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Immigration announces employment visa policy changes

The federal government is taking some action to make it a little easier for immigrant entrepreneurs to qualify for permanent residency in the United States. The action is not through passage of new laws, but rather through clarifications in a number of employment-based visa programs.

The new policy changes were announced Tuesday. Alejandro Mayorkas, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), says "Current immigration laws support foreign talent who will invest their capital, create new jobs for American workers, and dedicate their exceptional talent to the growth of our nation's economy."

The modifications involve the employment-based second preference (EB-2) visa and the EB-5 visa program. Immigration officials also clarified who may qualify under the non-immigrant visa program for foreign workers in specialty occupations that require expertise in specialized field, such as science, engineering and computer programming. The specialty visa program is known as the H-1B visa program.

Immigration officials say foreign workers with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in the arts sciences or business can qualify for an EB-2 visa more easily, under the newly announced policies. The general requirements of a job offer and a certification from the Department of Labor can be waived if a petitioner can show approval of the EB-2 visa would serve the national interest of the United States.

USCIS says the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program will see changes in the intake process, which Immigration officials hope to roll-out in a three step process. The first step is expected to be implanted with the next month.

Among the streamlined enhancements in the EB-5 visa process, USCIS intends to extend the availability of premium processing on certain applications, implement direct lines of communication and resolve some outstanding issues in an application by providing applicants with an interview before a USCIS panel of experts.

USCIS also clarified that an individual who may be a sole owner and only employee of a company may be able to show an employer-employee relationship, allowing the worker to qualify for an employer sponsored H-1B visa. USCIS says the relationship may be shown through evidence that a separate Board of Directors exists, which has with the authority to hire, fire, pay, supervise or otherwise control the worker.

Source: Department of Homeland Security, "Secretary Napolitano Announces Initiatives to Promote Startup Enterprises and Spur Job Creation," August 2, 2011

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