Earlier this week, Senator Grassley publicly announced that he had released his hold on HR 3012. If you recall, HR 3012 was a bill that had passed the House by a margin of 389-15 and essentially eliminated decades of national origin discrimination by eliminating the per country limits applied to the distribution of immigrant visas (green cards). Unfortunately, when HR 3012 reached the Senate for consideration, Senator Grassley singularly put a hold on it, much as a petulant child will threaten to take his ball and go home if everyone else refuses to play by his rules. As oft is the case in politics, if you have an unpopular provision that stands no chance of success standing on its own merits, you hold a popular piece of legislation hostage until everyone caves. As a strategic ploy, Machiavelli would be proud and Senator Grassley finally got his way and succeeded in attaching additional rules to the H-1b program. (As an aside, I agree with Senator Grassley that the H-1b program does need review and reforms but, unlike this approach, I’d like that review to be done in the open, with a full public hearing and any proposed changes accepted or rejected on their merits.) The amendment that I think will most adversely impact employers is not the annual review of employers that have more than 100 employees and have at least 15% H-1b workers, or the lack of any judicial review, or even the change which allows the DOL to investigate an employer for possible LCA violations without a complaint but, it is the change that allows the DOL the unfettered ability to delay the issuance of an LCA for an indeterminate amount of time. Under the present system, the DOL must certify an LCA within 7 days unless it is “incomplete”. This time limit insures that employers can quickly file an H-1b visa petition. This quick turnaround is particularly important given the small number of H-1b visas available each year under the quota and in circumstances where H-1b workers are transferring from one U.S. employer to another. Under the Grassley amendment, there would be no such 7 day requirement and an investigation and delay in the issuance of an LCA can be initiated by the DOL under the vague rubric of ” clear indicators of fraud, misrepresentation of material fact, or obviously inaccurate”. If fraud hadn’t been so bastardized by the USCIS previously and on the record, then maybe this wouldn’t be so alarming but, fraud has been defined to include such factors as: an address change, having less than 25 employees, less than $10 million in revenues, and a web-site under construction, among others. When a U.S. employer chooses to hire an H-1b worker and expend the $5,000 to $10,000 in attorney and government fees required, it is looking for certainty in timing and adjudication. Over the past 2 years, the certainty associated with adjudication has been removed as the USCIS and the DOS by internal memo and policy have changed the rules where today, you aren’t even certain that a software engineer with a US Master’s degree is going to given an H-1b visa and now, if this amendment takes effect, the timing of the process will give way to uncertainty. Senator Grassley, keep your investigations and annual reviews because as an attorney, I applaud extra regulatory requirements and burdensome reviews that require my clients to retain me and pay me copious amounts of money but, initiate the investigations after the certification of the LCA’s. You can always revoke the LCA’s and impose large fines if you truly find fraud. To do otherwise, will cause employers, often smaller ones, to lose business opportunities and will encourage the outsourcing of projects abroad where the start of the project need not be delayed until the completion of an LCA investigation and the filing of an H-1b visa. The vast majority of U.S. employers want to play by the rules but, in turn, they are seeking certainty and assurances that the government agencies will also play by the rules. With this latest amendment, we will now have neither.