US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced January 31st that it is proposing a series of changes to employment immigration rules which are designed to benefit the US economy and continue to make the US attractive to highly skilled immigrants. The following are the planned changes:
- 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).
Under the current rules, the applicant for an extension must be currently pursuing a STEM degree. The new rule would allow for an extension even if the current degree is not a STEM field as long as the applicant
- 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.
Currently, F-2 spouses can only take vocational and recreational classes. They would now be able to take any kind of course load as long as it is part time and not full-time.
- Provide work authorization for spouses of certain H-1B holders.
Under this proposed rule, H-4 spouses could get work authorization if their H-1B spouse is filing for an employment-based green card. A minimum period of time in H-1B status will need to pass, though USCIS has not specified the amount yet.
- Allow outstanding professors and researchers to present a broader scope of evidence of academic achievement.
The new rule would add “comparable evidence” to the regulatory list for researchers and professors, something that the other exceptional immigrant visa categories contain.
- 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.
E-3 and H-1B1 visa holders will be work authorized for up to 240 days while extension applications are pending, similar to H-1B and L-1s.
- 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.