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Rep. Lamar Smith Sponsors 7th Year Extension For H-1Bs With LCs Filed Before 5th Year
By a vote of 400-4, the House of Representatives adopted a conference report on the Department of Justice's Appropriations Bill which includes a provision granting a 7th-year extension for H-1B visa holders whose labor certification was filed before the end of the fifth year. Rep. Dreier (R-CA) and Rep. Jackson-Lee (D-TX) spoke on immigration matters in the bill. Rep. Smith (R-TX) sponsored this provision. Here are Lamar Smith's comments: "An immigration provision I sponsored benefits the high-tech sector. It allows high-tech workers with H1-B visas who apply for an extension beyond their normal 6 years to extend their stay in the U.S. while their application is pending ... Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this conference report. Mr. Speaker, Section 11030 A of the conference report will permit H- 1B aliens who have labor certification applications caught in lengthy agency backlogs to extend their status beyond the 6th year limitation or, if they have already exceeded such limitation, to have a new H-1B petition approved so they can apply for an H-1B visa to return from abroad or otherwise re-obtain H-1B status. Either a labor certification application or a petition must be filed at least 365 days prior to the end of the 6th year in order for the alien to be eligible under this section. The slight modification to existing law made by this section is necessary to avoid the disruption of important projects caused by the sudden loss of valued employees. This corrects a problem created in the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (Pub. L. 106-313)(AC21). The provision, as it was orginially written, allowed for extensions of H-1B status beyond the usual 6 years, but required that a labor certification be filed more than 365 days before the end of the 6th year and that an immigrant petition, the next step in the long line to permanent residency, be filed before the end of the 6 year as well. When it passed AC 21, Congress intended to protect foreign nationals and the companies who sponsor them from the inequities of government bureaucracy inefficiency. This specific provision was put in place to recognize the lengthy delays at INS in adjusticalting petitions, rather than DOL. But since that time, DOL has slowed down its own processing, and the provision as it was orginially written has become useless for many otherwise qualified applicants. This correction allows for those in H-1B status to get extensions beyond the six years when a labor certification was filed before the end of the fifth year, without regard to the ability to file an immigrant petition within the next year. The conferees intends that those who are about the exceed their six years in H-1B status should not be subject to the additional requirement of having to file the immigrant petition by the end of the sixth year, which is simply impossible when DOL has not finished its part in the process. This recognizes that these individuals are already well-valued by their companies, have significant ties to the U.S. and whose employers have to prove that they are not taking jobs from U.S. workers. It also is meant to permit those who have exceeded their six year limitation to return to H-1B status. The conferees intend for this provision to allow those who already exceeded the 6-year limitation to have a new H-1B petition approved and obtain a visa to return from abroad or otherwise re-obtain H-1B status."