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Seeking highly-skilled workers, DHS plans immigration reforms

In our previous post we discussed immigration reforms suggested by the Immigration Policy Center of the American Immigration Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that could potentially have a positive impact on the economic growth of the United States. In this post we will discuss reforms that the Department of Homeland Security is hoping to make to U.S. immigration law to make it easier for highly-skilled immigrants to either enter or stay in the U.S. for employment.

According to the DHS, these changes are, in part, an effort to address the economic needs of the U.S. In the short term President Obama is said to support legislation that would bring in and allow to remain, immigrants through the creation of what is being called a "Startup Visa." In addition, the legislation make the H-1B program stronger and allow green cards to be "stapled" to diplomas of graduates in the U.S. with degrees in STEM fields-science, technology, engineering and math.

The DHS is working to reform several of its visa programs, via the administrative process as well. It is seeking to implement at least five reforms.

The first thing the DHS is seeking to do is expand the pool of F-1 international students who are eligible for the 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT). Also impacting F-1 international students, the reforms would provide the spouses of F-1 students the opportunity to enroll in additional academic classes, part-time. As necessary, the number of Designated School Officials (DSOs) at the schools the DHS certifies as able to allow international students to enroll would be increased as well.

The next reform also affects spouses, this time, of some H-1B holders. Certain spouses of H-1B visa holders would be able to legally work in the U.S. while waiting for their spouse's adjustment of status application to be dealt with.

Other potential changes include allowing researchers and professors considered as exceptional to provide more information regarding their academic achievement to bolster visa applications and letting those holding H-1B1 visas from Chile and Singapore and E-3 visa holders from Australia to continue to work for a current employer for a period of time while they are waiting to hear back on their extension of status petitions.

The DHS has not indicated when these reforms will be complete.

Source: Government Security News, "DHS outlines plans to reform visa processes to keep highly-skilled immigrant workers," Mark Rockwell, Feb. 1, 2012

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