Tuesday, February 23, 2010

USCIS Neufeld Teleconference

The USCIS held a February 18 teleconference aimed at addressing the myriad of questions and rumors that have surfaced since the publication of the Neufeld Memorandum a few weeks ago. The Neufeld Memo purports to clarify USCIS policy on the legality of H-1B workers who are placed at third-party worksites. Several times on the call USCIS officials reiterated that the Memo is not new law, but merely an explanation of their current interpretation of law.

The attendees would have none of it. Dozens of immigration attorneys, including MU’s Chris Musillo spoke on the teleconference. A litany of criticisms was hurled at USCIS. Members of AILA and other industry trade groups also spoke up on the teleconference and condemned the Memo. The criticisms ranged from the surreptitious nature of the development of the Memorandum, to the absence of legal due process, to the unintended consequences in related areas of law, such as DOS immigration officials at airports misapplying this DHS Memorandum.

The loudest disapproval was directed at the underlying law supporting the Memorandum. MU contends – and many other immigration attorneys – that the Memorandum is simply not adequately grounded in law. For that reason many called on the USCIS to withdraw the Memorandum.

In the Memorandum, the USCIS found that existing law does not define “employer-employee” relationship. But this is wrong. Existing law does define an “employer-employee” relationship at 8 CFR 214.2(h)(4)(ii). An “employer” is one who may “hire, pay, fire, supervise, or otherwise control the work of any such employee”. The Neufeld Memorandum pays lip-service to these five factors and attempts to distinguish the “right to control” characteristic as a superior characteristic.

MU recently has had several H-1B's approved in spite of the Memorandum. That having been said, MU recently has seen a new “stock” RFE on a few of our client’s cases. At this point, it is unclear how USCIS officials will analyze H-1B third-party worksites in light of this new “stock” RFE and the Memorandum.

On the teleconference, USCIS announced that there would be a second teleconference. The date of the teleconference is not set at this time, but it is expected that the call will take place in early March.

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