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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

USCIS Introducing More Employment Immigration Reforms

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US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced January 31st that it is proposing a series of changes to employment immigration rules which are designed to benefit the US economy and continue to make the US attractive to highly skilled immigrants. The following are the planned changes:

  • Expand eligibility for 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 international students to include students with a prior degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Under the current rules, the applicant for an extension must be currently pursuing a STEM degree. The new rule would allow for an extension even if the current degree is not a STEM field as long as the applicant

  • Allow for additional part-time study for spouses of F-1 students and expand the number of Designated School Officials (DSOs) at schools certified by DHS to enroll international students.

Currently, F-2 spouses can only take vocational and recreational classes. They would now be able to take any kind of course load as long as it is part time and not full-time.

  • Provide work authorization for spouses of certain H-1B holders.

Under this proposed rule, H-4 spouses could get work authorization if their H-1B spouse is filing for an employment-based green card. A minimum period of time in H-1B status will need to pass, though USCIS has not specified the amount yet.

  • Allow outstanding professors and researchers to present a broader scope of evidence of academic achievement.

The new rule would add "comparable evidence" to the regulatory list for researchers and professors, something that the other exceptional immigrant visa categories contain.

  • Harmonize rules to allow E-3 visa holders from Australia and H-1B1 visa holders from Singapore and Chile to continue working with their current employer for up to 240 days while their petitions for extension of status are pending.

E-3 and H-1B1 visa holders will be work authorized for up to 240 days while extension applications are pending, similar to H-1B and L-1s.

  • Launch Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative

On February 22, 2012, USCIS will launch its Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative with an Information Summit in Silicon Valley, CA.

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  1. gg's Avatar
    The likelihood of immigration reform at the federal level anytime soon is about the same as that of pigs flying
  2. Cmon's Avatar
    Cmon, think beyond STEM, students with economics and business and several other degrees are just as useful, don't get this crazy obsession with STEM while totally ignoring everyone else
  3. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Cmon - You're absolutely right. And with shortages in many health care professions, why are those fields not on the list?
  4. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    "Provide work authorization for spouses of certain H-1B holders."
    That's a good move. I also like to give extended OPTs to more students.
  5. George Chell's Avatar
    It is about time....

    Or is it the other way around? UK literally wipes out skilled immigration from outside the EU and jobs have begun moving to America not only from the UK but from rest of Europe as well, because of its relatively liberal skilled immigration policies....

    I think it is the latter and the moves by USCIS will only help in bringing more jobs to this country even though its impact will likely be small it will still be significant!
  6. VH's Avatar
    i have an MFA in Film production here and each time i get a project i hire about 8 - 12 all american production crew. In this climate getting work visa's is quite difficult, a 29 month OPT would have help me tide over it all and would make sure i keep hiring my regular american crew. I would need to move to canada at the end of my 12 month OPT period and work with the crew over there.

    My degree is just has useful if not more in creating American jobs, even though its doesn't fall under the STEM list of selected subjects.
  7. Another Voice's Avatar
    The H-4 proposal sounds really good if spouses of H1-Bs can work even better for the economy of the US and those households.
  8. Another Voice's Avatar
    In the meantime these idiots are trying to save face with the Ag industry.....

    House backs plan to help Georgia farmers get guest workers
  9. Margaret Makar's Avatar
    Dear Editor,

    I read Greg Siskind's blog which alerted me to CIS proposed rule to allow certain spouses of H-1Bs to work when principal has filed for adjustment. I checked the original CIS press release. It says, "This proposed change to the current DHS regulation would allow certain spouses of H-1B visa holders to legally work while their visa holder spouse waits for his or her adjustment of status application to be adjudicated." Huh? What's the fact pattern that derives a benefit from since spouses usually join in principal's adjustment which application includes the application for EAD?

    Margaret Makar
  10. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Hi Margaret - That was my initial reading as well, but did some checking and am told that it will be based on an earlier stage, not the adjustment. Of course, we'll have to see the actual proposed rule to be sure.
  11. Lyle's Avatar
    For heaven's sakes, it's been up on the DHS Unified Agenda for months:
  12. Nurse Waiting's Avatar
    "And with shortages in many health care professions, why are those fields not on the list?"

    It is really bizarre on why nursing is never included anywhere in these memos? Regular nurses cannot get H1b and GC will take 15-20years. For US educated foreign RNs there are very little options except wait on mercy of Congress to allow a quota in Schedule A. This is when DoL has assigned nursing as already shortage area and will remain so for time to come.
  13. jkl's Avatar
    I am also very disappointed that nursing is not on the OPT extension list not to mention that while several bills were introduced for nurses none of them was not voted upon yet. Virtually no legislation was passed for nurses, when will any nursing bill get interest of being discussed?
  14. SUMANTH's Avatar
  15. ACBD's Avatar
    I have a US Masters in Comp Science (STEM) and currently doing my MBA from US as well. Unfortunately, as per current rules, I would get an OPT because I had an OPT during my Masters. One can only get another OPT if the 2nd degree is higher i.e a PhD. How on Earth will an extension help me if I can't get the OPT in first place. And who on Earth made the decision not to give an OPT for a candidate who has a previous STEM degree, but wants to go into Management. I agree that we need piecemeal legislation, but there are some really ridiculous rules that still need to be fixed.
  16. ACBD's Avatar
    Correction "I would NOT get an OPT"...
  17. Sy's Avatar
    We need to get an online petition going on to give all Masters US degree students the 29 months OPT. 12 months is ridiculous, in todays climate it takes a few months just to get a job and by the time you're hired and the companies try you out, your 12 month is up! 29 months gives adequate time for the company evaluate and get your Visa going on.

    Lets get a petition going on and collect a million signatures from all masters students and send it to USCIS
  18. cats's Avatar
    regarding H4 rule for spouse, this is a really good news.
    My wife has been forced to stay home until no time since my green card process is pending due to backlog. Wish this proposal will come true soon. Good job USCIS!
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