Temporary and Permanent U.S. Immigration Options for Information Technology Workers

U.S. employers seeking to bring foreign information technology (IT) talent to the United States, and IT workers seeking ways to obtain authorization to work in the United States, have several options.  Some of these are geared at college students or recent graduates seeking temporary training, and others are more suitable for degreed professionals,  with increased options for senior or well-established members of the profession. Here is an overview of the most common U.S. visa categories for the IT industry:

Temporary Work Visa Categories:

  • For foreign trainees and interns: J-1 intern up to 12 months (for those currently pursuing post-secondary education outside the U.S. or who graduated no more than 12 months ago) OR J-1 trainee up to 18 months (for those with a foreign degree + 1 year of work experience or 5 years of work experience abroad) – run through U.S. Department of State; H-3 Trainee for up to 24 months (for those seeking training that is not available in the home country, and which will benefit the individual’s career abroad) – run through U.S Citizenship & Immigration Services.
  • For foreign students in the United States: F-1 on-campus employment; F-1 curricular practical training (CPT; i.e., on the job training that is part of the curriculum); F-1 pre-or post-graduation optional training (OPT) for up to 12 months; and F-1 STEM OPT extension for up to an additional 24 months (for those with a U.S. degree major in a STEM field and whose employer is enrolled in E-Verify).
  • For degreed professionals (at least U.S. or equivalent foreign bachelor’s degree in an IT or closely related field):  TN U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement professionals in increments of up to 3 years (no max), for computer systems analysts and possibly software engineers under “engineers”; H-1B1 Chile or Singapore or E-3 Australia professionals in up to 2 years increments (no max); H-1B specialty occupation (most common, might be subject to annual lottery) for up to 6 years max in up to 3-year increments (with exceptions to max based on pending green card process).
  • For degreed or non-degreed IT workers: L-1A intracompany transferee (manager/executive) for up to 7 years; L-1B intracompany transferee (specialized knowledge) for up to 5 years – however, L-1B individuals applying abroad based on the employer’s blanket L petition must be degreed professionals (very common for large, global IT service providers).
  • For nationally or internationally renowned professionals: O-1 person of extraordinary ability for initially up to 3 years and then in 1-year increments, with the ability evidenced by awards, publications and published material about the individual, and similar evidence such as patents (not impossible, but challenging in the IT industry as employer-independent awards are rare).
  •  Via a commercial treaty between the United States and the country of citizenship of the investor and/or employee – the U.S. business must share that nationalityE-1 treaty trader or E-2 treaty investor, either as the investor or as a managerial or specialist employee (document-wise complicated and therefore likely underused; no max, admission in up to 2-year increments with visa stamp permitting travel usually valid for 5 years).

Permanent (Green Card) Work Visa Categories:

  • For multi-national managers/executives: EB-1-3 (similar to L-1A; no test of the U.S. labor market required).
  • For nationally or internationally renowned professionals: EB-1-1 person of extraordinary ability (self-petition possible) or EB-1-2 outstanding researcher/professor (both similar to O-1 but higher standard; no test of the U.S. labor market required); EB-2 advanced degree holder or person of exceptional ability + national interest waiver (where the IT work would have substantial merit and national importance; no test of the U.S. labor market required; self-petition possible but challenging in the IT industry).
  • For those not qualifying under the above: EB-2 advanced degree holder or person of exceptional ability or EB-3 professional or skilled worker PERM application for labor certification = test of the U.S. labor market with U.S. Department of Labor prior to filing petition with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services.

Immigration counsel can help IT employers and individuals determine what options are feasible, and advise on expected timing and cost.

Hiring and Immigration: Questions to Ask and Factors to Consider

Hiring season is fraught with questions and uncertainties; preparing employment applications;  interviewing, drafting offer letters….. What questions can be asked? What questions should be asked? These concerns are even more pronounced when it comes to immigration status, and immigration sponsorship.  Those tasked with the hiring process often ask,  whether it is legal to ask applicants about their immigration status, how to ask that question,  and even more important,  “Do we have to sponsor for immigration status if the applicant needs it?”

Read the full post here: 

H-1B Lottery Selection Criteria May Change to Salary-Based Process

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a new rule that transforms the  random cap H-1B selection process to one that prioritizes registrations and petitions based on the highest Department of Labor (DOL) prevailing wage level met by the offered salary. It is not clear yet whether the incoming Biden administration will implement this rule at all or with modifications. Learn more in our recent client alert.

Planning to register for the H-1B cap season this spring but will you have a chance of being selected based on this new DHS Rule?

As many of you know, the most common H-1B professional worker visa category is subject to an annual quota/ cap per fiscal year (with some exceptions) and historically, the demand for initial H-1B numbers significantly exceeds the numbers available.  So last year, employers and foreign nationals welcomed a new H-1B registration rule, whereby employers seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions had to first register electronically with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) during a designated registration period.  And at the end of the initial registration period, USCIS received more registrations than needed to reach the H-1B cap, so it randomly selected, through a computer generated lottery a sufficient number of registrations who were then notified to submit their H-1B cap petition filings to USCIS. Continue reading “Planning to register for the H-1B cap season this spring but will you have a chance of being selected based on this new DHS Rule?”

H-1B Wage Rules Rescinded – Another Win for Employment-Based Immigration

A challenge brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the new H-1B wage levels and the new definition of “Specialty Occupation”  was upheld by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on December 1, 2020. The plaintiff’s Summary Judgement motion was granted when the Court held that the government failed to demonstrate good cause for not following the normal notice and comment procedures required for immigration regulations.  The government’s failure to follow the proper rulemaking procedures makes the new rules invalid and requires them to be rescinded by the government. Continue reading “H-1B Wage Rules Rescinded – Another Win for Employment-Based Immigration”

FY2022 Green Card Lottery Registration Period Opens October 7, 2020

The U.S. State Department will begin accepting online registrations for the 2022 Diversity Visa (DV) lottery aka green card lottery starting October 7, 2020 at noon EDT.  Those who wish to enter the lottery have until Tuesday, November 10, 2020 at noon EST to file online.

For FY 2022, the DV lottery program will make up to 55,000 green card numbers available through random selection and the results will be announced in May 2021. Those selected in the lottery can submit their green card applications starting on October 1, 2021.

To register for the DV Lottery, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be born or have a spouse (and in some circumstances, a parent) born in a country with low rates of US immigration. The following countries are excluded from the FY2022 lottery, so if you are born in one of these countries, you are not eligible to participate in the lottery:
    • Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (including Hong Kong SAR), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
  • Must have a high school education (or equivalent) or at least two years of qualifying work experience.
  • Must submit an online form and a digital photo through the official DV lottery website. DV lottery applicants may include a spouse (same-sex or opposite-sex) and children in their entry. Only one entry is permitted per person.

It is critical to carefully follow the State Department’s official lottery instructions , or you may be disqualified.  Also, very important to only use the official DV lottery website is located on the State Department website and to remember that the State Department does not charge a fee for lottery registrations. To learn more about DV lottery fraud, visit the websites of the State Department and the Federal Trade Commission.

If lottery assistance is needed, seek competent advice or reach out to us.  Good luck to all the DV lottery entrants!

 

Proposed Student Visa Rules end Duration of Status, Require Extension Applications


On September 25, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the DHS agency with jurisdiction over F-1 foreign student visa holders, published new proposed regulations that would end the long time U.S. practice of issuing “Duration of Status”  to F-1 students. Instead, F-1 visa holders would be limited to 2 or 4 year visa terms depending upon their country of origin, and be required to reapply for F-1 Status through USCIS to obtain extensions, or to leave the United States and apply for an extension .  The proposed regulations were immediately criticized by the higher education community. The rules were called ill-conceived, misguided, unnecessary, and a burden to an industry that has already seen a steady decline in international student admissions. Read the full blog post here.

USCIS gets flexible on I-9 Process, but Employers must stay Vigilant

The I-9 process continues to be the bane of HR existence. Recent accommodations for remote work environments,  closed driver’s license agencies, and USCIS delays in printing work permits and green cards are definitely appreciated and helpful, but they also make the process more confusing.  Employers are beginning to worry about how they will catch up on viewing all of the original documents they saw remotely during the pandemic, in the USCIS-designated 3-day time frame once their companies return to the office. Meanwhile, I-9 audits and worksite enforcement actions are continuing apace. While following all of the new guidance, employers must also be sure to stick to the basics. Continue reading “USCIS gets flexible on I-9 Process, but Employers must stay Vigilant”

PERM Gets Rough in an Uncertain Job Market

Employers who may be trying to proceed with PERM applications for foreign national workers are in an uphill battle. With layoffs, furloughs and unemployment at all time highs, the Department of Labor is on high alert for unsuspecting PERM employers who are trying to do the right thing under difficult circumstances.

Employers who have H-1B or other workers with limited time on their nonimmigrant status, don’t have the luxury of waiting until the job market improves to begin PERM applications for their employees. For H-1B or L-1B workers in their final year or two of nonimmigrant visa eligibility, PERM is a necessity or they will have to return to their home countries. Continue reading “PERM Gets Rough in an Uncertain Job Market”

U.S. Consulates Slowly Beginning to Resume Visa Services

U.S. Consulates around the world are gradually resuming routine nonimmigrant and immigrant visa services, after their suspension in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Department of State has confirmed that each Consulate will begin visa services on its own timeline, in light of the particular conditions of that country. Applicants should check the specific U.S. consulate website for most up-to-date information, available through the following website http://usembassy.gov. This means that applicants may soon be able to schedule or reschedule their visa appointments. It is also possible that the Consulate may automatically reschedule the applicant’s prior appointment.  Importantly, Consulates continue to accept requests for emergency visa appointments through their scheduling service at https://ais.usvisa-info.com/.  If you have specific questions, talk to your immigration lawyer, as the situation is fluid and subject to change.