Written by Crispin Aranda
Posted on January 31, 2012
US Plays Catch Up with START UP; OBAMA Announced Immigration Legislative and Administrative Agenda
After seeing best, brightest, professionals and most skilled workers migrate to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Asia, the United States finally realized it has to do something to get its share of talents and skills.
After all, the United States has been considered globally as the land of opportunity, milk and honey and where you can be the best of what you can be.
Yesterday, January 31, 2011 in the US, President Obama announced his administration’s legislative agenda the key components of which are provisions of H.R. 3012, Fairness for Highly Skilled Immigrants Act, passed by absolute majority in the House of Representatives and currently with the US Senate.
The highlights are (1) elimination of the per country quota on employment-based immigrant visas (Employment-based, in this case the EB3 where most Filipino nurses, PTs and other professionals have pending visas) and (2) Raising the visas available for Family-based petitions from 7% to 15% .
To show that it means business and as “proof of life” to the immigrant communities in the U.S. as well as to supportive constituents in business (hurting for skilled workers and professionals), the Obama administration – through the Department of Homeland Security and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services – announced administrative action designed to “attract and retain highly skilled immigrants”
The DHS released its administrative fix agenda the announcement of which includes the following:
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, an F-1 student may only engage in optional practical training (OPT) for 12 months. F-1 students who graduate in programs of study classified as STEM can obtain a 17-month extension of OPT as part of their F-1 status if the degree they were conferred is included on the DHS list of eligible STEM degree programs. This 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. Furthermore, because of the dynamic nature of STEM related education and training, DHS will continue to review emerging fields for possible inclusion in the list of eligible STEM degree programs.
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. Presently, 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.
Harmonize rules to 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 other employment-based 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, if 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.
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