Update on Save Jobs USA’s Lawsuit regarding H4 EAD’s

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.

Always Remember to Withdraw the H-1B of Employees Who Leave You

On August 1, 2016, a Dept. of Labor Judge ordered ME Global Inc. to pay a former engineer almost $183,000 in back wages. The Judge determined that the employer did not properly notify immigration officials when it fired the H-1B worker in 2008. As you probably know, immigration laws require employers to notify USCIS of the termination of H-1B employees.

Judge Almanza noted that the statute of limitations clock starts on the last date the employer failed to fulfill a condition of the labor condition application and therefore ME Global had “benched” their employee, placing an H-1B worker in a nonproductive status. This meant there was a continuing violation and the employee’s complaint to the wage and hour divisions was timely as long as it was filed within one year of when he left the U.S.

This holding is just another reminder that when an H-1B employee leaves your employment you must notify USCIS and withdraw the H-1B petition your company filed on their behalf.

H1-B and L-1 Reform Bill Introduced

On July 8, 2016, Bill Pascrell Jr., Democrat – New Jersey, introduced legislation Thursday designed to “overhaul” the H1-B and L-1 visa programs. H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2016, or H.R. 5657. The bill is being introduced under the guise of protecting workers and cracking down on foreign outsourcing companies that “take high-skill jobs away from Americans.”

Two of the more concerning provisions of the bill include: Requiring employers to conduct a labor market test before hiring H-1B workers and prohibiting companies from hiring H-1B employees if they employ more than 50 people and if more than half of their workers are H-1B and L-1 visa holders!

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who previously introduced a similar version of the measure in 2010. So, hopefully like last time this bill does not gain enough traction in Congress to move forward. Nonetheless, it is still worrisome to hear that these changes are be given any kind of consideration.

H-1b changes coming ?

Computerworld reported on a discussion in the House on major changes to the H-1b visa and immigrant visas. No bill has been released yet and we are obviously a long way from any change but, at least people known for reasonable stances on business immigration are putting forth ideas. We will keep you updated as information becomes available.

Four Defendants Charged with H1B Visa Fraud

On May 5, 2016, in a California federal court, four people have been charged with conspiring to submit more than 100 fake H-1B visa applications. The prosecution alleges that, “the defendants … knew, these purported end-client companies did not have jobs for the defendants’ H-1B workers, the defendants did not intend to place those workers at those end-client companies, and none of those workers were placed at those end-client companies.” The Department of Justice goes on to say that between 2010 and 2014, a husband and wife used their employment-staffing companies DS Soft Tech and Equinett to sponsor temporary nonimmigrant workers for fraudulent H-1B applications for placements at companies that either didn’t exist or never received the proposed temporary workers and submitted fake documents to government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor. The maximum prison term for visa fraud is 10 years, while mail fraud and witness tampering both hold a maximum penalty of 20 years. While this is an extreme example, it is a good reminder that those that don’t follow the rules eventually get caught.

Technical Problems with the iCERT System

Yesterday, the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (“OFLC”) announced that it is experiencing problems with its iCERT system. While the iCERT Systems’ application and database are working correctly, the network infrastructure that supports the system is having performance issues that are causing delays in processing cases. These delays are currently impacting H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B cases. OFLC has not stated when it expects these problems to be resolved. The Hammond Law Group will keep you updated as further announcements are made on this issue.

Updates to Increases in H-1B and L-1 Petition Fees

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (Public Law 114-113) was signed into law on December 18, 2015 and increased the fee for certain H-1B and L-1 petitioners. USCIS issued a web alert today that the additional fee now applies when a petitioner employs 50 or more individuals in the United States, with more than 50% of those employees currently in H-1B or L (including L-1A and L-1B) nonimmigrant status.
The additional fee must be included (1) with new petitions seeking H or L status or (2) when the petitioner seeks to have the nonimmigrant in H or L status change employers.

This is a departure from what the previously published regulations on the topic indicated, which also required the additional fee for extensions of H or L status. As things stand today, these are the only types of petitions that requires the additional fee but based on the back and forth that has surrounded this rule’s roll out, we will not know for sure until USCIS revises its instructions for the Form I-129.

DHS releases new proposed rule

The DHS has released the long anticipated proposed regulation which promised to provide greater portability to H-1b workers with approved I-140’s. A copy of the complete rule can be found here. Comments on the proposed rule are due on Feb 29, 2016 and the rule is not in effect until it becomes final, sometime after the comment period. Our office will be providing a detailed summary to clients next week. I hate to throw cold water on what should be a day of celebration but, a quick read through does not indicate that the portability provisions are as gracious as promised. There are however, other really good provisions which will be very positive for international professional workers and their employers. Happy New year and we wish everyone a great 2016.

H-1b and L-1 Filing fees to double

Buried in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that Congress is currently considering is a provision that would re-instate and double the “penalty” filing fee imposed on employers with 50 or more employees where 50% of those employees are H-1b or L-1b visa holders. The new fee would also apply to extensions. The new penalty fee for H-1b petitions would be $4,000 and for L-1 cases, $4500.

H-1b visas in the news

Check out this recent article in the New York Times regarding the H-1b visa program.