Check out this recent article in the New York Times regarding the H-1b visa program.
On October 1, 2015, Congress failed to extend the additional filing fees for petitioners whose workforces are heavily reliant on H-1B and L-1 employees. The law, known as Public Law 111-230, required an extra $2,000 fee for certain H-1B petitions, and a $2,250 fee for L-1A and L-1B petitions, whose company had 50 or more employees in the U.S., with over half of those workers on H-1B or L-1 visas.
All H-1B and L-1 fees, filed on or after October 1, should still include the base I-129 fee, Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, and American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) Fee, when applicable. Petitions with incorrect fees may be rejected. However, unless this fee gets reauthorized, petitions should enjoy the reprieve.
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 While this a non-precedential decision, the results could have far reaching effects, especially on how RFE’s are issued and responded to.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.
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.
Our friends to the north have been observing our current immigration system and have noted that the US policy and practice at present is to refuse work visas to high tech workers (STEM grads), entrepreneurs, and specialized workers from international companies and have decided that they may be able to take advantage of our ineptitude. I can only imagine the discussion, maybe it went something like this (picture with a Molson and hockey in the background, of course) “Don’t you think we could use an influx of some smart, talented, tax-paying, revenue creating international workers, Eh ?” Seems so simple doesn’t it, Washington DC ! With the current culture of NO so prevalent at the USCIS service centers and the failure to produce any immigration reform that among other things addresses, the over 20 year wait for a green card for an Indian national IT engineer, it is not surprising that scores of quality international workers will seek alternative opportunities and that other industrialized nations will seek to create options for them. We can only hope that they will use their Canadian resident cards to vacation in Florida and Arizona in the winter.
A recent study released by the Partnership for a New American Economy found that the limitations placed on the number of new H-1b’s that are provided each fiscal year through the H-1b cap is harming the U.S. economy. After the H-1b quota was reached in the first week of April in 2013 and 2014, many companies announced that they are considering increasing their presence in other countries that have immigration systems that are friendlier to high-skilled workers. Specifically, Microsoft recently stated that it would increase its research and development sector in Canada, and plans to offer 400 new jobs in Vancouver by 2015. To contribute to the arguments that the current H-1b system is reducing the capacity of many employers to grow in the United States, a study by the Partnership for a New American Economy found that that cities where employers received a large number of rejected H-1b cap cases experienced less job creation and wage growth. It also discovered that the U.S. tech industry would have grown substantially faster in the period after the recession if such a high number of H-1b visas had not been rejected in the 2007 and 2008 lottery. Furthermore, the results of the 2007 and 2008 H-1b lottery caused the New York City / New Jersey area to lose the opportunity to create as many as 28,000 tech related jobs. Similar results were shown in the Washington, DC, Chicago, and Dallas Fort Worth areas. This study provides further support for the critical need for immigration reform.
The WSJ ran an interesting article explaining how the employment of H-1b workers actually serves to increase the wages of their US citizen colleagues. This study appears to be in direct contradiction to the propaganda spouted at the dog and pony show put on by Senator Sessions a few weeks ago.