Final Rule Reverts H-1B “Specialty Occupation” to Previous USCIS Standard

On October 8, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) titled “Strengthening the H-1B Non-Immigrant Visa Classification Program”. The IFR previously revised and narrowed the regulatory definition of and raised the standards for “specialty occupation” for H-1B nonimmigrant visa applicants.

 

On December 1, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a judgment that blocked the implementation and enforcement of the IFR. In compliance with the vacatur, USCIS has vacated the IFR and restored the previous definition of and standard for the “specialty occupation” requirement.

 

Under the IFR, H-1B applicants were required to obtain a bachelor’s degree in the exact field related to their position. For example, under the rule, employers seeking software engineers would not be allowed to hire applicants with an information technology degree. Nor would they be allowed to use experience or a combination of experience and education as a bachelor’s degree equivalency. Now that the IFR has been vacated, applicants can satisfy “specialty occupation” by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a field relevant to their profession, or a work experience equivalency.

 

If you have any questions, please contact your Graham Adair attorney.

USCIS Announces the H-1B Lottery Registration Procedures for this Year

Today, USCIS announced the H-1B lottery registration window and process for the fiscal year (FY) 2022 H-1B lottery that will take place on or before March 31, 2021. Registration for the electronic lottery will be open from March 9 – March 25, 2021. Registration will open at noon Eastern time on the 9th and close at noon Eastern time on the 25th.

 

As in last year’s lottery, the registration fee is $10. USCIS has indicated that those selected in the lottery will be notified on or before March 31, 2021, and will be eligible to submit applications as early as April 1, 2021.

 

USCIS has also announced that the selection of H-1B cases in this year’s lottery will be completely random. A rule previously published that would have ranked cases for selection based on their prevailing wage level has been postponed until at least December 31, 2021. It is yet to be seen whether this rule will be modified or withdrawn before it goes into effect next year. For this year, the process will remain the same as in previous years.

 

If you have a case that you would like to get registered in the H-1B lottery, please reach out to your attorney at Graham Adair.

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.

Trump Extends Ban on Certain Immigration Applications

President Trump has extended Presidential Proclamations (P.P.) 10014 and 10052 through March 31, 2021. As previously reported, P.P. 10014 suspends the entry of immigrant visa applicants through consular processing.

 

P.P. 10052 suspends the entry of certain nonimmigrant visa applicants who have been deemed to present a risk to the US labor market during the economic recovery following the pandemic.  Specifically, this suspension applies to applicants for H-1B, H-2B, and L-1 visas; J-1 visa applicants participating in the intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel programs; and any spouses or children of covered applicants applying for H-4, L-2, or J-2 visas.

 

Please contact your Graham Adair attorney for case-specific advice.

Federal Court Sets Aside the DOL Wage Increase and the DHS H-1B Restrictions Rules

Yesterday, December 1, 2020, a federal judge in California issued an order setting aside two new rules from the Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security, respectively. The first rule from the Department of Labor had gone into effect immediately and dramatically increased the prevailing wages that were required for H-1B and PERM applications. That rule has been set aside by the court as having improperly bypassed the normal notice and comment period required under federal law. It will likely take the Department of Labor a few days to revert back to the lower prevailing wage requirements. It is unclear as to whether the government will appeal this decision, but we do anticipate that even if there is an appeal that the rule will not be in effect while an appeal works its way through the court system. This was a widely expected outcome and will be welcome news to employers and employees alike.

 

The second rule from the Department of Homeland Security was set to go into effect next week, and it was also set aside by the federal judge in California. The rule would have enacted new restrictions and requirements around H-1B petitions. This outcome was also widely expected and is good news for employers who use the H-1B program.

 

Please reach out to your Graham Adair attorney if you have any questions and we will continue to provide updates as they become available on this situation.

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.

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.

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.

New Executive Order Further Restricts U.S. Immigration

Today, President Trump issued an executive order further restricting immigration in light of the current Covid-19 pandemic.? This order extends the previous restrictions on new immigrant visas through the end of the year and adds certain nonimmigrant visa classifications to the list.

 

The new executive order will restrict new H-1B, H-2B, J, or L visas, and any dependents accompanying or following to join individuals in those classifications, which includes H-4 and L-2 spouses.? The order goes into immediate effect.

 

Individuals who hold valid H-1B, H-2B, J, or L visas as of today will be allowed to enter the U.S. This order will not impact our ability to file changes of status, extensions of status, change of employer petitions, adjustments of status, or amendments for those who are currently in the U.S.? Largely, this ban on new visas continues the status quo as U.S. consulates around the world continue to be closed and are not currently issuing new visas.

 

This will have an impact on those who are currently outside the U.S. and waiting for the consulates to reopen so that they can apply for visas, and those individuals will likely have to wait until next year to apply for their visas.? There are some limited exceptions to this rule for those who work in national security, health care or medical research directly related to Covid-19, or those who work in the food supply chain.

 

The order contains additional instructions to the secretaries of Homeland Security and Labor to investigate regulatory options to ensure that H-1B petitions and employment-based green card applications do not negatively impact U.S. workers.? We do not have any indication at this point as to what this would look like or when we can expect to see proposed regulations.

 

For further information please contact your Graham Adair attorney.