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USCIS Seeks Comments on Proposed Rule to Change Certain Employment-Based Visa Programs


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeks public comments on a proposed rule published (PDF) on December 31, 2015, “Retention of EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers,” that would change certain aspects of employment-based visa programs. USCIS is also proposing regulatory amendments “to better enable U.S. employers to hire and retain certain foreign workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs).”

Comments are due by February 29, 2016. To submit comments, follow the instructions in the notice.

Among other things, USCIS said it proposes to amend its regulations to:

  • Clarify and improve 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’s consistency in adjudication.
  • Better enable 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. USCIS said 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.
  • Improve job portability for certain beneficiaries of approved I-140 petitions by limiting the grounds for automatic revocation of petition approval.
  • Clarify 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.
  • Allow 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 that justify issuing an employment authorization document.
  • Such employment authorization may only be renewed in limited circumstances.
  • Clarify 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.
  • Establish 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.

These proposed changes do not take effect now. Instead, they would take effect on the date indicated in the final rule when the final rule is published in the Federal Register.

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