Articles Posted in Policy Manual

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Unsurprisingly, this week we learned that the Trump administration is taking further steps to toughen the process of applying for an H-1B visa extension/renewal request, and that of other highly sought-after non-immigrant work visa types filed using Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker such as the H, O, P, L, and R work visas. The news comes as part of the President’s ongoing plan to prioritize the employment of American workers over foreign workers, outlined in the President’s Executive Order “Buy American, Hire American.”

On October 23, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency will be updating its adjudication policy “to ensure petitioners meet the burden of proof for a non-immigrant worker extension petition.” The change in policy specifically provides that USCIS officers will “apply the same level of scrutiny to both initial petitions and extension requests” for the H-1B visa as well as other nonimmigrant visa types.

Per USCIS, this policy will now apply to “nearly all non-immigrant classifications filed using Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.” This means that all nonimmigrant worker visa renewal requests, made using Form I-129, will be subject to the same level of scrutiny that was applied during the foreign worker’s initial non-immigrant work visa request.

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On March 31, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new policy memorandum providing new guidance relating to the adjudication of H-1B petitions for computer programmers. The new memorandum will supersede and replace the policy memorandum that had been in place since the year 2000, which previously governed adjudication procedures for H-1B computer related occupations.

The new memorandum seeks to update the outdated provisions of the 2000 memorandum because the policies set out in that memorandum no longer reflect the current policies of the agency. The main purpose for rescinding the 2000 memorandum is not to change the H-1B application process for employers who seek to employ foreign workers in computer related occupations, rather the new memorandum clarifies the proper adjudication procedures for computer related occupations at all service centers.

Why the Change?

The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a handbook published by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics which includes information relating to the training and education required for various employment positions. The OOH is of particular importance for H-1B petitioners and practicing attorneys, because USCIS consults the OOH as a guide to inform their decision regarding the general qualifications necessary for a particular occupation, and whether the occupation is to be considered a “specialty occupation.” The OOH however does not on its own establish whether a position is a “specialty occupation,” rather adjudicating officers focus on the position itself and the job duties and qualifications of the beneficiary, to determine whether the position is to be considered a specialty occupation.

The main problem with the 2000 policy memorandum was that it relied on an outdated OOH description of the position of “computer programmer,” creating inconsistencies that are no longer followed by adjudicating officers today.

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released an updated policy manual addressing the policies and procedures associated with adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence under section 245a of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The policies set forth in the newly updated policy manual are effective beginning February 25, 2016.

Adjustment of status is the process by which an eligible foreign national may adjust their status to lawful permanent resident, based on a qualifying family relationship or employer-employee relationship. Additionally, special categories of green card applicants exist covering self-petitioning Amerasian, Widow(ers) seeking lawful permanent residence under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), refugees, asylees, certain U visa holders, humanitarian visa holders, and eligible diversity visa program immigrants. In order to file an adjustment of status application from within the United States the Beneficiary must 1) be living in the United States lawfully and 2) have been inspected, lawfully admitted, or paroled into the United States, (except in cases of 245i).

Foreign nationals living in the United States, who qualify for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence, may file their adjustment of status application with USCIS, without having to travel abroad to obtain an immigrant visa through a procedure known as consular processing. Foreign nationals residing abroad, who qualify for adjustment of status, must apply for an immigrant visa at a United States Embassy or Consulate abroad. Consular processing is different from adjustment of status from within the United States in various ways. Adjustment of status within the United States is a much faster process, however the main drawback is that applicants cannot travel internationally once their application has been filed with USCIS, until they are issued an advance parole document by USCIS authorizing such travel. In order to obtain an advance parole document, the green card applicant must file Form I-131 with USCIS. The advance parole document is typically issued within 90 days of filing of Form I-131. One of the main benefits of applying for an immigrant visa abroad through consular processing, is that the individual does not have any travel restrictions. It is for this reason that businesspersons and other individuals opt for consular processing instead of adjustment of status despite living in the United States.

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