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Posts Tagged ‘LCA’

What to Know About the H-1B Cap Gap

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Visa_iStock_000016934361_ExtraSmall (2)By:  Allison McDowell, Content Coordinator

Current federal regulations allow for the automatic extension, if certain circumstances are met, of Optional Practical Training (OPT) time for F-1 students who have a pending or approved H-1B petition.  These “Cap Gap” provisions require that the beneficiary’s petition is subsequently selected and approved in the H-1B lottery.  If approved, Cap Gap helps cover the gap that may otherwise disrupt an employee’s employment authorization, which would occur between when the OPT EAD expires through September 30th, in other words, after the OPT ends and before an approved H-1B petition takes effect.  Any F-1 student with a timely filed H-1B petition and request for change of status will be allowed to extend the duration of F-1 status and any current employment authorization until the first day of the new fiscal year, October 1 st.  If the petition is not selected for processing, the student will have the standard 60-day grace period from the date of the rejection notice or their program end date, whichever is later, to prepare for departing the USA.

Major Criteria

To be eligible for Cap Gap extension, the employer must file the H-1B Change of Status petition with USCIS and have it received prior to the post-completion OPT expiration date.  Or, if received by USCIS after the post-completion OPT expires but during the following 60 day grace period, the beneficiary’s F-1 status and permission to remain in the U.S. are extended, but there is no work authorization.

Effects of Premium Processing Suspension

 USCIS has suspended premium processing for all H-1B petitions for six months, starting April 3, 2017.  This also applies to H-1B quota cases, or “cap cases.”  This suspension could have major effects on those who have a status expiration date earlier than October 1, 2017.  For F-1 OPT beneficiaries, whose employment authorization is only extended until September 30, 2017, there would be a period of lack of employment authorization until the H-1B case is approved.  Similarly, L-1 visa, or other employment visa holders, may have their work authorization set to expire shortly after October 1, 2017 and the H-1B cap case may remain pending past October 1st, therefore leaving a gap in work authorization until USCIS completes processing of the case.

STEM OPT Extension

 Stem Extension could be available to bridge the gap in employment authorization for those that qualify.  Any F-1 nonimmigrant student with a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) can apply for a 24-month extension of their post-completion OPT employment authorization.  Students who are eligible for Cap Gap extension of their post-completion OPT can apply for a STEM OPT extension during the Cap Gap.  In order to be eligible, the employer must be enrolled in and in good standing with E-Verify, and the initial grant of post-completion OPT employment authorization must also have been related to the STEM degree.  Note that an application cannot be submitted once the H-1B petition is rejected, denied, revoked, or withdrawn and the 60-day departure prep period has begun.

Additions have recently been made to the list of STEM degrees and can be found at STEM Designated Degree Program List.  Additional information for F-1 students regarding STEM OPT extensions can be found at USCIS’s Optional Practical Training Extension for STEM Students (STEM OPT) page or the STEM OPT Hub.

Travel Outside U.S.

While USCIS is processing the H-1B visa petition, beneficiaries should not travel outside the U.S.  Doing so would void the Change of Status H-1B petition, subsequently turning it into an outside the U.S., Consular Processing H-1B petition.  Similarly, if the practitioner selects consular processing, the H-1B petition will not process under the Cap Gap regulations, which would be disastrous to the case.  Leaving the U.S. while employment authorization is based on Cap Gap voids the Cap Gap authorization.  Therefore, the employee will only be able to re-enter the U.S. up to 10 days prior to the effective date of a subsequently approved H-1B petition.

Practitioners need to be aware of the effects of foreign employees traveling abroad, as many attorneys who are not skilled in business immigration are not aware of the major consequences of visa beneficiaries doing so.

Dependents

The H-1B Cap Gap authorization also applies to dependents of the visa beneficiary that are in valid F-2 status, including spouses and children.  Keep in mind, however, that the travel restrictions also likely apply to dependent visa holders, whose foreign travel may void the Change of Status petition.

 

 

 

It’s Starting to Look Alot Like H-1B Filing Season!

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

iStock_GlobeAirplanePP_000012052479XSmallUSCIS received 233,000 new H-1B petitions last year against a quota of 85,000, and this year is expected to be even higher for FY 2017. Approximately one-half of the submitted petitions were not accepted for processing. As the economy has grown and and gained momentum, employers have been planning for months and making a list of candidates for whom they want to file H-1Bs.  The demand is expected to be huge this filing season, and the quota will be met in lightening speed. There are 5 business days to submit your cases, from April 1 to April 7, 2016 to access the opportunity of securing an extremely limited number of new H-1B slots.

So, planning is of the utmost importance.  Here are some important tips to get ready for H-B case filing on April 1st:

  • Assess your employment needs. Start to assess the number of H-1B petitions that your firm wishes to file. Coordinate with your immigration provider and assess legal and government filing fees.
  • Do you need to obtain Credential Evaluations for your foreign educated applicants? Get this done early as the evaluation services will be swamped. Assess the relationship between the applicant’s degree and the position being offered. Does the degree equate to a 4-year US degree? If not, can the applicant produce employment verification letters so that previous work experience can be used to develop an evaluation that creates a nexus between their education and the offered position and to meet the degree requirement? It takes time to obtain these letters; therefore, close analysis of degree issues is of the utmost importance. These issues are being scrutinized more closely by USCIS each year. Lastly, if you wish to sponsor the applicant for their green-card in the future, make sure that the strategy you adopt for the H-1B can take you into a successful green-card process.
  • Get the Labor Condition Application (LCA) early. It can take up to 7 business days to receive LCA’s from the Department of Labor (and longer as the clock ticks toward April 1st). Once you have identified your hiring needs and obtained the necessary documentation to start the H-1B process, file the Labor Condition Application to avoid delays. Even though early filing means a shorter validity period for the H-1B petition, it is still advisable to have a timely filed and certified Labor Condition Application in hand for a complete case filing with USCIS.
  • Start gathering necessary H-1B documentation right now. Develop your detailed job descriptions (not a list of requirements, but actual daily job duties and responsibilities).  Work with your legal team and the applicants that you wish to sponsor. Obtain degrees, transcripts, credential evaluations, employment letters, status documentation. These are required documents and do take time to analyze and assemble and, if missing, create delays and RFE’s.
  • Be prepared for last minute changes in procedures and requirements. Last-minute changes in USCIS and Labor Department processes often arise with each new H-1B filing season.  Our office, of course, will keep you apprised as we continue to monitor any changes in procedure or requirements.

We are already accepting H-1B cases for processing and welcome your business.  Contact info@immigrationcompliancegroup.com or call 562 612.3996.

H-1B RFE’s ——Who is to Blame?

Friday, October 9th, 2015

News_bannerWith the rash of RFE’s increasing year by year, this article is extremely informative and useful.

The important take away…..Work with evaluators that analyze USCIS policy and trends and that understand the education that is required for the type of visa being applied for.  Oftentimes there is a rush to secure an evaluation before nailing down the job title and job description with the client; this is a mistake.

So, whose fault is it REALLY and why does it matter whose fault it is anyway?

Sometimes it is the attorney or evaluators fault, but sometimes it is CIS’s fault.

Sometimes it is the fault of the evaluation but not the evaluator.

Sometimes it is CIS’s fault.

Sometimes it is the candidate’s fault.

Sometimes it is no one’s fault at all.

For more, refer here

We thank Sheila Danzig, TheDegreePeople.com, for this excellent article.

When to File an Amended H-1B Petition: USCIS Offers Additional Guidance

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Immigration_dreamstime_xs_5361678 (2)

On April 9, 2015, USCIS’ Administrative Appeal Office (AAO) issued a precedent decision, Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC, which held that employers must file amended H-1B petitions when a new Labor Condition Application for Nonimmigrant Workers (LCA) is required due to a change in the H-1B worker’s worksite location. Specifically, the decision stated:

  1. When H-1B employees change their place of employment to a worksite location that requires employers to certify a new Labor Condition Application for Nonimmigrant Workers (LCA) to the Department of Homeland Security, this change may affect the employee’s eligibility for H-1B status; it is therefore a material change for purposes of 8 C.F.R. §§ 214.2(h)(2)(i)(E) and (11)(i)(A) (2014).
  2. When there is a material change in the terms and conditions of employment, the petitioner must file an amended or new H−1B petition with the corresponding LCA.

This precedent decision represents the USCIS position that employers are required to file an amended petition before placing an H-1B employee at a new worksite. H-1B petitioners should follow the guidance below.

When You Must File an Amended Petition

You must file an amended H-1B petition if your H-1B employee changed or is going to change his or her place of employment to a worksite location outside of the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) or an “area of intended employment” (as defined at 20 CFR 655.715) covered by the existing approved H-1B petition, even if a new LCA is already certified and posted at the new location.

Note: Once you file the amended petition, your H-1B employee can immediately begin to work at the new location. You do not have to wait for a final decision on the amended petition for your H-1B employee to start work at the new location.

When You Do NOT Need to File an Amended Petition

  • A move within an MSA: If your H-1B employee is moving to a new job location within the same MSA or area of intended employment a new LCA is not required. Therefore, you do not need to file an amended H-1B petition. However, you must still post the original LCA in the new work location within the same MSA or area of intended employment. For example, an H-1B employee moving to a new job location within the New York City MSA (NYC) would not trigger the need for a new LCA, but you would still need to post the previously obtained LCA at the new work location. This is required regardless of whether an entire office moved from one location to another within NYC or if just one H-1B employee moves from one client site to another within NYC.
  • Short term placements: Under certain circumstances, you may place an H-1B employee at a new job location for up to 30 days, and in some cases 60 days (where the employee is still based at the original location), without obtaining a new LCA. See 20 CFR 655.735. In these situations, you do not need to file an amended H-1B petition.
  • Non-worksite locations: If your H-1B employee is only going to a non-worksite location, you do not need to file an amended H-1B petition. A location is considered to be “non-worksite” if:
    • The H-1B employees are going to a location to participate in employee developmental activity, such as management conferences and staff seminars;
    • The H-1B employees spend little time at any one location; or
    • The job is “peripatetic in nature,” such as situations where their primary job is at one location but they occasionally travel for short periods to other locations “on a casual, short-term basis, which can be recurring but not excessive (i.e., not exceeding five consecutive workdays for any one visit by a peripatetic worker, or 10 consecutive workdays for any one visit by a worker who spends most work time at one location and travels occasionally to other locations).” See 20 CFR 655.715.

When you do need to File an Amended H-1B Petition

  • If your H-1B employees were changing worksite locations at the time of the Simeio Solutions decision, you have 90 days from the date of this web alert (May 21, 2015) to file amended petitions for H-1B employees who changed their place of employment to an MSA or area of intended employment requiring coverage by a new or different LCA than that submitted with the original H-1B petition. Therefore, if you have not filed an amended petition for an H-1B worker who moved worksite locations before May 21, 2015, you have until August 19, 2015 to file an amended petition.
  • If your H-1B workers changed their worksite location before the Simeio Solutions decision, USCIS will not take adverse action against you or your employees if you, in good faith, relied on prior non-binding agency correspondence and did not file an amended petition due to a change in an MSA or area of intended employment by May 21, 2015. However, as noted above, you must now file an amended petition for these H-1B employees by August 19, 2015.
  • If you do not file an amended petition for these employees by August 19, 2015, you will be out of compliance with USCIS regulation and policy and thus subject to adverse action. Similarly, your H-1B employees would not be maintaining their nonimmigrant status and would also be subject to adverse action.
  • If your amended H-1B petition is denied, but the original petition is still valid your H-1B employee may return to the worksite covered by the original petition as long as the H-1B employee is able to maintain valid nonimmigrant status at the original worksite.
  • If your previously-filed amended H-1B petition is still pending, you may still file another amended petition to allow your H-1B employee to change worksite locations immediately upon your latest filing. However, every H-1B amended petition must separately meet the requirements for H-1B classification and any requests for extension of stay. In the event that the H-1B nonimmigrant beneficiary’s status has expired while successive amended petitions are pending, the denial of any petition or request to amend or extend status will result in the denial of all successive requests to amend or extend status. See Memorandum from Michael Aytes, Acting Director of Domestic Operations (Dec. 27, 2005) for similar instructions about portability petitions.

To the extent possible, you should submit receipt notices of prior petitions. USCIS will determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a petition was filed before the current I-94 expired.

This ruling affects a lot of employers in the consulting industry, where frequent employee relocations are necessary. Those employers must be especially careful in tracking their H-1B employees’ planned moves and make sure a new LCA and amended H-1B petition are filed before August 19, 2015 for pre-May 21 relocations and before they start work at a new location for post-May 21 relocations.

For More Information

If you have any questions about filing an amended H-1B petition, please visit our Customer Contact Center.

Our office is available to assist you with your H-1B filings.  Please contact us at info@immigratincompliancegroup.com or call 562 612.3996.

Avoiding the H-1B Cap

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

iStock_GlobeAirplanePP_000012052479XSmallIf you Previously had an H-1B for Less than 6 Years

Pursuant to § 212(g)7) of the The Act, if you had an H-1B in the past and were in the USA for less than 6 years, you may be eligible to recoup the time that is remaining on the 6-year maximum period of stay to accept employment with a new employer – without being counted against the cap.  An example of this would be someone who works for 3 years in H-1B classification and decides to go back to school on an F-1 student visa.  This individual would be eligible to apply for an H-1B for the remaining 3 years at any time of the year.

If you are abroad for at least one year, you have the choice to either apply for a “new” cap H-1B  for a full 6-year period, or take advantage of the remainder option if you previously had an H-1B.

H-1B 7th Year Extensions – How This Works

If you are the beneficiary of a labor certification or an I-140 petition that was filed 1 year prior to your 6th year in H-1B status, pursuant to §106 of AC21, you are permitted to file for a 7th year extension.  You are also permitted, according to §104(c) of AC21, to apply for a 3-year extension of your H-1B when you have an approved I-140 petition and are unable to move forward with filing your permanent residency case due to employment-based immigrant visa country limits (referred to as retrogression).

If you are in the US and out of status due to a layoff, or are abroad, you are entitled to a 7th year extension of your H-1B if your labor certification or I-140 petition was filed before your 6th year in H-1B status with either the sponsoring employer, or with a new employer.  You will more than likely be required to consular process your case in these scenarios.

It is recommended that you seek the advice of a skilled immigration professional with the above cases as they are complex in nature.

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Who are H-1B Exempt Employers?

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

News_bannerThere are certain classes of non-profit employers who are exempt from the H-1B cap. The exemption from the cap only applies to institutions of higher education, non-profit research institutions, government research institutions, and non-profits formally affiliated with an exempt educational institution.  Let’s discuss this.

 Institutions of higher education: Under the definition, an institution of higher education is one which:

  • admits students who have completed secondary education;
  • is licensed to provide education beyond secondary school;
  • provides educational programs for which the institutions award bachelors’ degrees or provide programs of not less than 2 years that are acceptable for full credit toward bachelors’ degrees;
  • is a public or nonprofit institution; and
  • is accredited or has been granted pre-accreditation status by a recognized accrediting agency.

What does it mean to be related or affiliated to a higher education institution nonprofit entity?

The USCIS states that it is sufficient that a nonprofit entity is related or affiliated to an institution of higher education through shared ownership, control or be somehow affiliated to the higher education institution as a member, branch or subsidiary.

This narrow definition makes the types of non-profits that qualify for this exemption few and far between.  For instance, non-profit service, community, policy and arts organizations would not qualify for the exemption from the H-1B cap. Unless the non-profit employer is primarily devoted to research, or is formally affiliated with a university, it will not qualify as a cap-exempt H1B petitioner. Public secondary schools do not qualify for H1B cap-exemption unless they have a formal affiliation agreement with a college or university. However, the exemption does cover certain professionals employed by a for-profit entity but but does when working at an exempt location, as long as the work continues to serve the core mission of the exempt institution, such as a physicians’ practice group affiliated with and located at a university teaching hospital.

Nonprofit Research Organizations | Government Research Organizations:  Nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations, are defined in 8 CFR 214.2(h)(19)(iii)(C), as follows:

  •   A nonprofit research organization is an organization that is primarily engaged in basic research and/or applied research.
  •   A governmental research organization is a United States Government entity whose primary mission is the performance or promotion of basic research and/or applied research.

Basic research is general research to gain more comprehensive knowledge or understanding of the subject under study, without specific applications in mind. Basic research is also research that advances scientific knowledge, but does not have specific immediate commercial objectives although it may be in fields of present or potential commercial interest. It may include research and investigation in the sciences, social sciences, or humanities.  

Applied research is research to gain knowledge or understanding to determine the means by which a specific, recognized need may be met. Applied research includes investigations oriented to discovering new scientific knowledge that has specific commercial objectives with respect to products, processes, or services. It may include research and investigation in the sciences, social sciences, or humanities.

Conclusion

It should be noted that all of the criteria above must be met in order for an institution or an organization to qualify for a cap-exempt status for H-1B purposes. Such institutions and organizations can indicate that their H1B filing is cap exempt by marking Form I-129 (Petition of Non-Immigrant Worker) with a “yes” answer to questions 1, 2, or 3 in Part C of the H1B Data Collection and Filing Fee Exemption Supplement. Bear in mind that an employer or a foreign national who wishes to seek H-1B status under a cap-exempt petition must verify that they qualify for the cap exemption under one of the three categories above. It is recommended that you work with an immigration practitioner that understands this casework as the analysis is often complex.  If you’d like to become a client of our office, please contact us at info@immigrationcompliancegroup.com or call 562 612-3996.

 

H-1B Visa: California Service Center Enforces Radical Interpretation of H-1B Requirements for Job Location Changes

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

There have been reports for some months now that the USCIS California Service Center has enforced new interpretation concerning the way it views H-1B requirements for job location changes, when duties and all other employment terms remain the same.

Previously, according to a 2003 legacy INS memo, a simple change in job location did not require that a new petition be filed with USCIS.  The employer was required to analyze prevailing wage for the new location, file and obtain a new certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor prior to the employee moving to the new location, post the LCA at the new work site according to DOL regulations, make sure wage and hour obligations were met, but did not have to file an amended petition with USCIS.

Under the CSC’s new and controversial interpretation, changes in job location alone do require amended petitions. In fact, employers are reporting site audits and revocation of H-1B petitions when USCIS inspectors could not find the H-1B worker at the work site listed in the petition. At this point, no other USCIS service center has followed this radical reinterpretation of the law – just the CSC.

Long-standing guidance still indicates that no amended petition should be required when only job location changes. However, to avoid adverse consequences – at least, until the CSC revisits its controversial new interpretation – employers should proceed with caution and work with a competent immigration professional whenever an H-1B worker’s job location changes, in order to determine whether any amended filings are required. Employers need to be careful to reveal all possible jobsite locations for each H-1B worker at the front end of case processing.

USCIS headquarters has the H-1B amendment issue under consideration and has indicated that they may issue additional guidance regarding this matter. In the meantime, please be advised that for cases under the jurisdiction of the CA Service Center for H-1B workers whose jobsite locations have changed, an amended petition prior to any geographic relocation is now required.

Should you wish to become a client of our office, please contact one of our immigration professionals at info@immigrationcompliancegroup.com, or call 562 612.3996.

H-1B’s and Third-Party Jobsite Locations Update

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

At the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) 09/2010 Stakeholder Conference, the Vermont Service Center (VSC) advised that if compliance issues arose during the previous H-1B approval period, VSC could request evidence of all work performed during the previous H-1B approval period on requests for extension cases. VSC also confirmed that they are issuing one-year approvals where third-party work assignment is documented for less than one-year.

In light of the increase in RFEs focused on the employer-employee relationship, right to control, and availability of “qualifying employment” at third-party worksites, it is suggested that the following practice pointers be utilized in order to maximize the likelihood of securing a three-year H-1B extension for petitions involving placement at third-party worksites:

  1. Submit a certified labor condition application (LCA) that lists multiple work locations, including the Petitioner’s home office address, as well as the third-party worksite location(s);
  2. Document “qualifying employment” for the Beneficiary at the third-party worksite through End-Client letters confirming a project duration of longer than a year, preferably for the entire three years if the requested validity is three years;
  3. End-Client letters should specify the job duties for the Beneficiary at the worksite, duration of the project, supervisor’s name, and supervisor’s telephone number. It is critical to establish that the Beneficiary is an employee of the Petitioner and that the Petitioner retains the ultimate “right to control” the Beneficiary;
  4. Provide evidence of “qualifying employment,” such as: contracts, statement of work, work order between Petitioner and End-Client (if there are intermediate vendors involved, offer the entire chain of contracts between the Petitioner and End-Client); and
  5. Submit Employee Handbooks as evidence of “Employer-Employee relationship” and “right to control.” Petitioner’s Employee Handbook should include issues such as salary, benefits, payroll procedures, performance evaluations, project progress review procedures, supervision of beneficiary’s work, right to hire/fire, etc. All of the previous stated items for the Petitioner’s Employee Handbook are requirements identified in the January 8, 2010, Neufeld Memo (AILA Doc. No. 10011363).

Immigration Solutions is available to assist you with with your H-1B case filings. Please contact us here

Immigration Solutions | DOL Update on PERM Labor Certification

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Department of Labor (DOL) announced in an October 28th meeting with representatives from the American Council on International Personnel (ACIP), the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and other groups that it has been transitioning to a new contractor, and expects the change to result in both better PERM case processing and increased efforts to ensure program compliance. Employers should be aware that there could be some temporary processing slowdowns during the transition.

DOL further stated that PERM program users could soon see improvements in customer service, but should also expect more frequent audits and increased use of supervised recruitment.

DOL additionally disclosed that a new version of the PERM application, Form ETA 9089, is expected to go live in the near future and that the revised form will be fully integrated into DOL’s online iCERT portal.  In other PERM news, agency officials noted that the labor certification backlog was cut in half in Fiscal Year 2010, and there were general improvements in processing times overall. Enhancements are expected to the iCERT portal and in labor condition application (LCA) processing.  As of September 30th, the agency was working on non-audited cases that were filed in July 2010 and audited cases filed in August 2008.

Immigration Solutions will continue to report on  developments from the Department of Labor as they are released.

Immigration & The Economy

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

By Brandon Meyer
Immigration Associate

Bad economic news seems to be everywhere. Stories of banking crises, bailouts, rising unemployment, plummeting securities and housing prices, rising inflation, rising gas and food prices, recession, depression, and the end of prosperity have all become ubiquitous over the past couple of months. The bottom and the subsequent rebound are nowhere to be seen. Now take a deep breath, exhale, and relax. At the time this column was written, I was on a flight from San Diego to Austin packed with business travelers. Oil and other commodity prices have fallen back in recent months after reaching record highs. There are signs that credit markets are beginning to function again. Insofar as pundits cannot oversell the good times (remember Dow 36,000?), pundits cannot resist the temptation to oversell doom and gloom (remember predictions last summer that oil would reach $500 a barrel?). An October 26, 2008 article in the New York Times entitled “Forecasters Race to Call the Bottom to the Market”, explains this phenomenon in greater detail.

The outcome to recent manifestations of economic instability will hopefully be much more mundane. We will all muddle through somehow, although this may seem hard to reconcile for people under the age of 30 who have never really lived through a period of economic instability. Economic growth may be slow to non-existent for the foreseeable future, but full-scale economic collapse is unlikely.

What impact does this economic uncertainty have on immigration for employers and employees alike? Many employers may contemplate downsizing in order to cut costs or reduce employee work hours (“benching”) or pay. While these strategies may be necessary from a business perspective, employers need to keep in mind the potential impact on their foreign national employees. Employers with E-3 Australian and H-1B employees must ensure that any downward revision of wages received by these employees do not fall below the figure listed on the Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) that was obtained on their behalf. Failure to comply with wage obligations of an LCA could be considered noncompliance by the U.S. Department of Labor and could lead to negative consequences for the company. Employers are also required to offer H-1B employees who have been involuntarily terminated the cost of return transportation to their last place of foreign residence. This requirement does not extend to E-3 or TN workers or to dependents of H-1B employees. It is important to consult your labor or immigration attorney prior to terminating, benching, reducing working hours, or reducing wages for foreign national employees.

Furthermore, health care providers must ensure that offers of permanent employment to immigrant nurses also remain at a level equal to the prevailing wage of the Immigrant Visa petition (“IV”) that was filed on their behalf.

The upside for employers is that if unemployment continues to rise, the opportunities for recruiting highly skilled, highly qualified workers increases. Recruiting top-notch workers now places employers in a good position to capitalize on better times in the future.

Some industries, such as banking and finance, will face tough times for the foreseeable future. Some companies, such as Lehman Brothers, have already, or will disappear in the future. Others, such as Wachovia, will be purchased and subsumed into their new owner’s business. Other industries, such as health care, are more insulated from economic slowdowns, and in fact may be poised for greater growth as Baby Boomers enter their golden years.

Foreign national employees generally feel a greater sense of insecurity during periods of economic uncertainty, as they may believe that their immigrant status makes them more vulnerable to selection for any company downsizing. How companies manage this (mis)perception is critical for maintaining employee morale and retention.

In addition to the LCA and return transportation protections for H-1B employees, there are a number of other protections for foreign national employees. Chief among them are provisions allowing H-1B employees to change employers upon the filing of a new H-1B petition, provided the employee is maintaining H-1B status. Upon termination, H-1B employees generally have ten days to depart the United States. H-1B change of employers provisions are helpful in allowing an H-1B employee to change employers in the wake of corporate downsizing, provided that the H-1B employee is still on the books of the initial company at the time of filing of the H-1B petition by the new employer. The H-1B employee can commence employment with the new company upon proper filing of the new H-1B petition. Please consult your immigration attorney prior to terminating an H-1B employee or hiring a new H-1B employee pursuant to the H-1B change of employer provisions.

An even more important protection for foreign national employees rests in the Adjustment of Status (“AOS”) portability provisions of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (“AC-21”). A foreign national with an AOS application pending for 180 days or more based on an approved or pending (with the proviso that the petition was ‘approvable when filed’) IV petition on Form I-140, that has not been withdrawn by the petitioning company or otherwise revoked by USCIS, may seek employment with a different employer in a ‘same or similar’ occupation that the I-140 petition was filed. The foreign national should notify USCIS of the change of employer, along with a description of how the new job opportunity is the ‘same or similar’ to the job opportunity described in the I-140 petition. In the absence of governing regulations, there is a lot of grey area and wide divergence of practice for how employers and employees handle AOS portability situations. However, USCIS expects to publish regulations governing AC-21 that purport to address these issues in the near future. Please consult your immigration attorney when encountering employees with possible AC-21 issues.

The next economic boom is always just around the corner. Strong companies will emerge from this period of economic uncertainty stronger and ready to seize upon new opportunities. Employees can also emerge stronger and wiser from the experience.

I will be attending the 21st Annual AILA California Chapters Conference from November 13th through 15th in San Francisco, California. I will report on any developments and other pertinent information that may emerge from this Conference in the December 2008 Immigration Solutions newsletter.

Stay tuned!