The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published new proposed regulations designed to make it easier for highly skilled immigrants who hold work visas to remain in the country if their work circumstances change.
Previously, many work visas were tied to a particular employer and a specific position. That meant immigrant workers who wanted to take another position or accept a promotion might have to turn down the opportunity for fear of losing their legal immigrant status.
Some also complained that this made it easier for employers to essentially hold them “hostage” in indentured servitude with no opportunity to move ahead.
Under the proposed regulations, holders of the H-1B high-skilled temporary visas, which are effective for no more than six years, will be able to petition to remain in the U.S. after their visas expire if they are seeking permanent residence “green card” status.
Online resource: If you employ H-1B visa holders, you will want to review the proposed rules. Public comments are open until Feb. 29.
There is a long backlog of green card applications, along with strict quotas for issuing them. Many workers have found themselves with expiring work visas before their green cards have been approved. The wait currently depends on the country from which workers came, with separate caps for each nation.
That can mean an expensive relocation back to their country of origin as they wait for approval.
The current cap on new H-1B temporary visas is set at 65,000 per year. An additional 140,000 new permanent employment-based visas are allotted each year.
Under the new proposed H-1B rules, those already in the U.S. would be able to stay at least until their applications are reviewed.
DHS says the new rules are meant to protect immigrant workers by allowing them to easily move from one employer to another without fear of deportation.