Ever wonder how the priority date cut-offs are established each month and been curious how the priority dates can fluctuate so drastically as if they are mere sailboats adrift in the wind ? You are not alone. Recently, a Federal Court of Appeals raised serious questions about Department of State procedures used to establish the dates. The Appellate Court closed their opinion by saying that it is not deciding at this point whether or not the Department of State is acting illegally; it is only saying that “the consequences of State’s current operations are quite consistent with [the Plaintiff’s] allegations that [the Department of State] has inadequately heeded [section] 203(e)(1)’s priority principle”. Further proceedings were ordered and this case is worth keeping an eye on.
On April 9, 2015, the Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO”) issued a decision in which it discussed the meaning of “doing business” for EB-1 petitions. In Matter of Leacheng International, Inc., the Petitioner filed an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker in the classification of multinational manager or executive. To qualify for this classification, it must be established that a petitioner has been doing business for at least one year. Doing business is defined as the “regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and / or services by a firm, corporation, or other entity.” See 8 C.F.R. § 204.5(j)(2). The Petitioner is an affiliate of an entity based out of Hong Kong. Both organizations are owned by a Chinese parent company. The Petitioner was responsible for importing and selling the parent company’s products in the U.S. Starting in 2012, the Petitioner began “providing marketing, sales, and shipping services in the United States pursuant to a service agreement with its Hong Kong affiliate.” The case was initially denied on the basis that the evidence “does not indicate ‘doing business’ with independent corporations or entities’ for a full year preceding the filing of the petition, but rather ‘only demonstrate[s] the shipment of goods from the foreign company to the U.S. company.” In reviewing the case, the AAO determined that there was nothing in the regulations that requires that a “petitioner for a multinational manager or executive must provide goods or services to an unaffiliated third party.” Rather, a petitioner may prove that it is doing business “by demonstrating that it is providing goods and / or services in a regular, systematic, and continuous manner to related companies within its multinational organization.” In reviewing the evidence, the AAO instructed that the totality of the record should be reviewed and “the fact that a petitioner serves as an agent, representative, or liaison between a related foreign entity and its United States customers does not preclude a finding that it is doing business.” This case provides important information on what types of activities will qualify as “doing business” for purposes of an EB-1 filing.
At long last, the DHS has published the final rule (regulation) allowing certain H-4 holders to apply for an EAD card. Eligibility requires the H-4 holder’s spouse to have an approved I-140 or to have already been approved for a 7th year extension under the AC21 rules. The rule goes into effect on May 26, 2015. Applications may not be filed early.
At the end of 2014, the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”) considered what employee benefits might be considered a “term and condition” of employment that should be listed in an advertisement that is placed as part of a recruitment effort. In Matter of Needham-Betz Thoroughbreds, Inc., the employer submitted a labor certification for the position of “Farm Manager.” The case was audited and the employer explained in the audit response that the employee was given the option to live rent-free on-site at the job location. The DOL denied the case on the basis that the recruitment that the employer conducted failed to inform potential applicants of the opportunity to live at the job site for free. Under the PERM regulations, advertisements must “not contain wages or terms and conditions of employment that are less favorable than those offered to the alien.” The DOL determined that the chance to live rent-free at the job site was a term and condition of employment that U.S. workers should have been apprised of. The employer appealed the denial. BALCA reviewed contradictory case law and found that free housing was a term and condition of employment that should have been listed in the recruitment. Specifically, BALCA stated that “the benefit of free housing is not a standard benefit attached to a job opportunity. Free housing for an employee is a huge income enhancement that is not readily assumed to be part of an employment opportunity, unlike the other more typical benefits such as health insurance or vacation days.” Through this statement, BALCA recognized that health insurance and vacation days are not benefits that must be listed in advertisements that are conducted as part of a recruitment effort. However, more unusual benefits, like free housing, should be stated. This case provides important information about the types of benefits that an employer must list in the recruitment it conducts for labor certification cases.
The February Visa Bulletin has been released by the Department of State and EB3 worldwide and Philippines saw rapid advancement again. India EB2 also moved for the first time in several months. The bulletin contained predictions about continued forward movement in EB3 categories but, indicated that “corrective” action aka retrogression may be coming.
AAO Determines that Beneficiary Cannot Use Experience Gained with the Petitioner to Qualify for a Sponsored Role
In an unpublished decision, the Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO”) considered whether the Beneficiary of a filed I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker could use experience gained at the sponsoring employer to demonstrate that he met the requirements of the role. In this case, the sponsoring employer filed a labor certification for the position of repairman and stated that this position required two years of experience. The employer also listed in the labor certification that the Beneficiary had over two years of experience as a repairman at a prior employer and close to six years of experience with the sponsoring employer. When the I-140 was filed, the employer only provided documentation demonstrating the experience that the Beneficiary obtained with it. The case was denied. In filing this appeal, the sponsoring employer argued that USCIS should “be focusing on whether the beneficiary was qualified for the position offered before the priority date . . . rather than whether the beneficiary was qualified before being hired by the Petitioner.” In denying the appeal, the AAO stated that the employer was attempting to qualify the Beneficiary through the experience he gained while working for it. However, since the Beneficiary’s experience with the sponsoring employer was substantially comparable to the position offered, this experience could not be used to establish that the Beneficiary had the necessary qualifications for the role. While there are provisions in the law that allow employers to use experience that a Beneficiary obtained while working for a sponsoring employer, they involve specific requirements that the employer and Beneficiary must meet in order to be successful. The Hammond Law Group is always happy to discuss these types of cases to determine whether it is feasible to use experience gained at a sponsoring employer in the greencard context.