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Analysis of the 60-Day Grace Period for Nonimmigrant Workers

The Department of Homeland Security issued final regulations on November 17, 2016 entitled “Retention of EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers” to provide relief to high skilled workers born mainly in India and China who are caught in the crushing backlogs in the employment-based preferences. The rule took effect on January 17, 2017. My prior blog analyzed the key provisions of the rule. This blog examines the provision that authorizes a 60-day grace period for workers whose jobs get terminated while employed in nonimmigrant status.

The rule provides two grace periods to nonimmigrant visa holders. 8 CFR 214.1(l)(1) provides for a 10-day grace period at the start and end of the validity period for E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, L-1 and TN nonimmigrant workers [note that H-2B, H-3, O and P nonimmigrants already enjoy 10-day grace periods in existing regulations].  8 CFR 214.1(l)(2) allows E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1or TN nonimmigrant workers a grace period of 60 days based upon a cessation of their employment. The 60-day grace period is indeed a salutary feature. Up until January 17, 2017, whenever workers in nonimmigrant status got terminated, they were immediately considered to be in violation of status. There was also no grace period to depart the United States. Therefore, if a worker got terminated on a Friday, and did not depart on the same day, but only booked the flight home on Sunday, this individual would need to disclose on a future visa application, for all times, that s/he had violated status. Derivative family members, whose fortunes were attached to the principal’s, would also be rendered out of status upon the principal falling out status. Thus, the 60-day grace period not only gives the worker more time to leave the United States, but it also provides a window of opportunity to transition to another employer who can file an extension or change of status within the 60-day period. Similarly, the worker could also potentially change to some other status on his or her own, such as to F-1, after enrolling in a school. Prior to January 17, 2017, nonimmigrant workers who fell out of status upon cessation of their employment, and sought a late extension or change of status had to invoke the USCIS’s favorable discretion pursuant to 8 CFR 214 .1(c)(4) and 8 CFR 248(b)(1)-(2) by demonstrating, among other things, extraordinary circumstances.

Several questions have come up relating to when the 60-day grace period will trigger and how often can it be used. It would be useful to reproduce the provisions authorizing grace periods in their entirety for purposes of analyzing these questions.

§214.1 Requirements for admission, extension, and maintenance of status

(l) Period of stay. (1) An alien admissible in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, L-1, or TN classification and his or her dependents may be admitted to the United States or otherwise provided such status for the validity period of the petition, or for a validity period otherwise authorized for the E-1, E-2, E-3, and TN classifications, plus an additional period of up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends. Unless authorized under 8 CFR 274a.12, the alien may not work except during the validity period.

(2) An alien admitted or otherwise provided status in E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, L-1, O-1 or TN classification and his or her dependents shall not be considered to have failed to maintain nonimmigrant status solely on the basis of a cessation of the employment on which the alien’s classification was based, for up to 60 consecutive days or until the end of the authorized validity period, whichever is shorter, once during each authorized validity period. DHS may eliminate or shorten this 60-day period as a matter of discretion. Unless otherwise authorized under 8 CFR 274a.12, the alien may not work during such a period.

(3) An alien in any authorized period described in paragraph (l) of this section may apply for and be granted an extension of stay under paragraph (c)(4) of this section or change of status under 8 CFR 248.1, if otherwise eligible.

The answers to the questions I raise are not definitive as all of them involve a case of first impression, although some are based on the DHS’s responses to comments in the preamble, and USCIS may disagree. I do hope, however, that my attempted responses will be helpful for those who need to claim the grace period in situations that are not so clear cut.

How many times can I use the 60-day grace period?

The rule at 214.1(l)(2) states that you are entitled to the 60-day grace period “once during each authorized validity period.” 214.1(l)(1) defines validity period as a nonimmigrant who “may be admitted to the United States or otherwise provided such status for the validity period of the petition, or for a validity period otherwise authorized for the E-1, E-2, E-3, and TN classifications, plus an additional period of up to 10 days before the validity period begins and 10 days after the validity period ends.”

It thus appears that you are entitled to the 60-day grace period once during each validity period of the petition. Take for example an individual who has been admitted into the US under an H-1B visa petition with a validity period till December 31, 2017. If she gets terminated from her job with Company A, she will be entitled to the 60-day grace period that allows her to maintain H-1B status despite the cessation of employment. She finds a new job with Company B, which files an H-1B petition and extension of status within this 60-day period, resulting in an H-1B petition that is valid from August 1, 2017 to August 1, 2020. She arguably is now within a new validity period. If she gets terminated again by Company B, she should be able to seek another 60-day grace period.

The following extract from the preamble can aid us in this interpretation:

An individual may benefit from the 60-day grace period multiple times during hir or her total time in the United States; however, this grace period may only apply one time per authorized nonimmigrant validity period.

What if the new validity period filed by new employer Company B ends on the same date as the validity period of the petition filed by Company A?

Let’s now assume that December 31, 2017 is the final sixth year of this individual’s time spent in H-1B status. When the new employer, Company B, files the H-1B petition during the 60-day grace period, she is only entitled to H-1B status until December 31, 2017, which is the same validity period as the prior H-1B petition of Company A. If Company B terminates her, will she be entitled to a new 60-day grace period? The preamble to the final rule provides this guidance: “DHS clarifies that, while the grace period may only be used by an individual once during any single authorized validity period, it may apply to each authorized validity period the individual receives.” Although the end date of Company B’s H-1B petition, December 31, 2017, is the same as Company A’s, this is arguably still a new validity period even though it ends on the same day as the prior validity period. Therefore, she can argue that she is entitled to a new 60-day grace period. A new validity period should not be defined as having a different time frame from the older validity period; rather a new validity period resulted because of an extension request through a different petition. However, it is possible that USCIS may reach a different conclusion.

I got laid off by my employer while in H-1B status because the employer did not have enough business. Within 60 days, the employer got new business and rehired me again. Can I just resume employment with that employer without filing a new extension of status petition or leaving and returning to US again in H-1B status?

The purpose of the rule, especially at 214.1(l)(3), is to allow a worker to change or extend status within the 60-day period or to depart the US. However, if the worker is still within the validity period under H-1B classification, then arguably this worker can resume employment with the same employer. The worker never lost status during that 60-day grace period, and if joining the same employer, may not need to file an extension with the same employer. This is also a situation where the worker would most likely not be able to get a second 60-day grace period within the validity period of the same petition or admission. Legacy INS has indicated that when an H-1B worker returns to the former employer after a new extension of status has been filed through the new employer, the first company need not file a new H-1B petition upon the H-1B worker’s return as the first petition remains valid. See Letter, LaFluer, Chief, Business and Trade Branch, Benefits Division, INS, HQ 70/6.2.8 (Apr. 29, 1996); Letter, Hernandez, Director, Business and Trade Services, INS (April. 24, 2002).

Note, however, that if the employer laid off the H-1B worker, and did not notify USCIS regarding the termination, the employer could still potentially be liable for back wages under its obligation to pay the required wage under the Labor Condition Application for failing to effectuate a bona fide termination. See Amtel Group of Fla., Inc. v. Yongmahapakorn, ARB No. 04-087, ALJ No. 2004-LCA-0006 (ARB Sept. 29, 2006). Therefore, if the employer notified the USCIS, which resulted in the withdrawal of the H-1B petition, and the same employer files a new H-1B petition within the 60-day grace period, it could arguably create a new validity period. If the employee is terminated for a second time, it may be possible to argue that he is entitled to a new 60-day grace period.

Can I carry over unused days if I do not use all 60 days of the grace period?

The 60 days must be used consecutively and any unused days may not be used later in the same validity period or carried over into a subsequent validity period.

What if my job gets terminated when there are less than 60 days left of my nonimmigrant status?

The rule clearly states that you are entitled to a grace period of 60 consecutive days or until the end of the authorized validity period, whichever is shorter.

Can I get an additional 10 days grace period beyond the 60-day grace period?

In most cases the answer is “No”. However, there may be an exception where the cessation of employment was within the last 60 days of the validity period, and the worker was provided with a grace period of 10 days upon his last admission to the US. Under this limited case, the DHS will consider the nonimmigrant to have maintained status for 60 days immediately preceding the expiration of the validity period plus an additional 10 days. If the cessation of employment occurred when there were only 30 days left before the end of the validity period, then the individual should conceivably be able to claim a 30-day grace period plus 10 days.

Prior to my validity period ending in L-1A status, the same employer filed an extension of status, which got denied after the end of the prior validity period in L-1A status. Am I entitled to the 60-day grace period?

No. There is no grace period after an approved validity period has ended and when an extension of stay has been denied after that period. The 60-day grace period is intended to apply to individuals whose employment ends prior to the end of their approved validity period.

I ported while in H-1B status from Company A to Company B, and the petition for new employment is denied prior to the expiration of the validity period of the previous petition. Am I entitled to a 60-day grace period?

Yes. In this scenario, and as the preamble to the rule suggests, you will be entitled to a 60-day grace period. However, you will not be entitled to the grace period if the extension request is denied after the expiration of the validity period of the H-1B petition of Company A.

At issue is whether the grace period will be available if the same Company B files the H-1B again or must a new Company C file the new employer and extension petition? Since the grace period is applicable to the worker upon cessation of employment, it should not matter whether Company B or Company C files the new H-1B extension. However, readers should be forewarned that the USCIS still has discretion in determining whether the 60-day grace period is applicable or not. If Company B’s petition was denied for egregious reasons relating to fraud, the USCIS may likely not exercise its discretion favorably with respect to honoring the grace period.

Does it matter whether the employer terminates me or I leave the employer in order to be entitled to the 60-day grace period?

214.1(l)(2) states that the 60-day grace period triggers “on the basis of a cessation of the employment on which the alien’s classification was based.” Therefore, arguably it should not matter whether the termination occurred on the employer’s or the employee’s initiative. Again, the USCIS has discretion to decide whether a grace period will be applicable on a case by case basis.

Can I work during either the 60-day or 10-day grace period?

No. Because the rule was meant to facilitate the ability of nonimmigrants to transition to new employment, seek a change of status or depart the US, the rule clearly prohibits any form of employment.

The preamble to the rule even suggests that a nonimmigrant worker may not use the 60-day or 10-day period to work to start their own businesses too. However, if the activities for starting a business do not constitute work, especially if they would be permissible “non-work” activities under the B-1 visa, then one could argue that the person did not engage in prohibited activity during the grace period. However, this is risky given that the preamble has not made any distinction between work and non-work activities relating to the startup of a business.

Can I travel during either the 60-day or 10-day grace period in case of an emergency?

Although the rule is silent about travel, it is strongly advised that the nonimmigrant worker not travel during any of the grace periods. When the individual returns from the trip abroad, he or she will not be coming to join an employer and CBP will most likely not admit her. One of the purposes of the grace period is to facilitate departure from the US, and so it will be going against the intent of the rule if the individual departs and then tried to seek admission again. In the F-1 context, which provides a 60-day grace period to prepare for departure, see 8 CFR 214.2(f)(5)(iv), travelling back to the US is clearly not contemplated during this period.

Can I port to a new employer who files an H-1B petition during the 60-day grace period after my job was terminated by the old employer?

Yes. You are still considered to be maintain H-1B status during the grace period. If a new employer files the H-1B petition, you can exercise portability pursuant to INA 214(n) by commencing employment for the second employer after the H-1B petition has been filed with USCIS.

Can I request employment authorization in compelling circumstances while within the grace period?

Yes. The rule at 204.5(p) clearly states that the principal beneficiary of an approved petition when the priority date is not current can request a work authorization under compelling circumstances if the individual is in E-3, H-1B, H-1B1, O-1 or L-1 nonimmigrant status, “including the periods authorized by 214.1(l)(1) and (2)…..”

If I am unable to find a new job within the 60-day grace period, and find one after 60 days, and the new employer files the H-1B petition 80 days after the cessation of employment with my first employer, am I still eligible for an extension of H-1B status with the new employer?

The USCIS always has discretion to accept late filings based on extraordinary circumstances pursuant to 8 CFR 214.1(c)(4).

Can the USCIS give me less than 60 or 10 days of the grace period?

As noted, the USCIS can always exercise its discretion and will determine whether the facts and circumstances warrant shortening a grace period on a case by case basis. The following extract from the preamble is worth noting:

At the time a petitioner files a nonimmigrant visa petition requesting an extension of stay or change of status, DHS will determine whether facts and circumstances may warrant shortening or refusing the 60- day period on a case-by-case basis. If DHS determines credible evidence supports authorizing the grace period, DHS may consider the individual to have maintained valid nonimmigrant status for up to 60 days following cessation of employment and grant a discretionary extension of stay or a change of status to another nonimmigrant classification. See 8 CFR 214.1(c)(4) and 248.1(b). Such adjudications require individualized assessments that consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding the cessation of employment and the beneficiary’s activities after such cessation. While many cases might result in grants of 60-day grace periods, some cases may present factors that do not support the favorable exercise of this discretion. Circumstances that may lead DHS to make a discretionary determination to shorten or entirely refuse the 60-day grace period may include violations of status, unauthorized employment during the grace period, fraud or national security concerns, or criminal convictions, among other reasons.

The same logic would apply to the USCIS’s ability to exercise discretion with respect to the 10-day grace period.

How do I apply for the 60-day grace period?

There is no specific application or form. The USCIS will make an after the fact determination when you apply for an extension of status or change of status upon the cessation of employment. It is advisable to explain that you are using the grace period in a letter or affidavit.

(This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for legal advice)

High Skilled Worker Rule – Is There Scope For Porting On A Labor Certification?

By Cyrus D. Mehta & David A. Isaacson

Our firm provided selected comments to the  proposed DHS rule entitled “Retention of EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers.” These comments are based primarily on three recent blogs:

Including Early Adjustment Filing in Proposed DHS Rule Impacting High-Skilled Workers Would Give Big Boost to Delayed Green Card Applicants

Preserving H-1B Extension For Spouse And Freezing Age Of Child In Rule Impacting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers

The Opportunity to Be Heard: Why New DHS Proposed Regulations Regarding I-140 Petitions Should Incorporate and Expand Upon the Rule of Mantena v. Johnson.

Our comments focused on areas that others may not have commented on, and may require the DHS and even the DOL to propose supplemental rules. However, if our comments are considered, they will greatly improve the proposed rule.

The centerpiece of the rule is to grant work authorization to beneficiaries of approved I-140 petitions who are caught in the crushing employment-based backlogs. The requirement of demonstrating compelling circumstances has disappointed beneficiaries, along with further restrictions relating to the renewal of the work authorization. We do hope that the DHS removes these restrictions so that deserving beneficiaries are able to easily obtain work authorization.

It would also be highly desirable for beneficiaries of such approved I-140 petitions to exercise   job portability, and not be required to re-start the labor certification process through a new employer, even though the proposed rule allows for the retention of the old priority date under certain circumstances. Recognizing that INA 204(j) requires a pending I-485 adjustment application for 180 days, and thus the DHS may not be receptive to arguments that may justify portability, we proposed that DHS also consider promulgating a rule that would recognize the ability of applicants to file early adjustment applications based on a filing date that would be far ahead of the final action date in the State Department Visa Bulletin, even if theoretically one visa is only available in a preference category. The existence of a pending I-485 application would allow for true job mobility pursuant to INA 204(j).  If DHS does not accept our proposal for an early adjustment filing, we have proposed in our comment the following innovation, which we reproduce below:

“Modifying Labor Certification Rules to Provide Greater Flexibility to Beneficiaries of Approved Labor Certifications

Finally, we take this opportunity to suggest that USCIS propose to another Executive Branch department, specifically, the Department of Labor (“DOL”), some regulatory changes which would mesh well with those that USCIS has proposed and assist in accomplishing the goals of the President’s initiative.

First, we propose that the DOL should formalize a policy, previously suggested in some case law of the Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (“BALCA”), whereby an employer who wishes to offer an alien prospective employee a position which in substance has already been the subject of an approved labor certification, even for another employer, does not need to go through the entire labor certification process all over again.

In Matter of Law Offices of Jean-Pierre Karnos, 2003-INA-18, 2004 WL 1278081 (Bd. Alien Lab. Cert. App. 2004) [hereafter referred to as Matter of Karnos], BALCA held that if “there is a bona fide job opportunity which remains the same, despite the change in employers,” then “[t]he absence of a contractual agreement between [the employers] does not negate the fact that a bona fide job opportunity exists” and thus “the change in employers, when an adequate test of the labor market has been performed and when the position remains the same, does not offend the policies of labor certification.” Matter of Karnos, 2004 WL 1278081 at *2-*3. This is, we would submit, consistent with the text and purpose of INA § 212(a)(5)(A), which focuses on the effect on U.S. workers of the alien filling a particular position, rather than the identity of the employer who wishes to hire the alien to fill that position.

In Matter of Karnos, the lawyer who had operated the law office that was the original employer, Jean-Pierre Karnos, had died before a final decision was made on the application for labor certification. Matter of Karnos, 2004 WL 1278081 at *1. James G. Roche, Esq., continued to run a similar law firm under the name of the Law Offices of James Roche, but could not demonstrate that he had any formal contractual relationship with Mr. Karnos so as to assume ownership of Mr. Karnos’s firm. Id. at *1-2. The initial Certifying Officer within the Department of Labor denied labor certification based on the difference in employers, as BALCA explained:

[T]he CO stated that Mr. Roche was “unable to provide that he and Jean-Pierre Karnos had a written contractual or inheritance agreement.” Therefore, the CO found that Mr. Roche was a separate employer and should not be entitled to the application signed by another party. The CO denied certification on the ground that two “distinctly different employers” were involved and there was no agreement to “attest to the legality of this condition.”

Matter of Karnos, 2004 WL 1278081 at *2.

In his request for review by BALCA, Mr. Roche clarified that while he could not establish a formal relationship with the late Mr. Karnos, “he was offering the same position of accountant, under the same terms and conditions, including the same wage, set forth in the original application.” Id. BALCA agreed that this was sufficient:

In general, a new employer must file a new application unless the same job opportunity and the same area of intended employment are preserved. International Contractors, Inc. [and Technical Programming Services, Inc., 1989-INA-278 (Bd. Alien Lab. Cert. App. 1990)]; Germania Club, Inc., 1994-INA-391 (May 25, 1995). When the employer has clearly demonstrated that the job opportunity, including the wage paid, remains the same such that there is still a bona fide job opportunity, a new application is not required.

In this case, there is a bona fide job opportunity and an adequate test of the labor market has been performed. The new Employer, Mr. Roche, has indicated that the duties of the job remain the same and that the salary is the same. The same job opportunity has been preserved. The absence of a contractual agreement between Mr. Karnos and Mr. Roche does not negate the fact that a bona fide job opportunity exists with Mr. Roche as the employer. The new Employer has clearly demonstrated that there is a bona fide job opportunity which remains the same, despite the change in employers.

Therefore, in light of the particular factual circumstances presented by this case, we hold that the change in employers, when an adequate test of the labor market has been performed and when the position remains the same, does not offend the policies of labor certification. The former Employer attempted to recruit a U.S. worker for the position and the new Employer has certified that the position remains the same as that originally petitioned for, in the same area of employment. In such circumstances, labor certification should not be denied solely on the change in employers. Thus, the CO improperly denied certification.

Matter of Karnos, 2004 WL 1278081 at *2-*3.

DOL should amend the governing regulations to make explicit, and expand upon, the holding of Matter of Karnos. Where a new employer wishes to sponsor an employee for a position that remains the same, and is in the same area of employment, a new application for labor certification should not be required.

We also propose that DOL should add to Schedule A, at 20 CFR 656.5, a new “Group III” comprising persons who will be employed in a same or similar occupation to one for which they already have an approved labor certification from a different employer. Under such circumstances, it is reasonable for the Department of Labor to conclude on a categorical basis that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified and available, and that the wages of United States workers similarly employed will not be adversely affected, because a similar determination has already been made in the process of granting the previously approved labor certification.  New employers should under such circumstances therefore be able to process their labor certification through USCIS pursuant to 20 CFR 656.15.  At the very least, even if DOL is not willing to have Schedule III cover such same or similar occupations on a nationwide basis, it should cover instances in which the alien has an approved labor certification for a same or similar occupation, and the area of intended employment for the position covered by the Schedule III filing is within normal commuting distance of the area of intended employment for the position covered by the previously approved labor certification.”

 

FORM I-9 AND H-1B PORTABILITY

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has revised its Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (M-274). Revised as of January 5, 2011, http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-274.pdf., the handbook includes expanded guidance on lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, and acceptable documents for employees in temporary protected status (TPS). An update on the most recent changes can be found here, http://www.cyrusmehta.com/news.aspx?SubIdx=ocyrus2011123211626

The handbook now states that an employee in valid H-1B status who changes (ports) to a new employer can begin to work with the new employer upon filing an H-1B petition with USCIS. The prior version of the handbook required the porting H-1B employee to obtain a Form I-797 (Receipt Notice) from USCIS before beginning work with the new employer. This approach created considerable delay because it often takes USCIS weeks to issue the official I-797. The new requirement is more consistent with INA § 214(n), which requires only a “filing,” and this can be proved through an overnight courier delivery confirmation rather than waiting for the I-797 receipt notice.

The new version of the handbook explains that a porting H-1B employee may begin employment by presenting his or her Form I-94/I-94A (Arrival-Departure Record) issued for employment with the previous employer, along with his or her foreign passport, as a List A document. The employer should write “AC21” on the I-9, record the date that the new H-1B petition was submitted to USCIS in the margin next to Section 2 of the I-9, and attach documentation as specified in the handbook.

Unfortunately, there is another aspect of portability that still remains unresolved. INA § 214(n) is broad enough to allow an H-1B worker to exercise portability even though he or she changed to another status. Thus, one who originally entered in H-1B status and then changed to F-1 student status can still “port” to a new job if a new employer files a petition for H-1B status, along with a request for change of status from F-1 to H-1B. In Keeping Track: Select Isues In Employer Sanctions and Immigration Compliance by Gary Endelman and Cyrus D. Mehta, http://www.cyrusmehta.com/News.aspx?SubIdx=ocyrus20101218204951&Month=&From=Menu&Page=2&Year=All#_ftn2, the authors make the following observation:

What does E-Verify have to say about work authorization during H-1B portability?

While this paper presents a general overview of E-Verify, the importance of a recent development in the delicate relationship between E-Verify and H-1B portability compels us to mention it if only in passing. In late October 2010, the Verification & Documentation Liaison Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) received confirmation from E-Verify that it would no longer verify work authorization for an employee who is working for an employer under H-1B portability where the employee previously held H-1B status but has since held an intervening status. See AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 10102268 (posted Oct. 22, 2010). This came as a stunning development. In the past, many AILA members had relied upon the text of Section 105(a) of the American Competiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC 21), now codified at INA § 214(n), to advise that such employees were work authorized based on the clear language of the statute. However, in an unannounced change of policy, AILA recently received reports that E-Verify had been issuing final nonconfirmations for employees working pursuant to H-1B portability who currently hold another status, such as H-4 or F-1. The Committee requested clarification from E-Verify, citing the language in the statute which permits a beneficiary to work if he or she “was previously issued” an H-1B visa or status and meets the other requirements for portability. INA §214(n).
In response to the Committee’s inquiry, E-Verify provided the following response:
The Office of Chief Counsel at USCIS has advised us that similarly situated individuals are not employment authorized. … The H-1B Portability Rule does not apply to a nonimmigrant who was in H-1B status at one time, but who is currently in another valid status and for whom a non-frivolous I-129 Petition to obtain H-1B status has been filed. … USCIS has interpreted Section 105 of AC21 (INA section 214(n)) as allowing those who are currently in H-1B status, or who are in a “period of authorized stay” as a result of a pending H-1B extension petition(s), to begin new employment upon the filing by the prospective employer of a new (H-1B) petition on the alien’s behalf. USCIS guidance dated December 27, 2005, states that “porting under INA §214 does not require that the alien currently be in H-1B status as long as he or she is in a ‘period of stay authorized by the Attorney General.'” That statement serves to clarify the earlier section specifically referring to an “H-1B alien” and should be read in the context of the particular example given: an alien who was in H-1B status and is now in an authorized period of stay based on a timely filed extension of H-1B status petition on the alien’s behalf, and who then seeks to start working for a different H-1B employer upon that employer’s filing of a petition. This interpretation is consistent with USCIS guidance to the public on its website (Nonimmigrant Services, H-1B FAQs, page 61) which states:
Changing employers – An H-1B worker can change employers, but first the new employer must file a labor condition application and then file a new H-1B petition. If the worker is already an H-1B, he or she can then begin the employment as described in the petition without waiting for USCIS to approve the petition. This is called a “portability provision,” and it only applies to someone already in valid H-1B status. Based on this guidance, E-Verify queries will continue to result in nonconfirmations in similar cases.”
The authors strongly believe that the USCIS interpretation underlying the E-Verify protocol is inconsistent with the clear language of AC 21.