On the last day of 2015, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule entitled the Retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers. Some of the principal changes that the new rule would bring include:
- Clarifying and improving longstanding agency policies and procedures implementing sections of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21) and the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) related to certain foreign workers, which will enhance USCIS’ consistency in adjudication.
- Better enabling U.S. employers to employ and retain certain foreign workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment based immigrant visa petitions (I-140 Petitions) while also providing stability and job flexibility to these workers. The proposed rule will increase the ability of such workers to further their careers by accepting promotions, making position changes with current employers, changing employers, and pursuing other employment opportunities.
- Improving job portability for certain beneficiaries of approved I-140 petitions by limiting the grounds for automatic revocation of petition approval.
- Clarifying when individuals may keep their priority date to use when applying for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence, including when USCIS has revoked the approval of their approved I-140 petitions because the employer withdrew the petition or because the employer’s business shut down.
- Allowing certain high-skilled individuals in the United States in E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, or O-1 nonimmigrant status to apply for one year of unrestricted employment authorization if they:
- Are the beneficiaries of an approved I-140 petition;
- Remain unable to adjust status due to visa unavailability; and
- Can demonstrate that compelling circumstances exist which justify issuing an employment authorization document.
- Clarifying various policies and procedures related to the adjudication of H-1B petitions, including, among other things, extensions of status, determining cap exemptions and counting workers under the H-1B visa cap, H-1B portability, licensure requirements, and protections for whistleblowers.
- Establishing a one-time grace period during an authorized validity period of up to 60 days for certain high-skilled nonimmigrant workers whenever their employment ends so that they may more readily pursue new employment and an extension of their nonimmigrant status.
The proposed rule appears to be an implementation of the immigration executive actions announced in November 2014, although DHS does not state this affirmatively. DHS will accept comments through February 29, 2016, and should publish a final rule by December 19, 2016, prior to the end of the current Administration.
D&S will continue to monitor developments with the proposed rule and provide updates as they become available.