Yesterday, the USCIS was handed another defeat at the hands of a Federal Judge, this time from Atlanta. In a case that echoed prior decisions from other Federal Courts, the Court ruled that the USCIS' practice and policy over the past 10+ years relative to H-1b adjudications was unlawful. The decision struck at the interpretation of employer-employee and the itinerary requirement which had resulted in the issuance of shortened approval notices. A copy of the full decision can be read here In even better news, the USCIS conceded defeat in only what can be imagined as the scene from the Wizard of Oz when it was proclaimed "Ding Dong the Witch is dead" and they entered into a settlement agreement. This settlement agreement provides for the following: 1. The USCIS will rescind the 2018 Contracts and itinerary memo 2. The USCIS will stop applying the current itinerary language A portion of the settlement agreement states that they will not apply the Neufeld memo but, this may be more limited than it is being reported. What does this mean practically ? 1. There should be no more shortened approval notices limited by the duration of the WO/JO/SOW. 2. End client letters or other documentation should not be routinely required but, the USCIS may continue to ask for this type of documentation to prove the existence of a job that meets the specialty occupation standards 3. The USCIS will not automatically re-open previously shortened cases and issue full approval notices but, you can go into Federal Court and force this action. As a result of these actions, we can expect the USCIS to issue new regulations but, given the amount of time it takes for regulations to be finalized, these will likely be completed by the Administration that wins in Nov. A [...]
Last week, the USCIS was met with another Federal lawsuit claiming that they are failing to properly follow the law when adjudicating H-1b cases filed on behalf of market research analysts. A successful outcome could provide assistance for others; such as business analysts, systems analysts, telcom, and finance occupations where the USCIS has questioned whether they meet the specialty occupation standards. This lawsuit was backed by the American Immigration Council and more information can be found here.
We often hear about the victories that IT cos. have been scoring over the USCIS when litigating H-1b denials relative to specialty occupation, beneficiary qualifications, and employer-employee relationship issues; and, the wins are numerous. We rarely hear about the losses but, recently a Federal Court in Az. ruled against an IT company's pursuit of a preliminary injunction over 18 denials. The Court ruled that the company had not proven irreparable harm in denying the motion. The lawsuit remains pending on the substantive issues. A full copy of the decision can be read here.
Once again, the Buy American, Hire American (BAHA) policy of President Trump which has resulted in higher rates of denials for professional IT workers has had unintended (or maybe not) consequences which has resulted in IT jobs leaving the US and going to Canada. Check out this recent summary on Law 360.
Senior partner, Mike Hammond will be a speaker at the TechServe Alliance webinar discussing H-1b visas. The webinar will focus on issues facing IT and Engineering staffing/solutions firms.
The USCIS has announced that is has suspended premium processing for H-1b cap cases to be filed April 1st. This move was expected and previously announced to clients during our H-1b conf. call in Feb. Premium processing remains for all other H-1b filings.
I have been fielding a lot of question recently regarding the current administrations intentions regarding H-1B extensions beyond the 6th year. In the face of the uproar and uncertainty that was caused when the current administration let it be known that this was possibly on the chopping block, it now appears to be out of the cross-hairs. Detailed article from McClatchy.com here. We will continue to monitor the situation but for now everyone can let out a collective sigh of relief.
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.
The attacks on Trump's new EO are growing in number as people review what the EO is trying to achieve. An article in The Federalist is worth reading. Another article at SHRM.org discusses the limitations that the President has in making meaningful changes to the H-1b program without legislative action.
Employers Seeking H-1B Visas Should Not Discriminate Against US Workers Warns the U.S. Department of Justice
Yesterday, April 3rd was the first day the USCIS began accepting H-1B visa petitions that are subject to the cap for the next fiscal year (October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018). The H-1B visa allows U.S. employers to employ temporarily foreign workers in specialty occupations including science and technology. The anti-discrimination provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibit employers from discriminating against U.S. workers because of their citizenship or national origin. This prohibition applies to hiring, firing and recruiting or recruiting for a fee. An employer may be found to have violated the INA’s anti-discriminatory prohibitions if they favor H-1B visa holders over U.S. workers. “The Justice Department will not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against U.S. workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division. “U.S. workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims.” The Immigrant and Employee Rights Section of the division (formerly the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices) is responsible for prosecuting violations under these provisions which include citizenship, immigration status and national original discrimination in hiring, firing, recruitment or recruitment for a fee; unfair documentary practices; retaliation; and intimidation. Please contact Hammond Law Group if you have any questions about what may or may not be considered a violation of the INA’s anti-discrimination provisions.