Business Workshop: More work visa scrutiny

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While Congress continues to debate a new immigration law, 2014 will see the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services scrutinize work visas more carefully. Those seeking green cards may have to wait even longer for a decision.

The agency will pay much more attention to both H-1B and L-1B visa applications this year. The H-1B program gives U.S. companies the opportunity to employ foreign professionals for up to six years, subject to an annual cap of 65,000 visas.

Employers can file as early as April 1 for employment beginning October 1.

Demand has been increasing in each of the past several years and companies need to file on or shortly after April 1 to secure a visa slot.

In 2013, the agency began to demand strict compliance with the program and regularly requested additional evidence from employers. Expect the same in 2014.

The L-1B program permits multi-national companies to transfer managerial, executive or specialized knowledge employees from abroad for five to seven years. Citizens and Immigration Services has strictly enforced the requirements of this program for the past several years, often denying cases that in fact meet statutory requirements.

Rarely does the agency not challenge a petition to transfer a specialized knowledge employee to the United States. Multi-national employers can expect to see this trend continue in 2014.

Meanwhile, a crazy chain reaction may increase green card waits for the 140,000 employment green cards set to be given in 2014. Because the demand exceeds the quota, there are always delays in processing green cards for employees with bachelor's degrees.

The delay is now a relatively short 20 months, much less than in the last several years.

But in the past, shortened delays often have triggered more demand for green cards, causing delays to lengthen again, which is what is expected in 2014.

-- Joel Pfeffer, Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, jp@muslaw.com

Business workshop is a weekly feature from local experts offering tidbits on matters affecting business. To contribute, contact Business Editor Brian Hyslop at bhyslop@post-gazette.com.


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