DHS Looking to Modernize Employment-Based Visa Program

Proposed rules would grant immigrant and temporary employees greater mobility and flexibility

By Doug Chartier

LAW WEEK COLORADO

Employers looking to bring aboard workers from other countries must first leap an assortment of bureaucratic hurdles, with months and even years between each. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, however, has revealed new rules that aim to streamline aspects of the employment-based visa program for prospective employees and employers alike.

“Retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers,” which hit the Federal Register Dec. 31, would mostly serve to compile an assortment of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ policy memoranda over the past several years on employment-based visa requirements and deadlines. But it would also introduce a few new policies that would relax the employment visa process for employers and the foreign workers they seek to sponsor and retain. The DHS is currently seeking public comment on the rule until Feb. 29.

Employment-based visas are divided into immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, with a variety of categories between them based on the applicant’s professional expertise and circumstances. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs estimates 140,000 employment-based immigrant visas are made available to applicants each fiscal year.

When an employer wishes to hire a foreign national as either a permanent or temporary worker in the U.S., the first step is often to get a labor certification approval from the U.S. Department of Labor. When filing a Project Electronic Review Management, or PERM application, the employer has to show that the position it wants to fill with a foreign worker cannot be filled by a U.S. citizen — essentially to show it is not taking jobs away from qualified and interested American workers.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the January 18, 2016 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.