Category: Department of Labor


Obama Executive Action Includes Business Immigration Reforms

November 21st, 2014 — 10:22am

While most of the media attention concerning President Obama’s November 20 speech on immigration issues focused on the deferred action plan for certain undocumented immigrants, the White House also announced a number of significant business immigration initiatives.

Pre-Registration for Adjustment of Status and Enhanced Worker Portability

This was the big surprise of the night.

Individuals with an approved employment-based immigrant petition (Form I-140) who are caught in the green card quota backlogs will be able to pre-register for adjustment of status to obtain the benefits of a pending adjustment application.  Presumably this will include the ability to secure an EAD card and advance parole travel authorization for the employee and dependents. This is expected to impact about 410,000 people and  will be implemented by a formal regulation.

A memorandum released by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson stated that DHS will look to amend it regulations to “insure that approved, long standing visa petitions remain valid in certain cases where [the foreign national employees] seek to change jobs or employers.”

If adjustment of status (AOS) portability is expanded to include those who qualify for pre-registration, the implications for the businesses that sponsor foreign national employees for PERM labor certification are enormous. First, a company could promote an employee or transfer them to a new job location without having to file a second PERM application. Secondly, the foreign national employee would be able to change employers so long as the new job is the “same or similar” to the position for which a labor certification was obtained.

Secretary Johnson announced that DHS will issue policy guidance clarifying the “same or similar” standard. His memorandum included the following language: “This guidance should make clear that a worker can, for example, accept a promotion to a supervisory position or otherwise transition to related jobs within his or her field of endeavor. By removing unnecessary restrictions to natural career progression, workers will have increased flexibility and stability, which would also ensure a more level playing field for U.S. workers.”

Foreign Entrepreneurs

Certain “foreign inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises wishing to conduct research and development and create jobs in the U.S.” will be able to be paroled into the U.S., or be granted parole in place if already in the United States, for job creation. This will be done by regulation. Also, this group will be eligible for national interest waivers. This will be implemented through policy guidance.

L-1B Specialized Knowledge Workers

DHS will soon release a policy memorandum that will “provide clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of specialized knowledge.” We hope this guidance will reign in the arbitrary and capricious decisions coming out of the USCIS Service Centers in recent years as the denial rate for L-1B petitions has skyrocketed.

Work Permits for H-4 Visa Holders

A regulation will be finalized, probably in December or January, that will allow H-4 spouses of H-1B employees to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card).

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

The length of time in OPT for STEM graduates will be expanded and the relationship between the student and the school will be strengthened. Other changes, such as allowing STEM OPT after receipt of a master’s degree where only the first degree is in a STEM field is under consideration. The number of degree programs eligible for OPT may be expanded. This will be done by regulation.

PERM Labor Certification

A full rulemaking will be undertaken to modernize the PERM program.

Visa Modernization.  A Presidential Memorandum will be issued directing federal agencies to look at modernizing the visa system with a view to making optimal use of the numbers of visa available under law.  Issues such as whether dependents should be counted against the employment based green card quota and whether past unused visa numbers can be recaptured will be included in this effort.

Important Reminder

None of the initiatives listed above have been implemented and no applications can be filed at this time. It could be weeks or even months before policy guidance or formal regulations are published. We will advise our clients as soon as any additional information is available.

Comment » | Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor, I-140, I-485

DOL Prevailing Wage Determinations on Hold; Delays Will Thwart Employers Ability to File PERM Applications for Employees

August 22nd, 2011 — 10:21am

The Department of Labor National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) advises that it is not issuing prevailing wage determinations (PWDs), often a necessary beginning step in the PERM labor certification process, as it uses all of it resources to reissue some 4,000 court-ordered H-2B wage determinations. Requests for reconsideration or appeal are also on hold. This means that employers seeking to begin PERM cases must wait, even though certain cases must be filed for their H-1B workers due to AC-21 extension requirements, expiring recruitment, or other reasons. DOL advises employers to submit prevailing wage determination requests at least 60 days in advance of the employer’s initial recruitment efforts. As of this writing, it is unclear when DOL will resume PWD processing for new cases and whether any relief will be made available for PERM cases that must but cannot be filed. For now, employers are advised to plan accordingly and build additional time into the application process.

Comment » | Department of Labor

PERM Labor Certification Program

December 21st, 2010 — 3:47pm

Most foreign nationals who wish to be eligible for employment-based green cards must do so through the PERM labor certification process by having their employer file a labor certification application with the Department of Labor (DOL). The PERM application certifies that there are no U.S. workers who are willing, able, or available to fill a position offered by an American employer, and the employer must undertake extensive recruitment to prove such. The PERM application also certifies that the employer will pay the sponsored employee the prevailing wage for the job. Once approved or “certified,” the foreign-national employee can petition USCIS for eligibility under one of the employment-based preference categories by filing an I-140 immigrant visa petition.

The largely automated PERM program was introduced in March 2005 and touted by DOL as a new and retooled expedited labor certification process through which employers could begin their sponsorship of valued employees. Nevertheless, the PERM process remains laborious and complicated.

Over the past five years through the issuance of FAQs — DOL’s 11th and latest was issued in August — DOL has retroactively applied new rules to old cases and used the informal FAQ process to create or change its requirements. By forgoing the more formal route of promulgating regulations, which would afford public comment and mandate government consideration, the program remains riddled with deficiencies and uncertainties for employers. Moreover, the application takes about four to six months to prepare, plus another six to ten months for processing by DOL (from online submission to adjudication). And, if DOL requests that the employer’s recruitment and other records be audited, another 15 months will be tacked on for a DOL audit response. Beyond the changing rules and lengthy processing times, perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the process is how unforgiving it is — even the tiniest error on the PERM application can completely derail a case.

So why do employers and their employees bother? Despite these and other hurdles inherent in the PERM labor certification process, this route to permanent residence is often the only viable option for many needed employees. And, the process eventually works: long-time nonimmigrant employees and their families can become green card holders and, later, citizens of the United States. However, employers who anticipate long-term sponsorship of current employees must take particular care to ensure consistency throughout what can be a multi-process, nine- to ten-year immigration odyssey. This can be difficult, especially when the immigration laws are not consistent. For example, a foreign national can be a “professional” for H-1B purposes on the basis of experience and education but not for immigrant visa purposes. Employers also must take care to timely file their PERM applications, especially when their H-1B employees are approaching their final year of their visa status. Indeed, long-term immigration strategies must be considered when hiring H‑1Bs.

Until this system changes, employers and their immigration counsel should actively review pending cases to determine whether additional documentation is required to meet ever-changing DOL requirements. Counsel and employers also are advised to determine from the start the best short- and long-term strategies for their employees.

Zulkie Partners is nationally recognized for its command of immigration law. We offer services that cover all aspects of corporate immigration law, including nonimmigrant work visas, permanent residence sponsorship and more.

Connect with us today to learn how we can help you further your hiring goals.

Comment » | Department of Labor, I-140, I-485, Lawful permanent resident

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