Immigration and firm news

Australia (E-3), Chile, Singapore, (H-1B1) and CNMI (CW-1) Work Status Is Streamlined

On January 15, 2016, USCIS announced new final regulations (Enhancing Opportunities for H-1B1, CW-1 and E-3 Nonimmigrants and EB-1 Immigrants) that will streamline certain country-specific work visa status for citizens of Australia, Chile, Singapore and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).  These nationals are entitled to a variation of the professional worker H-1B visas (although CNMI is based on place of work v. nationality.)  Australians can get E-3 specialty occupation visas; Chileans and Singaporans get H-1B1 specialty occupation visas, and certain specialty occupation workers in the CNMI receive CW-1 “transitional worker” visas. Procedures for each vary from the standard H-1B and L-1 Visa categories. The new rule described below will become effective on February 16, 2016.

The two key benefits under the new regulations allow visa holders in these categories to receive the same benefits as H-1B and L-1 workers as they relate to continuity of employment and extensions pursuant to 8 CFR 274a.12(b)(20).  Until now, only H-1B and L-1 workers could have continued work authorization with the same employer for up to 240 days while their timely filed extension applications were pending, whereas the E-3, H-1B1 and CW-1 visa holders had to apply very early for extensions in order to have continued employment. Otherwise, they would have to go off the payroll until their extensions were approved and/or consular process a new visa and reenter the USA, thereby creating disruption and added expense for employers and employees alike. The new regulation will afford the E-3/H-1B1/CW-1 principal workers that same 240 days authorized work with the same employer while extension applications are pending without having to leave the USA and reapply for visas.

The new regulations are updated to reflect that E-3 and H-1B1 workers may extend stay or change status. Until now, these visa categories were not included in the regulations because they were created after the last version of the regulations were issued.  (E.g., the H-1B1 visas stem from the US-Chile and US-Singapore Free Trade Agreements of 2003.) The final rule harmonizes these visa categories with other related work visa categories concerning extensions and change of status, as well as the designation of work authorized “incident to status,” which is important for employers when completing form I-9 to document work authorization.

The new regulation also clarifies evidence that can be submitted for EB-1 permanent resident applicants. However, this topic is addressed in a separate blog article.