Visas – H-1b, L-1, E, O, TN

End of the 3-for-1 Rule?

The “3-for-1 Rule” states that three years of work experience is equal to one year of education in the H-1B context. This rule has been followed for years without question but now the rule might not be as straightforward as it used to be. The Rule was routinely applied to cases where a beneficiary had only completed part of a bachelor’s degree program and was using years of experience to cover the remaining years. After the AAO’s recent decision, the rule should no longer be considered an uncomplicated 3:1 ratio. While this a non-precedential decision, the results could have far reaching effects, especially on how RFE’s are issued and responded to.

The AAO begins by stating that the 3-for-1 rule has been misapplied and is exclusively reserved for use by USCIS agency-determinations of educational equivalency. This means that going forward, technically the Service is the only one that can apply the rule.

Next, the AAO points out that not all years of experience are equal. The requirements for RFE’s are about to become very high. Petitioner’s will be required to “clearly demonstrated” that a beneficiary’s years of experience include the theoretical and practical application of specialized knowledge required by the specialty occupation, that it was gained while working with peers, supervisors, or subordinates who have a degree or its equivalent in the specialty occupation and that the alien has recognition of expertise in the specialty. In short, letters of experience will now need to be very detailed and contain specific elements.

However, you also need to show that the beneficiary has expertise in the specialty. This is most easily demonstrated by recognition of expertise in the specialty occupation by at least two recognized authorities in the same specialty occupation. This will result in letters from experts becoming a requirement if you would like experience considered. The decision also outlined who can be considered an “expert” for these letters. Remember, even if you obtain great letters USCIS can still determine that those years don’t equal a year of baccalaureate experience.
Finally, the AAO found that only reliable credentials evaluation services that specializes in evaluating foreign education credentials can evaluate a foreign national’s education. So, the submission to the USCIS must now include an evaluation from a foreign credentials evaluation service, expert letters can only be used to show recognition of expertise not educational equivalency.

In sum, the 3 for 1 rule should not be considered the simple 3:1 ratio it has been in the past. Going forward, proving that a beneficiary meets the H-1B educational requirements through years of experience is a completely new animal.

Senator Hatch calls out Senator Grassley

Last week, Computerworld published comments from Senator Hatch in which he essentially called out Senator Grassley for being a protectionist and simply ignoring the economic realties of the global marketplace that exists in 2015 by virtue of his plan to prevent an increase in the H-1b cap without including unnecessary and onerous requirements. The proposals of Senator Grassley, though seemingly reasonable on the surface, would essentially destroy the H-1b visa particularly for IT staffing companies who are a large user of the H-1b program. Given Senator Grassley’s history of attacks on the staffing industry, his position should not be a surprise. It is refreshing to see Senator Hatch take a pro business and pro American position however, given Senator Grassley’s position as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he may have sufficient power to single-handedly prevent business immigration reform from happening. It should be noted that both Senators are Republicans and senior members of the Senate so this type of public exchange is a bit unusual. The back drop of this discussion is the upcoming April 1st H-1b cap lottery filing deadline at which, literally 1000’s of professionals, many of them with U.S. graduate degrees, hired by U.S. employers, will be rejected and told that their services are not wanted in the U.S. Last year, over 85,000 professional workers were rejected and many think this year, there will be even more. The 85,000 rejected workers would’ve been tax-paying productive workers and as countless economic studies have shown, H-1b workers serve to create U.S. jobs, not eliminate them. The continued insistence by politicians such as Senator Grassley, on building walls, rather than building the American economy remains troubling. The foreign outsourcing industry is grateful for his efforts though.

H-4 EAD Rule Released

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.

DOL releases program statistics

The DOL has released data on all of its FY 2013 programs including, PERM and prevailing wage determinations (PWD).

IT jobs growth and salary increases reported

According to industry reports, the outlook for IT job growth and salary increases is promising in 2015. This economic news makes the prospects of meaningful business immigration reform i.e. More H-1b visas and retrogression relief more promising.

District Court Issues Decision on H-1b Validity Period

In Valorem Consulting Group v. USCIS, the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri considered whether it was arbitrary and capricious for USCIS to grant an H-1b visa for only a one year validity period when the Beneficiary was expected to work on multiple projects for different clients. In this case, the District Court noted that the Administrative Procedures Act provides that it could only overturn USCIS’s decision if it was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” The District Court reviewed the case and noted that the record showed that the Petitioner was a consulting company that offered a broad range of professional services to its clients. The Beneficiary was expected to “provide consulting services that vary depending on the client’s needs.” Documentation from the Petitioner and from two end-clients was also submitted. The court found that USCIS initially denied the case on the basis that the evidence the Petitioner had submitted was insufficient to demonstrate that enough specialty occupation work would be available. USCIS had expressed “concern that at some point [the Petitioner] could assign [the Beneficiary] to work for a client on a project that no longer qualified as a ‘specialty occupation.’” After an appeal was initiated, USCIS overturned the denial and approved the case for a one year period. The court dismissed the remainder of the claims other than the validity of the one year period. In reviewing the case, the District court noted that the nature of the Petitioner’s business led to the conclusion that it could not “represent what [the Beneficiary] would be doing on a regular and recurring basis.” It also upheld USCIS’s reliance on the Neufeld Memorandum. It stated that the Beneficiary was expected to provide services for the Petitioner’s clients and “that these tasks varied in nature and duration, making it difficult for USCIS to confirm that [the Beneficiary] was entitled to an H-1b visa and, if so, for how long.” Consequently, the District Court determined that USCIS’s decision to provide only a one year validity period for the Beneficiary’s H-1b was not arbitrary or capricious.

An H-1b increase soon ?

While many are closely following the threats by the new Republican controlled Congress to defund some of the provisions of President Obama’s recent Executive Order, many others in the hi-tech community are closely following whether an increase in the H-1b cap may occur.

US Tech community pushes for more H-1b visas

A Stanford publication recently discussed the continued fight by Silicon Valley IT cos. for an increase in the H-1b quota.

H-1b workers and employers win big !

Lost in the President’s plan to provide relief to millions of undocumented/illegal people here in the US were major changes that will be hugely positive for H-1b workers and employers alike. A summary will be posted later today and more details provided as they become available but, the highlights include: the end of retrogression for US based workers (well, almost); elimination of the need for most h-1b extensions; in many cases, the advantage of being EB2 vs. EB3 would be eliminated; clearer L-1b rules; and, greater portability for H-1b workers which means easier access to resources for US employers. Nice job Mr. President !

H-1b LCA Compliance

HLG partner, Mike Hammond will be a panelist on a webinar being presented by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) entitled “Essential Compliance Issues for Employers-H-1B and the LCA” on Oct 28th.