How the Trump Admin’s ‘Merit-Based’ Immigration System actually works: Kill or Handicap the H-1B Visa
Reuters has a great piece on how Trump’s infamous ‘Merit-Based’ Immigration System actually works – issue a record # of queries, delays and denials on US companies’ petitions filed for their professional employees: Doctors, Engineers, IT and others. That these substantial changes impeding and eliminating aspects of the H-1B program have been undertaken without Congressional authorization is apparently of little concern to the Admin.
“Data provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services shows that between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, the agency issued 85,000 challenges, or “requests for evidence” (RFEs), to H-1B visa petitions – a 45 percent increase over the same period last year. The total number of H-1B petitions rose by less than 3 percent in the same period.”
In addition to querying applications more often, the Trump administration is targeting entry-level jobs offered to skilled foreigners. The lawyers say this violates the law governing H-1Bs, because it allows for visa holders to take entry-level jobs.
Several attorneys said they view the increase in challenges and focus on entry-level jobs as a stealth campaign by the administration against the H-1B program in the absence of public regulatory changes or changes passed by Congress, which could be debated and decided in the open.
As I’ve stated before: H-1B workers have filled our massive skills gap and created intellectual property, businesses and jobs for America. They are Makers, not Takers. It is therefore particularly disheartening to witness illogical attempts to reject these professionals, especially when other nations are outcompeting the U.S. in eagerly recruiting STEM workers.
As a Country, we need to shake off the illusion that we can “coast” through this increasingly competitive world on the basis of our previous generation’s achievements. The future of our Nation and our Industry lie in our leadership within the STEM sectors. Instead of rejecting or delaying tens of thousands of these high-skilled H-1B immigrants every year due to insufficient H-1B Cap numbers, newly created/surprise “Level 1” wage issues, or making these professionals wait up to 12 years for a green card, we should be bending over backwards to facilitate their immigration.
Politico reports that USCIS Plans Adjustment of Status (Green Card) Interview Requirement – Including for All Employment Based Applicants
On August 25, 2017, Politico reported that USCIS is planning a change in policy to require interviews for all employment-based adjustment of status applicants and will be expanding the interview requirement to other categories. On August 28, 2017, the same reporter tweeted what appears to be the first page of a USCIS press release confirming that, effective October 1, interviews will be phased in for all employment-based adjustment applicants and for all I-730 refugee/asylee petitions. The press release also states that this is part of an “incremental expansion of interviews for benefits that lead to permanent residence,” thus signaling that the interview requirement could be expanded to other categories. An August 25 NBC News article provides some additional context as to what the future might hold.
AILA has been in contact with agency officials to verify this information and will continue to reach out to obtain updates. As with other announcements, it appears that this policy originated from high levels within the Administration. At this time it remains unclear how this will be implemented operationally, including resource allocation, timing, and process.
The Washington Post’s David Nakamura provides details on Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.)’s new bill entitled “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment [RAISE] Act”.
In a nutshell, the new bill: a) Focuses on “Merit Based” Green Cards through a Canadian style points system b) Does away with the 50K Diversity Lottery green cards, c) Caps Refugee cases to 50K a year, d) Limits or does away with Family Based Immigration for “Extended Relatives” including adult children and siblings of US Citizens (termed “Chain Migration”), and d) Reduces the total number of Green Card issued annually by about half.
USCIS has published a final rule to modernize and improve several aspects of certain employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant visa programs. USCIS has also amended regulations to better enable U.S. employers to hire and retain certain foreign workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents. This rule goes into effect on Jan. 17, 2017.
Among other things, DHS is amending its regulations to:
- Clarify and improve longstanding DHS policies and practices implementing sections of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act and the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act related to certain foreign workers, which will enhance USCIS’ consistency in adjudication.
- Better enable U.S. employers to employ and retain high-skilled workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions (Form I-140 petitions) while also providing stability and job flexibility to these workers. The rule increases the ability of these workers to further their careers by accepting promotions, changing positions with current employers, changing employers and pursuing other employment opportunities.
- Improve job portability for certain beneficiaries of approved Form I-140 petitions by maintaining a petition’s validity under certain circumstances despite an employer’s withdrawal of the approved petition or the termination of the employer’s business.
- Clarify and expand when individuals may keep their priority date when applying for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence.
- Allow certain high-skilled individuals in the United States with E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1 or O-1 nonimmigrant status, including any applicable grace period, to apply for employment authorization for a limited period if:
- They are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140 petition,
- An immigrant visa is not authorized for issuance for their priority date, and
- They can demonstrate compelling circumstances exist that justify DHS issuing an employment authorization document in its discretion.
Such employment authorization may only be renewed in limited circumstances and only in one year increments.
- Clarify various policies and procedures related to the adjudication of H-1B petitions, including, among other things, providing H-1B status beyond the six year authorized period of admission, determining cap exemptions and counting workers under the H-1B cap, H-1B portability, licensure requirements and protections for whistleblowers.
- Establish two grace periods of up to 10 days for individuals in the E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1, and TN nonimmigrant classifications to provide a reasonable amount of time for these individuals to prepare to begin employment in the country and to depart the United States or take other actions to extend, change, or otherwise maintain lawful status.
- Establish a grace period of up to 60 consecutive days during each authorized validity period for certain high-skilled nonimmigrant workers when their employment ends before the end of their authorized validity period, so they may more readily pursue new employment and an extension of their nonimmigrant status.
- Automatically extend the employment authorization and validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs or Form I-766s) for certain individuals who apply on time to renew their EADs.
- Eliminate the regulatory provision that requires USCIS to adjudicate the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, within 90 days of filing and that authorizes interim EADs in cases where such adjudications are not conducted within the 90-day timeframe.
American Immigration Lawyers Association asks Secretary of State John Kerry and other Officials to restore the dates in the September 9, 2015 Visa Bulletin
Earlier today, the American Immigration Lawyers Association indicated that it had sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz expressing great disappointment in the September 25, 2015, changes to the October 2015 Visa Bulletin, and asking that the dates published in the September 9, 2015, Visa Bulletin be restored. The revised October 2015 Visa Bulletin rolls back the “Dates for Filing” for several visa categories, and will force many individuals and families to continue to face lengthy wait times before they can submit their applications for permanent residence.
Sudden EB-2 Priority Date Retrogression: Did Donald Trump just get installed as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services?
Many Employment Based 2nd Preference (EB-2) Indian applicants were expecting to file their Adjustment of Status (Green Card) applications in five (5) short days. These applicants include Doctors, Veterinarians, Scientists, Information Systems Managers, Senior Software Developers, Lawyers and many other advanced degree professionals, all readying their application in October of 2015 based on next month’s visa bulletin (issued September 9th 2015) which declared that EB-2 India dates were current as of July 2011. While the actual issuance of a green card would still have taken several more years, these applicants would have attained significant benefits while continuing their patient multi-year wait in line. This news was greatly welcomed by EB applicants who felt that this was our Administration’s first real “immigration reform” initiative intended specifically to benefit America’s highly educated immigrants.
However USCIS has taken an about-turn on this point by announcing, in a highly confusing manner, the retrogression of those July 2011 dates, back to July 2009. By way of background, a second visa bulletin announcement in one month is highly unusual, as is for the second announcement to be issued on a Friday, on the 25th of a month, at 4 pm, less than a week from the date the immigrant filings were set to begin. As a direct result, thousands advanced degree professionals, mostly born in India, who have been waiting to file their green cards for 4+ years, will have to keep waiting. This despite the applicants’ reasonable reliance on the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin of September 9th, or the thousands of dollars they each have likely spent in preparing their green card application(s) based on the same.
In this case, USCIS broke a promise to advanced degree immigrants who comprise a large percentage of our best and brightest. USCIS’ actions in this regard are simply unintelligible and amount to exactly what Mahatma Gandhi spoke of when he noted that “a breach of promise is a base surrender of truth“. USCIS’ action also moves us backward to the quota systems which the current immigration law, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, was created to counter.
This is a highly suspect and unwelcome development which brings to mind July 2007, when USCIS attempted something similar. At that time, a lawsuit stopped USCIS from closing the filing window and in fact kept said window remained open for about two months (longer than if USCIS didn’t attempt to shut down filings).
I’m hopeful that history will repeat itself.
Significant Change to Employment Based Green Card Cases – As of today, two separate categories for EB Visa Bulletins, for the filing (Acceptance) of Adjustment of Status cases and one for final Approval of cases
The Obama Administration’s attempts to “streamline” the U.S. employment based green card process appeared to have paid off when the U.S. Department of State recently acknowledged that it was reworking its visa availability system. Today, however, we received a wonderful surprise: as per the U.S. Dept. of State’s Visa Bulletin for October 2015, a significant change in the EB process is apparent: the Visa Bulletin includes two separate employment based categories, each with a different cut off date (see below).
The first category represents the “Approval” category which notes the priority date as to when an Applicant’s Adjustment of Status or IV case would be ultimately approved. The second category represents the “Acceptance” category which control when an Applicant could file for Adjustment of Status, assuming an Applicant’s Priority Date is current at that time.
This is a remarkable and welcome update that conveys significant benefits to EB preference applicants, particularly for Indian and Chinese nationals who were most prejudiced by the long delays arising from retrogressed priority dates.
USCIS should prepare for an avalanche of AOS applications.
A. APPLICATION FINAL ACTION DATES FOR
EMPLOYMENT-BASED PREFERENCE CASES
On the chart below, the listing of a date for any class indicates that the class is oversubscribed (see paragraph 1); “C” means current, i.e., numbers are authorized for issuance to all qualified applicants; and “U” means unauthorized, i.e., numbers are not authorized for issuance. (NOTE: Numbers are authorized for issuance only for applicants whose priority date isearlier than the cut-off date listed below.)
|Employment- Based||All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed||CHINA – mainland born||INDIA||MEXICO||PHILIPPINES|
|Certain Religious Workers||U||U||U||U||U|
*Employment Third Preference Other Workers Category: Section 203(e) of the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) passed by Congress in November 1997, as amended by Section 1(e) of Pub. L. 105-139, provides that once the Employment Third Preference Other Worker (EW) cut-off date has reached the priority date of the latest EW petition approved prior to November 19, 1997, the 10,000 EW numbers available for a fiscal year are to be reduced by up to 5,000 annually beginning in the following fiscal year. This reduction is to be made for as long as necessary to offset adjustments under the NACARA program. Since the EW cut-off date reached November 19, 1997 during Fiscal Year 2001, the reduction in the EW annual limit to 5,000 began in Fiscal Year 2002.
B. DATES FOR FILING OF EMPLOYMENT-BASED
The chart below reflects dates for filing visa applications within a timeframe justifying immediate action in the application process. Applicants for immigrant visas who have a priority date earlier than the cut-off date in the chart may assemble and submit required documents to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, following receipt of notification from the National Visa Center containing detailed instructions. The cut-off date for an oversubscribed category is the priority date of the first applicant who cannot submit documentation to the National Visa Center for an immigrant visa. If a category is designated “current,” all applicants in the relevant category may file, regardless of priority date.
The “C” listing indicates that the category is current, and that applications may be filed regardless of the applicant’s priority date. The listing of a date for any category indicates that only applicants with a priority date which isearlier than the listed date may file their application.
USCIS has determined that this chart may be used (in lieu of the chart in paragraph 5.A.) this month for filing applications for adjustment of status with USCIS. Applicants for adjustment of status may visitwww.USCIS.gov/visabulletininfo for additional information.
and Pilot Programs
6. The Department of State has a recorded message with the cut-off date information for Final Application Action which can be heard at: (202) 485-7699. This recording is updated on or about the tenth of each month with information on cut-off dates for the following month.
Insight into anticipated EB-2 (India) Visa Priority Date Movements from AILA/U.S. Department of State
On January 9, 2015, the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Department of State Liaison Committee asked Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State for his thoughts on current and future trends/projections with regards to immigrant visa preference categories. The Committee hopes that this action may help provide additional insight, beyond the basic visa availability updates that are provided in the monthly Visa Bulletin.
The Department of State released the Visa Bulletin for November 2014 which notes a slight forward movement in most categories, except the employment-based, second preference (EB2) India category, which retrogressed from May 1, 2009 to February 15, 2005. The Visa Bulletin, see below, also included notes on potential visa availability in the coming months.
Per the AILA DOS Liaison Committee’s followup with Mr. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division, U.S. Department of State, “retrogression of EB-2 India appears to be imminent, and could happen as early as November. The October 2014 priority date for EB-2 India is May 1, 2009. Given current demand, the priority date will retrogress, possibly to a date in early 2005.”
This week, Bill Snyder, a blogger for the anti-H-1B propaganda site Infoworld posted an article attacking Immigration of the Educated. What is especially interesting about Mr. Snyder’s position is the fact that it signals the resumption of the 2008 attack on the Optional Practical Training program (OPT). OPT being a temporary work authorized status granted to eligible F-1 students who may thus gain professional work experience post graduation, and perhaps a portion back of 20+ billion dollars in tuition they pay into our coffers each year.
Unjustified ire towards OPT is peaking only because the program may be utilized by eligible F-1 Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM) graduates. Apparently, for Mr. Snyder, it is only then that the program transforms into what he terms “a sleazy end run around the law”. Mr. Snyder claims that these new STEM graduates, supported by their “tech company” employers, enter the U.S. workforce en masse to undercut IT wages. Said wages, which he admits in the first sentence, are already “climbing to more than $87,000 a year”.
The fact that Mr. Snyder’s argument against OPT flies in the face of the concept of American Exceptionalism and two basic economic principles, or that it is entirely bereft of any unbiased and relevant data is moot. The most significant takeaway from his article is that STEM OPT is nothing more than a scapegoat: this attack is actually and truly directed against the H-1B program itself. Mr. Snyder and other IT protectionists seek justification to undermine the OPT program not because of any alleged misuse, but because OPT allows a post graduate STEM worker precious time to find a good employer who may agree to pay government fees of up to $5,550.00 (plus attorney fees) to file an H-1B petition on their behalf. (There are no guarantees of approval, nor is the worker forced to even ultimately take up employment with the H-1B petitioner. As well, in the future, the H-1B worker, for any reason, may transfer to a new H-1B employer in as little as one week.)
Our immigration policy is increasingly hobbled by protectionists who, for short term gain (or perhaps unknowingly), damage our nation’s international lead in the STEM fields. Our insufficient H-1B cap that does the same: tens of thousands of highly qualified, valuable STEM professionals were rejected in last year’s random selection process (H-1B lottery), and sadly the scene is set be repeated again this year in April.
Our repeated rejection of STEM professionals is untenable and is certain to diminish our ability to attract the worlds best and brightest, unless we make drastic changes. Already, other nations are eagerly recruiting STEM workers (sometimes from within our own borders). The bottom line: the yearly H-1B cap must be increased to an amount commensurate to demand, or at the very least, to a level that isn’t exhausted in one week.
The PERM PLC website is down due to the Federal Gov’t Shutdown, the website displays the following message:
The prod perm system is currently Unavailable
This Web application is currently unavailable due to the suspension of Federal government services. It will be available again when the Federal government resumes operations.