropriate US Citizenship and Immigration Services office. A new H-1B additional fee of $4,000 is required for certain H-1B petitions and $4,500 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions postmarked on or after December 18, 2015.

There is a yearly quota of 65,000 for the H-1B visas, a category for a work visa where the job being offered requires a bachelor’s degree, or is a specialty occupation.

This quota gets filled up in a matter of days. In addition, selection is by luck or chance, with the H-1B visa now picked by random computer selection, popularly known as “lottery.”

So don’t get fooled by job offers that assure you that you’re picked once you pay the filing fees through an agency or employer.

When is the quota full?
The congressionally mandated annual cap on the H-1B category is 65,000. However, up to 6,800 visas are set aside from the 65,000 yearly cap for applicants from Chile and Singapore under free trade agreements with these two countries.

A further 20,000 H-1B visas are available for the first applicants with a US master’s degree or higher. “Once that limit is reached, any petitions filed for beneficiaries with a US master’s degree or higher will count against the regular cap, unless exempt for other reasons.”

In addition, H-1B workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam may also be exempt from the H-1B cap if their employers filed the petition before December 31, 2019.

US Immigrant Visas Full
Unless an individual being sponsored is the spouse, minor child, parent or fiancée of a US citizen, the petition is covered by annual immigrant visa quotas. While these visa petitions are called Preference Categories, the visa beneficiaries must wait until their priority date becomes current. Even if a preference visa petition is approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the beneficiary must wait for an immigrant visa number to be available. The approved petition is forwarded and kept by the National Visa Center (NVC). Applicants are usually given notices of the availability of a visa number.

Availability is subject to the annual quota for each preference category. The US family-sponsored categories are:

First: (F1) Unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens: 23,400 plus any numbers not required for fourth preference.

Second: Spouses and children, and unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents: 114,200, plus the number (if any) by which the worldwide family preference level exceeds 226,000, plus any unused first preference numbers. The Second Preference category is further subdivided into F2A – Spouses and children of permanent residents: 77 percent of the overall second preference limitation, of which 75 percent are exempt from the per-country limit and the F2B- Unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of permanent Residents: 23 percent of the overall second preference limitation.

Third: (F3) Married sons and daughters of US Citizens: 23,400, plus any numbers not required by first and second preferences.

Fourth: (F4) Brothers and sisters of adult US Citizens: 65,000, plus any numbers not required by first three preferences.

When to submit documents for visa processing
Until late last year, the Visa Bulletin published only the priority dates for the preference categories. An applicant whose priority date is later than that published must wait for the next month to see if the priority date has advanced.

Also, an applicant may submit his documents to the National Visa Center upon receipt of a notice to start processing since an immigrant visa is already available.

That has changed.

Now, an applicant may check the dates on the monthly Visa Bulletin to determine if he or she may start to submit documents even without the NVC notice.

The applicant should check the current month’s FILING DATES. Applicants whose priority dates are on or earlier than that published for a specific month (such as in March or April this year) should have received a notice of an immigrant visa interview date at the specific consular post – in the case of Filipinos – at the US Embassy in Manila.

The priority dates for April 2006 and April 2016 are shown below, as well as the priority dates for March. There has been no movement in the FILING DATES, only on the FINAL ACTION DATES.

PRIORITIES20160314Canada not yet full
Farther North, Canada announced an increase in the number of immigrant visas to be issued this year.

While the US has a slightly bigger land area than Canada (9,147,593.0 square kilometers and 9,093,507.0 sq km, respectively), Canada’s population – which stood at 35,344,962 as of 2014 is dwarfed by the US’s 321,442,019.

Last week, Immigration Minister John McCallum announced that Canada intends to welcome ”up to 305,000 new permanent residents this year — the highest projected immigration level in decades, and around a 7 percent increase on the 2015 plan.”

The most to benefit from the increase are refugees, who are expected to be around double the number that was targeted for 2015. Family-sponsorships also had been increased especially that for parents and grandparents – from 10,000 to 20,000.

On the other hand, the allocation for skilled workers and professionals had been reduced.

Under the Economic Immigration program or classes, most numbers are allocated to high skilled workers in the federal class (58,400), followed by those for provincial nominations (47,800), Quebec (26,200) and caregivers (22,000).

The increase in numbers does not change the current selection system of Canada. Prospective immigrants to Canada must still submit their applications through Express Entry and must wait for invitations to apply for permanent residency. Only upon completion of documentation and meeting requirements for each class or category would an applicant be counted toward the increased numbers.

Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise or be one of this year’s April Fools.



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