DHS Rule Places New Restrictions on H-1Bs

Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published an interim rule that places additional restrictions on H-1Bs. This rule has been rumored for months and was rushed through the standard rulemaking process, bypassing the traditional notice and comment period. It is scheduled to go into effect in 60 days, however, bypassing standard rulemaking procedures does leave it open to potential legal challenges.

 

This rule, if it goes into effect, will do two primary things:

 

  • Specialty Occupation. It codifies the definition of “specialty occupation” and makes the criteria to meet specialty occupation more stringent. Specifically, the rule says that a bachelor’s degree specific to the H-1B position is required, and that positions allowing for “general degrees,” such as liberal arts or business management, would not be sufficient.
  • Third-Party Worksites. It also establishes new restrictions on employees who work at third-party worksites. This includes specific requirements to demonstrate employer-employee relationships, such as proving that the sponsoring company controls and supervises the work. It also limits the duration of third-party worksite H-1Bs to 1-year increments. It is important to note that employees working from their homes are not considered to be at a third-party worksite.

 

There are other provisions in the regulation, but the two items listed above will have the biggest impact on the H-1B process. It should be noted that this rule is going to face significant legal challenges, not only for bypassing the standard rulemaking procedures, but also for applying a different standard to “specialty occupation” that seems to go beyond what was contemplated in the original H-1B legislation.

 

It is possible to submit comments to the DHS on how this rule will impact employers, but the DHS is not required consider those comments before this rule is implemented. We will post updates on any legal action as they become available.

DOL Raises Prevailing Wages for LCAs and PERM Labor Certifications

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) posted an advance copy of a new regulation that will dramatically increase prevailing wage levels. They will continue to use the four-tier leveling system, but the prevailing wages will increase as follows:

 

Level 1 will increase from the 17th percentile to the 45th percentile.

Level 2 will increase from the 34th percentile to the 62nd percentile.

Level 3 will increase from the 50th percentile to the 78th percentile.

Level 4 will increase from the 67th percentile to the 95th percentile.

 

These percentiles are based on the DOL’s survey of salaries in specified job categories and geographic regions.

 

The interim final regulation will go into effect immediately upon publication on 10/8/2020 after it is posted in the Federal Register. It is being pushed through without public comment, which could result in litigation. The DOL has said that it can bypass the public comment requirement because doing so would result in delays that would hurt the public interest. Citing Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, as well as the recent high level of unemployment, along with the directive in a recent executive order to review the impact of employment-based immigration on U.S. workers.

 

The new prevailing wage calculation will not impact cases that are currently pending. It will affect LCAs submitted after the final rule goes into effect. It will also impact PERM prevailing wage submissions that are pending at the time the rule goes into effect. It will NOT impact previously issued wage determinations or LCAs.

 

This rule will significantly impact U.S. companies that hire foreign workers in H-1B or E-3 status and pay salaries at or near current prevailing wage levels. To meet prevailing wage levels, companies must pay base salaries at the required levels, which does not allow for the addition of bonus structures or the value of other employee benefits in the calculation. Companies may need to review compensation structures to meet the demands of these increased prevailing wage levels.

Please contact your Graham Adair attorney with any questions.

Insights on Proposed H-1B Regulation Changes

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has published some information on the possible regulatory changes that could be coming in the near future for the H-1B classification.  According to AILA, we can anticipate several proposed changes to the H-1B regulations.  These changes could include redefining “specialty occupation” to make it more restrictive than the current definition.  Changes to the rules around “employer-employee” relationships as it relates to 3rd party worksite placements, including changes to LCA requirements to make the 3rd party host part of the LCA process, are apparently being considered.  It is also anticipated that the Department of Labor will adjust prevailing wage requirements, which would impact H-1B petitions.

 

It is anticipated that these rules will be published as interim final rules and will go into effect immediately upon publishing.  It is also anticipated that there will be lawsuits filed to challenge the new regulations, which could lead to injunctions that would delay implementation of these new rules.

 

AILA anticipates that these rules are likely to be rolled out within the next 30 days.

 

Graham Adair is monitoring these rules very closely and will provide additional information as it becomes available.

The People’s Republic of China – COVID-19 Update

Effective September 28, 2020, The People’s Republic of China, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Immigration Administration, announced that foreign nationals with valid residence permits issued for work, personal matters, or family reunions, will be allowed to enter China without needing to apply for a new visa. Chinese consulates and embassies will be renewing said visas if they have expired after March 28, 2020 provided that the purpose of the foreign national’s visit to China remains unchanged.

This measure is specifically targeting the temporary suspension of entry by foreign nationals holding valid Chinese visas or residence permits issued on March 26, 2020. The partial lifting of the travel ban could signal the start of a different enforcement attitude and a trend towards immigration “normalization” in China.

Graham Adair is closely monitoring all global immigration trends and providing updates as they are received. Please contact your Graham Adair attorney with any case-specific questions.

UPDATE: October Visa Bulletin Surge Coincides with Increased Fees

As an update to our news alert from yesterday, USCIS initially indicated that it would use the Final Action Dates chart as it normally does. However, later in the day USCIS updated its filing notice website to indicate that it would actually accept cases filed under the Dates for Filing chart.

 

This is significant because many categories surged forward from the Final Action Dates chart in September to the Dates for Filing Chart for October. For EB-3 India, this meant a move of approximately 5 years. EB-1 for China and India moved about 2.5 years.

 

This movement provides many additional applicants to file applications for Adjustment of Status in October. We anticipate that USCIS will receive an unusually high volume of cases within this short 30-day window. This will likely result in processing delays as USCIS assimilates these cases. Of particular consequence, this could mean significant delays in the issuance of cards for EAD work authorization and advance parole for travel.

 

We are in the process of contacting clients who are eligible to file in October. Please contact your Graham Adair attorney with any questions.

October Visa Bulletin Surge Coincides with Increased Fees

This morning, the U.S. Department of State issued the October Visa Bulletin, which shows modest gains under the Final Action Dates chart. China saw the biggest movement in the EB-3 category, a move of 4.5 months. Similarly, India saw its biggest gain of 3 months in the EB-3 category. All other countries, including Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which had retrogression in the EB-3 category, are now current.

 

The primary question is whether USCIS will direct applicants to use the Final Action Dates chart, as they normally do, or the Dates for Filing chart. If it’s the latter, then many additional priority dates will become current, especially in EB-3 for India, which moved more than 5 years from the September Visa Bulletin. EB-1 for China and India also saw significant movement of about 2.5 years. USCIS will advise on which chart to use no later than October 1, 2020.

 

This surge in dates coincides with a significant change in the fee structure for USCIS. The biggest change in the permanent residency process is the unbundling of fees for I-485 Adjustment of Status. Until the end of September, the I-485 filing fee is $1140, which includes applications for an EAD card for work and advance parole for travel. Starting October 1, 2020, USCIS will unbundle that I-485 fee and require additional fees for EAD cards and advance parole. The EAD application will require a $550 government fee, and the advance parole application fee will be $590.

 

If USCIS uses the Dates for Filing chart, there will be a massive surge in applications for Adjustment of Status, many of which will include the additional fees of $550 and $590 for EAD cards and advance parole, respectively. Considering that many thousands of new cases would be filed in a very short period of time, it’s possible future visa bulletins could retrogress many dates that were current under the October Visa Bulletin, which would create a scenario wherein applicants are required to pay those $550 and $590 fees annually to maintain their EAD cards and advance parole.

 

We are watching the visa bulletin closely and will send an announcement once USCIS indicates which chart will be used for permanent residence applications.

I-9 Update: I-797 Approvals Can Be Accepted in Lieu of EAD Cards

Citing COVID-19, USCIS has been experiencing significant delays in issuing EAD cards. USCIS has therefore announced that I-797 approvals with a notice of action date from December 1, 2019 to August 20, 2020 are acceptable as documentation to satisfy work eligibility for I-9 purposes.

 

Employers should note that I-797 approvals can only be used to satisfy work eligibility, and not identity. If an I-797 approval is used for work eligibility, the employee must also present a List B document to prove identity. By December 1, 2020, employers must re-verify any employee who presented an I-797 approval.

 

We will continue to provide updates on changes to the I-9 process due to the pandemic. In the meantime, please contact your Graham Adair attorney with any questions.

New Executive Order to Review H-1B Impact on U.S. Workers

Today’s executive order does not create any immediate change to H-1B workers.

 

This most recent executive order on immigration brings H-1Bs under scrutiny in two different respects:

 

  • It directs federal agencies to review instances where H-1B workers provided services, whether through contract or subcontract, that may have negatively impacted U.S. workers. Agencies have 120 days to submit their report. Depending on the findings, further action may be taken to restrict the hiring and employment of H-1B workers by federal agencies.

 

  • It tasks the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security with ensuring adequate protection of U.S. workers. While the executive order does not detail what this directive entails specifically, based on previous measures this may involve LCA audits, an increase in H-1B worksite visits, and increased requests for evidence based on LCA conditions, including job classifications and wage levels. The Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security have 45 days to take action to implement any protections that are deemed necessary, so we will likely see some changes soon.

 

We are closely monitoring this situation and will provide updates as we have them. In the meantime, please contact your Graham Adair attorney with any questions.

USCIS Announces Final Filing Fee Adjustments

Effective October 2020, USCIS will implement fee adjustments for certain immigration and naturalization benefit applications. One of the most notable adjustments is that Form I-129 is no longer a uniform rate. Rather, the fee will depend on the type of non-immigrant status. For example, the I-129 fee for an H-1B is changing to $555, while the I-129 fee for an L-1 is now $805.

 

Along with the proposed fee adjustments, USCIS will also be extending the time to adjudicate premium processing petitions from 15 calendar days to 15 business days.

 

Additionally, Adjustment of Status (I-485) applicants seeking an Employment Authorization Document and an Advanced Parole document will be required to pay a separate fee for each application and each renewal. A separate part of the I-485 fee adjustment removes the fee discount for minor children under 14 years; their cases will now require the full I-485 filing fee.

 

The fee changes for certain immigration and naturalization applications are below:

 

Immigration Benefit RequestCurrent FeeFinal FeeChange ($)
I-129 (H-1B)$460$555+$95
I-129 (L-1)$460$805+$345
I-129 (O)$460$705+$245
I-140$700$555-$145
I-539$370$400+$30
I-765 (EAD)$410$550+$140
I-131 (Advance Parole)$575$590+$15
I-485 (Adjustment of Status)$1,140$1,130-$10
N-400 (Naturalization)$640$1,170+$850

 

Please contact your Graham Adair representative with any questions.

DHS Further Extends Flexibility in I-9 Verifications

On March 20th, DHS deferred the physical examination requirement of work authorization documents for Form I-9.? This allowed employers to inspect Section 2 documents via video link, fax, or email, as long as specific notation is entered in the “Additional Information” field on Section 2.? You can find our news alert on the initial guidance here.

 

Due to continued precautions related to COVID-19, DHS extended this flexibility for another 30 days to August 19th.

 

If you have any questions on how to complete the Form I-9 during these times, please contact your Graham Adair representative.

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