Latest News USA

Sundar Pichai led Google leads top US techs to seek work permits for H4 visa holders

Google is leading a determined effort by US tech giants to support a program that gives work authorization for spouses of those possessing H-1B foreign work visas, the most sought after among Indian IT professionals.

Google is joined by 30 other companies to support the H-4 EAD (Employment Authorization Document) program.

An H-4 visa is issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders.

“Google is proud to support our nation’s immigrants. We joined 30 other companies to protect the H-4 EAD program which spurs innovation, creates jobs and opportunities, and helps families,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai tweeted.

Google on Friday filed a legal brief in a lawsuit called Save Jobs USA vs US Department of Homeland Security.

Tech companies that signed onto the amicus brief include Adobe, Amazon, Apple, eBay, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, PayPal and Twitter.

“To support this important program, we are leading an amicus brief with over 40 companies and organizations to preserve and protect the H-4 EAD program,” Catherine Lacavera, Vice President, Legal, Google, said in a blog post.

“This builds on an amicus brief we recently joined in support of a lawsuit filed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association to expedite the delayed processing time of H-4 work authorizations,” she said.

Kent Walker, Senior Vice President, Global Affairs, Google, said H-4 EAD authorizations for the spouses of high-skilled workers help American companies recruit and retain the world’s best talent.

“Today we led a business coalition filing on behalf of 30 companies to preserve and protect the program,” Mr Walker said.

“H-4 EADs provide work authorization to more than 90,000 H-4 visa-holders–more than 90 per cent women. COVID has disproportionately affected women. Ending this program would make things worse, disrupting careers and reducing wages,” he said.

“It doesn’t make sense to welcome a person to the US to work but to make it harder for their spouse to work. That hurts their family and hurts our economy now and in the future,” he added.

The plaintiff is Save Jobs USA, a group of computer workers formerly employed by Southern California Edison and replaced by foreign workers imported on H-1B guest worker visas.

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Latest News USA

USCIS Issues Policy Guidance for Respecting Previous Decisions!

By Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.

Kicker: Fantastic News for the Stakeholders to H1B, L1, and extension requests in various visa types!

USCIS is issuing policy guidance in the USCIS Policy Manual instructing officers to give deference to prior determinations when adjudicating extension requests involving the same parties and facts unless there was a material error, material change, or new material facts. This is particularly helpful for all those companies and petitioning sponsors who got stuck in the Anti-Immigrant Trump Era of policies that made review of petitions De Novo (meaning from the beginning/new) and added additional scrutiny to make the standards tougher.  We can recognize that a huge number of H1B and L1 visas were denied in 2018 and 2019 based on those policies.

With this update, USCIS is reverting in substance to prior long-standing guidance issued in 2004, which directed officers to generally defer to prior determinations of eligibility when adjudicating extension requests involving the same parties and facts as the initial petition or application. In 2017, USCIS rescinded the 2004 guidance. But with this reversion, we will hopefully see the fair and reasonable implementation of deference to previous approvals again.  When the policy guidance was rescinded in 2017, USCIS began looking at each extension and renewal as if it was a brand new stand alone application. And then coupled with a higher standard of review, they began issuing denials and Request for Evidences at an alarming rate.

This update is in accordance with President Biden’s executive order, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans. The executive order directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify barriers that impede access to immigration benefits and fair, efficient adjudications of these benefits. Affording deference to prior approvals involving the same parties promotes efficient and fair adjudication of immigration benefits.  Since Secretary Mayorkas is very familiar with the inner workings of USCIS, being the previous Director of the Agency, he knows all too well how to fix many of the issues that were broken over the previous 4 years.

We applaud the Administration, The DHS, and the USCIS in their efforts to restore fairness, equity, and hopefully prosperity to the American people, to the hundreds of thousands of intending foreign national employees or intending employees, as well as the many companies who were significantly hurt because of the previously implemented policies.

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Latest News USA

Legislation on H-1B visas introduced in US Congress

Three American lawmakers have introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that stops employers from hiring foreign H-1B workers if they have recently, or plan to, furlough their US workers and requires employers to pay their H-1B workers more than their American workers.
Introduced by Republican Congressmen Mo Brooks, Matt Gaetz and Lance Gooden the American Jobs First Act proposes to overhaul the H-1B visa program by making necessary changes in the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The H-1B visa, the most sought after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

As per the text of the bill, a foreign guest worker may not be admitted or provided status as an H-1B nonimmigrant in an occupational classification unless the petitioner employer has filed with the Secretary of Labor an application stating the employer is offering an annual wage to the H-1B nonimmigrant that is the greater of the annual wage that was paid to the US citizen or lawful permanent resident employee who did identical or similar work during the 2 years before the petitioner employer filed such application; or $ 110.

The petitioner employer also needs to file with the Secretary of Labour an application stating the employer will not require an H-1B nonimmigrant to pay a penalty for ceasing employment with the petitioner employer before the date agreed to by the H-1B nonimmigrant and the petitioner employer.

The bill that has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Education and Labor among other things suspends the F-1 OPT program, which grants all foreign students extendable work permits and exacerbates job market competition among American graduates.

It ends the diversity visa lottery program, which the lawmakers alleged fails to serve US interests by issuing 50,000 green cards to foreigners from around the world regardless of their qualifications. Given that the Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives, the bill has little chance to be passed.

“My American Jobs First Act will bring much needed reform and oversight to the H-1B visa program to ensure that US workers are no longer disadvantaged in their own country,” Brooks said.

“To end the allure of cheap foreign labor, the bill will require employers to pay any H-1B workers a minimum amount of $110,000,” he said.

“And to stop American worker replacement, my bill will require companies seeking H-1B labor to not have fired any American workers for at least two years without just cause and commit to not firing any workers without just cause for two years after. Commonsense H-1B reform measures like these, alongside ending the unfair Optional Practical Training (OPT) and diversity visa lottery programs, all serve to promote American interests when it comes to immigration,” Brooks said.

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Latest News USA

Biden revokes Trump ban on work permit for H-4 visa holders

A week after his inauguration, US President Joe Biden has withdrawn a Trump-era rule rescinding work authorization for H4 visa holders, who are spouses of those possessing H-1B work visas, with majority being highly-skilled Indian women.

An H-4 visa is issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders, most of whom are Indian IT professionals.

The H4 visa is normally issued to those who have already started the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status in the US.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on Monday said the proposed rule titled, “Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization,” was being withdrawn.

Spouses of Indian professionals on H-1B visas, mostly women, are the biggest beneficiary of the Obama-era rule that gave employment authorization cards.

Soon after coming to power, the Trump administration in 2017 announced that it would rescind that rule. However, the Republican Party-led Trump administration was not able to complete the process in the four year of its rule. During the presidential election, the Biden campaign had promised to withdraw the Trump administration’s move.

Soon after his electoral victory, a group of 60 members of the US House of Representatives in a letter urged Biden, a Democrat, to “unilaterally extend” the expiration work authorization documents for holders of H4 visas.

“We respectfully request that the Department of Homeland Security publish a Federal Register notice on day one of your administration that would extend the validity period of all expired H4 EADs (Employment Authorization Document),” the members of Congress wrote to Biden in a letter on December 16.

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H1B Season is in full swing – What to expect?

By Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.  

With the year 2021 under way, employers are all gearing up and organizing candidates for H1B filings for Fiscal Year 2022, which will begin October 1, 2021.  The filings for H1Bs will start around April this year and the lottery system will be based on cases selected through pre-registration, similar to last year, which will likely be allowed in March.

USCIS started the electronic registration system last year, for employers who wish to obtain H-1B visas for their prospective employees. This method was a way for the government to streamline the lottery process for H1Bs subject to the cap (both general and master’s degree cap). Based on last year’s process, it is actually quite a good system. Amazingly, something related to immigration I can compliment the outgoing Trump Administration for.

This system requires petitioning companies to submit information on the company and professionals they want to apply for in the H-1B lottery for the following fiscal year. There was a $10 fee for each employee during registration last year and we expect that the amount will be similar this year, if not the same.

Based on last year’s guidance, each employer can put up to 250 employee beneficiaries in one registration, and $10 for each of the beneficiaries. So the maximum amount to be paid in one registration would be $2500. The pre-registration period is from March 1 through March 20.  All H1Bs that are being filed under the cap for fiscal year 2022 must complete this pre-registration process and that is the only way that a petition will be picked in the lottery. Notification of the same should come by March 31, assuming sufficient numbers have been submitted through preregistration.

Prospective petitioners with selected registrations will be eligible to file an FY 2022 cap-subject petition only for the alien named in the registration and within the filing period indicated on the eligibility notice.

The electronic registration system has proved to be a very valuable process.  First, it allows employers to save a lot of money, time, and energy because until they know their potential applicant is picked in the lottery, there is no need for a full H1B petition to be prepared.  Second, once selected, an employer will have 90 days to submit the H1B petition which is ample time to prepare, organize and file. Third, because they save so much money up front, employers may be encouraged to file more H1Bs pre-registrations so that at least one candidate and possibly more get picked, and the employer can decide if multiple selections are made then how many petitions the company wants to file.  As long as the selected case is filed within 90 days, the petition is fine and will be adjudicated.  If the matter is selected and the employer does not file within 90 days, then that selected matter is cancelled and the employer will not be able to file an H1B petition for that candidate in the fiscal year. And Fourth, for any case not selected in the first round, the matter is NOT discarded, but held in abeyance. After 90 days any cases that are denied or withdrawn, or simply not acted upon, those H1B numbers will go back into the pool and a 2nd batch of selections will be made.  So, there are several bites at the “apple” and more chances to utilize the full number of H1B visas available in any given year.

For those employers who have counsel/attorneys, there will be account process for the attorney and then any account process for the employer and they are interconnected so that preregistration can take place. AND absolutely no one should have duplicate filings for the same employee and same employer for the same job.  If that occurs the entire pre registration for that beneficiary will be cancelled as moot.

For successful applicants, the system will send a confirmation saying that the pre registration is complete.  Then it will be a wait game to find out if the applicant is picked. For any employers or potential H1B applicants, if you need information or advice, please contact an experienced immigration attorney.

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Latest News USA

Trump raises minimum wage rates for foreign workers

The Trump administration has announced a final rule that will significantly raise the minimum wages the employers in the US must pay to foreign workers on visa programs like the H-1B as part of the efforts to protect American workers from being undercut by cheaper labor from abroad. Days before the exit of the administration of President Donald Trump, the US Department of Labor said that the final rule would help protect the wages and job opportunities of American workers by reforming the wage methodology it uses to set prevailing wage rates to prevent potential abuses of its Permanent Employment Certification, H-1B, H-1B1 and E-3 Visa foreign worker programs.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.
The final rule will improve the accuracy of prevailing wages paid to foreign workers by bringing them in line with the wages paid to similarly employed US workers, the Department of Labor said in a news release on Tuesday.
The final rule will ensure the Department more effectively protects the job opportunities and wages of American workers by removing the economic incentive to hire foreign workers on a permanent or temporary basis in the US over American workers, it said.
Restricting immigration has been a focus of the Trump administration since its first days when it issued the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, and it has continued into Trump’s final year in office as the White House uses the coronavirus pandemic as cover.

The Trump administration recently extended the freeze on H-1B visas along with other types of work visas and green cards until March 31.
Last week it modified the selection process for H-1B visa, giving priority to salary and skills instead of the current lottery procedures.
Democratic leader Joe Biden, who will be sworn in as the 46th US President on January 20, has promised to lift the suspension on H-1B visas, saying Trump’s immigration policies are cruel.

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Latest News USA

USCIS gives more time to respond to notices

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is giving more time to applicants and petitioners for H-1B visas to naturalization to respond to notices issued by it due to coronavirus pandemic.

The immigration agency said it’s extending the flexibilities it announced on March 30 for all requests, notices, or decisions issued between March 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2021, inclusive.

The enhanced deadline of 60 days covers requests for evidence, which are typically sought for from sponsoring employers of H-1B visa applications. It also includes other notices, such as notice of intent to deny or revoke.

The extended time frame is also available for filing an appeal to reopen an adverse USCIS decision, or request for a hearing on a decision passed relating to naturalization (citizenship) proceedings.

The flexibility applies to those responding to following documents:

  • Requests for Evidence;

  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);

  • Notices of Intent to Deny;

  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;

  • Notices of Intent to Rescind;

  • Notices of Intent to Terminate regional centers;

  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 Pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant;

  • Filing date requirements for Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA); or

  • Filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.

USCIS said it will consider a response to these requests and notices received within 60 calendar days after the response due date set in the request or notice before taking any action.

Additionally, it will consider a Form N-336 or Form I-290B received up to 60 calendar days from the date of the decision before it takes any action.

USCIS said it was adopting several measures to protect its workforce and community and to minimize the immigration consequences for those seeking immigration benefits during the pandemic.

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Latest News USA

60 lawmakers urge Biden to extend work permits to H-4 visa holders

Washington, DCA group of 60 lawmakers have urged President-elect Joe Biden to revoke a Trump administration policy and extend the validity of work authorization documents for H4 visa holders, who are spouses of those possessing H-1B visas, with majority being highly-skilled Indian women.

An H-4 visa is issued by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H1B visa holders, most of whom are Indian IT professionals.

It is normally issued to those who have already started the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status.

We respectfully request that the Department of Homeland Security publish a Federal Register notice on day one of your administration that would extend the validity period of all expired H4 EADs, the members of the US House of Representatives wrote to Biden in a letter on December 16.

Biden, a Democrat, is scheduled to be inaugurated as the 46th US President on January 20.

In 2015 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a rule allowing certain H4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders to legally seek employment in the US, the letter said.

This rule presented an important step towards rectifying gender disparities in our immigration system, as around 95 per cent of H4 visa holders who have secured work authorizations are women, it added.

Soon after coming to power, the Republican Trump administration informed a US court that it plans to rescind such a rule.

Before the rule was granted, many women on H4 visas described depression and isolation in moving to a new country and not being allowed to work outside of the home. Unfortunately, these women are losing and will continue to lose their jobs until this is put right, disrupting the lives of their families and the functioning of employers in our districts, the letter said.

Among signatories to the letter are Indian-American congressmen Dr Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jayapal. Other key signatories are congresswomen Bonnie Watson Coleman, Rashida Talib, Barbara Lee and Judy Chu.

In the letter to Biden, the lawmakers said that once an H-1B holder is sponsored for employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status (otherwise known as a Green Card), his or her H-4 visa-holding spouse may apply for work authorization.

This rule presented an important step towards rectifying gender disparities in our immigration system as around 95 per cent of H-4 visa holders who have secured work authorization are women, they wrote.

These women on H-4 visas work in a variety of fields like essential healthcare workers, including in research and development roles at pharmaceutical companies; these women play tremendously important roles as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the letter said.

We are confident that your incoming Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security will rectify the systemic processing issues that have been created by the Trump Administration, the lawmakers wrote.

As of December 2017, USCIS had approved 1,26,853 applications for employment authorization for H-4 visa holders. According to a 2018 report by Congressional Research Service (CRS), 93 per cent of approved applications for H-4 employment authorization were issued to individuals born in India, and five per cent were issued to individuals born in China.(PTI)

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Court shuts down Trump’s H1B rule on higher wage

San Francisco: A federal judge threw out two rules by the Trump administration that limited the number of visas that are made available to skilled foreign workers.

The Tuesday ruling from U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White, a George. W. Bush appointee, dismisses changes the administration announced in October to the H-1B visa program, which included salary requirements on firms that employed skilled workers from overseas and placed new limits on specialty occupations. Officials defended the move as necessary because of the number of jobs lost during the coronavirus pandemic and estimated that roughly a third of H-1B visa applications would be denied.

White ruled that the administration failed to properly follow transparency procedures and that its claims that the changes were an emergency response to the pandemic’s economic fallout were unsubstantiated since the October rule was implemented after months of speculation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an event beyond defendants’ control, yet it was within defendants’ control to take action earlier than they did,” White wrote.

“Defendants failed to show there was good cause to dispense with the rational and thoughtful discourse that is provided by the [Administrative Procedure Act’s] notice and comment requirements,” White concluded.

The U.S. doles out roughly 85,000 visas to high-skilled foreign workers each year, a large chunk of which goes to tech, engineering or medical companies and often last for three years with the option of renewal.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with several universities, had sued the administration.

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