As part of Obama’s executive action, many employment-based rules were streamlined and improved. Those final rules took effect yesterday. I have not had time to write about the individual issues yet-as there are many great improvements. For now, here a summary from federal register.
- Clarifications and Policy Improvements
First, the final rule largely conforms DHS regulations to longstanding DHS policies and practices established in response to certain sections of the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA), Public Law 105-277, div. C, tit. IV, 112 Stat. 2681, and the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 (AC21), Public Law 106-313, 114 Stat. 1251, as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act, Public Law 107-273, 116 Stat. 1758 (2002).1 Those sections were intended, among other things, to provide greater flexibility and job portability to certain nonimmigrant workers, particularly those who have been sponsored for LPR status as employment-based immigrants, while enhancing opportunities for innovation and expansion, maintaining U.S. competitiveness, and protecting U.S. workers. The final rule further clarifies and improves DHS policies and practices in this area—policies and practices that have long been specified through a series of policy memoranda and precedent decisions of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Administrative Appeals Office. By clarifying such policies in regulation, DHS provides greater transparency and certainty to affected employers and workers, while increasing consistency among DHS adjudications.
1 Except where changes to current policies and practices are noted in the preamble of this final rule, these amendments capture the longstanding policies and practices that have developed since AC21 and ACWIA were enacted. DHS also notes that policies implementing AC21 and ACWIA provisions, if not referenced, discussed, or changed through this rulemaking, remain in place. In addition, this final rule clarifies several interpretive questions raised by AC21 and ACWIA. Specifically, the final rule clarifies and improves policies and practices related to:
- H-1B extensions of stay under AC21. The final rule addresses the ability of H-1B nonimmigrant workers who are being sponsored for LPR status (and their dependents in H-4 nonimmigrant status) to extend their nonimmigrant stay beyond the otherwise applicable 6-year limit pursuant to AC21.
- INA 204(j) portability. The final rule addresses the ability of certain workers who have pending applications for adjustment of status to change employers or jobs without endangering the approved Form I-140 petitions filed on their behalf.
- H-1B portability. The final rule addresses the ability of H-1B nonimmigrant workers to change jobs or employers, including: (1) beginning employment with new H-1B employers upon the filing of non-frivolous petitions for new H-1B employment (“H-1B portability petition”); and (2) allowing H-1B employers to file successive H-1B portability petitions (often referred to as “bridge petitions”) and clarifying how these petitions affect lawful status and work authorization.
- Counting against the H-1B annual cap. The final rule clarifies the way in which H-1B nonimmigrant workers are counted against the annual H-1B numerical cap, including: (1) the method for calculating when these workers may access so- called remainder time (i.e., time when they were physically outside the United States), thus allowing them to use their full period of H-1B admission; and (2) the method for determining which H-1B nonimmigrant workers are “cap-exempt” as a result of previously being counted against the cap.
- H-1B cap exemptions. The final rule clarifies and improves the method for determining which H-1B nonimmigrant workers are exempt from the H-1B numerical cap due to their employment at an institution of higher education, a nonprofit entity related to or affiliated with such an institution, or a governmental or nonprofit research organization, including a revision to the definition of the term “related or affiliated nonprofit entity.”
- Protections for H-1B whistleblowers. The final rule addresses the ability of H-1B nonimmigrant workers who are disclosing information in aid of, or otherwise participating in, investigations regarding alleged violations of Labor Condition Application (LCA) obligations in the H-1B program to provide documentary evidence to USCIS to demonstrate that their resulting failure to maintain H-1B status was due to “extraordinary circumstances.”
- Form I-140 petition validity. The final rule clarifies the circumstances under which an approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140 petition) remains valid, even after the petitioner withdraws the petition or the petitioner’s business terminates, including for purposes of status extension applications filed on behalf of the beneficiary, job portability of H-1B nonimmigrants, and job portability under section 204(j) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8U.S.C. 1154(j). Second, this rule builds on the provisions listed above by making changes consistent with the goals of AC21 and ACWIA to further provide stability and flexibility in certain immigrant and nonimmigrant visa categories. The amended provisions improve the ability of certain foreign workers, particularly those who are successfully sponsored for LPR status by their employers, to accept new employment opportunities, pursue normal career progression, better establish their lives in the United States, and contribute more fully to the U.S. economy. These changes also provide certainty for the regulated community and improve consistency across DHS adjudications, thereby enhancing DHS’s ability to fulfill its responsibilities related to U.S. employers and certain foreign workers. Specifically, the final rule provides the following:
- Establishment of priority dates. To enhance clarity for the regulated community, the final rule provides that a priority date is generally established based upon the filing of certain applications or petitions. The new regulatory language is consistent with existing DHS practice in establishing priority dates for other Form I-140 petitions that do not require permanent labor certifications (labor certifications)—such as petitions filed under the employment-based first preference immigrant visa (EB-1) category.2 See final 8 CFR 204.5(d).3
- Retention of priority dates. To enhance job portability for workers with approved Form I-140 petitions, the final rule explains the circumstances under which workers may retain priority dates and effectively transfer those dates to new and subsequently approved Form I-140 petitions. Priority date retention will generally be available as long as the approval of the initial Form I-140 petition was not revoked for fraud, willful misrepresentation of a material fact, the invalidation or revocation of a labor certification, or material error. This 2 The EB-1 preference category is for individuals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers. 3 In this final rule, the word “final” before a reference to 8 CFR is used to refer to a provision promulgated through this final rule and the word “proposed” before 8 CFR is used to refer to a provision of the proposed rule. See Retention of EB–1, EB–2, and EB–3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers; Proposed Rule, 80 FR 81899 (Dec. 31, 2015). Provision improves the ability of certain workers to accept promotions, change employers, or pursue other employment opportunities without fear of losing their place in line for immigrant visas. See final 8 CFR 204.5(e).
- Retention of employment-based immigrant visa petitions. To enhance job portability for certain workers with approved Form I-140 petitions in the EB-1, second preference (EB-2), and third preference (EB-3) categories, but who are unable to obtain LPR status due to immigrant visa backlogs, the final rule provides that Form I-140 petitions that have been approved for 180 days or more would no longer be subject to automatic revocation based solely on withdrawal by the petitioner or the termination of the petitioner’s business. See final 8 CFR 205.1(a)(3)(iii)(C) and (D).
- Eligibility for employment authorization in compelling circumstances. To enhance stability and job flexibility for certain high-skilled nonimmigrant workers in the United States with approved Form I-140 petitions who cannot obtain an immigrant visa due to statutory limits on the number of immigrant visas that may be issued, the final rule allows certain beneficiaries in the United States in E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, or O-1 nonimmigrant status to apply for separate employment authorization for a limited period if there are compelling circumstances that, in the discretion of DHS, justify the issuance of employment authorization. See final 8 CFR 204.5(p).
- 10-day nonimmigrant grace periods. To promote stability and flexibility for certain high-skilled nonimmigrant workers, the final rule provides two grace periods of up to 10 days, consistent with those already available to individuals in some nonimmigrant classifications, to individuals in the E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1, and TN classifications. The rule allows an initial grace period of up to 10 days prior to the start of an authorized validity period, which provides nonimmigrants in the above classifications a reasonable amount of time to enter the United States and prepare to begin employment in the country. The rule also allows a second grace period of up to 10 days after the end of an authorized validity period, which provides a reasonable amount of time for such nonimmigrants to depart the United States or take other actions to extend, change, or otherwise maintain lawful status. See final 8 CFR 214.1(l)(1).
- 60-day nonimmigrant grace periods. To further enhance job portability, the final rule establishes a grace period of up to 60 consecutive days during each authorized validity period for individuals in the E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1 or TN classifications. This grace period allows high-skilled workers in these classifications, including those whose employment ceases prior to the end of the petition validity period, to more readily pursue new employment should they be eligible for other employer-sponsored nonimmigrant classifications or employment in the same classification with a new employer. The grace period also allows U.S. employers to more easily facilitate changes in employment for existing or newly recruited nonimmigrant workers. See final 8 CFR 214.1(l)(2).
- H-1B licensing. To provide clarity and certainty to the regulated community, the final regulations codify current DHS policy regarding exceptions to the requirement that makes the approval of an H-1B petition contingent upon the beneficiary’s licensure where licensure is required to fully perform the duties of the relevant specialty occupation. The final rule generally allows for the temporary approval of an H-1B petition for an otherwise eligible unlicensed worker, if the petitioner can demonstrate that the worker is unable for certain technical reasons to obtain the required license before obtaining H-1B status. The final rule also clarifies the types of evidence that would need to be submitted to support approval of an H-1B petition on behalf of an unlicensed worker who will work in a state that allows the individual to be employed in the relevant occupation under the supervision of licensed senior or supervisory personnel. See, final 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(v)(C). As noted above, these changes codify and improve USCIS policies concerning various employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa classifications, including by making it easier to hire and retain nonimmigrant workers who have approved Form I-140 petitions and giving such workers additional career options as they wait for immigrant visas to become available. These improvements are increasingly important considering the lengthy waits and consistently growing demand for immigrant visas. Finally, to provide additional stability and certainty to U.S. employers and individuals eligible for employment authorization in the United States, this final rule changes several DHS regulations governing the processing of applications for employment authorization. First, to minimize the risk of any gaps in employment authorization, this final rule automatically extends the validity of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs or Forms I-766) in certain circumstances based on the timely filing of EAD renewal applications. Specifically, the rule automatically extends the employment authorization and validity of existing EADs issued to certain employment-eligible individuals for up to 180 days from the date of expiration, as long as: (1) a renewal application is filed based on the same employment authorization category as the previously issued EAD (or the renewal application is for an individual approved for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) whose EAD was issued under 8 CFR 274a.12(c)(19)); (2) the renewal application is timely filed prior to the expiration of the EAD (or, in accordance with an applicable Federal Register notice regarding procedures for renewing TPS-related employment documentation) and remains pending; and (3) the individual’s eligibility for employment authorization continues beyond the expiration of the EAD and an independent adjudication of the underlying eligibility is not a prerequisite to the extension of employment authorization. Concurrently, DHS eliminates the regulatory provisions that require adjudication of the Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765 or EAD application) within 90 days of filing and that authorize interim EADs in cases where such adjudications are not conducted within the 90-day timeframe. These changes provide enhanced stability and certainty to employment-authorized individuals and their employers while reducing opportunities for fraud and protecting the security related processes undertaken for each EAD application. See final 8 CFR 247a.13(d).
- Summary of Changes from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Following careful consideration of public comments received, DHS has made several modifications to the regulatory text proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published in the Federal Register on December 31, 2015. See Retention of EB–1, EB–2, and EB–3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers; Proposed Rule, 80 FR 81899. Those changes include the following:
- Retaining a Priority Date. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by revising proposed 8 CFR 204.5(e)(2)(iv), a provision that identifies when error related to the approval of an employment-based immigrant visa petition can lead to loss of a priority date. The term “error” is clarified to mean “material error” in final 8 CFR 204.5(e)(2)(iv), which now states that a priority date may not be retained if USCIS revokes the approval of the Form I-140 petition because it determined that there was a material error with regard to the petition’s approval.
- Eligibility for employment authorization in compelling circumstances. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by revising several aspects of proposed 8 CFR 204.5(p) governing requests for EADs in compelling circumstances. First, DHS is revising proposed 8 CFR 204.5(p)(1)(i), which discusses the eligibility of principal beneficiaries of immigrant visa petitions to obtain EADs in compelling circumstances. In the final rule, DHS provides clarification that principal beneficiaries may be eligible to file applications for such EADs during the authorized periods of admission that immediately precede or follow the validity periods of their nonimmigrant classifications (i.e., “grace periods”). Second, DHS also is making several revisions to proposed 8 CFR 204.5(p)(3), which addresses certain eligibility requirements for principal beneficiaries and family members seeking to renew EADs issued in compelling circumstances. DHS clarifies in final § 204.5(p)(3) that applicants seeking to extend such employment authorization must file a renewal Form I-765 before the expiration of their current employment authorization. DHS also streamlines and clarifies the regulatory text covering the two instances in which applicants may be eligible to apply for renewal. DHS clarifies that under final §204.5(p)(3)(i)(A), applicants may apply for renewal if the principal beneficiary continues to demonstrate compelling circumstances and an immigrant visa is not authorized for issuance to the principal beneficiary based on his or her priority date. DHS also clarifies that under final § 204.5(p)(3)(i)(B), a principal beneficiary may apply for renewal if his or her priority date is one year or less either before or after the relevant date in the Department of State Visa Bulletin. In determining whether the difference between the principal beneficiary’s priority date and the date upon which immigrant visas are authorized for issuance is one year or less, DHS will use the applicable Final Action Date in the Visa Bulletin that was in effect on the date the application for employment authorization is filed. Third, DHS is removing a ground of ineligibility that was proposed in §204.5(p)(5), as it was duplicative of requirements for renewal under §204.5(p)(3)(i)(B), which authorizes eligibility for renewals when the difference between the principal beneficiary’s priority date and the date upon which immigrant visas are authorized for issuance to the principal beneficiary is 1 year or less according to the Visa Bulletin in effect on the date the application for employment authorization is filed. Fourth, DHS is revising proposed § 204.5(p)(3)(ii) to clarify that family members may submit applications to renew employment authorization concurrently with renewal applications filed by the principal beneficiaries, or while such applications are pending, but family renewal applications cannot be approved unless the principal beneficiaries’ applications are granted under paragraph (p)(3)(i) and remain valid. Finally, DHS is making several technical revisions for readability and clarity.
- Automatic revocation. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by editing proposed 8 CFR 205.1(a)(3)(iii)(C) and (D), which provide the grounds for automatically revoking Form I-140 petitions. DHS is revising these provisions to clarify that a Form I-140 petition will remain approved if a request to withdraw it is received or the petitioner terminates its business 180 days or more after either the date of the petition’s approval or the date of filing of an associated application for adjustment of status.4 In addition, DHS is removing the phrase, “provided that the revocation of a petition’s approval under this clause will not, by itself, impact a beneficiary’s ability to retain his or her priority date under 8 CFR 204.5(e)” in § 205.1(a)(3)(iii)(C) and (D) because that phrase was redundant of text in 8 CFR 204.5(e), which, as proposed and retained in this final rule, already establishes the ability of the beneficiary to retain his or her priority date if his or her immigrant visa petition is revoked on any ground other 4 Such petitions will remain approved unless revoked on other grounds. Than those enumerated in final 8 CFR 204.5(e)(2)(i) – (iv). The deletion of the redundant text does not change the substance of the provisions.
- Period of stay. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by revising proposed 8 CFR 214.1(l), which concerns authorized grace periods that may immediately precede and follow periods of nonimmigrant petition validity and other authorized periods of stay. DHS is removing from proposed 8 CFR214.1(l)(1) the phrase “to prepare for departure from the United States or to seek an extension or change of status based on a subsequent offer of employment” because it is unnecessarily limiting and did not fully comport with how the existing 10-day grace period may be used by individuals in the H, O and P nonimmigrant visa classifications. DHS is adding the phrase “or otherwise provided status” after “an alien admissible in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, L-1, or TN classification and his or her dependents may be admitted to the United States” to clarify that the 10-day grace period may be granted to these nonimmigrants at time of admission or upon approval of an extension of stay or change of status. Moreover, in § 214.1(l)(2), DHS is adding the O-1 classification to the list of visa classifications for which USCIS will not consider an individual to have failed to maintain nonimmigrant status for a period of up to 60 days or until the end of the authorized validity period, whichever is shorter, solely because of the cessation of the employment on which the visa classification was based. In addition, DHS is clarifying that the 60-day grace period must be used in a single period of consecutive days during the relevant authorized validity period. DHS also is changing the phrase “for a one-time period during any authorized validity period,” to read “once during each authorized validity period” to clarify that the 60-day grace period may be provided to an individual only once per authorized validity period. However, an individual may be provided other such grace periods if he or she receives a new authorized validity period in one of the eligible nonimmigrant classifications. In addition, DHS is making other technical revisions to proposed § 214.1(l)(1), (2) and (3).
- Duties without licensure. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by modifying proposed 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(v)(C), which sets standards for H-1B adjudication absent the beneficiary’s full licensure. First, DHS is revising proposed 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(v)(C)(1) to expand the evidence USCIS will examine in cases where a state allows an individual without licensure to fully practice the occupation under the supervision of licensed senior or supervisory personnel to include “evidence that the petitioner is complying with state requirements.” Second, DHS is expanding the language in § 214.2(h)(4)(v)(C)(2) to account for other technical requirements in state or local rules or procedures that may, like the lack of a Social Security number or employment authorization, pose obstacles to obtaining a license. Specifically, in § 214.2(h)(4)(v)(C)(2)(i), DHS is adding the phrase “or met a technical requirement” following the references to the Social Security number and employment authorization. DHS is making similar conforming changes in two places in § 214.2(h)(4)(v)(C)(2)(ii). Third, in § 214.2(h)(4)(v)(C)(2)(ii), which discusses the petitioner’s qualifications for a license, DHS is adding “substantive” in front of the word “requirements,” to allow flexibility to account for various state specific requirements. DHS is adding these clarifications to address other analogous obstacles of which DHS is not specifically aware, which present similar situations where the beneficiary is qualified for licensure, but may not obtain the licensure because of a technical requirement. In addition, DHS is making technical edits by replacing the use of the word “or” with “and” in the first clause of 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(v)(C)(2)(ii) to reflect that the beneficiary must have filed an application for the license in accordance with State and local rules and procedures. This does not change the intended meaning of the proposed rule. Finally, DHS is making a technical edit in the second clause by replacing the use of “and/or” with “or” preceding “procedures.”
- Definitions of non-profit entities related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education and governmental research organizations. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by editing proposed 8 CFR 214.2(h)(8)(ii)(F) and (h)(19), which define which entities are (1) nonprofit entities that are related to or affiliated with institutions of higher education, and (2) governmental research organizations for purposes of the H-1B visa program. H-1B nonimmigrant workers who are employed at such entities are exempt from the annual limitations on H-1B visas. Such entities are also exempt from paying certain fees in the H-1B program. At § 214.2(h)(8)(ii)(F)(2), DHS is adding the phrase “if it satisfies any one of the following conditions,” to clarify that a petitioner only has to meet one of the listed requirements. DHS is adding the same clarifying language to 8 CFR 214.2(h)(19)(iii)(B). In § 214.2(h)(8)(ii)(F)(2)(iv) and (h)(19)(iii)(B)(4), which address cap exemption and ACWIA fee exemption, respectively, for a nonprofit entity that is related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education based on a formal written affiliation agreement, DHS is replacing the term “primary purpose” with “fundamental activity” in response to public comments suggesting the term “primary purpose” was too restrictive. As a result, when a nonprofit entity claims exemption from the cap and ACWIA fee based on a formal written affiliation agreement with an institution of higher education, the final rule requires that “a fundamental activity” of the nonprofit entity is to directly contribute to the research or education mission of the institution of higher education. DHS is also removing the phrase “absent shared ownership or control” from § 214.2 (h)(8)(ii)(F)(2)(iv) and (h)(19)(iii)(B)(4) to clarify that an entity need not prove the absence of shared ownership or control when relying on the existence of a formal affiliation agreement to establish that a nonprofit entity is related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education. In addition, DHS is defining the phrase “governmental research organization” in § 214.2(h)(19)(iii)(C) to include state and local government research entities, and not just federal government research entities, whose primary mission is the performance or promotion of basic research and/or applied research. This definition is adopted for cap exemption purposes at 8 CFR 214.2(h)(8)(ii)(F)(3).
- Calculating the maximum H-1B admission period. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by revising proposed 8 CFR 214.2(h)(13)(iii)(C), which discusses how to calculate the time spent physically outside the United States during the validity of an H-1B petition that will not count against an individual’s maximum authorized period of stay in H-1B status. DHS is amending the regulatory text to clarify that there is no temporal limit on recapturing time. The amendment makes clear that such time may be recaptured in a subsequent H-1B petition on behalf of the foreign worker, “at any time before the alien uses the full period of authorized H-1B admission described in section 214(g)(4) of the Act.” DHS also is making a technical edit to §214.2(h)(13)(iii)(C)(1) to clarify which form may be used for this provision.
Lengthy adjudication delay exemption from section 214(g)(4) of the Act. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by revising several subsections of proposed 8 CFR 214.2(h)(13)(iii)(D), which governs when a nonimmigrant may be eligible for H-1B status in 1-year increments beyond the 6-year limitation that otherwise applies. DHS is amending the text of proposed 8 CFR 214.2(h)(13)(iii)(D)(1) by striking the phrase, “prior to the 6-year limitation being reached.” This change clarifies that a qualifying labor certification or Form I-140 petition is not required to be filed 365 days before the 6-year limitation is reached in order for the individual to be eligible for an exemption under section 106(a) of AC21; instead, the labor certification or Form I-140 petition would need to be filed at least 365 days before the day the exemption would take effect. DHS is also making several revisions to simplify and clarify §214.2(h)(13)(iii)(D)(5), which concerns advance filing; § 214.2(h)(13)(iii)(D)(6), which defines petitioners who may seek the exemption; §214.2(h)(13)(iii)(D)(7), which describes subsequent exemption approvals after the 7th year; and § 214.2(h)(13)(iii)(D)(10), which describes limits on future exemptions from the lengthy adjudication delay.
- Per country and worldwide limits. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by revising proposed 8 CFR 214.2(h)(13)(iii)(E), which governs when a nonimmigrant may be eligible for H-1B status in 3-year increments beyond the 6-year limitation that otherwise applies. This provision addresses eligibility for an extension of H-1B status under section 104(c) of AC21. DHS is striking the phrase, “the unavailability must exist at time of the petition’s adjudication” to reflect longstanding DHS policy. By striking this phrase, DHS is clarifying that if the Visa Bulletin that was in effect on the date the H-1B petition is filed shows that the individual was subject to a per country or worldwide visa limitation, DHS may grant the extension under section 104(c) of AC21, even if the immigrant visa is available when the petition is adjudicated, so long as the beneficiary is otherwise eligible.
- Retaliatory action claims. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by amending proposed 8 CFR 214.2(h)(20), which discusses eligibility for extensions of stay in H-1B status or change of status to other nonimmigrant classifications by beneficiaries who faced retaliatory action from their employers. Additionally, DHS is making a minor technical change to this section, correcting “labor certification application” to “labor condition application.”
- Validity of petition for continued eligibility for adjustment of status. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by amending proposed 8 CFR 245.25(a), which governs the circumstances in which an individual with a pending application for adjustment of status can move to a job in the same or a similar occupational classification. In particular, revisions are being made to implement DHS’s current section 204(j) portability policy and longstanding practice related to the adjudication of qualifying Form I-140 petitions that are not approved at the time the beneficiary’s application for adjustment of status has been pending for 180 days or more.
First, in § 245.25(a), DHS is replacing a general reference in the NPRM to a “USCIS designated form” with a specific reference to “Form I-485 Supplement J” as the form DHS intends to be used for an individual to demonstrate continuing eligibility for adjustment of status based on an existing or new job offer under INA 204(j).
Second, DHS also is clarifying that the Supplement J may be accompanied by “material and credible documentary evidence, in accordance with form instructions.” This revision expands the types of evidence that can be submitted in support of Supplement J beyond “material and credible information provided by another Federal agency, such as information from the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system,” as had been proposed. As a result, DHS is deleting the evidentiary list included in proposed § 245.25(b).
Third, DHS is revising proposed § 245.25(a)(2)(ii) to reaffirm that a qualifying Form I-140 petition must be approved before DHS examines a portability request under INA 204(j). Moreover, DHS is adding §
245.25(a)(2)(ii)(B) to confirm that, unless approval of the petition would be inconsistent with a statutory requirement, a pending qualifying Form I-140 petition may be approved if (1) the petitioner established the ability to pay at the time of filing the petition and (2) all other eligibility criteria are met at the time of filing and until the beneficiary’s application for adjustment of status has been pending for 180 days.
Finally, DHS is reorganizing and renumbering § 245.25(a), and making other technical and conforming edits
- Concurrently filed EAD applications. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by amending proposed 8 CFR 274a.13(a) to facilitate USCIS’s ability to notify the public of changes in concurrent filing procedures for EAD applications. DHS is adding text indicating that USCIS may announce on its Web site circumstances in which an EAD application may be filed concurrently with a related benefit request that, if granted, would form the basis for eligibility for employment authorization. Under the proposed rule, such announcement was limited to form instructions.
- Automatic extensions of employment authorization for renewal applicants. In the final rule, DHS is responding to public comment by amending proposed 8 CFR 274a.13(d) to clarify timeliness and termination rules for the automatic extension of certain EAD renewal applicants. DHS is clarifying that a renewal EAD application filed on the basis of a grant of TPS is timely if filed during the period described in the applicable Federal Register notice regarding procedures for renewing TPS. DHS is also making clarifying edits to the termination provision at § 274a.13(d)(3). In addition to the above changes that were made in response to public comment, DHS is making several technical changes to the regulatory text in this final rule so that DHS regulations better reflect current ACWIA fee amounts and filing procedures:
- ACWIA fee amount and filing procedures. DHS is making technical changes to 8 CFR 214.2(h)(19)(i), (ii), (v), (vi) and (vii) to update the amount of the ACWIA fee applicable to certain H-1B petitions in accordance with statutory amendments, as well as procedures for submitting the fee to USCIS, or claiming an exemption from the fee, to conform with current procedures.5 The statutory fee amount in INA 214(c)(9), 8 U.S.C. 1184(c)(9), was amended by section 1 of Pub. L. 106-311 (Oct. 17, 2000) (changing the fee amount from $500 to $1,000), and the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Pub. L. 108-447, Division J, Title IV, sec. 422 (L-1 Visa and H-1B Visa Reform Act) (Dec. 8, 2004) (permanently extending the fee and changing the fee amount from $1,000 to a bifurcated amount of $1,500 for employers with more than 25 employees, and half that amount for those with up to 25 employees). DHS is updating its regulations to conform the fee amount to the figure in current INA 214(c)(9). DHS regulations at 8 CFR 103.7(b)(1)(i)(CCC) and form instructions for the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, already reflect these updated 5 DHS finds that prior notice and comment for these technical changes is unnecessary, as DHS is merely conforming its regulations to the self-implementing statutory amendments. See 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(B). fee amounts. The technical changes also reflect the elimination of references to the now obsolete Form I-129W, which has been replaced by the Form I-129 H-1B and H-1B1 Data Collection and Filing Fee Exemption Supplement and which is already being used to make determinations for ACWIA fee exemptions.
- Additional entities exempt from the ACWIA fee. DHS is making a technical change to 8 CFR 214.2(h)(19)(iii) to include other entities that are statutorily exempt from the ACWIA fee, and thus to conform the regulation to INA 214(c)(9)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1184(c)(9)(A), as amended by section 1 of Pub. L. 106-DHS added a new paragraph (D) to include primary or secondary educational institutions, and a new paragraph (E) to include nonprofit entities that engage in an established curriculum-related clinical training of students registered at an institution of higher education. The Form I-129 and its form instructions already list these entities as fee exempt.
- B. Legal Authority
The authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) for these regulatory amendments is found in various sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1101 et seq., ACWIA, AC21, and the Homeland Security Act of
2002 (HSA), Public Law 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135, 6 U.S.C. 101 et seq. General authority for issuing the final rule is found in section 103(a) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1103(a), which authorizes the Secretary to administer and enforce the immigration and nationality laws, as well as section 102 of the HSA, 6 U.S.C. 112, which vests all of the functions of DHS in the Secretary and authorizes the Secretary to issue regulations. Further authority for the regulatory amendments in the final rule is found in the following sections:
- Section 205 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1155, which grants the Secretary broad discretion in determining whether and how to revoke the approval of any Form I-140 petition approved under section 204 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1154;
- Section 214 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1184, including section 214(a)(1), 8 U.S.C.1184(a)(1), which authorizes the Secretary to prescribe by regulation the terms and conditions of the admission of nonimmigrants;
- Section 274A(h)(3)(B) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1324a(h)(3)(B), which recognizes the Secretary’s authority to extend employment authorization to noncitizens in the United States;
- Section 413(a) of ACWIA, which amended section 212(n)(2)(C) of the INA, 8U.S.C. 1182(n)(2)(C), to authorize the Secretary to provide certain whistleblower protections to H-1B nonimmigrant workers;
- Section 414 of ACWIA, which added section 214(c)(9) of the INA, 8 U.S.C.1184(c)(9), to authorize the Secretary to impose a fee on certain H-1B petitioners to fund the training and education of U.S. workers;
- Section 103 of AC21, which amended section 214(g) of the INA, 8 U.S.C.1184(g), to provide: (1) an exemption from the H-1B numerical cap for certain H-1B nonimmigrant workers employed at institutions of higher education, nonprofit entities related to or affiliated with such institutions, and nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations; (2) that an H-1B nonimmigrant who ceases to be employed by a cap-exempt employer, and who was not previously counted against the cap, will be subject to the H-1B numerical limitations; and (3) that a worker who has been counted against the H-1B numerical cap within the 6 years prior to petition approval will not again be counted against the cap unless the individual would be eligible for a new 6-year period of authorized H-1B admission.
- Section 104(c) of AC21, which authorizes the extension of authorized H-1B admission beyond the general 6-year maximum for H-1B nonimmigrant workers who have approved EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 Form I-140 petitions but are subject to backlogs due to application of certain per-country limitations on immigrant visas;
- Section 105 of AC21, which added what is now section 214(n) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1184(n),6 to allow an H-1B nonimmigrant worker to begin concurrent or new H-1B employment upon the filing of a timely, non-frivolous H-1B petition;
- Sections 106(a) and (b) of AC21, which, as amended, authorize the extension of authorized H-1B admission beyond the general 6-year maximum for H-1B nonimmigrant workers who have been sponsored for permanent residence by their employers and who are subject to certain lengthy adjudication or processing delays;
- Section 106(c) of AC21, which added section 204(j) of the INA to authorize certain beneficiaries of approved EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Form I-140 petitions who have filed applications for adjustment of status to change jobs or employers without invalidating their approved petitions; and
- Section 101(b)(1)(F) of the HSA, 6 U.S.C. 111(b)(1)(F), which establishes as a primary mission of DHS the duty to “ensure that the overall economic security of 6 Section 8(a)(3) of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003, Public Law 108-193, (Dec. 19, 2003), redesignated section 214(m) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1184(m), as section 214(n) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1184(n).the United States is not diminished by efforts, activities, and programs aimed at securing the homeland.”