Some days it seems like all news about the status of U.S. immigration programs is bad news. When potential changes by the current administration to immigration policies or programs are discussed, the “Make America Great Again” platform can be easily misunderstood as anti-immigration. We do not believe that is the case.
Some areas of the immigration system are under scrutiny for justifiable reasons, particularly concerning illegal crossings of the Mexican-American border, sporadic instances of alleged fraudulent activity (by immigrants, sponsors, or project developers), or failure by the DHS to follow up on undocumented foreign nationals who have overstayed their visas. The latter group has been given a welcomed reprieve.
Help for E-1, E-3, H-1B, L-1 and Temporary Visa Holders
Prior to this month, foreign nationals working in the U.S. under visas categorized as “highly skilled workers found themselves in a difficult situation if they were to lose their jobs. The employer is typically the sponsor and applicant on behalf of the beneficiary foreign workers they wish to bring to the U.S.
Because the job was the reason for the beneficiary’s visa status, if the beneficiary is no longer employed by the applicant, the beneficiary would immediately have an unlawful status based on the rule of law as written. That created a hardship for the worker.
The USCIS has generally been understanding by offering a brief amount of time for the foreign national to find similar employment and to transfer the visa to a new employer. However, there has been no defined regulation regarding how long that amount of time would be.
Recently, the DHS has announced a new regulation that officially grants a 60-day grace period to allow the foreign national to seek another qualifying opportunity. Although 60 days is still a relatively short period in which to find new, suitable employment, it is, nonetheless, a positive development that indicates that the U.S. is not anti-immigration.
Once the non-immigrant worker finds a new opportunity, he or she may work in concert with the new employer to file a transfer petition. The grace period may be used multiple times if necessary. Each period is limited to 60-days with no accrual of unused days from previous grace periods.
Although the grace period may be denied in instances of unauthorized employment or criminal activity, we believe that caveat is reasonable.
The good news is that at least one concern and risk for highly-skilled non-immigrant visa beneficiaries has been reduced. That is good news, indeed, for the foreign national worker, his family, and the United States of America.