DHS Proposes Merit-Based Rule for More Effective and Efficient H-1B Visa Program

WASHINGTON—The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions to first electronically register with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period. Under the proposed rule, USCIS would also reverse the order by which USCIS selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption, likely increasing the number of beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to be selected for an H-1B cap number, and introducing a more meritorious selection of beneficiaries.

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelors or higher degree in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. When USCIS receives more than enough petitions to reach the congressionally mandated H-1B cap, a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, is used to select the petitions that are counted towards the number of petitions projected as needed to reach the cap.

The proposed rule includes a provision that would enable USCIS to temporarily suspend the registration process during any fiscal year in which USCIS may experience technical challenges with the H-1B registration process and/or the new electronic system. The proposed temporary suspension provision would also allow USCIS to up-front delay the implementation of the H-1B registration process past the fiscal year (FY) 2020 cap season, if necessary to complete all requisite user testing and vetting of the new H-1B registration system and process. While USCIS has been actively working to develop and test the electronic registration system, if the rule is finalized as proposed, but there is insufficient time to implement the registration system for the FY 2020 cap selection process, USCIS would likely suspend the registration requirement for the FY 2020 cap season.

Currently, in years when the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption are both reached within the first five days that H-1B cap petitions may be filed, the advanced degree exemption is selected prior to the H-1B cap. The proposed rule would reverse the selection order and count all registrations or petitions towards the number projected as needed to reach the H-1B cap first. Once a sufficient number of registrations or petitions have been selected for the H-1B cap, USCIS would then select registrations or petitions towards the advanced degree exemption. This proposed change would increase the chances that beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education would be selected under the H-1B cap and that H-1B visas would be awarded to the most-skilled and highest-paid beneficiaries. Importantly, the proposed process would result in an estimated increase of up to 16 percent (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education.

USCIS expects that shifting to electronic registration would reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for USCIS. The proposed rule would help alleviate massive administrative burdens on USCIS since the agency would no longer need to physically receive and handle hundreds of thousands of H-1B petitions and supporting documentation before conducting the cap selection process. This would help reduce wait times for cap selection notifications. The proposed rule also limits the filing of H-1B cap-subject petitions to the beneficiary named on the original selected registration, which would protect the integrity of this registration system.

On April 18, 2017, President Trump issued the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order, instructing DHS to “propose new rules and issue new guidance, to supersede or revise previous rules and guidance if appropriate, to protect the interests of U.S. workers in the administration of our immigration system.” The EO specifically mentioned the H-1B program and directed DHS and other agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

Additional information on the proposed rule is available in the Federal Register. Public comments may be submitted starting Monday, December 3, when the proposed rule publishes in the Federal Register, and must be received on or before January 2, 2019.

313,000 New Jobs in February, Job Growth Strongest Since President Trump’s Election

The U.S. economy added 313,000 new jobs in the month of February, according to the February 2018 Employment Situation report published today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More from the Department of Labor:

“Job growth was the strongest since President Trump’s election, with 313,000 jobs created in the month of February. The non-stop job creation since the election has yielded 2.9 million jobs. For the fifth month in a row, the unemployment rate remained at 4.1%, a 17-year low. Goods-producing industries such as manufacturing, mining and logging, and construction collectively had the highest month-to-month growth since 1998. These were among many sectors experiencing significant growth.

“President Trump’s tax reform continues to boost economic confidence with more than 400 companies handing out bonuses, raises, or other benefits to more than 4 million Americans. Today’s report shows that average hourly earnings significantly increased in February and have increased by 2.6% over the last year. We saw positive movement in the labor force participation rate, and we would like to see that continue over the coming months.”

In total, 2.92 million jobs have been added to the U.S. economy since President Trump was elected – including 263,000 manufacturing jobs since President Trump took office. In addition, the number of long-term unemployed Americans is the lowest since 2008.

U.S. Department of Labor graphic: 1.7 Million jobs added to the American economy since January 2017

Dec 8th, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced that 228,000 jobs were added to the American economy in November, and 1.7 million jobs have been added since January of this year. This marks a 17-year low for unemployment at 4.1%. In addition, the unemployment rate in manufacturing dropped to 2.6% – the lowest rate recorded since BLS began measuring it in 2000.

Last week, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced in their latest estimate that the U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 3.3 percent pace in their third quarter of 2017 – faster than their initial estimate of 3.0 percent – and personal income increased by 0.4 percent in October 2017, marking the second month in a row that personal income increased by 0.4 percent.

Foreign Direct Investment: Driving Global Competitiveness and Innovation

Graphic on Direct Employment by Majority Foreign-Owned Firms in the United States.

The following is a cross-post from the U.S. Economic and Development Administration

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) plays an important role in the U.S. economy. It leads to the creation of jobs, an increase in wealth and living standards, and overall growth and innovation that drive the U.S. economic competitiveness. Later this month, the Commerce Department will host the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit providing a platform to communicate economic priorities and affirm the United States as the number one destination in the world for foreign direct investment.

The United States remains an attractive destination for FDI for a variety of reasons, including a large consumer base, a productive workforce, a highly innovative environment, and legal protections. As a result, foreign firms make investments in the United States on a regular basis by establishing new operations, purchasing existing operations of another company, or providing additional capital to their existing U.S. operations.

The U.S. welcomes foreign investment, and the numbers show that investors have confidence in the opportunities here. With a population of 320 million and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that’s over $18 trillion, our nation is home to more FDI stock than any other country.

The numbers paint the big picture:

  • 12.1 million jobs are attributable to FDI.
  • 6.4 million reflects the number of U.S. workers who are directly employed by majority foreign-owned firms.
  • 2.4 million includes jobs attributable to the economic activity of majority foreign-owned firms, including jobs in those firms’ supply chains, jobs attributable to higher incomes, and other economic effects.
  • In the manufacturing sector alone, productivity growth from technology spillovers associated with FDI contributed 3.5 million jobs.

At the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administratoin (EDA), FDI is one of our investment priorities. These priorities are designed to provide an overarching framework to guide the agency’s investment portfolio and ensure its investments contribute the strongest positive impact on sustainable regional economic growth and diversification.

Since FY2011, EDA invested more than $109 million in 91 projects to help advance local strategies to attract FDI. Of the total, 61 projects totaling close to $98 million are expected to create and/or retain 30,073 jobs and attract over $8 billion in private investment. The other 30 projects totaling close to $12 million support FDI-related planning, research, technical assistance, access to capital, and/or other activities that are essential for successful economic development and job creation in the future.
Examples that show how EDA is investing to support FDI include:

  • Mississippi: Mississippi State University’s Canton-based office received the Mississippi Economic Development Council’s Community Economic Development Award for its work to bring advanced manufacturing jobs back to America. The program acquired its initial funding through EDA. According to the University, the initiative resulted in a nearly $11 million economic impact, with more than 33 direct investment opportunities identified and 333 jobs created or saved. Additionally, the program saw 262 industry certifications and 221 paid internships in high-demand advanced manufacturing skills.
  • Georgia: Over the last three decades, the global automotive sector has established a noticeable presence in the Southeast United States. From Mercedes in Alabama, to BMW in South Carolina, many automotive manufacturers are seeking to take advantage of the Southeast’s comparatively inexpensive cost of doing business, warm climate, and excellent transportation networks. In 2015, EDA invested $700,000 in Public Works Program funds in the city of Lavonia, Georgia, to make sewer systems improvements that helped bring a foreign-based automotive parts manufacturer to the region. As a result, it is estimated that the region will gain 400 new manufacturing jobs and attract $54 million in foreign direct investment.

H.R. 1180 – Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 (Rep. Roby, R-AL, and 17 cosponsors)

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY

H.R. 1180 – Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017
(Rep. Roby, R-AL, and 17 cosponsors)

The Administration supports H.R. 1180, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017. H.R. 1180 would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow private-sector employers to give their employees the choice to receive paid time off instead of cash payments for each hour of time for which overtime compensation would otherwise be required. The bill would extend to private-sector workers a choice that public-sector employees have long enjoyed.

H.R. 1180 would help American workers balance the competing demands of family and work by giving them flexibility to earn paid time off—time they can later use for any reason, including family commitments like attending school appointments and caring for a sick child. In addition, H.R. 1180 contains critical protections to ensure employees can continue to choose overtime pay and to prohibit employers from coercing their employees to accept compensatory time instead of overtime pay.

If H.R. 1180 were presented to the President in its current form, his advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law.

Buy American, Hire American

On Tuesday, April 18th, President Donald J. Trump signed an Executive Order aimed at strengthening and enforcing his “Buy American, Hire American” agenda.

President Trump visited Snap-on Tools in Kenosha, WI to tour the facility and deliver remarks highlighting his Administration’s commitment to helping American workers. The President told those in attendance, “I am proud to announce that we are about to take bold new steps to follow through on my pledge to buy American and hire American.”

The President’s Executive Order sends a clear message to the world, that his presidency will always defend American workers, American jobs, and American interests. Speaking to the many Wisconsin residents and Snap-on Tools employees, President Trump declared that “the policy of our government is to promote the use of American-made goods and to help ensure that American labor is hired to do the job.”

The President was joined by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Senator Ron Johnson, and his Chief of Staff and Kenosha native Reince Priebus. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Education Secretary DeVos also joined the President at Snap-on Tools.

President Trump is committed to fighting for American workers all across the country, and this Executive Order is one more step toward fulfilling that commitment. “We believe American projects should be made with American goods.”

USCIS Will Accept H-1B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2018 Beginning April 3

WASHINGTON — U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2018 cap on April 3, 2017. All cap-subject H-1B petitions filed before April 3, 2017, for the FY 2018 cap will be rejected.

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations may include fields such as science, engineering and information technology.

Congress set a cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year. An advanced degree exemption from the H-1B cap is available for 20,000 beneficiaries who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The agency will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public when the H-1B cap has been met.

USCIS recently announced a temporary suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions starting April 3 for up to six months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. While premium processing is suspended any Form I-907 filed with an H-1B petition will be rejected. If the petitioner submits one combined check for both the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees, both forms will be rejected.

H-1B petitioners must follow all statutory and regulatory requirements as they prepare petitions to avoid delays in processing and possible requests for evidence. The filing fee for Form I-129 has increased to $460, and petitioners no longer have 14 days to correct a dishonored payment. If any fee payments are not honored by the bank or financial institution, USCIS will reject the entire H-1B petition without the option for the petitioner to correct it.

Form M-735, Optional Checklist for Form I-129 H-1B Filings (PDF, 278 KB), provides detailed information on how to complete and submit an FY 2018 H-1B petition.

For more information on the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program and current Form I-129 processing times, visit the H-1B FY 2018 Cap Season Web page or call the National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 or 800-767-1833 (TDD for the hearing impaired). To subscribe to the H-1B Cap Season email updates go to the H1B FY 2018 Cap Season Web page.

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis), and Facebook(/uscis).