National Interest Exceptions to Presidential Proclamations for H-1B non-immigrants

August 18, 2020
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The Proclamation does not apply to applicants who were in the United States on the effective date of the Proclamation (June 24), or who had a valid visa in the classifications mentioned above (and plans to enter the United States on that visa), or who had another official travel document valid on the effective date of the Proclamation. If an H-1B, H-2B, L-1, or J-1 non-immigrant is not subject to the Proclamation, then neither that individual nor the individual’s spouse or children will be prevented from obtaining a visa due to the Proclamation.   Both P.P. 10014 and 10052 include exceptions, including an exception for individuals whose travel would be in the national interest, as determined by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or their respective designees.  The list below is a non-exclusive list of the types of travel that may be considered to be in the national interest Applicants who are subject to any of these Proclamations, but who believe they may qualify for a national interest exception or other exception, should follow the instructions on the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website regarding procedures necessary to request an emergency appointment and should provide specific details as to why they believe they may qualify for an exception. Please note that U.S. Embassies and Consulates may only be able to offer limited visa services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which case they may not be able to accommodate your request unless the proposed travel is deemed emergency or mission critical.    Exceptions under P.P. 10052 for certain travel in the national interest by nonimmigrants may include the following: H-1B applicants:
  • For travel as a public health or healthcare professional, or researcher to alleviate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, or to conduct ongoing medical research in an area with a substantial public health benefit (e.g. cancer or communicable disease research).
  • Travel supported by a request from a U.S. government agency or entity to meet critical U.S. foreign policy objectives or to satisfy treaty or contractual obligations.
  • Travel by applicants seeking to resume ongoing employment in the United States in the same position with the same employer and visa classification.  Forcing employers to replace employees in this situation may cause financial hardship.  Consular officers can refer to Part II, Question 2 of the approved Form I-129 to determine if the applicant is continuing in “previously approved employment without change with the same employer.”
  • Travel by technical specialists, senior level managers, and other workers whose travel is necessary to facilitate the immediate and continued economic recovery of the United States.  Consular officers may determine that an H-1B applicant falls into this category when at least two of the following five indicators are present:
  1. The petitioning employer has a continued need for the services or labor to be performed by the H-1B nonimmigrant in the United States.  Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) has to be approved by DOL during or after July 2020.  For LCAs approved by DOL before July 2020, this indicator is only met if the consular officer is able to determine from the visa application the continuing need of petitioned workers with the U.S. employer.  Regardless of when the LCA was approved, if an applicant is currently performing or is able to perform the essential functions of the position for the prospective employer remotely from outside the United States, then this indicator is not present.
  2. The applicant’s proposed job duties or position within the petitioning company indicate the individual will provide significant and unique contributions to an employer meeting a critical infrastructure need.  One of the critical infrastructure sectors is information technology.  Employment in a critical infrastructure sector alone is not sufficient; the consular officers must establish that the applicant holds one of the two types of positions noted below: a.)    Senior level placement within the petitioning organization or job duties reflecting performance of functions that are both unique and vital to the management and success of the overall business enterprise; OR b.)    The applicant’s proposed job duties and specialized qualifications indicate the individual will provide significant and unique contributions to the petitioning company.
  3. The wage rate paid to the H-1B applicant meaningfully exceeds the prevailing wage rate by at least 15 percent.  When an H-1B applicant will receive a wage that meaningfully exceeds the prevailing wage, it suggests that the employee fills an important business need where an American worker is not available.
  4. The H-1B applicant’s education, training and/or experience demonstrate unusual expertise in the specialty occupation in which the applicant will be employed.  For example, an H-1B applicant with a doctorate or professional degree, or many years of relevant work experience, may have such advanced expertise in the relevant occupation as to make it more likely that he or she will perform critically important work for the petitioning employer.
  5. Denial of the visa pursuant to P.P. 10052 will cause financial hardship to the U.S. employer.  The following examples, to be assessed based on information from the visa application, are illustrative of what may constitute a financial hardship for an employer if a visa is denied: the employer’s inability to meet financial or contractual obligations; the employer’s inability to continue its business; or a delay or other impediment to the employer’s ability to return to its pre-COVID-19 level of operations. 

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