On August 17, 2015 USCIS released the final version of its policy memo that will guide the future adjudication of the L-1B visa classification. This memo will apply to all L-1B petitions pending or filed with USCIS on or after August 31, 2015. If petitioners will have a petition pending with USCIS beyond August 31, 2015 they should be using this memo as guidance to prepare their petitions if they are already not doing so.
Last week, a federal judge ruled that the 17 mo. STEM extension rule which went into effect in 2008 was issued in circumvention of federal law specifically, that it was issued without the proper notice and comment required under the Administrative Procedures Act. Many in the staffing community wonder where this judge and reasoning were when the Neufeld memo and the Simeio Solutions policies were issued also without notice and comment but, I digress. The judge ordered the OPT STEM rule to be vacated but, thankfully, the effect is not immediate. The order will not go into effect until Feb 12, 2016 leaving the DHS sufficient time to issue proposed regulations and go through the proper notice and comment period. Whether the current administration will be able to achieve this in light of the myriad of other immigration initiatives they are currently tackling remains to be seen but, at this point we remain hopeful.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has issued a draft template of requests for evidence (RFE) for L-1B petitions and is taking comments on the proposed form, a copy of which can be found here. USCIS will take comments until July 31. This is a follow up to its Memorandum on L-1B Adjudications Policy earlier this year. Even though the new L-1B Adjudications memo has not gone into effect, it appears that both USCIS and practitioners are looking ahead to when the rule does become final. The main benefit that can be gleaned from the RFE template is it that it contains an expansive list of evidence that can be provided to demonstrate that the requirements of an L-1B visa are met, including specialized knowledge.
The USCIS has released a new memo describing its plans to implement and apply the Simeio Solutions case and it provides some relief for employers. The new memo effective as of July 21, 2015 states that the Simeio rule will not be applied retroactively. Changes in work-site location that occur after April 9th remain impacted. The memo also provided until Jan 15, 2016 to cure any moves. We applaud the USCIS for taking into consideration the input provided by its stakeholders and taking this remedial action.
In a letter made public recently, IBM responded to an inquiry made by Senator Grassley regarding the use of H-1b workers in light of lay-offs by IBM in Senator Grassley’s home state of Iowa. Senator Grassley has been an outspoken critic of the H-1b program and legal immigration in general so his inquiry to IBM was not surprising and, from my point of view perfectly appropriate. The spirit of the H-1b program, if not the law, should not permit H-1b workers to replace laid-off US workers. As part of their response, IBM sought to distance itself from others who heavily use the H-1b program and have a much higher percentage of H-1b workers. IBM puts its % of H-1b workers at 10% or less. In calling for an expansion of the H-1b program, IBM reminded Senator Grassley that the current limitations of the program were leading to the loss of US jobs and greater outsourcing. Given his historical position on the H-1b program, it is doubtful that Senator Grassley was in any way, swayed by the arguments being made by IBM but, it is nice to see US companies defend their H-1b programs.
As H-1b cap rejections arrived in our office en masse last week and this week, it was quite a sobering sight. Selfishly, for our firm because those rejected boxes represented literally 100’s of cases that would never be fully billed, never turn into green card cases, and never refer their friends. For the U.S. companies that had interviewed the candidates and selected them as being the best person for the job, they were losing out on a talented new employee. For the H-1b worker, many were losing out on the dream of working in the U.S., joining friends or family that may have immigrated here previously, or simply not realizing the adventure of a new career in a new country. To the U.S. in general, the rejections of some 150,000 plus professional workers, many with STEM degrees, the economic loss is staggering. CNBC ran a nice article about a month ago on the economic loss caused by a broken US immigration system. If you haven’t read it, check it out. Regardless of one’s perspective, rejected petitions represent a loss.
A few weeks ago the United States District Court denied Save Jobs USA’s motion for a temporary injunction of the H4 EAD program. Save Jobs USA has now moved for judgment on all counts in its complaint. Save Jobs USA continues to argue that the new rule creates more competition for U.S. employees from H-1B workers and potential competition from H-4 visa holders with the new EAD. Save Jobs USA also alleges that the rule goes beyond DHS’s authority because the regulatory definition of the H-4 status doesn’t provide any permission to work. We will provide more updates as they become available.
In a story sure to get the attention of legislators in Washington D.C., and in my humble opinion rightly so, The New York Times ran a story today about H-1b workers being placed at Disney and the U.S. workers they were replacing being required to train them. The story was picked up and ran on the front page of msn.com and many other news outlets. Maybe this will be the impetus for Congress to get serious about immigration reform and craft legislation that recognizes the increased need for H-1b workers and provides for the protection of U.S. workers. No one should be asked to train their cheaper foreign replacement. At a time when the unemployment rate for IT workers is under 2% and we just had over 230,000 H-1b visa petitions filed for only 85,000 spots, this black eye on the H-1b program may be coming to light at the right time to force reform.