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4 Important Things You Need to Know About the USCIS Final Rule for High-Skilled Worker Immigrants

welding-1209208_640-300x200Last month, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revealed a final rule that significantly helps employers hire and retain high-skilled immigrant workers in the United States. The Final Rule essentially approves a number of common practices in nonimmigrant and immigrant (green card) visa programs, while also introducing new provisions for both.

In this brief guide, we go over some of the USCIS Final Rule’s most important provisions.

1. Some AC21 Provisions Now Official

The Final Rule takes a number of mechanisms created by the  American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2001 (AC21), officially making them part of USCIS regulations. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • H-1B extensions of 1 or 3 years for foreign workers in the middle of their green card applications
  • Immigrant portability for foreign workers that offers adjustment of status to a number of applicants looking to shift between jobs or employers without compromising their green card application
  • H-1B portability allowing H-1B applicants to start working before approval of their H1-B petition
  • Whistleblower protections for H1-B visa holders

2. Extended Validity for Certain Employment-Base Immigration Petitions

The Final Rule assists backlogged green card petitioners and improves job portability by extending the validity of immigrant petitions that have been approved for 180 days or more, even if the employer withdraws the petition or if the employer’s place of business closes down.

These petitions will still be valid for immigrant petition portability and extensions of H-1B applications. However, petitioners must first secure new job offers and immigrant petition approvals before acquiring legal permanent resident status.

3. Retaining of Priority Dates

The Final Rule enhances job portability for immigrant workers by clarifying when applicants can keep the priority dates from earlier visa applications. The rule states that approved immigrant petitions can still be used for retention of priority dates, even after being withdrawn by the previous petitioners.

This provision, however, does not apply to petitions revoked because of material misrepresentation or fraud, as well petitions contingent on labor certifications that have been revoked or rendered invalid.

4. Grace Periods for H-1B Workers Now Offered to Other Nonimmigrants

The Final Rule expands the provision offering grace periods to beneficiaries of H-1B visas, and now includes nonimmigrants of E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1 and TN status. The provision offers a 10-day grace period for H-1B workers to enter the U.S. before the start of the validity of their H-1B petitions, and another 10-day grace period by which they can defer their departure from the U.S. after the end of their visa validity.

The Final Rule officially takes effect on January 17, 2017, right before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The USCIS Final Rule comes with several more provisions for employment-based working visa holders and petitioners. To get the full list and breakdown of these regulations, talk to the legal team of Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215.5225 to learn how our services can help you.