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NPZ Immigration Law Blog

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

FROM “MUST” TO “MAY” ON RETROACTIVITY ASPECT: USCIS ISSUES FINAL GUIDANCE ON WHEN TO SUBMIT H-1B AMENDED PETITION.

As discussed in our recently co-authored Article, H-1B AMENDMENTS POST-SIMEIO SOLUTIONS: WHY CIS SHOULD CONSIDER TAKING OFF THE RETROACTIVITY ASPECT FROM THE “DRAFT” GUIDANCE, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in its revised Final Guidance, that came out on July 21, 2015, suggests that the Simeio Solutions decision[1] will not be applied retroactively, which is a significant departure from the USCIS’ Draft Guidance.

As discussed in our above-mentioned article, in Simeio Solutions, the AAO specifically stated that when H-1B employees change their place of employment to a worksite location that requires employers to certify a new Labor Condition Application (LCA) for nonimmigrant workers to the Department of Homeland Security, this change may affect the employee’s eligibility for H-1B status; it is therefore a material change for purposes.

Because the decision was not very clear as to whether the AAO only referred to a move outside the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the DHS Ombudsman call on April 30, 2015, clarified that amended petitions will be required only for movement of H-1B workers outside the MSA listed on the LCA. Then, just when the new changes regarding H-1B amendments started to sink-in, came the surprise. On May 21, 2015, USCIS issued guidance instructing employers to submit an amended petitions for employees who changed worksite locations prior to the issuance of Simeio Solutions decision.

Specifically, employers were asked to submit amended H-1B petition(s) if they, in good faith, relied on prior non-binding agency correspondence and did not file an amended petition due to a change in an MSA or area of intended employment. The employers were asked to submit such amended petitions by August 19, 2015. Six days later, on May 27, 2015, USCIS updated its guidance to reflect that the guidance was in a “draft” form, and that comments would be accepted “for a limited period of time.”

USCIS’ final guidance provides much needed relief to the companies, especially the technology companies, employing considerable amount of workforce in the United States on H-1B visas as the cost of filing amended H-1B petitions on behalf of their employees prior to the issuance of Simeio Solutions decision could have imposed significant burden in terms of cost, time and manpower.

So, how does the new guidance helps the H-1B employers, and when they are required to submit H-1B petitions. As per the new memo, if an H-1B worker moved to a new location not covered by the existing petition prior to or on April 9, 2015, the date on which Simeio Solutions decision was published, the “…USCIS will generally not pursue new adverse actions (e.g., denials or revocations) solely based upon a failure to file an amended or new petition.” In simple language, an H-1B amended petition involving a location change outside of an MSA would be required if the change happened after April 9, 2015. Note that this memo will not protect employers if adverse action was initiated prior to July 21, 2015.

Further, this memo provide a Safe Harbor Period, for all moves requiring an H-1B amended petition, which happened between April 9, 2015, and August 19, 2015. If any move happened during this period then petitioning employers must submit H-1B amended petition by January 15, 2016. Additionally, any change in place of employment (outside the MSA listed on the LCA) after August 19, 2015, would require an amended H-1B Petition. For quick reference, here is a snapshot of when to submit H-1B amended petitions.

 

Date of Employee(S) Movement Outside The MSA Listed on LCA.

 

What Action Needs to be Taken?

On or before April 9, 2015.

No amended H-1B petition required.

On or before April 9, 2015.

Must submit H-1B amended petition by January 15, 2016.

After August 19, 2015.

Must submit H-1B amended petition.

 

The revised final guidance reconfirmed that an amended H-1B petition is not required if the geographical move is within the MSA. However, the petitioner is required to post the original LCA at the new work location. Similarly, an amended H-1B petition is not required if the H-1B employee is attending training sessions, seminars, conferences, etc. of a short duration at a location not listed on the LCA. Further, H-1B amended petition need not be submitted to USCIS for short-term placements of up to 30 days, or in some case up to 60 days (where employee is still based at “home” worksite).

Last but not the least; the revised final guidance confirms that if an employer’s amended H-1B petition is denied, but the original petition remains valid, the H-1B employee may return to work at the place of employment covered by the original petition.



[1] Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC, 26 I&N Dec. 542 (AAO 2015).


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