By Cyrus Mehta
Much has been written about the amazing turn of events in the Strauss-Kahn case that resulted in the dismissal of the criminal charges against him. The Manhattan DA’s motion to dismiss the indictment reads like a treatise on the ethical role of the district attorney in prosecuting a case, while also richly detailing the inconsistencies of the accuser, Nafissatou Diallo. According to the motion, if the prosecutor does not believe that a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt, he or she cannot ask the jury to do so. Moreover, the motion goes on to state that the prosecutor’s duty is to seek justice and not just to win cases. Under New York ethical rule 3.3, a lawyer cannot offer evidence that he or she knows is false and has a duty to correct any false evidence that the lawyer has already offered to the court. I do not fault the ethical judgment of Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan DA, in declining to prosecuting this case, as well as alerting the court of the many inconsistencies of Ms. Diallo after they came to light, although Slate has offered a well reasoned rebuttal of the inconsistencies of Ms. Diallo that have been alleged by the DA’s office.
The main concern for this writer, as stated in prior blogs on the Strauss-Kahn case, is that in the future immigrants will be more reluctant to come forward and press charges if they have been victims of sex crimes. Since in most such cases, the success of the prosecution depends on the credibility of the accuser, one with a less than perfect immigration past will be susceptible to her credibility being attacked in a trial. It is not uncommon for asylum seekers who have been persecuted to be coached by unscrupulous immigration practitioners, both authorized and unauthorized, to exaggerate their claims. For instance, one who may have suffered female circumcision, which in itself is a basis for asylum, may be coached to also state that she was raped by governmental actors to bolster the claim. This is not to suggest that asylum seekers do not present truthful claims. In the experience of this writer, most do, but it is also possible that some may not, especially if they are not represented by an ethical practitioner, and still obtain asylum. If they become victims of a horrific rape in the future, they may be discouraged from coming forward even if the prosecutor is willing to take up the case.
As the recent New York Times editorial on the Strauss-Kahn case aptly states:
There is a legitimate concern that his decision may discourage rape victims from coming forward in the future. Women who have been assaulted often worry, with reason, about being victimized a second time in court. And those with problematic backgrounds must feel confident that they can demand and receive justice.
Finally, what about the fate of Ms. Diallo? Will she be thrown to the wolves even though it is possible that a crime may have been committed during those few minutes in the hotel room, but the prosecutors have declined to go forward because they cannot convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that it occurred? If her asylum case was fabricated, the DHS could potentially reopen the case and place her in removal proceedings. She can try to again seek asylum on the genuine grounds of persecution that she suffered, but did not reveal in her asylum application. On the other hand, because she has a minor daughter, and she has been a victim of female circumcision, she could also merit the exercise of the government’s prosecutorial discretion.
Ms. Diallo can also seek a U visa if all else fails and her back is pushed against the wall. To qualify for the U visa under Section 101(a)(15)(U) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the foreign national must demonstrate that she “has been helpful, is being helpful, or is likely to be helpful” to the prosecutor in addition to demonstrating substantial physical or mental abuse from the criminal activity. After all this, one’s instinctive reaction is that Ms. Diallo was not helpful to the prosecution in investigating or prosecuting criminal activity that would qualify one for the U visa, such as a rape or related sex offenses. The applicant must also possess "credible and reliable information that he or she has knowledge of the details concerning the qualifying criminal activity upon which his or her petition is based." See 8 C.F.R. 214.14(b)(2). However, in the U visa immigration context, it can be argued that she was helpful to the prosecution, despite her many inconsistencies, but it was ultimately the prosecutor’s office that decided to drop the case as they could not prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the offense was committed. A careful read through the motion to dismiss does not suggest that the prosecution was convinced that criminal activity did not occur in the hotel room. A U visa applicant should not be deprived of this benefit only because the prosecution ultimately decided, based on the flaws in the case, that it could not take the case forward in a criminal proceeding under a higher "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard. Also, the grant of a U visa ought not to be based on whether the victim was able to prove the charges against the accuser. Thus, even if there is an acquittal against the defendant who is found not guilty, the U visa ought to still be approved for the crime victim who was helpful to the prosecution, even though unsuccessful. Moreover, the U visa depends on whether the prosecutor will sign the crucial certificate of helpfulness that provides the basis for a successful U visa application. Even if the Manhattan DA’s office dismissed the indictment, it should not shy away from certifying that Ms. Diallo was helpful for purposes of the U visa. This is the least that Cyrus Vance can do if Ms. Diallo needs to remain in the United States. Such a gesture would also provide some encouragement for other immigrants to come forward who have been victims of sex offenses.
August 23, 2011
By Cyrus Mehta
August 18, 2011
By Cyrus Mehta
The Department of Homeland Security in a letter addressed to Senator Durbin and 21 other senators announced on August 18, 2011 a new policy that would identify low priority removal cases for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. According to a New York Times story, the beneficiaries of such discretion would also be able to obtain work permits.
This is a refreshingly positive development, and shows that the Obama administration may have hopefully finally come to its senses. At a time when Congress is in a stalemate, and it has been acknowledged that 12+ million people cannot be deported, the administration has used its executive power to tap into the resources, energies and dreams of people who can ultimately benefit the United States. In providing some legal basis for them to remain in the US, they are more likely to add to tax revenues, spur consumer confidence, buy homes and ultimately build businesses that may result in jobs for Americans. On first impression, the new policy appears to be a mere promotion of the Morton Memo of June 17, 2011 on prosecutorial discretion. It does not grant relief on a broad scale, and it appears, if put into effect as promised, that it will probably only assist people on a case by case basis who are already in removal proceedings or will be placed in such proceedings. According to Senator Durbin’s website, this is how the new process will work:
Under the new process, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) working group will develop specific criteria to identify low-priority removal cases that should be considered for prosecutorial discretion. These criteria will be based on “positive factors” from the Morton Memo, which include individuals present in the U.S. since childhood (like DREAM Act students), minors, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, victims of serious crimes, veterans and members of the armed services, and individuals with serious disabilities or health problems. The working group will develop a process for reviewing cases pending before immigration and federal courts that meet these specific criteria.
On a regular basis, ICE attorneys will individually review every case scheduled for a hearing within the next 1-2 months to identify those cases that meet these specific criteria. These cases will be closed except in extraordinary circumstances, in which case the reviewing attorney must receive the approval of a supervisor to move forward. DHS will also begin reviewing all 300,000 pending cases to identify those that meet these specific criteria. These cases will be closed except in extraordinary circumstances, in which case the reviewing attorney must receive the approval of a supervisor to move forward. Individuals whose cases are closed will be able to apply for certain immigration benefits, including work authorization. All applications for benefits will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
On the other hand, the new policy involves an inter-agency effort to identify the low priority cases. Under the Morton Memo, only ICE was charged with the responsibility of exercising prosecutorial discretion, and it seemed unlikely that all ICE officials in the field would follow the new mandate. Indeed, there was already a rebellion within the rank and file of ICE against the Morton Memo. The latest inter-agency initiative refreshingly also involves Immigration Judges at the Executive Office for Immigration Review, who could probably coax the ICE prosecuting attorney to terminate a deserving low priority case and take it off their tremendously clogged court calendar. The new initiative ought to also deeply involve the USCIS. Although the USCIS’s mandate is to grant immigration benefits rather than enforce the law, the USCIS is also authorized to issue Notice to Appears upon a denial of a benefits application. If the USCIS applies discretion earlier on, fewer low priority individuals will be placed in removal proceedings in the first place.
Most problematic at this stage with the new policy, as noted by DREAM activist and law student Prerna Lal, who is herself in deportation is that it may not assist those who are in a legal limbo. These are undocumented individuals who have not yet come on the radar of DHS to even be considered being placed in removal proceedings. We surely do not want to encourage the perverse effect of such people coming forward and attempting to be placed in removal proceedings (by say filing a frivolous asylum application) solely to be considered for prosecutorial discretion. This would also defeat the purpose of the new policy as it will create more work than necessary to process people for removal and then consider them under the new policy for prosecutorial discretion. Indeed, the next logical step for the Obama administration and DHS is to affirmatively grant deferred action, parole and work permits to people in legal limbo who can come forward if they meet the same low priority criteria as those who are in removal proceedings or about to be put into these proceedings. The government does have the power to exercise such discretion under the existing provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Gary Endelman and Cyrus Mehta in a prior blog have outlined a blueprint for undocumented individuals to be affirmatively granted administrative relief, See Keeping Hope Alive, President Obama Can Use His Executive Power Until Congress Passes The Dream Act, http://cyrusmehta.blogspot.com/2010/12/keeping-hope-alive-president-obama-can.html.
Critics of the use of prosecutorial discretion such as House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith will argue that the President is not faithfully implementing the law. This would be a valid position if our immigration laws were rational and not broken. The reason why we have such a huge undocumented population is because our outdated laws are broken, and have not been able to provide sufficient pathways for people who need to unite with family members in the US . The existing legal framework also deprives employers from being able to effectively sponsor them for work permits or green cards. Moreover, the President is not bypassing Congress by creating a new class of permanent residence. In exercising prosecutorial discretion, the President is merely refraining from deporting low priority individuals, and using his power within the INA to grant administrative relief such as a work permits, parole or deferred action. If Mr. Smith were to have his way through the passage of the HALT Act, which would remove all discretion from the administration, our immigration law would be even more broken, and the undocumented population would continue to build without being able to benefit the US.
August 12, 2011
PREVAILING WAGE DETERMINATIONS SUSPENDED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE: HOW DO I FILE A PERM LABOR CERTIFICATION?
The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced that the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC) has temporarily suspended processing of prevailing wage determinations (PWD), redeterminations, and Center Director Reviews. The NPWC handles PWDs for the PERM labor certification, H-1B, H-1B1 (Chile/Singapore), H-2B and E-3 programs. As a result of the suspension, prevailing wage requests filed since early June 2011 are still pending. Previously, such requests were routinely processed in 3-4 weeks.
In response to practitioners’ inquiries concerning pending requests, the NPWC has been issuing the following e-mail:
The OFLC National Prevailing Wage Center is experiencing delays in processing prevailing wage determinations as it is currently working to reissue certain determinations to comply with a court order issued June 15, 2011 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published in the Federal Register on June 28, 2011, and a Final Rule will be published on August 1. All Center resources are currently being utilized to comply with this court order. The processing of Prevailing Wage Determinations, redeterminations, and Center Director Reviews has been temporarily suspended. Processing will resume as soon as full compliance with the court order has been completed by OFLC. If you have further questions concerning your PWD, please contact 202-693-3010.
In an August 30, 2010 decision in CATA v. Solis the District Court ordered the DOL to promulgate new H-2B prevailing wage regulations. When the DOL made a decision to delay, by almost one year, the effective date of those regulations, the Federal Court found that the DOL violated the Administrative Procedure Act by imposing the delay without engaging in notice and comment. The Court also found that the DOL acted in contravention of the Immigration and Nationality Act because it justified the delay by pointing to potential hardship to employers—a consideration that was outside the scope of the DOL’s congressional mandate. The year-long delay in implementing the new wage regulations would require the continued payment of a lower and invalid wage to H-2B workers. In a June 15, 2011 court order, the Court mandated a change in the effective date of those regulations.
In order to comply with the Court order, the DOL issued a final rule published in the Federal Register on August 1, 2011, with an effective date of September 30, 2011. There are existing H-2B temporary labor certifications covering work to be performed after September 30, 2011, for which the previously issued PWDs no longer apply. The NPWC is now utilizing all of its resources to reissue approximately 4000 PWDs to reflect the new H-2B wage rates that will apply for H-2B employment on or after September 30, 2011. In the rule published on August 1, 2011, the DOL indicated that they will be able to reissue all of the required H-2B wage determinations before October 1, 2011 but not before August 31, 2011.
The temporary suspension of processing on PWDs greatly impacts the PERM labor certification process. PERM is the first step of the green card process for foreign nationals seeking permanent residence through their employment. The PWD is an extremely important component of the process and pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §656.40, obtaining a PWD is a mandatory step under PERM. In accordance with 20 C.F.R. §656.40(c) PWDs are issued with a validity period between 90 days and 1 year from the date of determination and in order to use a PWD, the employer must file the PERM application or begin required recruitment within the validity period of the PWD.
Under 20 C.F.R. § 656.10, the employer must post the Notice of Filing for at least 10 consecutive business days between 30 and 180 days before filing the PERM application and the Notice of Filing must contain a wage that is equal to or greater than the PWD. In addition, under 20 C.F.R. §656.17, the mandatory recruitment steps must be conducted at least 30 days, but no more than 180 days, before the filing of the application. Employers who commenced PERM recruitment prior to obtaining the PWD may now have to watch the recruitment expire if the PWD is not issued in time. The employer may have to conduct new recruitment once the NPWC resumes processing of PWDs.
Conducting new recruitment could be a very expensive process for the employer. But, beyond that, the inability of the employer to file a PERM application on behalf of a foreign national in H-1B status may have more far-reaching effects. §106(a) of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) allows one to apply for a 7th year H-1B extension if a labor certification or an I-140 petition was filed 365 days prior to the end of the 6th year in H-1B status.
Accordingly, if, due to the current suspension of processing, an employer is unable to file the PERM prior to the commencement of the foreign national’s 6th year in H-1B status, this may affect the foreign national’s ability to extend his or her H-1B status at the end of the 6th year.
Utilize a previous PWD
An employer is permitted to use the same PWD for multiple PERM applications if the PWD is for the same occupation and skill level; the same wage source is applicable; and the same area of intended employment is involved. Therefore, a PWD issued in relation to a previous PERM could potentially be used for other PERMs.
Utilize an expired PWD
If the employer commenced its earliest recruitment during the PWD’s validity period, then there is clearly no need to obtain a new PWD and the employer may file the PERM application utilizing the expired PWD.
The DOL previously denied PERM applications where the employer commenced recruitment before the PWD’s validity period and filed the PERM application after the PWD had expired. However, under the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals’ (BALCA) recent decision in Matter of Horizon Computer Services, Inc. 2010-PER-00746 (May. 25, 2011), the employer can rely on an expired PWD in the filing of a PERM application if the employer initiated at least one recruitment step during the PWD’s validity period. That is, the first day of at least one form of recruitment must fall within the PWD validity period. Conducting or initiating all recruitment prior to the PWD’s validity period and then filing after the PWD has expired will likely still result in a denial of the PERM application. The DOL has not yet indicated that it will follow Matter of Horizon Computer Services and employers who intend to rely on this case ought to bear in mind that the employer in that case initiated MOST of its recruitment during the PWD validity period. (See my previous blogs on this topic at http://tiny.cc/mtv39 and http://tiny.cc/9u8zp.)
Predicting the PWD
Practitioners can predict what level and wage will be assigned to any position by going through the same analysis in which the DOL will engage. The Prevailing Wage Guidance (See “Prevailing Wage Determination Policy Guidance for Nonagricultural Immigration Programs,” published on AILA InfoNet at Doc. No. 10019468 (posted Jan. 4, 2010)) provides a detailed description of the four levels, as well as a worksheet at Appendix C and instructions specifying five steps to determine the prevailing wage level. Once the PWD has been predicted, the employer can post the Notice of Filing. This way, the employer will not be forced to wait until the NPWC resumes processing and actually issues a PWD in order to post the Notice of Filing. If the Notice of Filing has already been posted and the employer has complied with the mandatory 30-day quiet period, once the NPWC issues the PWD, the employer may quickly proceed to file the PERM application. If the employer is clearly offering a wage that is excess of any PWD that the NPWC could issue, then the employer need not estimate the PWD and need not wait for the PWD before posting the Notice of Filing.
In the event that the NPWC issues a PWD that exceeds the predicted wage listed on the Notice of Filing, the employer will have no choice but to post a new Notice of Filing bearing the new, higher wage. If the wage was listed in any other forms of recruitment, then that recruitment will have to be restarted. All of this will delay filing of the PERM. The employer will have to conduct precise calculations to ensure that all recruitment occurs within the 30 - 180 day timeframe prior to filing a PERM application.
Hopefully, come October 1st, the NPWC will resume processing on PWDs, etc. As usual, these requests will be processed on a first come, first served (FIFO) basis and no expedite requests will be accepted. Practitioners must continue to file requests for PWDs to secure a place in the lengthening queue.
August 4, 2011
By Cyrus Mehta
The US economy remains sluggish. The joblessness rate is still much too high. Even after the debt ceiling crisis was averted at the last minute, the compromise did not generate any excitement or renewed optimism. Indeed, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged more than 500 points on August 4, 2011 on fears that the US may enter into another recession.
We need something new that would give us cause for hope. How about an immigration stimulus?
On August 2, 2011, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano Secretary Napolitano and USCIS Director Mayorkas made dramatic announcements advising that foreign entrepreneurs could take advantage of the existing non-immigrant and immigrant visa system to gain status and permanent residency. According to the DHS press release, these administrative tweaks within the existing legal framework would “fuel the nation’s economy and stimulate investment by attracting foreign entrepreneurial talent of exceptional ability.” Director Mayorkas wrote a blog acknowledging that entrepreneurs and skilled workers would “fuel our nation’s economy by creating jobs, and promoting new technologies and ideas.”
All this has happened without Congress lifting a finger. In fact, even the DHS has not done much. It has clarified the true meaning of the provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act, which Congress itself enacted, which it had previously distorted. For example, in its prior policy memo authored by Donald Neufeld on H-1B employment relating to third party sites, the USCIS indicated that to qualify as an H-1B worker, the petitioning employer must demonstrate an employer-employee relationship. Under such circumstances, it would be practically impossible for an owner of a company to be sponsored for an H-1B if it could not demonstrate that the entity could control the employment, despite administrative decisions upholding the separate existence of the corporate entity. In the latest H-1B Question and Answers, the USCIS appears to still hold the line about the need to demonstrate an employer-employee relationship, but has conceded that this can nevertheless be demonstrated even when the owner of the company is being sponsored on an H-1B visa, so long as there is a right of control by the petitioner over the employment of the beneficiary. According to the USCIS Q&A:
For example, if the petitioner provides evidence that there is a separate Board of Directors which has the ability to hire, fire, pay, supervise or otherwise control the beneficiary, the petitioner may be able to establish an employer-employee relationship with the beneficiary.
This is indeed a welcome clarification, and is something that we also advocated in a prior article on our website, See Cora-Ann Pestaina, USCIS GRAPPLING WITH THE RIGHT OF A CORPORATION TO PETITION FOR ITS OWNER FOR AN H-1B VISA:
Also, the chance of an approval is greater if others are also involved in the management of the entity. Petitioners must endeavor to establish the power to make final decisions and to terminate the beneficiary’s employment. For example, the employer-employee relationship might be satisfactorily illustrated where petitioner’s bylaws clearly dictate how the corporation will be managed. Petitioner may be able to show, through its bylaws, that its business and property will be managed by a Board of Directors and that a majority vote of this Board will govern the employment, compensation and discharge of all employees of the corporation. A Board of no fewer than three Directors, including the beneficiary, would mean that the majority vote belonged to Directors other than the beneficiary and essentially, that petitioner held the power to make decisions for the company and to terminate the beneficiary’s employment. As a result, the employer-employee relationship is less likely to be questioned.
We hope that this policy announcement becomes a reality and that the officers in the field faithfully follow the directives. Vivek Wadhwa, noted scholar on entrepreneurship, has stated in his recent column in the Washington Post, “We could easily see thousands of start-ups generating tens of thousands of jobs in the next couple of years if these changes are enacted in the spirit that they were intended.” Indeed, unlike the legislative proposal for the Start-Up Visa (which has not made much progress in Congress), or the more onerous EB-5 Investor category that exists presently, there is no minimum investment requirement or creating a minimum number of jobs within a certain time frame. The petitioner, however, will still need to demonstrate that it will be employing the beneficiary in a specialty occupation, which is a position that requires the minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a specialized field, and that the entity will be able to provide work for the beneficiary in this specialty for the duration of the H-1B visa.
The H-1B visa has a six year limit. What happens to this entrepreneur after six years? The USCIS has clarified other existing provisions to encourage entrepreneurs. to apply for the green card. Another set of Question and Answers on the Employment-based Second Preference (EB-2) suggests that an entrepreneur can be sponsored under this immigrant visa category, which generally requires a labor certification, but can seek an exemption of the labor certification requirement through a “national interest waiver.” In addition, the beneficiary must be able to demonstrate an advanced degree (or its equivalent - bachelor’s degree + 5 years of post-baccalaureate experience) or exceptional ability. This too is nothing new. The national interest waiver was enacted by Congress in 1990, and exists under INA §203(b)(2)(B), except that it had become impossibly hard to obtain under Matter of New York State Department of Transportation, 22 I&N Dec. 215 (Comm. 1998) (NYSDOT), which set forth a three-prong test.
With respect to the first two criteria under NYSDOT, the petitioner must show that he or she will be employed "in an area of substantial intrinsic merit" and that the "proposed benefit will be national in scope." Interesting, until this new policy, it was always difficult for an entrepreneur to show that localized employment through his or her enterprise would be national in scope. This concern has now been put to rest in the EB-2 Q&A:
For example, the entrepreneur might be able to demonstrate that the jobs his or her business enterprise will create in a discrete locality will also create (or “spin off”) related jobs in other parts of the nation. Or, as another example, the entrepreneur might be able to establish that the jobs created locally will have a positive national impact.
It is the third that is extremely opaque and difficult to overcome. The petitioner must demonstrate that "the national interest would be adversely affected if a labor certification were required for the alien. The petitioner must demonstrate that it would be contrary to the national interest to potentially deprive the prospective employer of the services of the alien by making available to U.S. workers the position sought by the alien." The AAO went on to further illuminate this criterion as follows: "Stated another way, the petitioner, whether the U.S. employer or the alien, must establish that the alien will serve the national interest to a substantially greater degree than would an available U.S. worker having the same minimum qualifications."
Overcoming the third prong is difficult, and allowed the USCIS to shoot down the best of arguments made by a national interest waiver claimant. Indeed, the USCIS could always resort to this subjective criterion to thwart even the most meritorious of claims, which is that the claimant does not overcome the inherent interest of the government in making the job available to US workers.
The EB-2 Q&A refreshingly provides the following golden nugget to the entrepreneur to overcome the third prong:
The entrepreneur who demonstrates that his or her business enterprise will create jobs for U.S. workers or otherwise enhance the welfare of the United States may qualify for the NIW. For example, the entrepreneur may be creating new job opportunities for U.S. workers. The creation of jobs domestically for U.S. workers may serve the national interest to a substantially greater degree than the work of others in the same field.
It would have been nice if the USCIS had thrashed the three prong test in NYSDOT, as in my opinion, INA section 203(b)(2)(B) does not set forth such a cumbersome test, and the statute, which is a clear expression of Congress, is more important than an AAO decision, which added a spin on an unambiguous statutory provision. And what if the entrepreneur cannot demonstrate that he or she is working in the national interest or cannot qualify under the EB-2 because he or she lacks an advanced degree or exceptional ability?
The EB-2 Q&A appears to suggest that the entrepreneur can also be sponsored for a green card under the EB-2 through a labor certification. Presumably, an entrepreneur under the EB-3 could also be sponsored through a labor certification. This is a surprise. The DOL has always frowned upon an owner of an entity being sponsored for a labor certification. In order to obtain labor certification, the employer must establish that it has conducted a good faith test of the labor market and that there were no qualified US workers who were available for the position. The DOL has denied labor certification to both 100% and minority owners of companies who filed a labor certification on their behalf. See ATI Consultores, 07-INA-64 (BALCA Feb. 11, 2008); M. Safra & Co. Inc., 08-INA-74 (BALCA Oct. 27, 2008). The test for determining whether an employee closely tied to the sponsoring entity could qualify for labor certification was set forth in Modular Container Systems, Inc. 89-INA-228 (BALCA July 16, 1991) (en banc), where BALCA applied a “totality of circumstances” test to determine whether there was a bona fide job offer to US workers. Modular Container Systems considers whether the foreign national:
a) Is in a position to control or influence hiring decisions regarding the job for which LC is ought;
b) Is related to the corporate directors, officers or employees;
c) Was an incorporator or founder of the company;
d) Has an ownership interest in the company;
e) Is involved in the management of the company;
f) Is on the board of directors;
g) Is one of a small number of employees;
h) Has qualifications for the job that are identical to specialized or unusual job duties and requirements stated in the application; or
i) Is so inseparable from the sponsoring employer because of his or her pervasive presence and personal attributes that the employer would be unlikely to continue without the foreign national.
Clearly, an entrepreneur who may successfully obtain an H-1B visa under the new guidance will most likely fail under the Modular Container Systems “totality of circumstances” test. Did the USCIS consult with the DOL before issuing this guidance? Will the DOL be receptive to the USCIS’s new policy of encouraging entrepreneurs and liberally interpret Modular Container Systems? When DOL implemented the new PERM labor certification program, it also promulgated 20 C.F.R. §656.17(l), which incorporates some of the Modular Container analysis, and also requires the employer to certify on the PERM labor certification application whether the foreign national has an ownership interest in the sponsoring entity or has a familial relationship with the stockholders, corporate officers, incorporators or partners. What will become of this regulation? I do not feel that the DOL will change its ways on entrepreneurs. Whether one agrees or not, the DOL believes that its narrow mission is to protect the jobs of US workers, and not to spur economic recovery and growth. Of course, one can argue that foreign entrepreneurs who are allowed to start up businesses and stay in the US will likely create jobs for US workers, rather than take the jobs of Americans, but this logic may fall on deaf ears as far as the DOL is concerned. I hope I am proved wrong on this by the DOL.
In conclusion, the new policy, if implemented, will allow foreign entrepreneurs to obtain H-1B visas, and under certain circumstances, also qualify for a “fast track” green card under the National Interest Waiver. Much administrative tinkering still needs to be done if we really want to create a system that will spur amazing economic activity. The DOL will need to fall into line. The horrendous EB-2 and EB-3 backlogs for Indian and Chinese beneficiaries will still persist. It makes no sense to encourage entrepreneurs from India and China if the wait to get a green card will be in excess of 5 years in the EB-2 or more than a decade in the EB-3. In Tyranny of Priority Dates, Gary Endelman and I offered a blueprint for further administrative action to allow beneficiaries of approved I-130 and I-140 petitions to file adjustment of status applications even if the priority date is not current as well as allow the grant of employment authorization and parole, which would include spouses and other dependants. We have also provided an administrative blueprint for DREAM kids. Our proposals are more ambitious, but I am heartened that the Executive Branch on August 2, 2011 did the right thing by recognizing that foreign national skilled workers and entrepreneurs can be an asset rather than a liability, even in such hard economic times. If the USCIS guidance is properly implemented, these skilled foreign nationals may provide much needed stimulus for the flagging and lackluster US economy.