On April 18, 2017, the President issued an Executive Order to “Buy American and Hire American,” which is intended in part to reform the employment-based immigration system in the U.S. The Executive Order targets abuse and fraud in the immigration system, including the H-1B visa program. While the Executive Order will not have an immediate direct impact on the H-1B program, it does initiate administrative review of the program that could lead to new regulations and policies. The Executive Order directs the Departments of Labor, Homeland Security, Justice and State to propose new rules and guidance to protect the interests of U.S. workers in the administration of the immigration system. While the order does not provide specific details, it indicates that executive agencies should suggest reforms to “help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”
What the Executive Order Means for Employers
Although a complete overhaul of the H-1B program and other employment-based visas would require legislation from Congress, the Administration could implement agency guidance impacting these programs. This could result in a higher level of scrutiny and an increase in Requests for Evidence (RFEs) issued by the Immigration Service on H-1B petitions and other visa categories, including L-1A and L-1B petitions. In addition, the Administration has indicated that it will impose stricter enforcement of companies using the H-1B visa program, which will likely result in an increase in H-1B site visits, audits and raids of employer worksites where H-1B workers are employed.
H-1B Cap Reached
In further news, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it received 199,000 H-1B petitions to meet both the Master’s and Regular H-1B quotas (or “caps”) for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins on October 1, 2017. This means that USCIS received more than double the number of available H-1B petitions in the first week of filing. However, the number of petitions decreased this year, down from more than 236,000 petitions filed for Fiscal Year 2017. USCIS has started issuing receipt notices for H-1B petitions filed under this year’s cap, despite imposing a temporary suspension of premium processing on all H-1B petitions, including cap-subject and cap-exempt petitions.
The immigration attorneys at Ryan Swanson are closely following legislative, regulatory and policy developments impacting the H-1B program and other employment-based visa programs, and will provide updates on any changes impacting employers and their foreign national workforce.
If you have questions about the Executive Order or any immigration-related issues, please contact any member of our team for assistance.
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This message has been released by the Immigration Group at Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC to advise of recent developments in the law. Because each situation is different, this information is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any specific facts and circumstances. Ryan, Swanson & Cleveland, PLLC is a full-service law firm located in Seattle, Washington.