If you like statistics and are missing baseball box scores, check out the report recently released by the DHS on non-immigrant admissions in FY 2015. As you read this, keep in mind that admission does not equal people as the same person may make multiple admissions in a year if they travel internationally.
As confirmation hearings begin on Senator Jeff Sessions becoming the next Attorney General, it is enlightening to hear what he has said on H-1b visas. In an interview published in 2016 for Breitbart, Sessions made claims such as “over half of US STEM grads can’t find jobs”; “IT wages have not gone up since 2000” and, “there is no shortage of skilled workers in the U.S.” Check out the full story here.
In the first week of the new Congress, Rep Issa (R-CA) re-introduced a bill HR 170 designed to reform the H-1b program. The key component in the bill would raise the dependency exemption from $60,000 to $100,000. This same bill previously failed at the Committee level in 2016. It is expected that this will be but, the first, of bills introduced to change the H-1b visa program.
The U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Administrative Law Judges (OALJ), has determined that in certain circumstances, an employer can deduct H-1B visa fees from an employee’s final paycheck.
In this case, Matter of Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society, October 26, 2016, the OALJ determined that Woodmen Life did not violate any DOL regulation by deducting $5800 from the employee’s final payment for reimbursement of H-1B attorney and filing fees pursuant to an agreement which was entered into voluntarily by the employee.
Although the DOL found that §655.731(c)(9), which speaks to “authorized deductions from an employee’s required wage and specifically prohibits an employer from seeking recoupment of H-1B attorney fees and expenses from the required wage, even if the employee consents” was not applicable to this case since the deduction for the attorney’s fees came from the benefits side of the equation and not from the employee’s required wage, the DOL’s stated that the regulation is “far too broad and not supported by the plain language of the regulation.” The DOL further clarified that “an H-1B employer is prohibited from imposing its business expenses on the H-1B worker – including attorney fees and other expenses associated with the filing of an LCA and H-1B petition – only to the extent that the assessment would reduce the H-1b worker’s pay below the required wage, i.e. the higher of the prevailing wage and the actual wage.”
The Service’s annual 2016 report to the Ombudsman was recently release and contained concerning information for L-1 visa petitioners. Unfortunately, the RFE rates of L-1 visas appear to continue to have no rhyme or reason.
“L-1A RFE data shows inverse trending between the CSC and the VSC. For example, CSC’s L-1A rates surged to 55 percent in FY 2015, its highest level in 20 years, while in the same period, VSC’s rate dropped dramatically from a high of 44.6 percent in FY 2014, to 29 percent in FY 2015. The number of L-1B RFEs dropped in FY 2015 at both service centers, to 44 percent at the CSC and 33 percent at the VSC.” See Ombudsman Report p. 59.
The L-1 memo, L-1B Policy Guidance Memorandum, was supposed to help alleviate some of this uncertainty. “It does not appear that RFE rates in FY 2015 were affected by this guidance, as it did not become final until August 17, 2015.” See Ombudsman Report p. 59. A very small sample size granted, but this memo was supposed to be seminal in the L-1 category. I’ll be eagerly anticipating next year’s report. What we can take away is that it looks like you’ll have a slightly better chance of getting an L-1A through Vermont and that L-1B’s RFE’s have dropped but not as much as we were hoping for when the L-1B Policy Guidance Memo was released.
The group of information technology workers know as Save Jobs USA, who claim that they were replaced by H-1B visa holders is now appealing a decision upholding a new U.S. Department of Homeland Security rule that would allow spouses of certain H-1B workers to apply for employment authorization, the H4 EAD rule.
On Wednesday, September 28, Save Jobs filed notice that it’s appealing to the D.C. Circuit, a day after U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the District of Columbia found that Save Jobs lacks standing to proceed with its case. Save Jobs has argued that there isn’t “statutory authorization” for DHS to allow an H-4 visa holder to work, but Judge Chutkan said that despite the group’s lack of standing in the case, the court would likely conclude that the DHS’ interpretation of its authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act is not unreasonable and that the H-4 rule is valid.
Save Jobs basis for their appeal is the Fifth Circuit’s holding regarding the blocking of the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Court had ruled that immigration law specifically defines the categories of immigrants allowed to work in the U.S. and that an Immigration and Nationality Act provision didn’t give the DHS the power to grant work authorization. This interpretation has been rebutted by DHS, pointing out that the cases address different questions. There appears to be no immediate danger of losing the H4 EAD Rule and those working under this authorization should continue to do so without hesitation.