How will President’s Executive Action benefit U.S. Businesses and Highly Skilled Workers?

On November 20, 2014, President Barack Obama announced his plan to change immigration policies through executive action.  Here is a summary of the memorandum issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

1. Modernizing the Employment –Based Immigrant Visa Systems:

The Executive Action directs USCIS to carefully consider other regulatory or policy changes to better assist and provide stability to the beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions. Specifically USCIS is instructed to amend regulations to ensure that long-standing visa petitions remain valid in certain cases where they seek to change jobs employer. In that regard, terms “same or similar” job will be clarified and enhanced to include a promotion to a supervisory position or otherwise transition to related jobs within the field of endeavor.

2. Promoting Research and Development in the United States:

The executive action will seek to modernize, improve, and clarify immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to create jobs and improve the economy. These executive orders will affect mainly U.S businesses, foreign investors, researchers, inventors, and skilled foreign workers. Specifically, USCIS will develop a method to ensure all immigrant visas are issued to eligible individuals when there is sufficient demand for such visas. USCIS will also work with the Department of State to improve the Visa Bulletin system to create a simpler, more reliable way of determining visa availability. USCIS will clarify the standards by which a national interest waiver may be granted to benefit the U.S economy. USCIS will authorize parole, on a case by case basis, to inventors, researchers and founders of startup companies who do not qualify for the national interest wavier but have substantial U.S investor financing or hold promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technology. USCIS will offer work authorization to spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are in the process of obtaining lawful permanent resident status.

3. Reforming “OPT” for foreign students and graduates from U.S. Universities:

The OPT program will be evaluated, strengthened, and improved to further enhance American innovation and competitiveness. Specifically, ICE and USCIS will develop regulations to expand the degree programs eligible for OPT and extend the time period and use of OPT for foreign STEM students and graduates, consistent with the law. ICE and USCIS will also improve the OPT program by requiring stronger ties to degree-granting institutions, which would better ensure that a student’s practical training furthers the student’s full course of study in the U.S

4. Bringing Greater Consistency to the L-1B Visa Program:

USCIS will provide clear guidance on the definition of “specialized knowledge” to clarify the L-1B program, improve consistency in rulings, and increase companies’ confidence in the program.

5. What you need to know:

These changes will improve the immigration procedures and processes. They will provide more opportunities for skilled workers and entrepreneurs. However, deadlines have yet to be set as to when these regulations will be put in place and implemented. We encourage beneficiaries to gather all documents so that when the implementation of these policies begins, they are able to proceed without delay.

The contents of this article are neither intended for legal advice nor are they intended to be taken as a thorough analysis of a specific case. Should you have a specific question for your case, please contact an immigration attorney for appropriate assistance.