Last night, President Obama announced some significant changes to U.S. immigration policy that will take effect in coming months. Some of the items announced, such as suspending deportation proceedings for certain groups of people, will go into effect immediately. Other aspects of the plan will require input from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the State Department, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, among others, and will likely require changes to the current regulations.
The biggest takeaways, from a business immigration standpoint, from the President’s speech include:
1. ICE will work to “expand and extend the use of optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students.”
2. The USCIS will provide clearer guidance on adjustment of status (I-485) portability so that individuals with pending applications have greater career and job flexibility during the green card process.
3. The USCIS will look to provide EAD work cards and advance parole travel authorization to those who have approved I-140s with retrogressed priority dates.
4. The USCIS will allow H-4 spouses to seek Employment Authorization Documents if the H-1B holder is “on the path to lawful permanent resident status.”
5. The USCIS will issue more clear guidance with respect to what qualifies as “specialized knowledge” in the L-1B context in an effort to improve consistency and reinvigorate employers’ confidence in the visa status.
6. The USCIS and State Department are seeking a method and means to modernize the Visa Bulletin and allocation process to ensure that backlogs are reduced and the process is workable and usable for all intending permanent residents.
7. The USCIS will enhance the National Interest Waiver process to allow greater flexibility in adjudications and permit foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises to benefit the U.S economy.
8. The USCIS will create a parole system for “eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who do not yet qualify for a National Interest Waiver, but who: (1) Have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing; or (2) Otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.”
Graham Adair will monitor the development of these policies and changes in regulation as they work their way through the various government agencies.