THE NEUFELD MEMO REVISITED AND THE H-1B VISA CLIMATE: The New Face of Enforcement in the H-1B World, Part III

As a result of increased site visits and a general inclination to decrease the number of H-1B’s approved, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) published a watershed memo on January 8th, 2010 (“the Neufeld Memo”). The Neufeld Memo radically changed the way that H-1B’s were adjudicated. The Neufeld Memo also put enormous pressure on employers to satisfy additional evidence requirements justifying any work performed by an H-1B visa holder off of the H-1B visa petitioner’s premises. Additionally, the Neufeld Memo added additional requirements for H-1B petitioners to obtain H-1B extensions. It is this author’s opinion that as a result of this Neufeld Memo, employers will see automatic requests for evidence in any case where the beneficiary may be performing off-site work and for any H-1B visa extension petition. It continues to be our strong recommendation that employers add a section to their H-1B petitions which cover the issues addressed by the Neufeld Memo. Even one and one half years after this Memo was promulgated.

USCIS is still concerned about whether or not there is a valid employer employee relationship. The Neufeld Memo basically states that hiring a person to work in the United States requires more than merely paying the wage or placing that person on the payroll of the H-1B petitioning organization. In considering whether or not there is a valid “employer employee relationship” for purposes of H-1B petition adjudication, USCIS must determine if the employer exercises a sufficient level of “control” over the prospective H-1B employee. Clearly, if the employee will be working “on site” in the H-1B petitioner’s office, doing specific tasks for the petitioner, this will not be viewed as raising a “control” issue. However, with the publication of the Neufeld Memo, it remains our opinion that all employers need to address the “control” issue upon initial submission of an H-1B petition to the USCIS.

The prospective H-1B petitioner organization must be able to establish that it has the “right to control” when, where, and how the prospective H-1B nonimmigrant beneficiary will perform the professional and specialty occupation job and the USCIS will consider the following items to make such a determination (with no one of the following factors being decisive with regard to the issue of “control”):

(1) Does the potential H-1B petitioner supervise the prospective H-1B beneficiary and is such supervision off-site or on-site?

(2) If the supervision is off-site, how does the petitioner maintain such supervision, i.e., weekly calls, reporting back to main office routinely, or site visits by the petitioner?

(3) Does the petitioner have the right to control the work of the beneficiary on a day-to-day basis if such control is required?

(4) Does the petitioner provide the tools or instrumentalities needed for the beneficiary to perform the duties of employment?

(5) Does the petitioner hire, pay, and have the ability to fire the beneficiary?

(6) Does the petitioner evaluate the work-product of the beneficiary, i.e., progress/performance reviews?

(7) Does the petitioner claim the beneficiary for tax purposes?

(8) Does the petitioner provide the beneficiary any type of employee benefits?

(9) Does the beneficiary use proprietary information of the petitioner in order to perform the duties of employment?

(10) Does the beneficiary produce an end-product that is directly linked to the petitioner’s line of business?

(11) Does the petitioner have the ability to control the manner and means in which the work-product of the beneficiary is accomplished?

In addition to the foregoing, the USCIS provides specific examples of employment situations in which the “control” issue is not considered to be problematic. Please note that there are numerous variations of these scenarios and that each employment situation may not fit squarely into the examples provided by the USCIS.

The “Traditional Employment” Scenario:

If the prospective H-1B beneficiary works at an office location owned/leased by the prospective H-1B petitioner and the beneficiary reports directly to the petitioner on a daily basis, the petitioner sets the work schedule of the beneficiary, the beneficiary uses the petitioner’s tools/instrumentalities to perform the duties of employment, and the petitioner directly reviews the work-product of the beneficiary. The petitioner claims the beneficiary for tax purposes and provides medical benefits to the beneficiary.

The “Temporary/Occasional Off-Site Employment” Scenario:

The prospective H-1B nonimmigrant petitioner is an accounting firm with numerous clients. The beneficiary is an accountant. The beneficiary is required to travel to different client sites for auditing purposes. In performing such audits, the beneficiary must use established firm practices. If the beneficiary travels to an off-site location outside the geographic location of the employer to perform an audit, the petitioner provides food and lodging costs to the beneficiary. The beneficiary reports to a centralized office when not performing audits for clients and has an assigned office space. The beneficiary is paid by the petitioner and receives employee benefits from the petitioner.

The “Long-Term/Permanent Off-Site Employment” Scenario:

The prospective H-1B nonimmigrant petitioner is an architectural firm and the beneficiary is an architect. The petitioner has a contract with a client to build a structure in a location out of state from the petitioner’s main offices. The petitioner will place its architects and other staff at the off-site location while the project is being completed. The contract between the petitioner and client states that the petitioner will manage its employees at the off-site location. The petitioner provides the instruments and tools used to complete the project, the beneficiary reports directly to the petitioner for assignments, and progress reviews of the beneficiary are completed by the petitioner. The underlying contract states that the petitioner has the right to ultimate control of the beneficiary’s work.

To be continued…