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EIG Week in Review (May 9, 2014)

May 9, 2014

Highlights

  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security Announces Proposal to Extend Work Authorization to H-4 Visa Holders
  • New Visa Agency to Issue Indian Visas in the U.S.
  • UK Implements Automatic Renewal System for Certificate of Sponsorship Allocations

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Announces Proposal to Extend Work Authorization to H-4 Visa Holders

Last month, we reported that the White House released a statement, announcing that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would soon issue proposed rules aimed at broadening work opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs and high-skill immigrants, including their families.  This week, DHS released its Proposals to Attract and Retain Highly Skilled Immigrants.

Notably, the proposal included a rule to extend employment authorization to spouses of H-1B visa holders.  Currently, H-4 dependents of H-1B visa holders are not authorized to work in the U.S.  The proposal also included a rule to enhance opportunities for certain groups of highly-skilled workers by removing obstacles to their remaining in the U.S.  Opening the U.S. labor market to H-4 visa holders is expected to make the U.S. more attractive to talented foreign entrepreneurs and other high-skill immigrants who will contribute substantially to the U.S. economy, create jobs, and enhance American innovative competitiveness.

Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas commented on the proposal:

The proposed rules announced today provide important support to U.S. businesses while also supporting economic growth here in the U.S.  These steps will help the U.S. maintain competitiveness with other countries in our efforts to attract the best and the brightest high-skilled workers from around the world to support companies here at home. Businesses continue to need these high-skilled workers, and these rules ensure we do not cede the upper hand to other countries competing for the same talent.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker also weighed in:

These two proposed rule changes are an integral part of the Administration’s efforts to strengthen entrepreneurship and innovation, and to help the United States attract and retain highly skilled immigrants.  The fact is, we must do more to retain and attract world-class talent to the United States and these regulations put us on a path to doing that. These actions promise to unleash more of the extraordinary contributions that immigrants have always made to America’s innovation economy.

Both Notices of Proposed Rulemaking will soon be published in the Federal Register. DHS encourages the public to comment on the proposed rules through www.regulations.gov.  All public comments will be considered before the final rules are published and go into effect.

New Visa Agency to Issue Indian Visas in the U.S.

The Indian Embassy in Washington has awarded the new contract for providing Visa/OCI/PIO/Renunciation of Indian Citizenship Certificate application support services.  Effective May 21, 2014, Cox & Kings Global Services Pvt. Ltd. will take over all Indian visa support services in the United States.  Indian visa services in the U.S. are currently processed by BLS International Ltd., with locations in Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, and Atlanta.

BLS will accept applications submitted in person until the afternoon of  May 16, 2014. Only Emergency Visa applications will be accepted by BLS until noon on May 20, 2014.  Applications sent via mail to BLS by May 13, 2014 and reaching the BLS office on or before May 15, 2014 will be accepted.  Thereafter, applicants, sending their applications by mail must courier them to Cox & Kings Global Services Pvt. Ltd. at the appropriate jurisdictional location.

In light of this transition, applicants should expect significant delays in processing.  In addition, there may also be temporary changes in filing procedures or requirements as the visa processing is transitioned over to Cox & Kings.

EIG will continue to monitor these changes and provide updates as necessary.

UK Implements Automatic Renewal System for Certificate of Sponsorship Allocations

The United Kingdom Home Office has introduced automatic renewal of Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) allocations and eliminated the annual renewal process for licensed sponsor employers.  Effective August 6, 2014, employers will no longer need to make an annual application to renew their CoS allocation, eliminating delays in the renewal process for unrestricted CoS allocations of Tier 2 employees.  Only allocations that are due to expire from August 6, 2014 onwards will be affected by this change.

The number of CoS allocations automatically renewed by the Home Office will be based on the number from the previous allocation year. If an employer needs an unexpected allocation of unrestricted CoS beyond the amount granted by the Home Office, it can make an ad hoc request via the Sponsorship Management System (SMS) at any time during the year.

The automatic renewal for unrestricted CoS in the Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa categories is intended to make the SMS more user-friendly.  Once the automatic system is in full effect, sponsor license accounts will be adjusted so that at the end of each allocation year, employers will automatically be granted a new allocation equal to the number of CoS assigned to migrants in that category during the previous allocation year.  Previously, employers were required to renew their CoS allocations every year and give business reasons for the requested number of CoS. The automatic renewal process will prevent cases where sponsors urgently need to assign CoS but are unable to do so because their allocation has expired.

At this time, employers do not need to take affirmative steps to initiate the automatic renewal process. Instead, the Home Office will reach out to employers once the SMS has fully implemented the auto renewal function.