December 26, 2023
The federal agencies in charge of immigration affairs recently released their regulatory agendas for the upcoming months. These agencies include the Department of Labor, the Department of State, and the Department of Homeland Security. These agendas outline some of their key employment-based immigration priorities and timelines.
The Department of Labor (DOL) indicated its intent to solicit public feedback. The Department hopes to expand the list of occupations exempt from the permanent labor (PERM) certification process. This list, called Schedule A, has not been updated in decades.
Recently, the Department received an executive order to expand the list to assist in AI research. This requirement led to the agency submitting a Federal Notice to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). This notice is to solicit feedback. Should the expansion succeed, it would include STEM workers in the PERM process.
The DOL also affirmed its plans to introduce H-2B visa program changes. These changes include prevailing wage regulations, temporary labor certification updates, and more. Many expect a publication of the proposed rule sometime in the coming year.
The Department of State (DOS) updated the timeframe for the expected implementation of its domestic visa renewal program for H-1B visa holders. This long-awaited program will begin in February 2024. The DOS also expects to release a Federal Register notice with further information about the program in the upcoming weeks. Many expect it to include eligibility requirements.
The DOS also plans to issue a final rule permitting waivers in certain circumstances. This rule would require immigrant visa applicants to appear before a consular office. The DOS will publish it in February 2024. In addition, many expect the DOS to issue a final rule this month permitting individuals to accompany applicants to certain U.S. citizen visa appointments.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will issue a proposed rule in October 2024. This rule would modernize the policies and procedures governing Employment Authorization Documents. Such regulations include the governing work authorization for certain non-immigrants who lose their employment and certain spouses of non-immigrant workers.
The DHS also postponed a regulation to raise the fees for most employment-based petitions and applications to April 2024. Similarly, a Customs and Border Protection rule to apply 9-11 Response fees to H-1B and L-1 extension petitions has also moved to April 2024.
These regulatory agendas indicate what these federal departments intend to prioritize in the coming days. Many of these regulations may significantly change the employment process for foreign national workers. As such, employers should watch how these proposed rules progress.