Washington, DC – February 22, 2016—The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Department is set to close discussion on rules changes to employment visas for immigrants and non-immigrants. The changes would streamline the application process for employers, enabling them to seek highly qualified candidates from foreign countries.
USCIS is currently examining the original H-1 and H-1B visa programs in an effort to implement provisions in the American Competitiveness is the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21). This act provides highly qualified workers with flexibility in their employment status while they hold an H-1B visa.
Current business visas expire after six years, and employees who wished to remain in the United States had to secure a green card before the expiration of their visa. Immigrants on a business visa found changing jobs extremely difficult. Without a green card, job loss or change of employment could violate the immigrant’s H-1B status, putting them at risk for deportation.
AC21 opened the door for visa portability through the creation of the “same or similar” job classification. Under AC21, employees who apply for a position in a “same or similar” job can maintain their visa status, as long as they have a current I-485 application on file.
Ronald Shapiro, an experienced Illinois business visa attorney, sees the proposed changes to AC21 and the H-1 visa program as a boost for business. Shapiro argued, “Employers don’t want to have to worry about immigration status when making decisions about promotions or hiring exceptionally qualified candidates for a skilled labor position. By altering the guidelines in AC21, and creating a grace period for visa holders to sort out their visa situation, the government removes much of the burden employers faced with attracting foreign talent”.
Loosening the restrictions surrounding H-1 employment visas is an important step for the United States. It will enable the United States to attract more highly skilled workers and build a workforce for the 21st century.
Debate over proposed changes to USCIS policies and amendments to AC21 closes on February 29th. Public comments will be accepted through the Federal Rules Portal or via email to USCISFRCComment@dhs.gov.