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USCIS has created new policies that will support our country’s high-skilled businesses and workers by better enabling U.S. businesses to hire and retain highly skilled foreign-born workers while providing these workers with increased flexibility to make natural advancements with their current employers or seek similar opportunities elsewhere. This increased mobility will also ensure a more-level playing field for U.S. workers.

Modernizing the Employment-Based Immigrant Visa System

The U.S. employment-based immigration system currently has extremely long waits for immigrant visas, or “green cards,” due to relatively low green card numerical limits established by Congress. Compounding the issue more is an immigration system that has often failed to issue all of the immigrant visas authorized by Congress for a fiscal year. Hundreds of thousands of such visas have gone unissued in the past despite heavy demand for them.

To correct this problem USCIS will take several steps to modernize and improve the immigrant visa process.

[li]USCIS will continue and enhance its work with the Department of State to ensure that all immigrant visas authorized by Congress are issued to eligible individuals when there is demand for them.[/li][li]USCIS will work with the Department of State to improve the system for determining when immigrant visas are available to applicants during the fiscal year.[/li][li]USCIS will consider amending its regulations to ensure that approved, long-standing visa petitions remain valid in certain cases where they seek to change jobs or employers.[/li]

Reforming “Optional Practical Training” for Foreign Students and Graduates from U.S. Universities

Under current regulations, foreign nationals studying in the United States on non-immigrant F-1 student visas may request twelve additional months of F-1 visa status for “optional practical training” (OPT), which allows them to extend their time in the United States for temporary employment in the relevant field of study. OPT, which may occur before or after graduation, must be approved by the educational institution. By regulations adopted in 2007, students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are eligible for an additional 17 months of OPT, for a total of 29 months.

  • [li]ICE and USCIS will develop regulations for notice and comment to expand the degree programs eligible for OPT and extend the time period and use of OPT for foreign STEM students and graduates, consistent with law.[/li][li]ICE and USCIS will improve the OPT program by requiring stronger ties to degree-granting institutions, which would better ensure that a student’s practical training furthers the student’s full course of study in the United States.[/li][li]ICE and USCIS will take steps to ensure that OPT employment is consistent with U.S. labor market protections to safeguard the interests of U.S. workers in related fields.[/li]
Promoting Research and Development in the United States

To enhance opportunities for foreign inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises wishing to conduct research and development and create jobs in the United States, USCIS is implementing two administrative improvements to our employment-based immigration system:

  • [li]The “national interest waiver” provided by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) permits certain non-citizens with advanced degrees or exceptional ability to seek green cards without employer sponsorship if their admission is in the national interest. This waiver is underutilized and there is limited guidance with respect to its invocation. USCIS will issue guidance or regulations to clarify the standard by which a national interest waiver can be granted.[/li][li]USCIS will propose a program that will permit DHS to grant parole status, on a case-by-case basis, to inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver, but who have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing or otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting edge research.[/li]
Bringing Greater Consistency to the L-1B Visa Program

The L-IB visa program for “intracompany transferees” is critically important to multinational companies. The program allows companies to transfer employees who are managerial or executives, or who have “specialized knowledge” of the company’s products or processes to the United States from foreign operations.

  • [li]USCIS will issue a policy memorandum that provides clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge.” This memorandum will bring greater coherence and integrity to the L-1B program and enhance companies’ confidence in the program.[/li]
Increasing Worker Portability

Currently, uncertainty within the employment-based visa system creates unnecessary hardships for many foreign workers who have filed for adjustment of status but are unable to become permanent residents due to a lack of immigrant visas. Current law allows such workers to change jobs without jeopardizing their ability to seek lawful permanent residence, but only if the new job is in a “same or a similar” occupational classification as their old job. Unfortunately, there is uncertainty surrounding what constitutes a “same or similar” job, thus preventing many workers from changing employers, seeking new job opportunities, or even accepting promotions for fear that such action might void their currently approved immigrant visa petitions.

  • [li]USCIS will issue a policy memorandum that provides additional agency guidance, bringing needed clarity to employees and their employers with respect to the types of job changes that constitute a “same or similar” job under current law.[/li]

If you feel that you or someone you know might benefit from these new business immigration policies you should contact our office today. David E. Walters is a Nevada and California Licensed Attorney with years of immigration law experience.  He will be able to give you the best legal advice for your situation and fight for your rights!

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David Walters
David Walters
David E. Walters practices immigration law in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has been licensed to practice law in California since 1998 and Nevada since 1999. He is also admitted to practice before the District Court of Nevada, Central District of California, and the Ninth Circuit. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice. He teaches immigration in the Hispanic Citizens’ Academy for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Mr. Walters graduated from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, CA in 1998. During law school, he was a member of the St. Thomas More Law Honor Society and the Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Journal. David is married to Isabel Walters, an immigrant from Ecuador who is now a U.S. citizen. They have two children.

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