United States: Immigration Reforms And Updates From DHS And DOS

Proposed DHS administrative reforms designed to attract and retain highly skilled foreign nationals; DOS changes aim to improve visa and foreign visitor processing.

DHS Announces Proposed Administrative Reforms

In a press release dated January 31, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a number of proposed administrative reforms designed to enable the United States to attract and retain highly skilled foreign nationals. These reforms, which will not be effective until regulatory or administrative action is taken to implement them, include the following:

  • Eligibility for a 17-month extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment authorization would be expanded to include students who have a prior degree in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field and would not be limited to those who have just graduated with a degree in a STEM field. At present, only students whose most recent degree is in a designated STEM field may obtain a 17-month OPT extension. Under this proposed change, for example, a student that has just graduated with degree in business administration, but earlier obtained a degree in electrical engineering, would be eligible for a 17-month OPT extension. It is not clear if DHS plans to allow individuals whose earlier degrees in STEM fields were obtained overseas to qualify for this extension. DHS also indicated that it will review "emerging fields" of study for possible inclusion in the list of designated STEM fields.
  • H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B employees would be allowed to work once the principal H-1B visa holder has begun the employment-based permanent resident process, provided that the H1-B spouse has completed a yet-to-be-determined minimum period of H-1B status in the United States. At present, H-4 dependents may only work once they have filed an adjustment of status application and received an Employment Authorization Document. The proposed change might allow H-4 dependents to accept employment while their H-1B spouses are undergoing the PERM labor certification application or immigrant petition process, provided the H-1B spouse has held H-1B status for the requisite period of time.
  • Additional part-time study for spouses of F-1 students would be permitted. At present, F-2 spouses may only engage in recreational or vocational study.
  • The scope of acceptable evidence for foreign nationals applying for permanent residence in the EB-1 Outstanding Professor/Researcher immigrant category would be expanded. At present, such persons may establish their eligibility for this category only through specific types of evidence prescribed by regulation. The proposed change would allow "comparable evidence" beyond the prescribed types of evidence to be used to demonstrate eligibility. The use of such "comparable evidence" is currently permitted for petitions filed under the EB-1 Extraordinary Ability immigrant category.
  • Foreign nationals from Australia in E-3 status and Chilean and Singaporean nationals in H-1B1 status would be allowed to receive an extension of work authorization for up to 240 days upon the timely filing of an extension-of-stay petition. At present, this 240-day extension is available only to persons holding certain nonimmigrant statuses such as E-1 and E-2, H-1B, L-1, P, and O statuses. No mention was made in the release of allowing the Premium Processing service to be expanded to E-3 and H-1B1 petitions.

Although these changes are very welcome, it should be emphasized, as indicated above, that these are only proposed reforms and are not effective yet. We will continue to monitor the situation and update you if the DHS or an agency within it takes steps to implement these reforms.

Executive Order Signed to Improve Visa Processing

On January 19, President Obama signed an executive order to "improve visa and foreign visitor processing and travel promotion." The executive order requires the Department of State (DOS) and DHS to develop a plan to ensure that 80% of applicants for nonimmigrant visas are interviewed within three weeks of their application. The order also mandates a pilot program in China and Brazil to increase nonimmigrant visa processing capacity by 40% in the coming year. In addition, the order requires an increase in efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program (although it is not mentioned in the order, Taiwan is expected soon to be allowed to participate in this program) and to expand the Global Entry Program—a streamlined inspection and admission program at certain airports that is currently available only to citizens of Mexico and the Netherlands, as well as to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

DOS Announces "Visa Pilot Program"

In a January 19, 2012, announcement, DOS unveiled a new initiative under which, "in select circumstances," certain visa applicants who were previously interviewed and screened by a consulate may be allowed to renew their visas without undergoing another interview. It is not clear from the text of the announcement if this pilot program will be limited to Chinese and Brazilian visa applicants. A number of U.S. consulates already allow such visa renewals without personal interviews, provided the applicant's 10 fingerprints were previously taken and he or she is present in the country in which the consulate is located at the time of application. More specific information regarding the pilot program will be released at a later date.

DOS Issues Final Rule to Allow Issuance of L Visas for Full Reciprocity Periods

On January 31, DOS issued a Final Rule that amends its regulations to require that L intracompany transferee visas be issued for the full validity period allowed by the relevant visa reciprocity schedule. At present, L visas may be issued for a maximum validity period of three years, with the validity period of such a visa generally being determined by the validity period of the underlying nonimmigrant petition approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Under this new rule, an L-1 beneficiary may receive an L visa that is valid beyond the validity period of the underlying nonimmigrant petition and would not be required to obtain a new visa upon receiving an extension of stay from the USCIS. Thus, an Indian citizen may obtain approval of an L-1 petition for a period of three years. When he or she applies for an L visa to enter the United States, he or she may be issued a visa that is valid for five years. If this person subsequently receives an extension of his or her L period of stay for two years, he or she would not need to obtain a new L visa to reenter the United States. It should be noted that having an unexpired L visa does not authorize admission to, or employment in, the United States in the absence of a valid nonimmigrant petition. The new rule will obviously not benefit nationals of countries (such as Mexico) with a visa reciprocity agreement with the United States that allows for a shorter visa validity period than the petition validity period. It remains to be seen how this new rule will affect holders of L visas issued under a blanket petition.

Copyright 2012. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. All Rights Reserved.

This article is provided as a general informational service and it should not be construed as imparting legal advice on any specific matter.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions