December 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
Is employment authorization for H-4 nonimmigrants a reality?
Not just yet, but it is getting closer.
By definition, individuals holding an H-4 visa are dependent family members of those in H-1B status (nonimmigrant professionals with specialized knowledge). Typically, H-4 visa holders are not allowed to work while in that status.
In May 2014, the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule in the Federal Register pertaining to employment authorization for certain H-4 dependent spouses. The rule proposes to amend existing regulations to allow employment authorization for H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status in the United States.
If the rule is enacted, H-4 nonimmigrants would need to apply for employment authorization using Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
The comment period on the proposed rule ceased in July 2014. Many organizations and individuals submitted comments during the open period, with over 13,000 comments received. Most comments called for an expansion of the proposed rule to allow ALL H-4 nonimmigrants, not only those with a spouse, to apply for employment authorization. Comments also suggested H-4 dependent children should be included.
In August 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) Director, Leon Rodriguez, stated that USCIS is reviewing the comments received and plans to complete the review process as quickly as possible. Thus far, no further update has been issued. However, with the midterm elections behind us, we think a change may be coming very soon.
We at GoffWilson are watching this important development closely for all our affected clients and we will keep you informed on all developments relating to H-4 work authorization as we learn anything.
Please check our bLAWg for all the latest news and updates on changes in immigration rules and regulations that may affect you and or your family members. If you have any questions, please contact us for more information.
December 2, 2014 § Leave a comment
On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced his executive actions for improving the U.S. immigration system. The President’s initiatives focus centrally around two main points: accountability for undocumented immigrants and options to streamline certain immigration programs and benefits.
Working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the President has identified ten major areas for executive action. These areas include:
- Expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program;
- Extending the Deferred Action Program to parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (i.e. green card holders);
- Amending the Provisional Waiver Program to include spouses and children of green card holders;
- Revising parole rules to expand travel opportunities and clarify existing regulations; and
- Improving the citizenship process.
Each of the areas encompasses certain initiatives set to take place in the coming months. We have highlighted some of these initiatives below.
1. Initiatives for Undocumented Immigrants
- DACA Expansion: The DACA Program will be expanded to remove the upper age restriction and permit initial employment authorization for three years instead of two.
- Deferred Action for Parents: Deferred Action will be permitted for parents of U.S. Citizens and green card holders (born on or before November 20, 2014), who have continuously resided in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 and are not a threat to public safety. This Program will also allow requests for employment authorization.
- Provisional Waiver Program Amendment: The current Provisional Waiver Program (i.e. program allowing for individuals to apply for a waiver of unlawful presence in the U.S. before departing for a visa interview) will be amended to include adult children of U.S. Citizens and spouses and children of green card holders.
- Revisions to Parole Rules: The current parole rules (i.e. rules governing temporary authorization to enter the U.S.) will be revised to address the availability of parole to spouses, parents, and children of U.S. Citizens and green card holders seeking to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. The revisions will also clarify that using advance parole (i.e. travel authorization obtained in advance) to leave the U.S. is not considered a departure, even for deferred action individuals. This will result in undocumented individuals being able to leave the U.S. under advance parole without triggering the 3- or 10-year bar.
2. Initiatives for U.S. Citizenship
- Improvements to Citizenship Application Process: The application process for U.S. Citizenship will be improved to allow for fee payments by credit card. The possibility of partial fee waivers will also be assessed.
Each of the initiatives will be implemented in the coming months. The DACA expansion is set to occur in the next three months, while Deferred Action for Parents will be implemented in six months. DHS is working to integrate the changes into current policy.
November 25, 2014 § Leave a comment
On November 20, 2014, President Obama addressed the nation and announced his executive actions for improving the existing immigration system. Several of the President’s initiatives will directly affect U.S. employers. We have highlighted some of these initiatives below:
1. Initiatives for Skilled Workers
- PERM Program Modernization: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has committed to modernizing the PERM Program (i.e. the first step in the employment-based green card process for employees) for the first time since the Program’s inception ten years ago. Specifically, the DOL plans to review the current regulations and seek input on key items such as labor force occupational shortages, recruitment requirements, premium processing possibilities, and typographical errors.
- Adjustment of Status Timing: Individuals with an approved I-140 petition, who are waiting for their priority date to become current, will be permitted to file for Adjustment of Status (i.e. their green card application) earlier. This will allow the individuals to gain benefits of having an application pending, such as an EAD card and a travel document. This will also allow employees awaiting their green cards to switch employers more easily.
- Employment Authorization for H-4 Spouses: H-4 spouses of H-1B skilled workers with an approved I-140 petition will be eligible to apply for employment authorization.
- Clarifying Guidance on L-1B and Portability Provisions: Clarifying guidance will be provided to further explain the requirements of L-1B visa eligibility and clearly define “specialized knowledge.” Guidance will also be provided to clarify the definition of “same or similar classification” for employees wishing to port (i.e. switch) employers while their green card application is pending.
2. Initiatives for Investors and Entrepreneurs
- Travel Authorization for Foreign Investors: Certain investors will be granted temporary authorization to travel to the U.S. to explore opportunities for job creation. This travel authorization can also be used to temporarily pursue research and development of new businesses in the U.S.
- National Interest Waivers: Certain entrepreneurs, investors, and founders will be eligible to apply for a National Interest Waiver (i.e. a waiver of the job offer requirement for a green card applicant pursuing work in the U.S. that is found to be in the national interest).
3. Initiatives for Students
- STEM OPT Expansion: Optional Practical Training (OPT) for STEM graduates (i.e. graduates with a degree in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) will be expanded to allow for a longer period of time in OPT. The relationship between the STEM graduate and their degree institution will be strengthened during this period.
The timeframe for each initiative differs, depending on whether full regulatory review is required for the initiative to be enacted. The earliest change expected is employment authorization for certain H-4 spouses, which could happen as early as December or January. The other changes are expected to follow in the coming months.
November 10, 2014 § Leave a comment
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