The Department of Homeland Security has demonstrated their intent to limit legal immigration once again, posting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would modify the H-1B selection process from one that has been random to a new wage-based ranking system. The proposed rule allows comments through December 2, 2020 and form revision comments are due by January 3, 2021. The rule would not take effect until the final rule is published and made effective, which could be in 2021. USCIS states:
If finalized as proposed, USCIS would first select registrations (or petitions, if the registration process is suspended) generally based on the highest Occupational Employment Statistics prevailing wage level that the offered wage equals or exceeds for the relevant Standard Occupational Classification code and area(s) of intended employment. Replacing the random selection process in this manner is expected to help counter the downward pressure on the wages of U.S. workers that is created by an annual influx of relatively lower-paid, new cap-subject H-1B workers.
Prioritization and selection based on wage levels better balances the interests of petitioners, H-1B workers, and U.S. workers. The changes proposed in this NPRM would maintain the effective and efficient administration of the H-1B cap selection process while providing some prospective petitioners the ability to potentially improve their chance of selection by agreeing to pay H-1B beneficiaries higher wages that equal or exceed higher prevailing wage levels.
The stakeholder message also stated that the NPRM would “further the administration’s goal of prioritizing H-1B cap-subject registrations for petitioners seeking to employ higher-skilled and higher paid workers, which is more aligned with the general congressional intent for the H-1B program.”
Key Provisions of the Proposed Rule
While the H-1B cap registration system has historically been a random selection process, the rule would shift to a ranking of registrations based on the highest OES wage level that the proffered wage equaled or exceeded for the relevant SOC code in the area of intended employment. The top-ranked registrations would begin at OES wage level IV and proceed in descending order.
- If the proffered wage falls below OES wage level I because the wage is based on a prevailing wage from another legitimate source (other than OES) or an independent authoritative source, USCIS will rank the registration as OES level I.
- After the 65,000 “regular cap” selections are made, the same process would be utilized to meet the advanced-degree exemption.
- If USCIS receives and ranks more registrations at a particular wage level than the projected number needed to meet the applicable numerical allocation, USCIS will randomly select from all registrations within that particular wage level to reach the applicable numerical limitation.
- If the H-1B beneficiary will work in multiple locations, USCIS will rank and select the registration based on the lowest corresponding OES wage level that the proffered wage will equal or exceed.
- Where there is no current OES prevailing wage information for the proffered position, USCIS will rank and select the registration based on the OES wage level that corresponds to the requirements of the proffered position.
- The electronic registration form (and the H-1B petition) will be amended to require provision of the highest OES wage level that the proffered wage equals or exceeds for the relevant SOC code in the area of intended employment.
- The proposed rule requires that a valid registration must represent a legitimate job offer.
- USCIS may deny the petition if it is determined that the statements on the registration or petition were inaccurate, fraudulent, or misrepresented a material fact.
- A petition also may be denied if it is not based on a valid registration submitted by the petitioner (or its designated representative), or a successor in interest, for the beneficiary named in the petition.
- USCIS may deny or revoke approval of a subsequent new or amended petition filed by the petitioner, or a related entity, on behalf of the same beneficiary, if USCIS determines that the filing of the new or amended petition is part of the petitioner’s attempt to unfairly decrease the proffered wage to an amount that would be equivalent to a lower wage level, after listing a higher wage level on the registration to increase the odds of selection.
- USCIS will not deny an amended or new petition solely on the basis of a different proffered wage if that wage does not correspond to a lower OES wage level than the wage level on which the registration was based.
Employers and other concerned parties should submit comments prior to December 2, 2020. You can submit formal comments to the agency on the Federal Register website.
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