• 24Dec
    Adjustment of Status, DOL News, Global Immigration, Green Card News, I-485, Immigration Reform, PERM, USCIS News, USCIS Policy Updates Comments Off on Immigration Developments for Highly Skilled Workers: Pre-Registration of Adjustment of Status

    On Thursday, November 20, along with President Obama’s announcement regarding his Executive Action on Immigration, Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson issued a memo to the Directors of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) directing the agencies to take action on the President’s announcements to improve the employment-based immigration system. The DHS memo provides a general overview of proposed changes the government wishes to implement, relating to skilled immigration, in order to address some longstanding issues and problems in our antiquated business immigration system. For purposes of this article, the authors will focus on the proposal to increase foreign worker portability by permitting certain skilled workers to pre-register for adjustment of status.

    Under Secretary Johnson’s directive, USCIS is expected to develop new regulations or otherwise issue guidelines that will allow foreign nationals with an approved second step (employment-based immigrant visa petition, Form I-140) to pre-register for adjustment of status in order to obtain the benefits of a pending Application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) even if an immigrant visa number is not currently available for the foreign worker. This proposal will not only benefit the employee who is the principal green card applicant by permitting the principal to apply for an employment authorization document and travel document, but it will also enable his/her dependents to obtain employment authorization and immediately enter the U.S. labor market.

    Of equal or greater importance, once the last step (Form I-485) has been pending for at least 180 days, the principal is then permitted to move into another position with his/her employer and even port to another employer so long as the move is to a similar occupation. In anticipation of pre-registration of adjustment of status, applicants should gather the documentation required to be filed with the I-485 application:

    1.) Birth certificates for the principal and each dependent family member. Affidavits of birth (in lieu of birth certificates) may be used for those instances when a birth certificate is not obtainable from the applicable government authority;

    2.) Marriage certificate (if a spouse is applying); and

    3.) Copy of most recent tax return and paystubs of principal applicant for the last 2 months.

    In addition, once the guidelines are issued and the filing of Form I-485s are permitted, each applicant and family member should arrange for a medical examination by a civil surgeon appointed by DHS.

    Stay tuned for further developments relating to the implementation of the Executive Order.

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  • 03Dec
    Green Card News, H-1B Visa News, Immigration Reform, L-1 Visa News, OPT, USCIS News, USCIS Policy Updates Comments Off on President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration – Navigating New Policies Supporting U.S. High-Skilled Businesses and Workers

    On Thursday, November 20th 2014, along with President Obama’s announcement regarding his Executive Action on Immigration, Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) Secretary Jeh Charles Johnson issued a memo to the Directors of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) directing the agencies to take action on the President’s announcements to improve the employment-based immigration system (hereinafter “DHS memo”). The DHS memo provides a general overview of proposed changes the government wishes to implement, relating to skilled immigration, in order to address some longstanding issues and problems in our antiquated business immigration system. The following is a brief overview of the most pertinent of the proposed measures:

    1. Reform Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) for Foreign Students and Graduates of U.S. Colleges and Universities: Most foreign students on F-1 (student) visas are eligible for 12 months of post-graduate OPT work authorization as long as the work experience that they seek is in a field that relates to their program of study. Under current regulations, OPT can be extended an additional 17 months for a total of 29 months of work authorization for U.S. college graduates with degrees in designated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (“STEM”) fields. The proposed regulatory changes will seek to expand the degree programs eligible for OPT and extend the time period and use of OPT for foreign graduates. Finally, it is proposed that certain labor market protections, which could include a prevailing wage requirement, will be imposed in order to safeguard the interests of U.S. workers in related fields.

    2. Pre-Registration for Adjustment of Status: With the emphasis on facilitating foreign worker portability, USCIS is expected to develop new regulations that will allow foreign nationals with an approved employment-based immigrant visa petition (Form I-140) who are caught in the immigrant visa quota backlogs to pre-register for adjustment of status in order to obtain the benefits of a pending Application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485), notwithstanding that their respective priority dates are not current. This proposal will not only benefit the employee who is the principal green card applicant by permitting the principal to apply for an employment authorization document and travel document (while also allowing the principal to port to another employer after the I-485 is pending for 180 days), but it will also enable his or her dependents to obtain employment authorization and immediately enter the U.S. labor market.

    3. Expanded Green Card Portability: USCIS is expected to provide additional guidance regarding the definition of a “same or similar” job for purposes of expanding eligibility for a green card applicant to be promoted to a new job within the same company or, alternatively, to port to a new job with a new employer. This guidance will help not only those in the green card process who wish to change employers, but also those employees who move to a different job with the same employer.

    4. Proposed Rule to Extend Work Authorization to Certain H-1B Spouses: While this was not specifically addressed in the DHS memo, it is rumored that the proposed rule published in the Federal Register in May 2014 to extend work authorization to the H-4 spouses of H-1B specialty occupation workers with an approved employment-based immigrant visa petition (Form I-140) may also be finalized in the next few months.

    5. Bringing Greater Consistency to the L-1B Visa Program: The L-1 visa program is a common vehicle used by multinational companies to transfer executive, managerial or “specialized knowledge” personnel to the U.S. from locations outside of the U.S. Noting the “vague guidance and inconsistent interpretation” of the term “specialized knowledge,” Secretary Johnson directed USCIS to issue a policy memorandum that provides clear, consolidated guidance on what constitutes “specialized knowledge” for L-1B visa eligibility.

    6. Promoting Research and Development in the United States: The DHS memo recognizes that the current immigration laws do not meet the needs of foreign entrepreneurs and calls for enhanced and expanded options under the law to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to invest, create jobs and generate revenue in the U.S., including a broader application of the “public interest” parole authority and “national interest” waiver of the labor market test and job offer requirements for green card status.

    It is important to note that the details and timing for implementing many of the above measures remains uncertain, since many of them may require a change in regulations with a notice and comment period. It also remains to be seen whether Congress will act on comprehensive immigration reform, which could have the effect of preempting some of the executive actions taken by President Obama.

    Please stay tuned for additional information on the pursuit of President Obama’s Executive Order as we plan to issue additional advisories in the future as key components of the executive action are implemented.

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