From proposals to overhaul OPT to decreasing the number of H-1Bs, 2016 is already proving to be an interesting year for business immigration. In a series of posts, the Mintz Levin team will provide an overview of the cases, legislation, and regulations to look out for in the new year. In our third post we will discuss regulatory issues with immigrant visas. 

A proposed USCIS rule could improve flexibility and stability for employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs. On December 31, 2015, DHS released a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register titled “Retention of EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers.” The proposed rule contains a number of amendments that would modernize the program for foreign workers. Mintz Levin member Kevin McNamara analyzed this rule in two detailed posts earlier in January, here and here.

Amongst these proposals, DHS hopes to better enable U.S. employers to employ and retain certain foreign workers under these visa categories while also giving the employees greater job stability and flexibility. The rule will increase their ability to accept promotions or change positions with current employers, change employers, or pursue other employment opportunities to further their careers. Certain high-skilled beneficiaries of an approved I-140 petition could also have the ability to apply for one year of unrestricted employment authorization if visa unavailability prevents an adjustment of status.

USCIS is seeking public comments on the proposed regulation until February 29, 2016. While the impact upon employers and their foreign workers may not be sweeping, the proposal reflects the Obama Administration’s goal to streamline and improve the visa system.