DHS Pursuing Reforms to Attract and Retain Highly Skilled Immigrants in the U.S.

DHS Pursuing Reforms to Attract and Retain Highly Skilled Immigrants in the U.S.
January 31, 2012

Reflecting President Obama’s support for measures that would attract and retain immigrants who create jobs and boost competitiveness here in the U.S., the U.S. Department of Homeland Security today announced a series of administrative reforms which will be completed in the future.  These reforms reflect the Administration's commitment to attract and retain highly-skilled immigrants in the U.S.  These efforts are critical to continuing our economic recovery and encouraging job creation.


·         Expand eligibility for 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 international students to include students with a prior degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).


Presently, F-1 students who graduate in programs of study classified as STEM can obtain a 17-month extension of OPT (optional practical training) as part of their F-1 status (in addition to the standard OPT of 12 months). The proposed change would expand eligibility for extension of OPT by including students with a STEM degree that is not the most recent degree the student has received.


·         Allow for additional part-time study for spouses of F-1 students and expand the number of Designated School Officials (DSOs) at schools certified by DHS to enroll international students.


This regulatory reform would allow spouses of F-1 students to enroll in additional academic classes on a part-time basis while their spouse is pursuing full-time studies.  Under the current regulation, spouses may only take part-time vocational or recreational classes. Schools would also be given increased flexibility to determine the number of DSOs needed at their institution to meet both the administrative and guidance needs of students.


·         Provide work authorization for spouses of certain H-1B holders.


This proposed change to the current DHS regulation would allow certain spouses of H-1B visa holders to legally work while their visa holder spouse waits for his or her adjustment of status application to be adjudicated. Specifically, employment will be authorized for H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B visa holders who have begun the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment after meeting a minimum period of H-1B status in the U.S. This effort will help retain talented professionals who are valued by U.S. employers and who seek to contribute to our economy.


·         Allow outstanding professors and researchers to present a broader scope of evidence of academic achievement.


This proposed change to the current DHS regulation would increase the types of evidence that employers can submit to demonstrate that a professor or researcher is among the very best in their field. Presently, applicants for the employment-based immigrant visa category of "outstanding professors and researchers" are limited to specific types of evidence listed by regulation. This would allow "comparable evidence" beyond the specifically articulated regulatory list. This change will harmonize the evidentiary standard for this category with the other exceptional ability immigrant visa categories.


·         Allow E-3 visa holders from Australia and H-1B1 visa holders from Singapore and Chile to continue working with their current employer for up to 240 days while their petitions for extension of status are pending.


This proposed regulation would treat E-3 and H-1B1 visa holders the same as H-1B and L-1 visa holders by allowing them to continue employment with their current employer for up to 240 days from the expiration of their authorized period of stay, provided a petition to extend their status has been timely filed.


·         Launch Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative


On February 22, 2012, USCIS will launch its Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative with an Information Summit in Silicon Valley, CA, that will bring together high-level representatives from the entrepreneurial community, academia, and federal government agencies to discuss how to maximize current immigration laws' potential to attract foreign entrepreneurial talent. The Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative builds upon DHS's August announcement of efforts to promote startup enterprises and spur job creation. The Information Summit will focus on ensuring that immigration pathways for foreign entrepreneurs are clear and consistent, and better reflect today's business realities. The Summit will include a special recognition of outstanding contributions made by immigrant entrepreneurs to our nation's economic growth and prosperity. The input gathered at the summit will inform the work of the Entrepreneurs in Residence tactical team, which will bring business experts in-house to work alongside USCIS staff for a period of approximately 90 days. Following the summit, the tactical team will convene in Washington, DC to begin its work. To learn more about the summit, please visit Entrepreneurs in Residence Information Summit.


As more progress is made on these initiates, ILG will continue to report them to our clients.  In the meantime, more information is available at http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/fact-sheets/20120131-dhs-retain-highly-skilled-immigrants.shtm