Two bills to authorise and reauthorise key immigration component agencies at the US Department of Homeland Security were recently sent to the House of Representatives as a whole for consideration, with the goal of ensuring that US immigration laws are enforced and maintaining the integrity of the immigration system. Authorisation bills direct how federal funds should or should not be used and are typically made for single fiscal years, but are often renewed in subsequent law.
President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order entitled "Buy American, Hire American". In the 'Hire American' part of the order, Trump announced that he was directing the Department of Labour, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to review the existing laws governing the H-1B programme and suggest changes to prioritise the most skilled and highest paid positions.
The US Department of Labour recently issued two denials of Programme Electronic Review Management certification to Apple, the first US company with a market value of more than $700 billion. Denial in the first case was based on a clear typographical error, while the second was based on a subtle interpretation of the foreign worker's educational qualifications.
In a nation of immigrants, the government struggles to determine which persons should be permitted to remain and which persons should be returned to their home country. Employers that seek labour certification to employ foreign workers must prove that they have not found suitable US workers who are qualified, willing, able and available for employment.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for the fiscal year 2018. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, also known as the 'master's cap'. US businesses use the H-1B programme to employ foreign workers in occupations that require at least a bachelor's degree or equivalent.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services recently released a new policy memorandum, which supersedes and rescinds the memo issued to Nebraska Service Centre employees in 2000. Under the earlier memo, many practitioners claimed that most computer programmer positions qualified as 'specialty occupations'. However, the new memo concludes that a Level 1 designation for a position covered under the computer programmer position classification does not qualify as such.
A little-known requirement in the Programme Electronic Review Management rule states that employers must offer to train job applicants if they can acquire the education, training, experience and skills necessary to perform the required duties in a reasonable period. While deference is given to the employer, whose judgement is the best arbiter of such matters, government policy regarding the required duties themselves is ambiguous.
Given the new era of enforcement under the Trump administration, foreign nationals must have appropriate documentation in their possession to prove their lawful immigration status in the United States. Failure to do so may result in the foreign national being arrested and detained until the necessary documentation is provided.
As the H-1B cap season for fiscal year 2018 is fast approaching, companies should take steps now to assess their H-1B needs and begin to collect the necessary documentation for H-1B cap petition filings in order to maximise their chances of success. It is unclear whether any changes will be made to the H-1B programme in the months before the H-1B cap season, following the recent US presidential election results.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently proposed a new rule which would allow the Department of Homeland Security to use its existing discretionary statutory parole authority for entrepreneurs of start-up entities. USCIS recently sent the rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review; however, it is unlikely that the final rule will be effective before the Trump administration takes over.
The Department of Labour recently held a meeting which provided an opportunity for stakeholders to pose questions regarding the Programme Electronic Review Management process. A wide range of topics were discussed, including processing times, tools for prevailing wage requests, combinations of duties, prioritising adjudications, unquantified special requirements and the American Competitive and Workforce Improvement Act.
The Department of Labour has long held the position that employers should not recruit for jobs requiring special skills or licences if US workers are available who could be easily trained. To defend the special skill requirement successfully, employers generally argue that job applicants did not list these skills on their résumés and that it would not be feasible for them to acquire the skills through on-the-job training.
While the incoming Trump administration has not been entirely clear about how aggressively it will pursue changes to employment-based immigration and its primary stated agenda is enforcement action against undocumented immigrants, recent indications from the Centre for Immigration Studies and pronouncements from the new attorney general have foregrounded the potential for immigration reform in the near future.
When Programme Electronic Review Management applications are denied, employers can file requests for reconsideration. If a request for reconsideration is denied, employers can still file an appeal to the Board of Alien Labour Certification Appeals (BALCA) within 30 days. In addition to the timely filing requirement, employers must carefully state the grounds for the appeal. A BALCA directive advises that appeals may be dismissed if the grounds do not contain sufficient detail.
The Department of Homeland Security recently proposed a new rule to retain and attract highly skilled workers and entrepreneurs to the United States: the International Entrepreneur Rule. The proposed rule is separate from the E-2 and EB-5 US investor visa programmes, and would provide another avenue for entrepreneurs who wish to live and work in the United States to pursue.
In a recent case an employer used a private employment agency to place an ad for professional recruitment. The agency put its own name in the ad and not the name of the employer; as a result, the Department of Labour denied the Programme Electronic Review Management application.
The Department of State issues a monthly visa bulletin to inform the public of the priority dates which will be effective for various immigrant visa preference categories. As it is often difficult to predict which priority dates will become effective or be brought forward, the Department of State recently provided predictions regarding the movement of priority dates for the upcoming October 2016 Visa Bulletin.
A proposed rule providing parole for entrepreneurs recently reached the Office of Management and Budget for review. The rule comes as a response to the president's executive order to modernise and streamline the US immigration system for the 21st century, which sought to address how the United States can continue to attract immigrants to foster innovation and entrepreneurship, in order to grow the economy and create jobs for citizens.
The Department of Labour has issued a series of decisions explaining what happens when an employer claims that it never received a national Programme Electronic Review Management (PERM) office audit letter. In view of the difficulty in proving that an audit letter has not been received, employers should monitor their PERM case status and save online reports as proof in case of future disputes.
A draft bill in the House of Representatives proposes changes for highly skilled worker visas. The proposed bill would eliminate the per-country limit for employment-based immigrant visas in an effort to ensure that all workers are treated fairly and are subject to the same waiting times for visas. It would also reform the H-1B dependent employer, eliminate the master's degree exemption and allow F-1 students to possess dual intent.