U.S. DHS Releases Final Rule Affecting High-Skilled Immigrant Workers

shutterstock_93413002On November 18, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security issued new regulations related to certain employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs.  The final rule purports to improve processes and increase certainty for U.S. employers seeking to sponsor and retain immigrant and nonimmigrant workers as well as to provide for greater job stability for such workers.  The rules are aimed at improving the ability of US employers to hire and retain certainly highly skilled immigrant workers while increasing the ability of such workers to seek promotions, change jobs within their current employer and to pursue other employment options.

Areas that are covered by the new rule include the following:

  • – Increased eligibility for employment authorization for individuals with approved Immigrant Petitions (I-140s) in certain compelling circumstances
  • – Expansion of grace periods for nonimmigrant workers seeking an extension or change of status
  • – H-1B extensions beyond six years for certain workers going through the permanent residence process
  • – Guidance regarding when an H-1B may be awarded to an individual working in professions requiring state licensure
  • – Clarifications in the ability of workers with pending applications for permanent residence (I-485) to change employers
  • – Clarifications in the rules allowing H-1B workers to begin working with a new employer upon the filing of a new H-1B petition
  • – Continued validity of Immigrant Petitions for some individuals who have changed employers while going through the permanent residence process
  • – Clarifications in H-1B cap exemptions for certain employers
  • – Protections for H-1B whistleblowers

The new rule is scheduled to go into effect on January 17, 2017.  Our Immigration Group has performed an in-depth analysis of the entire 366-page rule and we are ready to advise you and your company on the impact of this new regulation.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our Immigration Group.

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