The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that it has proposed two new rules as part of its “continuing commitment to attract and retain highly skilled immigrants.” The two proposed rules include:
1. Employment authorization for spouses of certain H-1B workers. U.S. businesses often use the H-1B program to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations that require technical expertise in fields such as science, engineering, computer programming, or marketing. Often times, employers will seek permanent residency status on behalf of H-1B workers. Under existing immigration regulations, however, employment authorization is not extended to the dependents of H-1B workers. The new proposed rule would allow H-4 dependent spouses of certain H-1B immigrants to request employment authorization, provided that the H-1B worker has already started the process of seeking lawful permanent residency.
2. Enhancement of opportunities for certain groups of highly-skilled workers by removing obstacles to their remaining in the U.S. Under current regulations, employers of workers in E-3, H-1B1, or CW-1 status generally need to file a petition requesting the extension of the employee’s status well in advance of the initial authorized duration of status expires. The proposed rule would make the following changes: (1) update regulations to include nonimmigrant highly-skilled specialty professionals from Chile and Singapore (H-1B1), and Australia (E-3) in the list of classes of aliens authorized for employment incident to status with a specific employer; (2) clarify that H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants are allowed to work without submitting a separate application to DHS for employment authorization; and (3) allow E-3, H-1B1, and CW-1 nonimmigrant workers up to 240 days of continued work authorization after the expiration date noted on their Form I-94, while the extension request is pending.
“The proposed rules… provide important support to U.S. businesses while also supporting economic growth here in the U.S.,” Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a press release. “These steps will help the U.S. maintain competitiveness with other countries in our efforts to attract the best and the brightest high-skilled workers from around the world to support companies here at home. Businesses continue to need these high-skilled workers, and these rules ensure we do not cede the upper hand to other countries competing for the same talent.”
As we move toward a more global economy, many employers are choosing to hire highly-skilled foreign nationals to meet their employment needs.