Category Archives: Department of Labor

Categories Department of Labor News & Updates

PERM Modernization Project to Improve Case Processing

Authorized by the Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017, the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) is an investment program that aims to update government  services in order to enhance customer service, cybersecurity, and governmental entities. The Fund plans on doing this by decreasing the amount of independent data systems used and by transferring all paper files into one system. This will ensure that data can be more easily found, and documents are less likely to be lost.

 

Last month, the TMF announced an $7.2 million investment into the Department of Labor’s PERM Labor Certification system. PERM is the system in place for getting a Labor Certification. It is often the first step for a foreign national to receive an employment-based immigrant visa. The current PERM system has been used for twenty years.

 

TMF’s PERM Visa Modernization project will create a more secure and efficient way of sharing data and will make it faster and cheaper for employers to access services. The faster process will also help foreign nationals to continue work in the United States as they will not have to wait on system delays. This investment will dramatically change the process for PERM filers to submit applications and for PERM analysts to review applications.

 

With the TMF investment, standardized and secure data will be shared and provided throughout the entire immigration process and throughout the process of applications. It will also improve border flow, capacity management, and give decision makers the tools needed to increase flow and timeliness. TMF would streamline modernization and significantly improve immigration processes.

 

To learn more about TMF, visit tmf.cio.gov

Categories Department of Labor Department of State News & Updates USCIS

EB-3 Downgrade I-140 Petitions Guidance

Each month the State Department publishes the Visa Bulletin, which summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers for a particular month. You can track your priority date and your corresponding immigration preference category, and once your priority date is current you can apply to adjust status to permanent resident, which is the last step in the green card process.

Your priority date is the date of filing the Labor Certification. If your I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker does not require an approved Labor Certification, the priority date is the date of filing the I-140 petition.

The three common employment-based immigration preference categories are as follows:

  • EB-1
    • Individuals with Extraordinary Ability – can self-petition
    • Outstanding Researchers and Professors
    • Multinational managers or executives
  • EB-2
    • National Interest Waiver for individuals with advanced degrees or with exceptional ability – can self-petition
    • Members of professions that require an advanced degree or individuals with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business
  • EB-3
    • A skilled worker (meaning your job requires a minimum of 2 years training or work experience)
    • A professional (meaning your job requires at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or a foreign equivalent and you are a member of the profession)

In 2015, the State Department began to post two charts on the Visa Bulletin,

  • Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued); and
  • Dates for Filing (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply).

After the Visa Bulletin is published each month, USCIS designates which chart to use. When USCIS determines there are immigrant visas available for the filing of additional adjustment of status applications, the Dates for Filing chart may be used to determine when to file an adjustment of status application with USCIS. Otherwise, the Final Action Dates chart must be used to determine when to file an adjustment of status application with USCIS.

If a foreign national has an I-140 approval in the EB2 preference category, it can be advantageous to “downgrade,” or file a second I-140 petition in the EB3 preference category, depending on visa bulletin movement. For example, due to the pandemic, an unprecedented low number of family-based (FB) immigrant visas were issued in fiscal year (FY) 2020, and those unused family-based numbers were added to FY 2021’S employment-based immigrant visa allocation.

This reallocation resulted in rapid advancement in the final action dates and dates for filing of all of the EB categories that were not current, particularly EB3 India and EB3 China. The 2020 October Visa Bulletin presented an unprecedented opportunity for clients who had been waiting years to file adjustment of status applications to finally be able to do so.

The risk of filing an EB-3 downgrade I-140 petition are quite low. When filing an EB-3 I-140 downgrade petition, the PERM Labor Certification from the approved EB-2 I-140 petition will be submitted to USCIS. Practically every PERM that qualifies for the EB2 preference category will qualify for the EB3 preference category. Absent a PERM job opportunity that is no longer valid, or fraud or willful misrepresentation, EB3 I-140 petitions should be successful.

Downgrading from EB2 to EB3 does not create any issues, it actually gives you more options should either category move more favorably than the other. If you choose to file an EB-3 downgrade I-140 petition, your EB-2 approval will remain valid. Once the EB-3 I-140 is approved, you will have two I-140 approvals with the same priority date, one in each category and you can use whichever one will be faster to adjust status when the Final Action Date becomes current. If the EB3 category retrogresses and the EB2 category improves, then you can submit an interfiling request to USCIS, or a request asking that your EB2 I-140 approval be interfiled with your pending I-485 application.

Even if your priority date is only current according to the Dates for Filing chart, it can still prove advantageous to file an EB3 downgrade I-140 petition if it will allow you to apply to adjust status sooner. The Dates for Filing option for the green card process permits applicants to obtain interim benefits, including work authorization and travel documents, and allows them to accept a position with a new employer at an earlier stage in the process:

  • Additional work authorization and travel documents: An individual who submits an application for adjustment of status application can concurrently request an employment authorization document (EAD) and advance parole (AP) travel document, which provides the applicant with additional flexibility in employment and international travel.
  • Work authorization for spouses: Family members can submit an application for adjustment of status and request EAD and AP documents for themselves.
  • Increased worker mobility to new employment: Once the adjustment of status application has been pending for six months, the individual is no longer tied to the sponsoring employer and becomes mobile in the labor market. After six months, most adjustment of status applicants can change employers as long as the new position is “same or similar” to the position for which the green card application was filed.

If you are in H-1B status, you can continue to maintain your H-1B status while the I-485 is pending. We recommend maintaining your H-1B status while the I-485 is pending, in the unlikely event that something happens to your I-485. This is unlikely, but it is a good idea to maintain your H-1B status just in case.

In summary, filing an EB-3 downgrade I-140 petition can be of significant benefit to applicants born in China and India who are subject to the longest priority date backlogs. With an EB-3 I-downgrade I-140 petition, foreign nationals from China and India may be able to file the green card application sooner than anticipated.

As always, we are here to help.  If you would like to reach out you can email us at info@grahamadair.com or call us at (408) 715-7067.

Categories Compliance Department of Labor News & Updates USCIS

Remote Work, the new norm – What are the immigration considerations?

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has now become a key talent management, recruiting, and retention tool.  Employers must understand the immigration considerations for employees on various work visas.

 

What to know about H-1B Visas and Remote Work

 

The most popular work visa, the H-1B visa, already has regulations in place regarding a change in work location. An H-1B worker’s employment is specific to the worksite listed on the labor condition application (LCA) and requires notice if the location is to change.

 

To comply with U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations, employers must act prior to changing the worksite location.

  • If there are no material changes to the terms of H-1B employment and the new/home worksite falls within the same metropolitan statistical area limits[1] and normal commuting distance of the original worksite noted on the LCA, then the certified LCA or a posting notice must be posted in two conspicuous places at the new/home worksite for 10 days.
  • If the new/home worksite falls outside of the metropolitan statistical limits and normal commuting distance of the original worksite noted on the LCA, there is a DOL Short-Term Placement Rule whereby employers may place H-1B workers at a worksite not listed on the approved LCA for up to 30 workdays in aggregate each calendar year.
  • If there are material changes to employment, or the COVID-19 quarantine lasts longer than 30 workdays and the short-term placement rule is exhausted, then the employer must file a new LCA, i.e., an H-1B amendment petition to cover the new/home worksite.

 

What to know about Other Work Visas and Remote Work

 

Some of the other common work visas include E-1, E-2, L-1, O-1, TN, and F-1 visas. While these types of work visas do not have the same legal requirements relating to prevailing wages and changes in work locations as H-1B visas, there are important considerations for these employees as well.

 

Due to rise of remote work and hybrid work options, the question that arises is what the employer obligations towards foreign nationals on these work visas are. Generally, E-1, E-2, L-1, O-1, TN, and F-1 visas are not location specific, so there is some flexibility regarding physical work location for these employees.

 

Employers are only required to file a new petition for these employees when there is a material change to the job and a change in work location is typically not considered a material change for the above-mentioned visa holders. If the employees are still in the same position and performing the same job duties from home rather than at a worksite, an amended petition is not likely required.

 

However, while no regulation prohibits L-1 employers from adopting a work-from-home policy, they should be aware that USCIS, through its Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) unit, may conduct unannounced site visits to investigate activities at the office listed on the L-1 employer’s visa petitions. For employees in L-1 status, USCIS will likely be forgiving of any remote work arrangements based on the number of policies the agency has relaxed to minimize the impact of COVID-19.

 

USCIS also routinely conducts site visits to ensure compliance with the underlying STEM OPT training plan for F-1 students. For employees in F-1 status, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is responsible for the F-1 student program.

  • Students participating in STEM OPT do not need to submit an updated Form I-983 to report remote work. Please see https://www.ice.gov/doclib/coronavirus/covid19faq.pdfFAQ for SEVP stakeholders about COVID-19 released by ICE, updated on May 31st, 2022.
  • In March 2020, ICE had announced its intent to relax its standards and encouraged teleworking as an option. Since the 2020 guidance still holds good for the 2022-2023 academic year, it is unlikely that employers will experience any issues with temporary remote work for F-1 students participating in OPT.

 

What to know about the pending Green Card process and Remote Work

 

When a foreign national whose on-going green card process temporarily moves to a remote work location due to COVID-19, the question is what are the impacts on the impending process?

 

When the labor certification has not yet been filed: PERM (“Program Electronic Review Management”) also referred to as “Labor Certification,” program requires employers to attest, under penalty of perjury, that the employer has engaged in a recruitment effort to locate a minimally qualified U.S. worker for the position to be held by the foreign national employee. This recruitment must sufficiently apprise U.S. workers of where the job must be performed. Therefore, if the labor certification has not yet been filed, it is recommended to update the PERM position description to reflect remote work language. This may involve resubmitting a prevailing wage request or re-running recruitment.

 

In all other situations, if the sponsored employee intends to return to the work location listed on the application once normal operations resume, there will be no impact to the process.

 

Since there is no clear guidance on how remote work should be treated in the PERM context, it is important to consult with an immigration attorney to assess any impact of remote work outside commuting distance of the job location listed on your PERM, to your permanent residency process.

 

If an employee changes work locations after the PERM filed stage and does not intend to return, the process will likely need to be restarted for the new work location.

 

We’re Here to Help

 

While immigration rules are constantly being updated to adapt to situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for employers to comply with immigration requirements and evaluate situations on a case-by-case basis by consulting an immigration attorney.

 

[1] MSAs are geographic entities defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for use by Federal statistical agencies in collecting, tabulating, and publishing Federal statistics. More information on MSAs can be found at the U.S. Census Bureau at http://www.census.gov/population/www/estimates/metroarea.html

Categories Department of Labor Department of State News & Updates USCIS

Looming government shutdown’s anticipated impact on immigration

The Senate failed on Monday to pass a key procedural FY 2022 federal budget vote to advance the House-passed short-term government funding bill. If lawmakers fail to reach an agreement, U.S. government funding could expire and lead to a full federal government closure on 12:01 am on October 1, 2021.

What impact does this have on immigration processing? Each federal agency would have its own shutdown plan, which will coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget. However, based on prior shutdowns in previous years, the following should be expected:

Immigration operations that should remain in operation:

  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP): CBP is likely to continue processing immigration applications at the border and performing inspection functions.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement: ICE enforcement activities and operations of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) should continue.
  • SAVE System (USCIS database used by government agencies such as state motor vehicle departments to verify an applicant’s immigration status when processing applications for benefits).

Immigration operations that will likely be suspended:

  • Department of Labor (DOL): As the DOL would likely be categorized as a non-essential function, DOL immigration functions will likely be suspended. No PERM applications, labor condition applications (LCAs), prevailing wage determinations (PWDs) or applications for temporary labor certification would be processed. The agency would not accept PERM applications or audit responses, LCAs or prevailing wage requests either online or by mail.
  • E-Verify: Employers should expect to be unable to initiate E-Verify queries or resolve tentative non-confirmations, and would not be expected to meet the usual E-Verify deadlines until the program is reauthorized. Please note, employers should not take any adverse action against any employee whose employment eligibility verification cannot be confirmed in E-Verify due to the shutdown. All employers will remain subject to Form I-9 obligations and deadlines as usual.
  • Conrad 30 Program

Immigration operations that will be potentially experience further processing delays:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): The USCIS should continue to process applications but processing delays, already widespread, would continue or worsen. Appointments at USCIS local offices and Application Support Centers should not be affected by the shutdown, though COVID-19 precautions are still in place.
  • Department of State: Some passport offices may be affected if they are located in federal buildings that are closed due to the shutdown, but if not, should continue operations. Although the State Department’s visa processing and U.S. citizenship document functions are not expected to be suspended, they may be further affected by reduced staffing and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available. In the meantime, please contact your Graham Adair attorney with any questions.

Categories Department of Labor News & Updates USCIS

H-1B Cap Lottery System Modification – Final Rule

Tomorrow, January 8, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security will publish a final rule modifying the H-1B lottery ahead of Cap season, which starts in March. The rule modifies the manner in which the lottery is conducted by prioritizing applications received on the basis of the wage level of the position in relation to similar positions in the geographic area. This rule would eliminate the random selection process that has historically been used. Instead, cases that show a higher prevailing wage according to the corresponding LCA would be given preference over cases filed using lower prevailing wage levels.

The rule is set to go into effect 60 days from being published, which means it would apply to this year’s H-1B cap season.

The rule is likely to be challenged and could potentially be set aside for failure to follow the required administrative procedure for rulemaking. However, the Biden Administration has expressed support for the concept of H-1B cap allocation based on wage level, so we will be monitoring this situation closely and will provide updates as they become available.