The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is tweaking its regulations related to immigrant and nonimmigrant worker visa programs to aid those workers with more opportunities and for more transparency. The latest revision is intended to benefit high-skilled foreign workers and employers participating in worker visa programs to make it easier for employers to sponsor nonimmigrant workers who are seeking permanent residency status, increase job opportunities for such workers, and provide better transparency and consistency in the visa worker programs. The published rule supposedly goes into effect on Jan. 17, 2017.

Some of the provisional highlights of these rule improvements include:

  • Allow increased ability of immigrant workers to further their careers by accepting promotions.
  • Allow immigrants to successfully change positions with existing employers.
  • Allow immigrants to change employers and pursue other job opportunities.

Policy Improvements and Clarifications

filling out an immigration visa application
filling out an immigration visa application

This latest published rule clarifies and improves DHS practices and regulations specified in the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWAI) of 1998, American Competitiveness Act of the in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21), and the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act as they relate to foreign workers. This will advance the USCIS’ ability to make better judgements and decisions about foreign workers and their roles with U.S.-based sponsorship employers.

Specifically, the rule clarifies and improves the policies and practices to some of the following:

  • H-1B extensions of stay for those nonimmigrant workers seeking lawful permanent residence (LPR) and their dependents who are H-4 nonimmigrant status holders for beyond the 6-year limit designated by AC21.
  • INA 204 portability, which allows for existing workers who have applied for adjustment of status to switch employers or jobs without incurring a penalty for those who have I-140 petitions filed on their behalf.
  • H-1B portability allowing nonimmigrant workers to change jobs or employers as well as allowing employers to file successive H-1B portability petitions.
  • Clarifying how H-1B cap exemptions are counted. This section clarifies what H-1B workers are counted against the cap, and which ones are “cap-exempt.”
  • The rule also clarifies protection for H-1B whistleblowers, who are contributing to exposing employers who are in violation of Labor Condition Application obligations.
  • The rule also clarifies I-140 petition circumstances for when applicants are considered still valid, including cases where the petitioner removes their petition or their job is terminated.

Clarification on Employment Authorization Renewals and Time Increment Considerations

The following are further clarifications by the DHS on goals of AC21 and ACWIA:

  • Establishing priority dates, according to the new rule, should be based upon the filing of applications or petitions, such as Form I-140 petitions and other immigration visas.
  • The rule also allows the retention of priority dates for those who change jobs, change roles, or for those taking promotions.
  • The rule is also allowing high-skilled workers who have approved Form I-140 petitions, but who for some reason can’t obtain an immigrant visa due to statutory limits based on caps, to apply for additional employment authorization for a limited time period, if there are “compelling circumstances” to justify such employment authorization.
  • The new rule also allows for two grace periods of up to 10 days for high-skilled nonimmigrants (E-1, E-2, L-1 and TN classifications) to come in to the U.S. to find employment and 10 days on the back end to leave the country at the end of their authorization period.
  • The rule also allows those who lose work (E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1 or TN classifications) to have a 60-day nonimmigrant grace period to find another job should they be eligible to find other employer-sponsored work.

For a complete list of other rule improvements affecting high-skilled nonimmigrant or foreign workers seeking permanent U.S. residency, see the published document online.

Contact a Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer at the Hanlon Law Group, P.C.

Are you a high-skilled, nonimmigrant worker or foreign national seeking permanent residency who either just arrived in the U.S., or ended up losing an employment situation, and you are in need of legal assistance to see how your stay in the U.S. can be extended? If so, you can turn to an experienced Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer at the Hanlon Law Group, where our lawyers work diligently to get the necessary paperwork submitted for petitions, extensions, or additional authorization for U.S.-based employment.

To learn more about our citizenship, immigration and deportation defense services contact our Los Angeles immigration lawyer today by calling (626) 684-3712 or (866) 227-5527, or email us using the form at the upper right-hand side of the screen. From our office in Pasadena, we serve clients throughout the Los Angeles area, across the state of California and from around the world.