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Government Agency Actions - USCIS, ICE, etc. Visas - H-1b, L-1, E, O, TN

Do I (Still) Qualify for the H1B Master Cap?

On May 31, 2017, USCIS released a memo clarifying that to be eligible for an H-1B cap exemption based on a Master’s Degree, the school from where the beneficiary obtained their degree has to have been a U.S. “institution of higher education” when the degree was earned. The policy memo cites to Matter of A-T- Inc., an “adopted decision,” meaning the decision is binding policy guidance for all USCIS personnel.

As you probably know, there are only 65,000 H-1B visas available under the cap each year, with an additional 20,000 for people who have earned a master’s degree or higher in the U.S. In their decision, the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) stated, “[U]nder our interpretation, an individual who earns a degree from a (pre-)accredited institution may continue to qualify for the Master’s Cap exemption even if the institution later closes or loses its (pre-)accreditation status.”

This will be an important memo to keep in mind as USCIS has, in some instances, gone back and reviewed a beneficiary’s initial H1B petition – and which cap they were counted under – while adjudicating a current extension. Even when the beneficiary has been in the U.S. for over 5 years.

Categories
Green Cards Visas - H-1b, L-1, E, O, TN

USCIS ISSUES POLICY MEMORANDUM REGARDING ADJUDICATIONS FOR CERTAIN L-1A VISA PETITIONS

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a policy memorandum, adopting an Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) decision, to provide guidance that applies to and binds all USCIS employees regarding the adjudication of L-1A visa petitions. Specifically, the memorandum clarifies that when determining whether the beneficiary of an L-1A visa petition will primarily manage an essential function, USICS officers must weight all relevant factors including evidence of the beneficiary’s role within the larger qualifying international organization. The guidance clarifies a 2013 decision of the appeals office, Matter of Z-A- Inc., which overturned a Director’s decision denying an extension to stay for an L-1A beneficiary who was serving as a Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of a large Japanese manufacturer. In the overturned decision, the Director had determined that the officer wasn’t employed in a managerial capacity because U.S. operations did not have an “organizational structure” large enough to ensure the executive would not be performing the day to day sales duties. The decision failed to take into account the eight foreign staff located in Japan who worked under the manager, who performed the day to day sales duties necessary. The Japanese parent company is a publicly trade firm with over $900 million in sales.
In overturning the decision, the AAO found that the beneficiary’s responsibilities did primarily consist of managerial duties and that the beneficiary served as a member of the senior management team. The AAO found that the Director erred in focusing on the number of employees without looking at preponderance of the evidence presented which included evidence that the foreign staff performed many of the day to day sales duties required and thus, although the beneficiary may be required to perform some administrative or operational tasks, he primarily manages an essential function of the Petitioner. The case is Matter of Z-A- Inc. –

Categories
US Immigration Policy Visas - H-1b, L-1, E, O, TN

USCIS Policy Memo on Amended H-1b Petitions

On May 21,2015, the USCIS issued new policy guidance for H-1b employers. This guidance was issued following the April 9th Simeio Solutions precedent decision from the AAO which determined that a change in employment outside the area of intended employment was a material change and required the filing of an amended petition. This ruling was a major departure from prior USCIS policy and practice. The May 21st USCIS memo was designed to explain how that new policy will be implemented. The memo makes the following points:
1. An amended petition must be filed BEFORE an H-1b employee can be moved to a new worksite outside the original area of intended employment.
2. A deadline of Aug 19, 2015 has been established for all employers to file amended petitions to reflect the worksite locations of any H-1b worker who has been moved from their original petition location.
3. If an amended petition is pending and a subsequent move is made, a 2nd amended petition can be made and an employee moved. There is no requirement to obtain a decision in the 1st case before filing the 2nd case.

The Simeio Solutions decision has a huge impact on employers in the staffing industry and now this memo requires that an amended petition must be filed before moving an employee, the impact grows. Further, with the memo making it clear that the new policy will be applied retroactively to existing H-1b workers, albeit, with a 90 day grace period, the negative consequences to U.S. employers will be even larger and, the benefit to the coffers of the USCIS will be as well. With an economic impact to U.S. employers easily exceeding $100 million annually, it is unclear how the USCIS decision makers believe that this change in policy is not in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act and should not have gone through the formal rulemaking procedure. Whether any company or trade association challenges this new policy on APA grounds is yet to be seen.

As a practical matter, H-1b employers should take the following actions:
1. Confirm the current worksite locations of all H-1b employees and determine if that worksite has changed from the original petition and, if necessary, take steps to file an amended petition prior to Aug 19, 2015.
2. Communicate to sales and deployment teams that any change in worksite location will take at least 10 days and there is an economic cost to said move that must be considered.

Categories
Government Agency Actions - USCIS, ICE, etc. Visas - H-1b, L-1, E, O, TN

AAO changes the game for staffing employers !

In a decision released last week, the AAO declared that a work-site location change outside of the original MSA requires the filing of an amended H-1b petition. This change will have significant impact on staffing cos., many whom have followed DOL and USCIS HQ guidance which supported the conclusion that only the filing and posting of a new LCA was required when an employee’s work site changed. The I-129 form itself declares that an amended petition is not required when changing the location of an H-1b employee if you have filed and posted an LCA at the new work-site prior to the move. It is not known whether USCIS HQ supports this AAO decision or will issue further clarifying guidance to essentially overturn this decision. In the meantime, this decision leaves employers in an era of uncertainty. HLG will be hosting a teleconference for clients on Fri. April 17th to discuss this topic. More details will be released early this week.

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Green Cards

AAO Determines that Beneficiary Cannot Use Experience Gained with the Petitioner to Qualify for a Sponsored Role

In an unpublished decision, the Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO”) considered whether the Beneficiary of a filed I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker could use experience gained at the sponsoring employer to demonstrate that he met the requirements of the role. In this case, the sponsoring employer filed a labor certification for the position of repairman and stated that this position required two years of experience. The employer also listed in the labor certification that the Beneficiary had over two years of experience as a repairman at a prior employer and close to six years of experience with the sponsoring employer. When the I-140 was filed, the employer only provided documentation demonstrating the experience that the Beneficiary obtained with it. The case was denied. In filing this appeal, the sponsoring employer argued that USCIS should “be focusing on whether the beneficiary was qualified for the position offered before the priority date . . . rather than whether the beneficiary was qualified before being hired by the Petitioner.” In denying the appeal, the AAO stated that the employer was attempting to qualify the Beneficiary through the experience he gained while working for it. However, since the Beneficiary’s experience with the sponsoring employer was substantially comparable to the position offered, this experience could not be used to establish that the Beneficiary had the necessary qualifications for the role.  While there are provisions in the law that allow employers to use experience that a Beneficiary obtained while working for a sponsoring employer, they involve specific requirements that the employer and Beneficiary must meet in order to be successful. The Hammond Law Group is always happy to discuss these types of cases to determine whether it is feasible to use experience gained at a sponsoring employer in the greencard context.

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Green Cards

The 11th Circuit Issues A Decision Stating that the Beneficiary of an Approved I-140 has Standing to Challenge its Revocation

In Kurapati et al v. USCIS et al, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit reviewed whether the beneficiary of an I-140 had standing to challenge its revocation. In this case, USCIS had issued a notice of intent to revoke (“NOIR”) to the beneficiary’s employer, Worldwide Web Services, on the basis that it misstated a material fact in the I-140. At the time that the NOIR was issued, the beneficiary had ported his employment to a new employer and Worldwide Web Services had ceased to exist. Consequently, the beneficiary filed a response to the NOIR. The case was denied. The beneficiary filed an appeal of the denial with the Administrative Appeals Office (“AAO”) and filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. The AAO rejected the appeal on the basis that the beneficiary had no standing to appeal the case. The U.S. District Court reached the same conclusion. In reviewing the case, the 11th Circuit referenced a 6th Circuit decision that found that the “beneficiary of an I-140 visa petition had constitutional standing because he suffered an injury that was fairly traceable to USCIS – the loss of an opportunity to become a permanent resident.” Similarly, the 11th Circuit found that the beneficiary’s relationship to this case was within the zone of interests that is protected by the Administrative Procedure Act. Consequently, he had standing to challenge the revocation of his I-140. This case provides further support for a beneficiary’s right to challenge the denial or revocation of an I-140 petition.

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Green Cards

Immigration Appeals Court Approves EB2 case for an individual with a 3 year degree

The AAO, one of the Courts of Appeals in the immigration system, recently approved an EB2 I-140 for an individual with a full MS degree that had been attained following a 3 yr. Bachelor’s program. This is a major victory as the USCIS Service Center (particularly the Nebraska Service Center) had been issuing denials in such cases and had in fact, created their own policy, commonly referred to as the “6 year rule”, requiring that an individual have 6 years of education to gain EB2 approval when using the Masters degree standard. In the AAO decision, the Court ruled that if a credible education evaluator evaluates the Masters degree as the equivalent of a US Masters degree that the preceding education is not relevant.  We praise the AAO for its decision striking down yet another, in a long line of Service Center policies that have no basis in any statute or regulation but, are simply overreaching examples of a bureaucracy run amok.  It is not believed that there will be in effect on EB2 cases where the basis of the labor certification is a Bachelor’s plus 5 years of experience and the individual holds a 3 year bachelor’s degree.  It should also be noted that the Service Centers routinely choose not to follow AAO decisions and your individual case may need to be litigated in order to achieve the desired result.