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DHS Announces Immigration Process Improvements Regarding Startup America Agenda

February 2, 2012

Cox Smith E-Alert

DHS Announces Immigration Process Improvements Regarding Startup America Agenda

On January 31, 2012, the White House announced that President Obama sent a Startup America Legislative Agenda to Congress that provides greater tax relief and access to capital for small businesses and startups. In relation to this announcement, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is making changes that would result in attracting and keeping highly-skilled immigrants in the United States (U.S.).

Effective Date: “Future”

Improvement Topics:

  1. Students
  2. Spouses of Students
  3. Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders – Employment Authorization
  4. Outstanding Professors and Researchers
  5. E-3 and H-1B1 Harmonized
  6. L Visa Validity Period Extended to Mirror Reciprocity Schedule

Of these potential improvements, some note-worthy items include:

  • Expansion of eligibility for the 17 month extension of OPT to F-1 students who graduate with a non-STEM field degree, if they have previously earned a degree in a STEM field.
  • Spouses of F-1 students would be permitted to engage in academic part-time study.
  • Permission of certain spouses of qualifying H-1B visa holders to apply for and receive work authorization while his or her spouse’s adjustment of status application is pending (definition of “pending” is unclear).
  • Foreign professors and researchers who seek employment-based immigrant visas by proving that they are the very best in their fields would be permitted to use an expanded scope of evidence to show academic achievement.
  • Standardized regulations to allow E-3 (Australia) and H-1B1 (Chile/Singapore) visa holders to continue to work for their employers for up to 240 days from the expiration of their authorized period of stay, if a petition to extend status has been timely filed.
  • The reciprocity schedule between the U.S. and the L visa applicant’s country of nationality would determine the period of visa validity versus the I-129 petition validity period.**

**Some of the questions concerning the reciprocity schedule are: What period of stay will U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authorize based on a three year petition validity and a five year visa validity? Will CBP regulations change?

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