President Obama Immigration Initiative: Immigration Accountability Executive Action
On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced changes to our current immigration system. A number of these changes will affect employers throughout the United States. The most striking provision of the Immigration Accountability Executive Action plan will provide temporary immigration benefits to the parents of children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (“LPRs”).
Although all the details are not yet available, below is a brief description of the changes most important to businesses, entrepreneurs and STEM graduates:
1. Spouses of employees in H-1B (Specialty Occupation) status will be able to apply for work authorization, which will have several benefits. First, employers planning to file H-1B petitions on April 1, 2015 for the next fiscal year may be able to encourage employees/prospective employees to file Employment Authorization Documents rather than for H-1B status. This will reduce the cost to employers; enable employees to start work before the fiscal year (10/1/15) begins; and reduce the number of H-1B petitions filed on April 1st, increasing employers’ odds in the H-1B visa lottery. This is a tremendous benefit to the spouses of your employees currently in H-1B status.
2. Employers/employees in the process of applying for LPR status will be able to “pre-register” for “Step 3” of the process (adjustment of status) as soon as Step 2 (Form I-140) has been approved. This means that spouses and children under age 21 will be able to obtain work authorization years before they are currently eligible. For those experience the greatest backlog (Indian nationals in EB-3 status), the wait for work authorization will move from eleven years to less than twelve months.
3. STEM employees currently working in F-1 Student status pursuant to Optional Practical Training (“OPT”) will be able to extend their OPT authorization period for more than the 29 months now allowed.
4. Two types of benefits are proposed for certain entrepreneurs: (a) inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises may be eligible for a type of “parole” that allows them to temporarily pursue research and development of promising new ideas and businesses in the United States; and (b) entrepreneurs working in fields or businesses that provide “significant public benefit” may be eligible for LPR status without going through a test of the labor market by utilizing the Employment-Based Second Preference (EB-2) category, reducing the backlog times from 11+ years to one year, if they qualify.
5. As many employers know, it has been very difficult to transfer employees to the United States through the L-1B Intra-Company Transferee (Specialized Knowledge) category. USCIS has been tasked with bringing greater consistency to the L-1B visa program by preparing “clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of specialized knowledge.”
Most of the details, requirements and timeframes have not yet been published. Please feel free to contact your Vedder Price attorney with any questions you may have regarding these momentous changes and we will continue to keep you apprised of changes of benefit. For government statements regarding the proposed changes, please click here.