Applying for an employment-based immigration visa is one of the most popular ways for non-native workers to stay in the United States legally, especially those who have come to this country to build new careers and better lives.
Because there are so many ways a person can qualify for an employment-based immigration visa and so many different requirements that must be met for qualification, the laws regarding these visas and applications can be extremely confusing and often require the help of an immigration attorney to work through.
Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security issued a notice of proposed rulemaking which outlines the intended plans to clarify the employment-based visa system. Currently, Homeland Security oversees immigrant and non-immigrant petitions for employment-based visas through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The agency accepted public comments on the subject through the end of February 2016.
What Does Homeland Security Want to Change?
Homeland Security’s proposed rule changes include a new rule that would impact the first three preference categories for employment-based immigrant visas (EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3), along with the specialty worker non-immigrant visa program (H-1B). The new rule plans to make amendments to the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21).
Congress enacted AC21 in an effort to provide immigrant and non-immigrant employment visas to highly skilled workers. According to the proposed rules notice, the changes would better facilitate these workers and provide more opportunities for employees to use AC21 for their benefit.
Currently, the annual number of employment-based visas that can be issued to nationals of one particular country has a limit — only seven percent of the total number of visas issued can be designated for a specific country. Because of this, certain countries have a backlog of employment-based visa petitions and workers who want to come to America have to wait for many years.
In January 2016, the Visa Bulletin issued by the State Department found that priority dates for EB-2 beneficiaries from mainland China are from January 2013, and India from July of 2009. The longest wait for an EB-3 visa petition is in India, with a priority date of July 2005.
Another area that Homeland Security plans to update is job flexibility. AC21 allows for workers with EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 visas to change jobs even if their applications for adjustment of status are still pending, as long as the new position is “in the same or a similar occupational classification.” The notice of proposed rulemaking will clarify how to determine whether one job is “the same or…similar” as defined by this rule.
If you are filing a petition for an employment-based visa, it’s important to understand your options and the requirements you must follow in order to successfully obtain your visa.
For more information on the existing rules for employment-based visas and the proposed changes by Homeland Security, contact one of the New Jersey immigration attorneys at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA today. We represent anyone who needs help navigating the immigration requirements in the U.S.