Retention of EB–1, EB–2, and EB–3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Workers

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing to amend its regulations related to certain employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs. The proposed amendments would provide various benefits to participants in those programs, including: Improved processes for U.S. employers seeking to sponsor and retain immigrant and nonimmigrant workers, greater stability and job flexibility for such workers, and increased transparency and consistency in the application of agency policy related to affected classifications. Many of these changes are primarily aimed at improving the ability of U.S. employers to hire and retain high-skilled workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs), while increasing the ability of such workers to seek promotions, accept lateral positions with current employers, change employers, or pursue other employment options.

1. DHS proposes to amend its regulations consistent with certain worker portability and other provisions in the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000
(AC21), as amended, as well as the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA). These proposed amendments would clarify and improve longstanding agency policies and procedures—previously articulated in agency memoranda and precedent decisions—implementing sections of AC21 and ACWIA related to certain foreign workers, including sections specific to
workers who have been sponsored for LPR status by their employers. In so doing, the proposed rule would enhance consistency among agency adjudicators and provide a primary repository of
governing rules for the regulated community. In addition, the proposed rule would clarify several interpretive questions raised by AC21 and ACWIA.

2. Consistent with existing DHS authorities and the goals of AC21 and ACWIA, DHS proposes to amend its regulations governing certain employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs to provide additional stability and flexibility to employers and workers in those programs. The proposed rule would, among other things: improve job portability for certain beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions by limiting the grounds for automatic revocation of petition approval; further enhance job portability for such beneficiaries by increasing their ability to retain their priority dates for use with subsequently approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions; establish or extend grace periods for certain high-skilled nonimmigrant workers so that they may more easily maintain their nonimmigrant status when changing employment opportunities; and provide additional stability and flexibility to certain high-skilled workers by allowing those who are working in the United States in certain nonimmigrant statuses, are the beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions, are subject to immigrant visa backlogs, and demonstrate compelling circumstances to independently apply for employment authorization for a limited period. These and other proposed changes would provide much needed flexibility to the beneficiaries of employment-based immigrant visa petitions, as well as the U.S. employers who employ and sponsor them for permanent residence.

3. To provide additional certainty and stability to certain employment-authorized individuals and their U.S. employers, DHS is also proposing changes to its regulations governing the processing of applications for employment authorization to minimize the risk of any gaps in such authorization. These changes would provide for the automatic extension of the validity of certain Employment Authorization Documents (EADs or Forms I–766) for an interim period upon the timely filing of an application to renew such documents. At the same time, in light of national security and fraud concerns, DHS is proposing to remove regulations that provide a 90-day processing timeline for EAD applications and that require the issuance of interim EADs if processing
extends beyond the 90-day mark.

This is a proposed regulation and is currently in the public comment period. Written comments must be received on or before February 29, 2016.