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President Obama’s Executive Orders on immigration – USCIS initiatives

While most of the attention of the public is focused on President Obama’s actions pertaining to portions of the undocumented population, there are changes that will impact employment-based immigrants and their employers. The President is proposing the following changes to the current system:

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will—

  • Work with the Department of State to develop a method to allocate immigrant visas to ensure that all immigrant visas authorized by Congress are issued to eligible individuals when there is sufficient demand for such visas;
  • Work with the Department of State to modify the Visa Bulletin system to more simply and reliably make determinations of visa availability;
  • Provide clarity on adjustment portability to remove unnecessary restrictions on natural career progression and general job mobility to provide relief to workers facing lengthy adjustment delay;
  • Clarify the standard by which a national interest waiver may be granted to foreign inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises to benefit the U.S economy;
  • Authorize parole, on a case-by-case basis, to eligible inventors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises who may not yet qualify for a national interest waiver, but who:
  • Have been awarded substantial U.S. investor financing; or
  • Otherwise hold the promise of innovation and job creation through the development of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.
  • Finalize a rule to provide work authorization to the spouses of certain H-1B visa holders who are on the path to lawful permanent resident status;
  • Work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop regulations for notice and comment to expand and extend the use of optional practical training (OPT) for foreign students, consistent with existing law; and
  • Provide clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” to bring greater clarity and integrity to the L-1B program, improve consistency in adjudications, and enhance companies’ confidence in the program.

It is not clear at this point exactly what will occur under these various changes. The USCIS will need to issue regulations and/or policy guidance memorandums that explain and flesh-out the details. It is expected that these will be issued in the coming weeks and months. We will be following the USCIS announcements closely and will provide further information as it becomes available.

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