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Changes to the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program

Employers in Pennsylvania who have hired foreign employees through the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program could be affected by a recent decision by the Administrative Appeals Office. Although AAO decisions are generally limited to the case at hand, the AAO does issue rare decisions that set precedents for future cases. One such ruling was recently issued that will affect employers' ability to move H-1B workers.

In the recent decision, the AAO ruled that employers must file an amended petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services every time they move an H-1B employee to a different work location. Employers who have already filed a petition for an employee to work in a specific metropolitan statistical area may move the employee to different locations within that MSA. However, an amended petition must be approved by USCIS if an employer wishes to move an H-1B employee to a worksite outside of the original MSA.

Employers that have already moved H-1B employees to different locations prior to the AAO ruling will have until Aug. 19, 2015 to file amended petitions with USCIS. If an employee's move was temporary or not work-related, there is no need to file an amended petition. USCIS could issue sanctions against employers that do not comply with the new guidelines. H-1B employees may also lose their legal status if their employers fail to amend a visa petition when necessary.

Navigating the complex laws governing H-1B employees can be confusing for many business owners. An employer who is concerned that some of their workers could lose legal status might want to speak with an employment immigration attorney about whether they need to file any new visa petitions with USCIS.

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