U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently proposed a series of changes to the rules relating to employment immigration. The changes are intended to make the U.S. more attractive to highly-skilled foreign students and workers, thereby improving the competitiveness of U.S. companies in the world market and stimulating U.S. job creation. The proposed changes include the following:

  • Expand eligibility for 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students to include students with a prior degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Applicants will therefore be able to apply for the extension even though they are not currently pursuing a STEM degree, as long as they have a prior degree in the STEM field.
  • Permit spouses of F-1 students to take any kind of part-time course load, rather than permitting only vocational and recreational classes.
  • Expand the number of Designated School Officials (DSOs) at schools certified by DHS to enroll international students.
  • Provide work authorization for spouses of certain H-1B holders. Under the proposed rule, an H-4 spouse could get work authorization if his or her H-1B spouse is filing for an employment-based green card.
  • Add “comparable evidence” to the list of evidence that can be submitted on behalf of outstanding professors and researchers. Comparable evidence, which is currently permitted for the other exceptional immigrant visa categories, will serve to broaden the range of evidence that professors and researchers may submit.
  • Harmonize rules to allow E-3 visa holders from Australia and H-1B1 visa holders from Singapore and Chile to continue working with their current employers for up to 240 days while their petitions for extension of status are pending.
  • Launch Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative. The initiative will utilize industry expertise to strengthen USCIS policies and practices surrounding immigrant investors, entrepreneurs, and workers with specialized skills, knowledge, or abilities.

For more information on the initiative please visit the USCIS website.