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In this blog post we would like to report on a new executive order recently signed by President Donald Trump on August 3, 2020, entitled “Executive Order on Aligning Federal Contracting and Hiring Practices With the Interests of American Workers,” which carries implications for temporary foreign workers, especially those whose job depends on or was created by a federal government contract.


What is the order all about?

The executive order was passed to create increased opportunities for American workers to compete in the job market, especially during the difficult economic crisis created by COVID-19.  The order directs the heads of federal agencies to review federal contracts to assess any “negative impact” that the hiring of temporary foreign workers has had on American workers. The order states, “when employers trade American jobs for temporary foreign labor, for example, it reduces opportunities for U.S. workers in a manner inconsistent with the role guest-worker programs are meant to play in the Nation’s economy.”

Specifically, the executive order calls upon departments and agencies to review federal contracts and hiring practices of temporary foreign workers in fiscal year 2018 and 2019 to assess “whether contractors (including subcontractors) used temporary foreign labor for contracts performed in the United States and if so…whether opportunities for U.S. workers were affected by such hiring…”

Most importantly, section three of the executive order requires the Secretaries of Labor and Homeland Security to take action within 45 days (by September 17) to protect the jobs of American workers and insulate them from any negative effects on wages and working conditions caused by the employment of H-1B visa workers specifically. The order grants DHS and DOL broad discretion to introduce new measures that could negatively affect H-1B employers. While these measures are yet to be seen, we believe this may signal the proposal of additional regulations to prevent the displacement of U.S. workers in the future.

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A brand-new bill called the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2020 (S. 3770) sponsored by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has recently surfaced. As you might have already guessed, the bill seeks to make changes to the current H-1B and L visa programs to reduce fraud and abuse within the H-1B and L visa programs, provide protections for American workers, and enforce stricter requirements for the recruitment of foreign workers. The H-1B visa program is aggressively targeted in this new piece of legislation.


Proposed Changes to the H-1B visa program


First, as it relates to the H-1B visa worker program, the bill proposes changes to existing wage requirements.

The law would require employers to pay the highest wage from three categories:

1) the locally determined prevailing wage level for the occupational classification in the area of employment

2) the median average wage for all workers in the occupational classification in the area of employment; or

3) the median wage for skill level 2 in the occupational classification found in the most recent OES survey.

Second, the bill would make changes to current law and require U.S. employers seeking to hire H-1B workers to publish job postings on a website established by the Department of Labor. After filing the labor condition application, the employer would be required to post the job on the website for at least 30 calendar days. The job posting would have to include a detailed description of the position, including the wages and other terms and conditions of employment, minimum education, training, experience, and other requirements for the position, as well as the process for applying for the position.

Third, all H-1B employers would be required to prove that they have tried to recruit American workers for jobs offered to H-1B workers. Under current law, only H-1B dependent employers (those with more than 50 full time employees of which at least 15% are H-1B employees) are required to recruit American workers for H-1B positions. This would be a drastic change in the law creating additional burdens for U.S. employers seeking to hire foreign workers with specialized skills.

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Photo credit: Scott Kirkwood/NPCA

Today marks the fifth day of a partial government shutdown that began on Saturday. The government was forced into a shutdown after Democrats refused to concede $5 billion dollars to fund the President’s wall along the southwest border.

Since then, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have not opened negotiations to appease the President. If a resolution is not reached before the end of December, it is highly unlikely that the President will receive the money demanded to fund the border wall. When the new House of Representatives convenes after the holidays, the Democrats will command a majority in the House of Representatives, making it more difficult for the President to obtain the necessary funding.

The government shutdown will affect various government entities including the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor.

Here’s how it will affect immigration:

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program:

Without congressional authorization to continue the EB-5 Regional Center Program beyond December 21, 2018, USCIS will not accept new Forms I-924, Application for Regional Center Designation Under the Immigrant Investor Program. Any Form I-924 applications that are pending as of December 21, 2018, will be placed on hold until further notice.

Per the USCIS Website:

“We will continue to receive regional center-affiliated Forms I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, and Forms I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, after the close of business on Dec. 22, 2018. As of Dec. 22, 2018, we will put unadjudicated regional center-affiliated Forms I-526 and I-485 (whether filed before or after the expiration date) on hold for an undetermined length of time.

All Forms I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions on Permanent Resident Status, filed before or after the expiration date, will not be affected by the expiration of the program.”

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Today April 7, 2016 the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the H-1B general bachelor’s cap has been reached for fiscal year 2017. In addition, USCIS received more than 20,000 petitions for the advanced degree exemption. Some time within the next week, USCIS will conduct a random computer-generated process, known as a ‘lottery,’ to select the petitions needed to fill the 65,000 bachelor’s cap. USCIS will first randomly select the petitions that will count toward the advanced degree exemption. Unselected advanced degree petitions will then be entered into the random lottery that will be conducted to fill the 65,000 bachelor’s cap. All unselected cap-subject petitions will be rejected and in turn CIS will return the H-1B packages containing filing fees and rejection notices. CIS has not yet provided any details concerning the date the lottery will be conducted. We suspect it will occur within the next week. In the meantime, cap exempt H-1B petitions will continue to be processed including H-1B worker extensions, petitions requesting a change to the terms of an H-1B workers’ employment, and petitions requesting concurrent work for an H-1B worker.

So, what’s next?

Petitions filed with premium processing

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The Employment and Training Administration’s (ETA)’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) will be hosting a public webinar on April 7, 2016 which will provide filing tips, discuss common errors associated with H-2B wage surveys, and provide assistance to employers interested in submission of H-2B wage surveys. The webinar will teach employers how to determine the prevailing wage (PWD) for positions to be occupied by H-2B non-agricultural workers. The OFLC hopes that the webinar will help employers, attorneys, and surveyors avoid common errors that typically appear on prevailing wage determination applications for the H-2B foreign worker visa program.

The webinar will:

  • Address common errors with documenting and displaying survey results and their solutions;

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It is a busy time of the year for the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick, as we begin to box up and ship out the hundreds of H-1B petitions that will count toward the cap for fiscal year 2016. Tomorrow marks the very first day that H-1B petitions will begin to be accepted by USCIS. If your H-1B petition will not be received by USCIS on the very first day of the H-1B filing season (April 1st) do not fret. USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions through the first five business days of the filing season until the cap has been met. Receipt of your H-1B petition on April 1st does not guarantee that your application will be chosen in the randomized lottery. In fact, we have had clients file at the very last minute who have ended up being chosen in the cap. During the next few days, USCIS will carefully monitor the amount of H-1B petitions that are received and make an announcement once the cap has been met. Once the announcement has been made, no more petitions will be accepted for the lottery. Petitions received in excess of the cap will be rejected by USCIS. Employers will know that their H-1B petition has been chosen in the lottery if they receive a ‘notice of receipt’ in the weeks following the randomized selection process. Last year, receipt notices for H-1B petitions, filed without premium processing, started coming into our office in late April, while rejection notices did not appear until mid to late June. Petitioners may opt for premium processing to expedite the notification process. Although it is very easy to get lost in the chaos of H-1B season, it is important not to lose sight of what’s important this filing season.

To help ease your anxiety this H-1B season we are providing you with our last minute filing tips:

  1. Employer’s Financial Obligations: Employers must be prepared to pay their workers at least the Prevailing Wage based on the employee’s occupation and actual place of employment. Employer’s must understand their obligation to honor this financial commitment during the time the employee is working for the employer in H-1B status. Failure to do so can have serious consequences for the employer;

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For this blog we are answering 5 questions we have recently received through our social media platforms and our website. Please remember that every case is different and every immigration journey is unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance while you embark on your immigration journey. If you have any further questions, please call our office for a free legal consultation. We serve international clients and domestic clients in all 50 states. We thank you for your continued trust and interest in our law office.

Change of Status B-2 to F-1

Q: I need advice regarding my change of status. I am currently in the United States on a B-2 tourist visa. I have filed a change of status application to change my status to F-1 student. My B-2 duration of stay will expire today and my change of status application to F-1 student is still pending with USCIS. I informed my school that I will be postponing my classes and was notified that I need to file a new I-20 and provide some missing information. I have time to make adjustments to my application but I would like to know the steps to correct any missing information. I also wanted to know if I need to leave the United States immediately since my F-1 application is still pending. Please assist.

7468447528_3aaed1a0bd_bH-1B season is now in full swing. H-1B petitions will begin to be accepted by USCIS on April 1, 2016 for the 2017 fiscal year. Each year, foreign workers in specialty occupations compete for one of 65,000 H-1B visas allocated each fiscal year. Foreign workers with a U.S. Master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 congressionally mandated visa cap, however only the first 20,000 petitions received by USCIS may qualify for this cap exemption. Any petitions received after the 20,000 cap-exempt petitions have been allocated will count toward the regular cap. USCIS expects to receive more than 65,000 petitions during the first five business days of the application period. Once the H-1B cap has been reached, USCIS will notify the public, and begin selecting the H-1B petitions necessary to meet the cap through a randomized computer-generated lottery system. H-1B petitions that are not selected through this system will be rejected, along with any petitions received once the visa cap has closed. Duplicate H-1B petitions that are filed on behalf of a foreign worker by the same employer in the same fiscal year will also be rejected. 8 CFR § 214.2(h)(2)(i)(G) explicitly states that “an employer may not file, in the same fiscal year, more than one H1B petition on behalf of the same alien if the alien is subject to the numerical limitations of section 214(g)(1)(A). Filing more than one H-1B petition on behalf of the same alien in the same fiscal year will result in the denial or revocation of all such petitions.” Multiple H-1B petitions filed on behalf of the same alien by different employers during the same fiscal year is permitted although approval of such petitions is discretionary. According to USCIS, petitioners may be asked to demonstrate that a ‘legitimate business need’ exists in filing more than than one H-1B petition for the same alien. In such circumstances a request for evidence, notice of intent to deny, or notice of intent to revoke may result. This is true of both cap-subject and cap-exempt petitions filed by different employers for the same alien.

H-1B petitioners (employers) may request premium processing at the same time that the H-1B petition is filed by signing and completing Form I-907 and including the corresponding fee. Alternatively, petitioners may request premium processing once CIS notifies the petitioner whether the petition has been accepted or rejected. USCIS will not begin premium processing for H-1B cap petitions until May 16, 2016. If you are an American employer who is interested in filing an H-1B petition for a foreign worker, you must act quickly. Filing an H-1B petition is a very complicated and long process. For one if you have never sponsored a foreign worker, you will be required to register your FEIN with the Department of Labor before filing the H-1B petition. Secondly, if the foreign worker you wish to hire received their foreign degree abroad, they must obtain an academic evaluation from an accredited evaluation service. If the foreign worker you wish to hire does not have formal education, but has extensive experience in the specialty occupation, they will need to obtain work experience letters from individuals who can attest to their experience. Thirdly, once an employer has registered their FEIN with the Department of Labor, they will be required to file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor and include the certified LCA with the H-1B petition. Certification of the LCA takes time. The LCA is an attestation made by the employer that they will pay the foreign worker at least the actual or prevailing wage for the occupation, whichever is higher, based on the physical location where the foreign worker will be employed. Once properly submitted to the DOL, the LCA alone takes approximately 2 weeks to be certified by the LCA. This means that in order to meet the April 1st priority date of filing, employers have a very limited period of time to decide whether they will file an H-1B petition for a foreign worker for the upcoming fiscal year. When in doubt it is best not to rush the process.

Last year, our office filed approximately seventy-six H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2016. Approximately 75% of these petitions were filed for the regular Bachelor’s cap, while only 18% of these petitions were filed for individuals holding U.S. Master’s degrees or higher. Approximately 82% of these petitions were filed with the California Service Center, while only 17% of these petitions were filed with the Vermont Service Center. The top H-1B specialty occupations, filed for fiscal year 2016 included: software engineer, technical writer, general manager, market research analyst, business specialist, budget analyst, and graphic designer.

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Last week, the Senate held a hearing scrutinizing the temporary H-1B skilled worker program, the second hearing of its kind within just one year. At issue was the protection of American jobs and dissatisfaction with the program among conservatives in the Senate, who believe the program has caused job displacement at the expense of thousands of Americans. Beyond their own political convictions, Republican Senators eyeing the White House, have also scrutinized the H-1B visa program, in order to appease voters who, maintain a hard line stance on immigration.

During the hearing, the Senate Judiciary panel considered testimony questioning the integrity of the H-1B visa program. Many witnesses accused their employers of violating the conditions of the program, alleging that their employers sought to replace American workers with foreign workers by utilizing the H-1B visa program to pay those workers lower wages. This accusation is troublesome for various reasons. Firstly, it is well known that the H-1B visa program requires an employer to hire a foreign worker in a specialty occupation only when the employer cannot obtain the necessary skills and abilities to perform the specialty occupation within the American workforce. H-1B workers must possess distinguished merit and ability, and demonstrate their qualifications through the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, in the intended field of employment. Secondly, the H-1B visa program contains provisions which are specifically designed to protect similarly employed American workers from any adverse affects suffered from the employment of temporary foreign workers. Consequently, there are also provisions which aim to protect H-1B nonimmigrant workers from H-1B violations. One of those provisions includes the requirement that American employers pay temporary H-1B workers at least the ‘prevailing wage,’ the average wage paid to similarly employed workers (experience and qualifications) in a specific occupation in the area of intended employment. This would mean that any employer seeking to use the H-1B visa program for the purposes of obtaining ‘cheap foreign labor’ or to replace American workers would be violating the conditions of the H-1B visa program altogether.

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Presently, the Employment and Training Administration’s (ETA) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is experiencing significant delays in processing employer H-2B certification applications.  These delays are owed to various factors. The most important includes a mandatory 17-day certification pause that took place at the Chicago National Processing Center, for the purpose of implementing revisions of the H-2B prevailing wage and other standards required by law. Additionally, the OFLC announced that the amount of H-2B certification applications received has doubled in comparison to the previous year. Lastly, the electronic filing system iCERT, experienced significant technical problems, slowing the certification process down significantly for employers of H-2B workers. Unfortunately, these delays have diminished an employer’s ability to hire foreign workers during a time of need, and have had an adverse affect on small businesses who depend on these temporary and seasonal workers to perform work that cannot be readily filled by American workers.

To alleviate the certification backlogs, the Chicago National Processing Center has announced that employers may file an emergency request for expeditious handling of their applications under 20 CFR 655.17.

Expeditious Requests for Emergency Procedures under 20 CFR 655.17:

  • Based on the factors causing the backlogs, the OFLC has determined that employers are entitled to request expeditious emergency procedures for their currently pending applications for certification, under 20 CFR 655.17, on the basis of good and substantial cause. Emergency requests are warranted given that the backlogs caused by the delays in the application process are considered outside of the employers’ control, that employers have suffered unforeseen changes in market conditions because of the delays, amid a climate of uncertainty.

Employers with pending H-2B applications for certification must submit their expedite requests for emergency procedure, by email to the Chicago NPC at ER.H2B.Chicago@dol.gov beginning Monday February 22, 2016 (12:01 AM) through Friday April 1, 2016 (at 12:00 midnight). Requests may also be made by fax (312) 886-1688 or by US mail to:

ATTN: H-2B Request for Emergency Handling

U.S. Department of Labor ETA OFLC

Chicago NPC

11 West Quincy Court

Chicago, IL 60604-2105

The NPC may extend this emergency request period beyond April 1, however at this time no such extension has been announced.  Filing a new H-2B application is not necessary for an expedite request.

Employers filing for emergency treatment under 20 CFR 655.17 must request that the pending application for certification and proposed job order be “incorporated by reference” into the request made under 20 CFR 655.17, and state the withdrawal of the prior application. The procedure for submitting an expedite requested will be listed below.

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