Employment-Based

O-1 and P-3 Visas: Options for Artists & Entertainers

July 24, 2021

Are you an exceptionally talented artist, performer, athlete, academic, or entertainer? Are you looking to continue your craft in the United States temporarily? If so, you might qualify for an O-1 or P-3 visa. What is an O-1 Visa? The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is a short-term work visa for those who possess extraordinary skills in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or television industry. O visas are granted for a particular length of time, up to a maximum of three years, with unlimited extensions in one-year increments. A spouse and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one may accompany the O visa holder as long as they do not accept employment in the United States. The good news: there are no annual caps on the number of individuals receiving O visas. O-1 Visa Qualification Criteria A job offer from a U.S. employer is a basic requirement for the O visa. Alternatively, a U.S. agent may file an O-1 petition for a worker who is traditionally self-employed or uses agents to arrange short-term employment with multiple employers.  In either event, an O-1 applicant cannot self-petition. The applicant must also demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, or a record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture and television industry, and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability. O-1 visas are given only on the basis of a person's individual qualifications. Being a member of a group or team will not, by itself, qualify someone for an O-1 visa. What is “Extraordinary Ability” as it Pertains to O-1 Visas? Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that the applicant is at the very top of the field. This can be demonstrated if the applicant has received a major internationally recognized award, such as an Olympic medal or a Pulitzer Prize, or has accomplished at least three specific criteria—see the full list of criteria here. Extraordinary ability in the field of arts means distinction. Distinction means a high level of achievement in the field of the arts. This is evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that you are prominent, renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. The applicant will need to supply documents showing that he or she has been nominated for or have received significant national or international awards or prizes in the particular field, such as an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, or Director's Guild Award. Alternatively, the employer filing the petition can submit at least three forms of documentation. See the full list of accepted documentation here.

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PERM Labor Certification

October 2, 2020

PERM Labor Certification is the process in which foreign nationals, in preference categories EB-2 and EB-3, can obtain an employment-based immigrant visa (Green Card). Before an em…

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New H-1B Registration Process and Practical Tips

February 3, 2020

It is no secret that the H-1B application process has undergone a number of changes over the last year, including a switch to a fully electronic registration, paying a registration fee, and changes to the lottery system. This article gives an update of what we know up to this point as well as tips for applying as successfully as possible. For a basic overview of the H-1B visa please read our previous article. Registration Process Registration for the H-1B is now submitted electronically via the USCIS portal (https://myaccount.uscis.gov/users/sign_up).  An attorney may register on behalf of an employer and should be able to manage one or more clients under that account. To register, an employer must pay a $10 registration fee at http://www.pay.gov using a debit or credit card. An employer may batch payments if they prefer to do so. Once submitted, a confirmation will appear in the portal to show that the registration is being processed. The Lottery This year, the lottery is being conducted in reverse order in an attempt to increase the number of United States master’s degree holders obtaining an H-1B visa. While historically, a lottery was first conducted for U.S. master’s degree holders, and those who were not selected were put into the larger “pool” of applicants, this year all applicants will be put into the pool, and any U.S. master’s degree holders who are not selected in the first round will be put into the pool of 20,000 slots geared specifically toward them. If an employee is selected, a notification of acceptance will appear in the portal, along with a notice of confirmation that must be printed and submitted with USCIS H-1B petition filing. The USCIS have said they will create a wait list for those who are not picked, so even after the lottery is conducted, employers should continue checking the portal. In the unlikely event that USCIS does not receive enough applicants, they will reopen registration. At this time, we do not know whether an employer will be notified if their employee has not been selected. The USCIS will provide training and guidance on how to use the registration system for those who would like it.

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The North American Free Trade Agreement (TN) Visa

June 25, 2019

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) integrated key sectors of the United States, Canadian, and Mexican economies.  Central to that integration was creating a special visa category that allowed qualified Mexican and Canadian citizens to seek temporary admission into the United States to engage in business activities. To qualify for a TN visa a foreign national must meet five criteria: (1) A citizen of Canada or Mexico, which is commonly demonstrated by a birth certificate or passport; (2) Employed in a profession that qualifies under the regulations, the eligible professions are listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA; (3) The position in the United States must require a NAFTA professional; (4) Prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer and (5) The foreign national must have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question. Generally, Canadian nationals are not required to obtain a visa prior to entering the United States, however, Mexican nationals are required to obtain a visa prior to entering the United States. Consequently, Canadian and Mexican nationals have different TN NAFTA visa requirements.

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H-1B for Computer Programmers

December 22, 2018

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows an employer to petition for an H-1B visa on behalf of an alien beneficiary if the alien beneficiary will be working in a “specialty occupation.”  To qualify as a “specialty occupation” a job must require "theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States." An employer bears the burden of proof to demonstrate that its open position requires specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree. Traditionally, USCIS has regarded the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) as the foremost authority on job educational and skill requirements (even in spite of an OOH disclaimer that the publication is not intended for legal usage); however, an employer may submit additional supporting documentation. The evidence, in its totality, must demonstrate that a particular position would normally have a minimum, specialty degree requirement, or its equivalent, for entry. If the USCIS finds the evidence insufficient it will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) or simply deny the H-1B petition. For several decades employers have faced varying degrees of difficulty in obtaining an H-1B visa for computer programmers and information technology (IT) professionals. Under the Trump Administration, the USCIS has cracked down on computer programmer H-1B visa applications and increased the burden of proof required for a visa to be approved. In 2017 approximately 50,000 less IT related visas were issued than in 2016. Employers should provide additional documentation to support that a computer programmer position meets the H-1B visa qualifications. Additionally, employers may need litigation to obtain a proper ruling.  Why are Computer Programmers in Question?  In 2000, the NSC Director stated that the computer programmer occupation was in “transition,” which means the educational requirements and job duties were changing and establishing a clear line on H-1B eligibility was difficult.  Despite almost two decades having passed, the computer programmer occupation is still considered to be in “transition.” The OOH states most computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree, but some employer’s hire computer programmers with an associate’s degree or no college education. Furthermore, most computer programmers have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. The level of difficulty associated with the job duties are often reflected by employer’s requiring a higher level of education. For example, a computer programmer that enters code may not be required to hold a bachelor’s degree, but a computer programmer that analyzes and repairs code may.

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Third-Party Worksites

June 8, 2018

Introduction An H-1B work visa is appropriate if two primary conditions are met. First, an employer must be able to demonstrate its need for a qualified worker to fill a specialty occupation. Second, a valid employer-employee relationship must exist throughout the duration of the H-1B visa residency.  For a more detailed discussion of the first requirement please see our previous articles. The petitioner (sponsoring employer) carries the burden of proving that a valid employer-employee relationship will exist for the duration of the beneficiary’s (foreign national’s) residency. Usually, a valid employer-employee relationship will exist if the petitioner retains the right to control the daily tasks, the work production, and is able to hire, fire, and pay the beneficiary. Demonstrating that a valid employer-employee relationship exists in compliance with the H-1B standard has never been difficult when the beneficiary will work at the petitioner’s job site, i.e. office, factory, or store. However, when an H-1B beneficiary will be working at multiple job sites a petitioner must demonstrate that a valid employer-employee relationship will exist when the beneficiary is on an assignment at a third-party worksite. It is more difficult to demonstrate a valid employer-employee relationship exists at third-party worksite because usually, both employers maintain some degree of control over the beneficiary. For example, the petitioner may retain the right to pay, fire, and dictate work production, but the third-party worksite may retain the power to discipline and dictate daily tasks of the beneficiary. Typically, when the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was skeptical that the employer-employee relationship prong had been satisfied it would request additional information from the petitioner. However, under the Trump administration, the USCIS has reviewed and altered the third-party worksites evidentiary requirements. It issued a new policy memorandum that mandated that petitioners submit itineraries and non-speculative evidence that an employer-employee relationship will exist throughout the duration of the beneficiary’s residency if the beneficiary will work at multiple worksites.

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Responding to H-1B Request for Evidence in the Trump Era

April 11, 2018

An H-1B visa is an employment visa for professional workers in specialty occupations that have at least a bachelor degree or equivalent.  Throughout the H-1B visa’s history, the United States Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been concerned that employers will abuse the H-1B visa by displacing American workers with foreign Responding to H-1B Request for Evidence in the Trump Era counterparts at lower wages. In 2009 and 2013, the Obama Administration sought to reform the H-1B visa after a study conducted in 2008 revealed that 21% of H-1B visas were granted to applications that contained fraudulent or technical violations.  In the 2008 study, 42% of H-1B visas granted to computer professionals contained fraudulent or technical violations. Even after the Obama Administration’s changes abuse and fraud remain a concern of the H-1B application process. In 2016, two lawsuits were filed against Disney, which alleged Disney and its staffing companies colluded to use the H-1B visa to replace American workers with foreign workers at lower wages through a series of layoffs.  The suits were dismissed in federal court after a judge found that the plaintiffs had failed to present enough evidence that would reasonably demonstrate that Disney had engaged in the alleged activity. When Donald Trump took office he vowed to place American workers and American jobs first and end the exploitation of American labor and capital.  President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American executive order illustrates his administration’s will continue to pursue policies to carry out his campaign promises. As part of President Trump’s Buy American and Hire American mantra his administration took another look at the H-1B visa in 2017 and altered what the USCIS may consider as evidence when reviewing an H-1B visa application. This article explores the new evidentiary standard that will be applied, the industries most likely to be affected by the Trump administration’s new standard, and what information must be demonstrated to obtain an H-1B visa under this new standard.

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Employers Impacted By Immigration Changes In Trump’s First Year

February 20, 2018

The January 30, 2018 State of the Union became another chapter in President Trump's ongoing campaign for America to serve its own needs and its people first.  Embodying this ideology, President Trump declared that, “we will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American.” During his first term, those two simple rules have dramatically changed the immigration process into the United States.  Although Congress has yet to pass immigration reform, President Trump has issued several executive orders that have overhauled the United States immigration system. Trump’s first year has made it more difficult for employers to sponsor or hire immigrant workers and following Trump’s State of Union employers should not expect it to become easier to hire immigrant workers during the Trump’s tenure. Travel Ban The President has the power to implement a travel ban if the President finds that the entry of any foreign national or class of foreign nationals would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”  In his first year, President Trump signed three executive orders that placed restrictions on travel and immigration into the United States by certain foreign nationals from specific countries. The first two executive orders were enjoined – given no legal effect – by U.S. district and circuit courts.  However, the Supreme Court has never ruled on the legality of either because the President had replaced each order with an updated version. Trump’s third travel ban was signed on September 24, 2017, and imposes travel restrictions for certain foreign nationals as a result of a worldwide review conducted by Secretary of Homeland Security. The new travel ban is different than the previous two because it is tailored to the specific conditions in each country, rather than being a blanket restriction on all immigration from a specific country. For example, business and travel visas were suspended indefinitely for immigrants from Chad, but all visas, other than student visas, were suspended for immigrants from Iran. Trump’s third travel ban has been enjoined by district courts in Maryland and Hawaii, but the Supreme Court allowed the third travel ban to go into effect while travel ban is litigated further. Lower courts have expressed concerns that President Trump’s campaign rhetoric suggests that any travel ban, regardless of how the travel ban is phrased, would be implemented specifically to target and limit Muslim immigration. In contrast, the Trump administration has argued that the third travel ban does not target Muslims, but rather, is based on the Secretary of Homeland Security’s worldwide review.

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National Interest Waiver

December 18, 2017

Employment-based visas that lead to permanent residence in the U.S., or a green card, have several different preference groups with different eligibility requirements. Most of these preference groups require a foreign national to have a full-time job offer in the United States and the filing of a labor certification application with the Department of Labor to obtain an official certification from the government agency that there is a shortage in the U.S. workforce before being able to proceed with the green card process. A foreign national generally cannot sponsor themselves.  Employers may often be hesitant to sponsor a foreign national because the process can be expensive and time-consuming. Fortunately, there are a few exceptions.  Under the second employment-based preference category, EB-2, a foreign national would not need a specific job offer or labor certification if he or she were eligible for a National Interest Waiver (NIW). To be eligible, a foreign national must demonstrate they are (1) a member of a profession holding an advanced degree (doctorate, masters, or bachelor’s degree with five years of progressive work experience); or (2) a foreign national of “exceptional ability” whose employment will be of the “national interest.” There are evidentiary requirements for demonstrating a foreign national’s area of work will be of national interest, but neither Congress nor USCIS has defined national interest in an attempt to allow the law to be as flexible as possible.

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H-1B for Nurses

October 31, 2016

Overview Contrary to what one may believe, most Registered Nurses (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) are not regarded by the government as a profession that is qualified for an H-1B visa. The primary reason lies in the educational requirement for a normal RN or LPN position - typically only two years, which fall short of the four-year college degree requirement for H-1B purposes. To be considered for an H-1B visa, one requirement is that the petitioner, or the employer, must demonstrate that the position is a “specialty occupation.” (see “Basic Overview of the H-1B Visa Qualifications and Procedures”). Generally, a “specialty occupation” can be proved by requiring at least a bachelor degree in a specific field or that the industry standard requires a specific bachelor degree. Usually, nurse manager or an advanced practice positions may qualify for H-1B visas since most of these positions require a Bachelor of Sciences (B.S.) in nursing or a Master of Science (M.S.) degree. However, it may be difficult for RNs or LPNs to be considered for H-1B visas since these positions generally do not require a bachelor’s or higher degree. Recent Developments at USCIS In 2002, legacy Immigration Naturalization Service (INS) issued a memorandum providing guidance on this issue and essentially stated that most RN positions would not qualify for an H-1B visa unless the petitioner can establish that the job offered requires at a minimum a college degree. Then, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued an interim policy memorandum on July 11, 2014 that superseded the former 2002 INS memorandum. The 2014 memo that was later finalized in yet another memo in 2015 discusses the changing industry for nurses and that employers now increasingly expect nurses to have a college degree; however, the adjudicatory standard that USCIS uses to review H-1B applications for nurses has remained essentially unchanged. Currently, the requirements of H-1B for nursing are as below:  The position is a specialty occupation; The nurse has a degree or equivalent pursuant to H-1B regulations; The nurse has passed the foreign nurses exam (NCLEX-RN); and The nurse has passed the state licensure.When an applicant is required to prove a lawful employment before obtaining the license from the state or local authority, and the license is required to practice the profession, USCIS will approve a one-year H-1B petition for the applicant to work on obtaining the license. However, the request to extend the H-1B visa will be denied if the applicant is ultimately unable to obtain the license. 

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