Is USCIS Intentionally Driving Up The Cost Of H-1B Visas?


An immigrant holds an American flag and an data packet from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on August 17, 2018, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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In a carefully watched courtroom case, U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer will quickly determine whether or not to order discovery to compel U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to disclose why it has enacted new restrictive immigration insurance policies on firms that make use of H-1B visa holders. One of the allegations made by the plaintiffs within the ITServe Alliance v. USCIS lawsuit is that USCIS deliberately drives up the prices of submitting for H-1B petitions, together with by issuing approvals that final for as little as in the future.

“Discovery is necessary to determine if the Agency began its policy of partial denials/short term approvals in an attempt to force multiple filings, and thus drive up the amount of filing fees the targeted businesses were required to pay,” in response to a quick filed within the case by plaintiff’s attorneys Jonathan Wasden and Bradley Banias. “Did the agency consider a self-interested profit motive when implementing this practice? Or, did the agency implement this rule in an attempt to make participation in the H-1B visa cost prohibitive for targeted employers? The communications between agency officials on this point would be telling as to which factors the agency considered when making this rule.”

The plaintiff argues February 2018 USCIS memo on “Contracts and Itineraries Requirements for H-1B Petitions Involving Third-Party Worksites” is past the authorized authority of USCIS and a significant purpose the company denies many purposes. In the denials, USCIS typically claims a contractor doesn’t meet the definition of an employer. (See right here for extra particulars on the case.)

Another key query earlier than the courtroom: Does an “itinerary” regulation permit USCIS to disclaim or restrict the validity of any H-1B utility that fails to listing each contract a person will work on throughout a three-year interval?

The plaintiff believes the February 2018 USCIS memo unlawfully contradicts a 1998 regulation. That regulation permits employers to position H-1B workers in a “non-productive status” when there may be “no work to perform,” so long as the employer continues to pay the complete wage. Plaintiffs level out which means Congress anticipated situations the place workers wouldn’t have work to carry out and directed the company the way to deal with it. That would additionally imply the brand new USCIS requirement to show what workers will do on daily basis for 3 years contradicts the language within the statute.

While USCIS has claimed nothing has modified, Judge Collyer expressed skepticism throughout a May 9, 2019, listening to. She cited the plaintiff’s instance of USCIS granting one applicant an H-1B approval legitimate for less than a single day – from February 1 to February 2, 2019. (See right here.)

USCIS information present a lot has modified. A National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) evaluation discovered denial charges rose from 6% in FY 2015 to 32% within the first quarter of FY 2019 for H-1B petitions for preliminary employment and that for a lot of skilled and IT providers firms denial charges have elevated from about Four% in 2015 to over 40% immediately.

Judge Collyer is anticipated to rule quickly on whether or not to order discovery. In a supplemental submitting, the federal government argued, “Discovery as to whether the 2018 Guidance Memorandum is a legislative rule is inappropriate because there are no factual disputes with respect to this question.” (If the steering memo was a “legislative rule” it could require discover and remark to be lawful.) The plaintiff responded, “The Agency’s actual intent for the legislative rules articulated in the February 2018 Memo presents a question of fact.”

The plaintiff raises three key arguments in its transient on discovery: 1) USCIS insurance policies are deliberately making life tough for employers and H-1B visa holders, together with enacting insurance policies that forestall many spouses to acquire H-Four EADs (employment authorization paperwork); 2) USCIS adjudicators don’t possess the to find out if a place is complicated sufficient to qualify as a specialty occupation; and three) USCIS headquarters developed a template for Requests for Evidence and denials.

First, “There is a pattern and practice of limiting the duration of targeted employer’s H-1B applications as pretext for eliminating targeted employers and their H-1B employees,” in response to the plaintiff. “The shortened approval periods (of days, weeks, months) required targeted employers to file H-1B visa extension petitions nearly every four to six months instead of every three years.”

The plaintiff particulars the extra prices employers should incur. Due to USCIS insurance policies, an employer pays as much as $Four,000 in authorities charges not only for one three-year extension however should pay such charges a number of instances for a person H-1B worker due to the shortened approval durations for an extension. And employers should pay these identical further authorities charges (and extra authorized charges) for a number of workers, additional driving up the prices.

Current USCIS insurance policies on quick approval durations additionally forestall an unknown variety of spouses of H-1B visa holders from receiving an employment authorization doc (an H-Four EAD) or, in apply, to carry a job if she or he does obtain an EAD. That is as a result of an H-Four EAD routinely ends when the first visa expires, the plaintiff notes, citing USCIS. If an H-1B petition is permitted for a interval of Four or 6 months and it takes 5 months usually for USCIS to approve an H-Four EAD, by the point the company approves an employment authorization doc a partner who obtains a job must cease working.

“These examples demonstrate a coordinated and systematic, bad faith attack on the targeted employers and their IT professional H-1B employees,” in response to the plaintiff. “The agency created a series of changes that allow it to remove these H-1B holders from the U.S. economy.”

Second, in an argument related to different USCIS actions, the plaintiff questions whether or not the company and its adjudicators possess the experience to “discern,” as USCIS claims, whether or not a place is complicated sufficient that it requires a level within the specialty occupation.

The plaintiff transient states:

The company typically rejects evaluations performed by school professors and business leaders who opine bachelor’s or larger diploma is the minimal requirement for entry into occupation. However, the company lacks any identifiable experience within the data know-how subject, making its capacity to conduct this evaluation extremely questionable. For occasion, the company lists it hiring standards for service heart adjudicators on USA JOBS and its Adjudicator Field Manual. Surprisingly, the company doesn’t require its adjudicators have any diploma, not to mention a level within the particular specialty over which they’re adjudicating H-1B visas for.

According to the job postings included within the plaintiff’s transient, USCIS adjudicators usually are not required to own experience in technical issues, nor even to own a school diploma. Yet, because the plaintiff notes, company adjudicators opine by denials and Requests for Evidence that the background of an H-1B skilled is inadequate in technical fields to qualify in a specialty occupation.

Third, the plaintiff’s argument for discovery to “determine agency intent” is strengthened by the suspicious similarity amongst Requests for Evidence and choice letters, indicating the change in denials and proof requests got here from company directives, not particular person adjudicator selections.

The plaintiff transient states:

In the entire as utilized challenges the underlying denials and requests for proof are strikingly related. This will not be the results of mere coincidence. . . . The motive and rationale of the company when creating template requests for proof and template denial letters implementing the foundations is likewise a reality query. When creating templates for adjudicators to make use of, did the company intend for them to be binding? How have been adjudicators skilled on these guidelines? Were they offered as mere “guides” or have been they skilled that compliance was necessary? . . . Getting “behind the boilerplate,” this Court could be benefited from info displaying if and why the company meant to focus on and get rid of a selected enterprise mannequin from the H-1B visa program.

Both the plaintiff and the decide have observed that the one different treatment USCIS presents to altering its insurance policies, significantly for unreasonable delays in adjudications, is for employers to sue the federal government on each case they consider was unfairly determined or delayed.

“So you’re going to send us back, each of these employers back to individual lawsuits,” stated Judge Collyer in an change with the federal government’s legal professional throughout the May 9, 2019, listening to. “Every single time. I mean, sir, that is not a satisfactory answer. You had better come up with something better than that.”

Whether U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will “come up with something better than that” – and whether or not the courtroom makes them accomplish that – remains to be to be decided.

 



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