In January of 2015, DHS announced its Known Employer pilot to help it assess how to streamline the process for employers hoping to hire certain workers through employment-based visa categories. The pilot would allow participating employers to go through a modified process that was expected to reduce paperwork, costs, and delays in processing visas and allowing the employers to benefit from the work of their new employees as soon as possible.
The program began in March of 2016 and was originally scheduled to last for only one year. However, after two extensions, the pilot is now set to end on May 31, 2020 – just a few weeks away! With the pilot coming to an end, the program may be expanded, and more employers will be able to take advantage of its benefits. With that in mind, now is a good time to go over what the process was like for the participating employers so we can get an idea of how other employers might soon be able to benefit.
Applications outside of the pilot currently require employers to submit the same information about their organization with each petition or application they file to USCIS for an employee. This causes a lot of duplicative work for the company as they are forced to produce the exact same documents over and over again.
What Does the Pilot Program Change?
The change being tested with the pilot is to get rid of the need for employers to send in the same documents for each application. Employers participating in the pilot would make a profile and upload documents (that pertain to their eligibility to accept select immigrant and nonimmigrant visa works) in the Known Employer Document Library (KEDL). These requirements are generally related to organizational structure, operations, and financial health.
Employers participating in the pilot also completed and uploaded a Form I-950, Application for Predetermination under Known Employers Program. This application is not currently on the USCIS website and is not otherwise available for the public to inspect.
Upon approval of these applications, employers can file petitions for individual employees without needing to submit information relating to them since USCIS will just use the information they already have.
This new process doesn’t just cut back on the work employers have to do, but will also make the USCIS officer’s job easier—they will no longer need to assess the employer’s eligibility and they will only need to assess the individual seeking the visa.
Which Kind of Visas Does This Apply To?
Immigrant Classifications Included in Known Employer
Not all employment-based immigrant visas are eligible to go through the streamlined process in the pilot. The following employment-based immigrant classifications are the only ones included in the Known Employer pilot:
- E12, outstanding professor or researcher
- E13, multinational executive or manager
- E21, members of the professions holding advanced degrees or aliens of exceptional ability
- E31, skilled workers
- E32, professionals
- SD-1, ministers of religion
- SR-1, certain religious workers
Nonimmigrant Classifications Included in Known Employer
The following employment-based nonimmigrant classifications are the only ones included in the Known Employer pilot:
- H-1B, specialty occupation worker
- L-1A, intracompany transferee in a managerial or executive capacity
- L-1B, intracompany transferee in a position involving specialized knowledge
- R-1, religious worker
- TN, Canadian and Mexican citizens engaged in business activities at a professional level under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
Can I Take Advantage of This?
The pilot program is almost at an end, so there is currently no way for a new employer to be part of it and take advantage of the streamlined process. However, after May 31, 2020, we can expect that DHS will announce the results of the pilot and the agency has already expressed interest in extending the program to all eligible employers if the pilot is successful.
When the program is expanded, our attorneys can help you navigate it. You can schedule an initial consultation with us today, don't hesitate to contact us at (949) 478-4963.