On Thursday November 20, 2014, President Obama announced that he would be using his powers already granted to him by the U.S. Constitution and Congress to make certain reforms to the United States’ broken immigration system. Most of the fanfare (and most of his speech) has been devoted to the President’s plan to utilize prosecutorial discretion to prevent the deportation of certain undocumented foreign nationals. However, President Obama has also committed to making several important reforms to employment-based immigration, including:
- Modernizing and streamlining the quota system used to issue employment-based Green Cards;
- Allowing individuals with approved employment-based Green Card petitions who are caught in the quota backlogs to apply in advance for certain immigration benefits;
- Increasing employment flexibility for foreign nationals with pending Green Cards;
- Allowing spouses of H-1B Workers who have reached certain milestones in the Green Card process to apply for employment authorization;
- Expanding employment opportunities for foreign graduates from U.S. Universities, especially for those in STEM fields;
- Expanding and promoting underutilized programs to encourage research, development, and entrepreneurship in the United States;
- Clarifying the adjudication standards for “Specialized Knowledge” intra-company transferees (L-1B Visas);
- Modernizing the Labor Certification (PERM) Program; and
- Establishing an Interagency working group for consistent enforcement of federal labor, employment and immigration laws.
The policy memoranda issued in the past 24 hours have been sparse and are missing important details regarding the above reforms, so we would like to give the Obama Administration time to clarify its plan before providing an analysis of the actions that will be taken. We expect to issue an Immigration Alert in the coming days with more details on each of the above points.
In the meantime, please feel free to contact the Immigration Law Group with any questions on the potential impact of the reforms.