The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is revising its regulations affecting highly skilled workers in specialty occupations from Chile and Singapore (H-1B1), Australia (E-3), nonimmigrant workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) classification, as well as immigrants in the employment-based first preference (EB-1) category for outstanding professors and researchers. Effective February 16, 2016, the amendments will benefit these H-1B1, E-3, and CW-1 nonimmigrant workers as well as EB-1 professors and researchers by “removing unnecessary hurdles that place such workers at a disadvantage when compared to similarly situated workers in other visa classifications.”
Specifically, the amended regulations will:
- Include H-1B1 and principal E-3 classifications in the list of classes of foreign nationals authorized for employment incident to status with a specific employer (as is the case with L-1, O-1, and H-1B classifications, for example), and clarify that H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants are permitted to work without having to separately apply to DHS for employment authorization, codifying the standard practice;
- Authorize H-1B1, principal E-3 nonimmigrants, and CW-1 nonimmigrants for continued employment for up to 240 days with the same employer if the employer has timely filed for an extension of stay with US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), a move that will greatly benefit nonimmigrant workers in the US under those statuses;
- Update filing procedure regulations for extensions of stay and change of status requests to include the principal E-3 and H-1B1 nonimmigrant classifications to harmonize with current published UCSIS instructions; and
- Expand the current list of acceptable initial evidence for EB-1 outstanding professors and researchers to allow petitioners to submit “comparable” evidence, such as important patents or prestigious peer-reviewed funding grants, to prove that the researcher or professor is recognized internationally as outstanding in their academic field.
With these changes, DHS intends to “harmonize the regulations governing these classifications” to address discrepancies, all with the end goal of ensuring productivity and efficiency for employers as well as providing benefits to foreign national employees, such as preventing lost wages. Additionally, DHS hopes that expanding the range of evidence that employers may provide for EB-1 outstanding professors and researchers may result in more effective and wide-ranging recruitment. The final rule change, which was not substantially revised since being submitted to the public for comment, does not impose any additional costs on employers, workers, or any governmental agencies. The majority of public comments supported the rule change, and the published rule reviews them in detail, for those curious.
In the end, DHS states: “Attracting and retaining highly skilled workers is critical to sustaining our Nation's global competitiveness. By attracting the best and brightest from around the world, the United States can harness their talents, skills, and ideas to help the U.S. economy grow.”