February 27, 2012


By Cora-AnnV. Pestaina

You filed a spotless labor certification. It was a perfect case, a perfect employer and a perfect employee with the perfect qualifications. Yet, one day, there it was in the mail. The dreaded Notification of Supervised Recruitment ("NSR"). The Department of Labor ("DOL") had long advised to expect increased Supervised Recruitment. You knew the possibility of receiving an NSR existed and had advised your client accordingly. Still, its arrival was disappointing. Initial indignation ("How dare they?") gave way to resignation ("Oh well, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.") to actual enthusiasm ("Hey, this will give me chance to finally see what this crazy process is about!"). And so, assuring your client that all will be well, you took their hand and boarded the Supervised Recruitment roller coaster.
The DOL is authorized, under 20 C.F.R. § 656.21, to conduct Supervised Recruitment.  The article by Cyrus Mehta, Maggie Murphy and David Ware, Supervised  Recruitments in Tough Economic Times - Practical Tips For Compliance quoted Solicitor of Labor Gregory F. Jacob who said, “Supervised Recruitment is one of many tools the [Department of Labor] uses to safeguard the integrity of the permanent labor certification process and protect job opportunities for American workers. The department takes seriously its statutory responsibility to ensure that American workers have access to jobs they are qualified and willing to do.” This article also indicated that the DOL will target employers in industries with publicized layoffs in specific geographic locations, e.g. employers in the financial industry in New York City. The DOL may also target employers in the computer and auto industries. The DOL has begun to make good on its threat to increase Supervised Recruitment and like most practitioners, I am currently in the middle of the Supervised Recruitment process, with no telling where this ride will take me next. Based on experiences thus far, here is some of what can be expected.

Requests for extension may/may not be granted
The NSR describes the steps involved in the Supervised Recruitment process and gives the employer 30 calendar days, from the date of the NSR, to submit a draft advertisement and any additional information requested in the NSR. The NSR also indicates that the employer may submit a timely request for one extension of the 30-day timeframe by e-mailing the DOL at SR.processing@dol.gov. A good reason for an extension would be that you are a new attorney of record. However, the employer cannot rely on the mere timely submission of an extension request. The request must be officially granted.  The problem is that the DOL may respond within 1-2 days; may take longer than a week to respond; or may not respond! Moreover, there is also no guarantee that the response will be favorable. Because of this uncertainty, it is best to begin to prepare a response to the NSR which can be timely filed in the event that no response from the DOL has been received.

The requirements for the advertisement are different
The NSR lists the required content for advertisements. One immediately becomes aware that the rules under Supervised Recruitment are different from the PERM rules. Under Supervised Recruitment, the advertisement must contain the job title; the job duties; the work schedule; the education and experience requirements; the geographic location(s) of employment; the Kellogg language, “Any suitable combination of education, training or experience is acceptable;” the offered wage; and a list of any training to be provided to employees. The advertisement must direct applicants to submit their applications to the DOL's Recruitment and Employment Office.  
The NSR may also request additional documentation. For example, the DOL may require the employer to "explain any limitations on training...with regard to [the offered] position." The DOL does not clarify what is meant by this request but asks that the employer note that a worker is able and qualified for the job opportunity if the worker can acquire the skills necessary to perform the duties involved in the occupation during a reasonable period of on-the-job training.

Requests for additional information
Once the draft advertisement has been submitted, the DOL may request additional information. For example, a draft ad requesting that applicants “must be willing to work in unanticipated locations across the US” may elicit a request that the employer establish the business necessity for this requirement. The employer will be given 30 calendar days from the date of the request within which to submit its response.

Making changes to the ad after it has been submitted
Once the draft advertisement has been submitted, it may be possible to make amendments to the ad by e-mailing the DOL. For instance, in one case, after the draft advertisement had been submitted to the DOL, the employer asked whether it could indicate that there were multiple, identical positions available within the company. The DOL responded favorably to an e-mail inquiry requiring only that the specific number of positions be indicated. However, it may not be possible to make a drastic amendment to the advertisement from what was stated in the PERM form.

Issues with recruitment
Once the employer’s draft advertisement has been approved, the DOL will issue its Recruitment Instructions.  The Recruitment Instructions are specific instructions informing the employer where and when the advertisement must run. Again, here, the recruitment process will differ from what is required under PERM.  For example, for a professional position, the DOL may require that a 30-day job order be placed with the State Workforce Agency (SWA); that the ad run in a specific major newspaper and online for 3 consecutive days including a Sunday; that the ad run on the employer’s website for 7 consecutive days; that the ad run on 2 other websites for 7 consecutive days; and that the employer post the Notice of Filing for 10 consecutive business days.  All of the recruitment must commence within 15 days of the date of the Recruitment Instructions notification.

The problem is, sometimes, it takes several days for the Recruitment Instructions notification to arrive in the mail. By the time the instructions arrive, the employer may only have 10 days left of the initial 15 days. Then, the employer may encounter problems with some of the recruitment steps. For instance, depending on the particular SWA, it may take up to 7 days to post the job order. To make matters worse, some SWAs may edit the posting (e.g. directing that applications be sent to the employer’s headquarters).  Some SWAs are notorious for randomly editing the job order even after it has been posted for a few days.  The word “sabotage” inevitably comes to mind but I digress. It is important to constantly and painstakingly check the contents of the job order. 

Sometimes, the DOL will instruct that the advertisement be placed in the most expensive newspaper of general circulation. For instance, the DOL may instruct that an advertisement for a professional position in Edison, New Jersey, run for 3 consecutive days including a Sunday in the New York Times when the New Jersey Star Ledger is a perfectly appropriate and less expensive newspaper. Considering the extensive requirements for the advertisement (discussed above), it may cost several thousand dollars to run the ad in the newspaper.  Of course, the employer may e-mail the DOL to request a change of newspaper. But again, the DOL may respond in 1-2 days, may take a long time to respond or may never respond. Oftentimes, the employer is forced to simply pay the advertising fees.

The employer is required to e-mail a recruitment schedule to the DOL, no later than 15 days after the last placed advertisement.


The DOL will not wait to gather any number of resumes but will forward them to the employer as they are received. In some cases, the resumes will only be sent to the attorney and in other cases, the attorney will only be cc’d on the communication.  If an attorney receives a resume, it is important that this be forwarded to the employer immediately upon receipt so that it can be appropriately evaluated. Also, it is important that the attorney not evaluate the resume before the employer does. Remember the DOL insists that the employer first consider a US worker applicant and not the attorney.  Employers are also required to consider any resumes that may be sent directly to them.

Expected next steps are that the DOL will issue its request for the final written Recruitment Report and will issue a determination whether to grant or deny the application. 

I am sure that practitioners can provide countless anecdotes on their experiences with Supervised Recruitment. The only thing I think we can count on is that Supervised Recruitment is not going away. Stay tuned for more highlights from this journey that I have just embarked upon.

February 17, 2012


By Cyrus D. Mehta

I would like to share my article, Due Diligence Considerations For Companies Contracting With Vendor Service Providers, which appeared in the New Jersey Lawyer, October 2011 issue. This is an emerging area and it behooves corporations that contract with companies for skilled nonimmigrant workers on H-1B, L-1 or B-1 visas to know more about whom they are getting on board. Indeed, exercising greater due diligence can be a win-win for all the parties involved – the petitioning company, the end user client company and the nonimmigrant worker. In addition to protecting itself from potential liability, the client company by cooperating with the petitioning company on a number of fronts can also ensure a swift and more firm approval of the visa.
Many corporations in need of specialized skilled workers who are in short supply do not sponsor foreign nationals for their work permits. Instead, these companies contract with other entities that employ skilled workers, who in turn are then assigned to the client company for a specific project. This is especially true with information technology (IT) services, where foreign nationals on temporary visas predominate. While the obligations for a sponsoring employer are onerous, it is important for the end user client company to be vigilant to ensure that foreign national workers assigned to a company are working under the appropriate visa categories. In the event that the end user client has knowledge or encourages activities not authorized under these visa categories, there is potential for the company to be ensnared in criminal liability.  Even short of criminal liability, it is important to make sure due diligence has been done to avoid being caught up in an embarrassing investigation against a partner company.
Here are a few examples of how an end user company can get unwittingly caught up with liability. If the end user company urgently needs software engineers through its IT contracting company for a project, a manager within the end user company may be requested to write a let­ter as a client of the contracting compa­ny to justify the need for its employee overseas to visit the U.S. on a B-1 visa. If this letter indicates that the software engineer is required for meetings, or to conduct an analysis of the project to be subsequently worked on overseas (a per­missible B-1 activity), but the actual pur­pose is for the engineer to actually par­ticipate in programming and working on the solution in the U.S., it may come back to haunt the end user company if there is a criminal investigation against the IT contracting company. Therefore, when drafting such a letter, it is important to ensure that the proposed activities discussed in the letter are per­missible B-1 activities, and when the foreign national arrives, he or she engages in activities that are consistent with the listed activities.
Similarly, under a January 8, 2010, USCIS guidance memorandum by Donald Neufeld, concerning employer/employee relationship in H-1B petitions, especially where an H-1B employer places employees at a third-party site, it is important for the sponsoring employer to demonstrate that it exercises the right of control over its non-citizen employee if he or she is placed at a third-party client site. In order to win an H-IB approval, the petitioning employer generally requests confirmation from its client company about the H-IB worker's assignment arrangement at its location, and that it is the employer who actually exercises the ultimate control over the employment. The end user client company, often through lay­ers of middlemen vendors, must take care that the letter accurately describes the arrangement. On the one hand, the issuance of such a letter confirms that the company is not the employer, thus eliminating a situation where it may be held liable as an employer for wages and benefits. On the other hand, there may be situations where the petitioning enti­ty exercises no control over the H-IB worker's employment, and the person reports directly to a manager with the client company rather than the petitioner. In the post Neufeld Memo era, client companies may also want to cooperate with the petitioning company to allow a representative to visit the client location to evaluate its employee’s performance and to provide regular assessments and feedback of the nonimmigrant worker’s performance to the petitioning employer even while the immediate supervision lies with the client company.  
Care should, therefore, be taken not to inadvertently misrepresent the nature of the assignment at the company.  Moreover, the petitioner must demonstrate that the position being filled by the H-1B worker at the company requires a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specialty.  Here too, the client must take the utmost precautions to not misrepresent the minimum requirements of the position.  Some end user companies choose not to issue letters as they are not obligated to do so. If however they really need the services of the skilled nonimmigrant worker for a project, it would be more prudent for them to cooperate with respect to such a letter - as well as confirming who exercises immediate supervision and ultimate control - as that would allow the nonimmigrant to win the visa approval while giving the client company an opportunity to also conduct due diligence regarding the hosting of such an individual.
Moreover, if an H-1B worker is assigned to a client location, DOL regulations require that the petitioning employer must have posted notice at two conspicuous places where the work is actually performed informing about the occupational classification, wages offered, period of employment and the work location, among other things. While the petitioner is solely responsible for posting the notice at the physical location, it would behoove the responsible officer at the client company to cooperate with the posting in order to ensure that its contractor is fully compliant with the attestation requirements.
Finally, the USCIS’s fraud detection national security division may also pay a “friendly” surprise visit to the client company to ensure that the work location and other terms of employment are consistent with the H-1B petition. Similarly, specialized knowledge workers on L-1B visas at client locations must satisfy the FDNS investigator that they are under the “control and supervision” of the petitioning company, and this person should also be implementing a product or application of the contracting company or deploying a methodology that is unique to the petitioning company. Moreover, any letters issued by the client company can also be verified via a surprise call from the State Department when the foreign national applies for the nonimmigrant visa at the US consulate.
By exercising due diligence, a client company can avoid an investigation, which even if not targeted against it can still generate bad publicity, as well as potential liability. More important, by cooperating with the petitioning company, the nonimmigrant visa petition can withstand scrutiny while it is being processed, and can potentially result in a quicker and surer approval, resulting in the skilled nonimmigrant worker being able to come on board to work on a critical project for the client company. 

February 10, 2012


Green Card Stories is a gem of a book, and I feel inspired to write about it. Written by award winning journalist, Saundra Amrhein, with stunning photographs by award winning photographer, Ariana Lindquist, the book puts a human face on immigration through the journeys of 50 individuals who got their green cards. My good friends, Laura Danielson and Steve Yale-Loehr, produced the book with a lot of dedication and tenacity. Hopefully, their hard work will reap rewards resulting in more rational and humane immigration laws.

Most Americans, whatever their view on immigration may be, tend to see immigrants whom they may know with a different lens, especially if they are co-workers, friends, neighbors or parents in the same school community. Even if immigrants may be demonized in the current political climate, especially those who are undocumented, when one gets to actually know this person,   you may probably not view him or her with the same bias. This is what Green Card Stories tries to do. One gets to like the immigrants portrayed in the book even if you do not know them in person. In fact, they all magically come alive when you read their stories and the photographs also reveal facets that no amount of words will ever tell.
Take the example of Francis Price, who is photographed as a successful person meditating on his journey in his well appointed home adorned with tasteful art. He came to the US from Jamaica with $25 to become a businessman in the United States who also served as a trustee of the University of Rochester, his alma mater. Somewhere along the way after he received his green card and built businesses employing hundreds of people, he was put into deportation when applying for citizenship because of the mistake of his lawyer in Jamaica who had not finalized his divorce to his former wife. It was thus discovered after several years that he wrongfully entered as the single son of a sponsoring parent when he was actually married. Fortunately, while in deportation, his current US citizen wife again sponsored him for a green card, while he applied for a waiver to forgive the past violation, and the Immigration Judge again granted him the green card.
Or Gulnahar Alam, whom I represented pro bono, who escaped  a horrific domestic violence situation in Bangladesh,  only to find herself working grueling domestic jobs for families in the New York area. She applied for political asylum and won, being one of the first to assert that domestic violence constituted a form of persecution. Today, she is a well known advocate on behalf of immigrant domestic workers, won several awards,  and works for a diabetes education project among minorities at New York University.
There is also the amazing story of Mikel Murga from Spain, who now teaches at MIT, and who got his green card three times. He abandoned his first green card after returning to his country, but gave up the second green card, so that his minor son could accompany him as a derivative under the third green card. While most immigrants are lucky to be able to get green cards just once, Murga is quoted while looking quite the professor in his portrait, “That’s what makes America unique – not how rich it is, they say there are many opportunities, but the most important opportunity is the opportunity to reinvent yourself.” There are 47 other equally inspiring and poignant stories, including one on Jerry Yang who went on to found Yahoo. Read them.
Putting a human face to immigration is the best way to convince others about who they are and the benefits they bring to this country through their struggles, inspiration, ambition and successes. It is also an effective way to counter the lies about immigrants espoused by a loud and vocal minority. The canard against immigrants is an old one.  This is what the first Select Committee of the House of Representatives to study immigration concluded in the 1850s:
that the number of emigrants from foreign countries into the United States is increasing with such rapidity as to jeopardize the peace and tranquility of our citizens, if not the permanency of the civil, religious, and political institutions of the United States… Many of them are the outcasts of foreign countries; paupers, vagrants, and malefactors….sent hither at the expense of foreign governments, to relieve them from the burden of their maintenance.
One would have thought that this kind of sentiment would have ended by the second decade of the 21st century, but don’t we hear the same things about immigrants today?  Today, it is fashionable in some quarters even by Presidential candidates, members of Congress and state officials to espouse attrition by enforcement, which is a policy to make life so harsh, brutish and unbearable for undocumented immigrants that they will “self deport” themselves. Acknowledging that it would be very costly, if not impossible, to deport the millions of undocumented immigrants, a May 2005 report of Center of Immigration Studies, an anti-immigration organization, writes this in support of attrition:

But there is a third way that rejects this false choice, and it is the only approach that can actually work: Shrink the illegal population through consistent, across-the-board enforcement of the immigration law. By deterring the settlement of new illegals, by increasing deportations to the extent possible, and, most importantly, by increasing the number of illegals already here who give up and deport themselves, the United States can bring about an annual decrease in the illegal-alien population, rather than allowing it to continually increase. The point, in other words, is not merely to curtail illegal immigration, but rather to bring about a steady reduction in the total number of illegal immigrants who are living in the United States. The result would be a shrinking of the illegal population to a manageable nuisance, rather than today's looming crisis.

This is analogous to the approach a corporation might take to downsizing a bloated workforce: a hiring freeze, some layoffs, plus new incentives to encourage excess workers to leave on their own.

This attrition by enforcement policy has spawned draconian anti-immigration laws such as Arizona’s SB 1070 and Alabama’s HB 56, which aim to banish undocumented immigrants from the state even though they may be pursuing legal status under federal law or legitimately defending themselves in federal removal proceedings. Their goal is to make it a crime if it is suspected that a person is in the state unlawfully (even though under federal law some may remain in the US), for not carrying documentation, and for harboring and transporting unauthorized immigrants. HB 56 goes further by requiring children to provide proof of immigration status prior to enrollment in public schools, and restricting unauthorized immigrants from engaging in contracts and business transactions. Many of these nasty provisions have been temporarily blocked for now, but they can gain a new lease of the life if the US Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of such laws later this year.

Tellingly, many of the people profiled in Green Card Stories could have been snared under these draconian state laws or stricter federal laws prior to getting their green cards. Their stories also show how terribly complex our immigration laws can be, and how easily someone can fall through the cracks. Even while there may be anti-immigrant sentiment, what is most touching in many of the stories is how they were helped by the kindness of strangers in America, which has left a lasting impression on them. The more stories we tell about immigrants desiring to do well in America for themselves and their children, the less scope will there be for politicians and hate groups to dehumanize them in the abstract. After all, immigrants are people, like everyone else, with the same dreams, aspirations, vulnerabilities and frailties. The policies of attrition and self-deportation view undocumented immigrants as vermin that can be quietly driven away notwithstanding the fact that they have loved ones here and have set down strong roots. However, this is less likely to happen if Americans get to know them more from their stories. It is only then that more Americans will come to realize that the better solution is to reform our broken immigration system that would be able to tap into the industry and aspirations of immigrants of all stripes, such as the ones in Green Card Stories, rather than to deport them - and everyone will be better off.

February 5, 2012


By Gary Endelman and Cyrus Mehta

Sometimes it takes a while for a sound idea to gain acceptance. Granting employment authorization to H-4 spouses is a good example. In late March 2010, the authors urged In The Tyranny of Priority Dates that this be done, with or without an employment authorization document (EAD). A few months later, then USCIS General Counsel Roxanna Bacon, Service Center Operations Head Donald Neufeld and Field Operations Chief Debra Rogers recommended precisely this same step to USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, but only for those "H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B principals where the principals are also applicants for lawful permanent residence under AC 21." Memorandum, Administrative Alternatives to Comprehensive Immigration Reform (posted as AILA InfoNet Doc. 10073063 on July 30, 2010). The memo was leaked by those who wanted to defeat any administrative initiatives and they did so. There matters stood until a few days ago on January 31, 2012 when the Department of Homeland Security brought this idea back to life. The announcement includes other goodies too, but this is what it specifically says about the possibility for an H-4 spouse to work:
  • Provide work authorization for spouses of certain H-1B holders.
This proposed change to the current DHS regulation would allow certain spouses of H-1B visa holders to legally work while their visa holder spouse waits for his or her adjustment of status application to be adjudicated. Specifically, employment will be authorized for H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B visa holders who have begun the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment after meeting a minimum period of H-1B status in the U.S. This effort will help retain talented professionals who are valued by U.S. employers and who seek to contribute to our economy.

Those who dig a bit deeper on the government’s regulatory agenda site find a key qualifier that severely limits the benefit granted. Some H-4 spouses it seems are more deserving of the right to work than others: employment authorization is to be extended only to those "H-4 spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants who have begun the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment and have extended their authorized period of admission or "stay" in the U.S. under section 104(c) or 106(a) of Public Law 106-313 also known as the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act." This means that no H-4 spouse whose H-1B principal has not spent more than 6 years in the USA will be eligible to apply for an EAD. At a minimum, a PERM labor certification or I-140 would have to have been filed, and even approved to qualify for the 3 year H extension under Section 104(c) of AC 21, if less than 365 days had elapsed since submission. After all this, while it seems as if we should celebrate, how loud should the cheering be?

There is no need for the USCIS to adopt such an exceedingly narrow interpretation. After all, if we look at the essentially unlimited authority granted by INA 274A(h)(3)(B), it seems clear that the USCIS can grant employment authorization to anyone at any time for any purpose. As our insightful colleague David Isaacson has cogently pointed out, under these circumstances, an EAD can be issued to someone who is not attached to either a PERM or an approved I-140. Indeed, an H-4 spouse whose H-1B principal is the beneficiary of an approved family-based third preference I-130 benefits not at all since such approval would not sustain a 7th H year under AC 21. Save for National Interest Waivers and Persons of Extraordinary Ability, which do not need a job offer, the right of an H-4 spouse to work is conditioned upon the willingness of the H-1B principal’s employer to sponsor his/her mate for LPR status, something over which the H-4 spouse has no control.

There is nothing in the INA that prevents an H-4 spouse from working. This prohibition is purely an act of regulation. That being the case, what prevents the USCIS from taking a more generous view? We would do well to remember that the unavailability of an EAD outside the adjustment of status context forces people into the H-1B category who might not otherwise need or even want to be there. Allowing all H-4 spouses to work would ease the pressure on the H-1B category and, by so doing, serve to diminish opposition to all employment-based immigration. While it is true that the H-1B is subject to an annual limitation each year, most other nonimmigrant work visas do not have an annual cap. Beyond that, America suffers when the nation forgets that many talented H-1B beneficiaries choose not to stay here because their H-4 spouses are unable to work. See Matt Richtel , Tech Recruiting Clashes with Immigration Rules, N.Y.Times, Apr.12, 2009.

Truth be told, there is no need for any H-4 spouse to apply for an EAD. Why not simply include H-4 spouses as part of 8 CFR Section 274a.12(a) so that they could work incident to status? This is a simple yet elegant way to ameliorate the extreme economic hardship that our system needlessly inflicts upon H-4 spouses. In fact , why limit this to H- 4 spouses? There is nothing to prevent the Executive from granting work authorization to teenage children on H-4 visa status.

There is no reason why an H-4 spouse should have to wait for years before being allowed to work. Since both the H and L categories are clothed with dual intent - both visa categories allow the holder to apply for a green card from the very outset - the H-4 spouse should be treated exactly like the L-2 spouse when it comes to applying for an EAD. Indeed, the H-4 spouse may be more deserving of a work permit if the wait for the green card under the employment based second and third preferences can take several years, or even decades, especially if the spouses are born in India or China. In fact, despite a cap on H1B visas compared to unlimited L migration, AC21 makes it possible, and certainly more frequent, for the H4 spouse to remain in the USA far longer than the L-2 counterpart, thus making the need for employment authorization more not less compelling. If the USCIS wants to limit the scope of this benefit, allow it to be conditioned upon the filing of a non-frivolous labor certification, or I-140 if no labor certification is required, regardless of how long the H-1B has been in the United States. This would advance the national interest by enhancing the incentive for H-1Bs to come to the United States and remain here, despite chronic visa backlogs.

Ours is a policy of audacious incrementalism designed to maximize the remedial possibilities within the INA as it now exists while waiting for something better, namely congressional enactment of comprehensive immigration reform. Not only is it fitting and proper for the USCIS to formulate immigration policy on highly minute technical issues of surpassing importance, it is no exaggeration to contend that the Constitution expects this to happen. Indeed, without this, who would do it? Far from crossing the line and infringing upon the authority of Congress, what we ask the USCIS to do augments Congressional prerogatives by providing a practical way forward. For those who say that we ask too much too soon, we respond with one simple question, the same one that Hillel the Sage asks in Ethics of the Fathers: "If not now, when?"

(The views expressed by guest author, Gary Endelman, are his and not of his firm, FosterQuan LLP)