It has been two weeks since a bipartisan Senate Committee of eight senators released their statement of principles for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, followed two days later by President Obama during a speech in Las Vegas. The President told the nation that the political stars have aligned and "now is the time" for serious consideration of immigration reform. Together, these statements set the stage for the debate to come.

These two statements provide a hopeful sign that the intractable problems have been reconsidered in light of the new political reality and good old-fashioned compromises have been defined. There are still many difficult decisions ahead. The devil, as they say, is in the details, and it is those details beyond the basic positional statements that will be necessary to define.

When it comes to immigration reform, the critical decisions boil down to numbers. The problem with the last comprehensive reform legislation in 1986 was that the law made no attempt to adjust the limits to changing economic conditions – immigration limits haven’t changed since they were arbitrarily set in 1990.

Immigration policy must be based upon both family reunification and the labor demands and employment opportunities, both core national values. But the law was not built to index or adjust to changing economic conditions. In fact, the Immigration Act of 1990, still in place today, permits the annual admission of 226,000 family-based immigrants, based on various family relationships; and 140,000 immigrants conditioned on the needs of U.S. employers, based on different skill sets.

Continue Reading “Now is the Time” to Move on Immigration, But the Devil is in the Details

A new year brings new opportunities and challenges, and it’s time for American employers to begin considering filing H-1B petitions for prospective new foreign national employees. The H-1B visa category provides for the temporary employment of foreign nationals who will work in “specialty occupations,” or those jobs for which at least a bachelor’s degree in

The State Department released the January 2013 Visa Bulletin last week. Among the items of interest was the disappointing news that the visa cut-off date for the EB-2 category for India remains September 1, 2004, for the fourth straight month since the new fiscal year began in October. This means that cases with a priority date on or before the cut-off date can be processed, all other applications must wait for an available visa. The visa cut-off date for the EB-3 category for India again showed a slight movement of one week to November 8, 2002, from the previous month’s cut-off date of November 1, 2002. Since the beginning of the fiscal year, that’s a movement of a whole month for Indian born applicants in the EB-3 category.

(For those still confused about the visa cut-off dates: the foreign employee’s priority date must be prior to the visa cut-off date published in the monthly Visa Bulletin for the employee to be able to file an application to adjust status, the final step in the process for permanent residence. If the application to adjust status has already been filed, it cannot be approved until the posted cut-off date reaches the individual’s priority date. The priority date is set by the filing date of the PERM application or the immigrant visa petition, whichever comes first.)

The problem for Indian born applicants is the per country limitation. The law limits each country to 7% of the total applicants if a classification is oversubscribed, meaning that there are more applicants in line than the law allows in any one year. Congress set the limit for employment-based visas at 140,000 in 1990, and has not updated the law since then. Because this limit includes not only the employees being sponsored, but each of their family members, the sponsored immigrant requires an average of 2.3 visas, further reducing the availability of visas. The allocation for the EB-2 and EB-3 categories are 40,040 each, and because both have been oversubscribed, the per country limitation has been effective since April 2000. This means that there are 2,803 (7% of 40,040) visas available for Indian born applicants in each of the two employment categories.

Continue Reading Will EB-3 Catch Up to EB-2 for India?

In its latest decision, Matter of Select National Inc. (Sept. 19, 2012), the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) affirmed the denial of a labor certification by holding that even if a potential U.S. worker applicant did not appear to meet the required amount of experience, the employer had a duty to investigate further where the resume demonstrated a "broad range of experience, education and training." (For a general description of the PERM process, please see our recent post).

Select National Inc., follows two decisions issued earlier in the year, Matter of Goldman Sachs & Co. (June 8, 2012), and Matter of Kennametal, Inc. (March 27, 2012), both affirming denials based on employer’s duty to investigate further.

In Select National Inc., BALCA stated as follows: "We agree with the Employer that (the U.S. applicant) does not appear to meet the minimum requirement of three years’ experience in the job offered. However, even if the applicant did not have the exact experience required, the Employer was under a duty to investigate the applicant further."

In all three cases, BALCA acknowledged that the U.S. applicants did not meet the requirements as specified in the recruitment ads and the PERM application, whether it was the required degree or the specific skill set. However, BALCA reasoned that because all three employers had included a variation of the "magic" Kellogg language ("any suitable combination of education, training or experience is acceptable") in the PERM applications and/or the recruitment ads, the employer had the duty to further investigate the credentials of the U.S. applicants. Furthermore in Kennametal, BALCA reasoned that the employer failed to consider whether some of the applicants could be qualified "after a reasonable period of on-the-job training."

These BALCA cases emphasize both the importance of appropriately drafting the recruitment ads and the PERM application while considering any business necessity for the specified education and experience being sought and the importance of properly conducting and documenting the recruitment process in accordance with the regulations.

Continue Reading BALCA Finds Employer’s Duty to Investigate Further The U.S. Applicants’ Qualifications

An application for Labor Certification, known by the acronym PERM (Program Electronic Review Management) is often the first of three steps required by an employer who wishes to sponsor a foreign national employee for permanent resident status. This post will provide some background and general explanation for the PERM process.
Continue Reading What is PERM?

On Aug. 13, 2012, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the most recent version of Form I-9 remains valid notwithstanding the OMB expiration date of Aug. 31, 2012 (located in the upper right hand corner on the form). Until further notice, the current form, which was last revised on Aug. 7, 2009 (located

The Supreme Court has issued its long awaited decision on the constitutionality of the Arizona Immigration law known as SB 1070. The case came before the Court following a decision by the lower courts to grant a preliminary injunction enjoining the application of four provisions of the Arizona law.
Continue Reading The Supreme Court Provides a Mixed Review of the Arizona Immigration Laws