The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC 21) has been a massive benefit for many non-immigrant visa holders. These individuals whose applications for permanent residency face incompletion or who cannot meet up with the only requirement before the sixth year in H-1B status are sheltered by the AC21 Act.
Created and signed into law in 2000, it provides H-1B visa and forms I-140 portability, allowing foreign workers to change employers in particular scenarios. This competitiveness law has provided many advantages and adjustments to different employment-based immigrant visa holders. It also helps categorize various visa applicants to create better visa assessment opportunities.
In this article, we delve into the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act and define its operation, filing process, other rules concerning its function, and the roles key departments like homeland security play in achieving the goals of the act.
What is AC21 and How Does It Relate to a Government Research Organization?
American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act was created as part of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) in 2000. This Act massively transformed the H-1B program and all employment-based immigration programs. It redefined what visa status applicants must do when processing a status application, suggests corporate restructuring for every new corporate entity, and addresses the issue of a long pending form among others.
The AC21 can offer status extensions for H-1B visa holders who apply for a status change due to particular employment-based immigrant visa preference divisions. It has also simplified the process for those on the federal register who want to apply for a new status application because they want to change jobs or consider higher education in the United States.
This adjustment can only come during slow visa processing periods or annual caps on available employment-based visas. Thanks to this act alongside the workforce improvement act and the nationality act, we are seeing several changes with employment based immigrant visas and any employment based immigration program.
Many government research establishments have leveraged on the clear provisions of the twenty first century act to increase labor certification application by providing several employment authorization documents from its employer files.
What are AC21 Section 106 A and B?
The AC21 section 106 A and B explains the law governing the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act, where and when work authorization ceases, the annual cap for visas, the priority date for applications, the process a petitioning employer undergoes, the numerical limitations applicable, and priority dates. The original petitioning employer has to be conversant with the processes to be followed for employment based immigrants who want to take up a new job.
In sections (A) and (B) of the AC21 Act, individuals can prolong their H-1B status beyond six years if their labor certification was filed twelve months before the end of the 6th year. This has contributed in no small ways to the many stories of how a corporate entity succeeds in the United states.
In contrast, under Section 104 (C) of AC 21, the H-1B annual cap status can be prolonged for about three years at-a-time if the individual has received an employment-based I-140 immigrant visa petition. With this employment based adjustment, individuals should also be eligible to change status except there is a backlog in the employment-based first (EB-1), second (EB-2), or third choices (EB-3).
How Does AC21 Concern H-1B and Employment-Based Immigration Petitions?
The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) was enacted with two other laws, the Visa Waiver Permanent Program Act (VWPPA), Public, and the law to raise the fee for some H-1B petitions.
These laws make big changes to the H-1B classification. The first increased the numerical H-1B cap to 195,000 for fiscal year between 2000-2002 and changed the Department of Homeland Security’s percentage from fees.
It also exempts some individuals from the numerical cap, fosters the “portability” of employment authorization, and in some scenarios, extends stay for certain individuals who have pending permanent residence applications.
However, the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Act was created to change section 106(A) of AC21. This Act defines several interpretive questions raised by these laws and ensures that the Department Of Homeland Security’s practice is in-line with them.
What is AC21 for H-1B?
The American Competitiveness in the 21st-century Act revolutionized immigration laws relating to foreign workers in the United States. It creates a separate H-1B visa pool for applicants with advanced degrees, increasing the opportunity for high degree-holders to be successful in getting H-1B visas.
The AC21 also provides a cap-exemption for H-1B petitions filed by some higher education institutions and other governmental research organizations, making it simple for them to employ talented foreign workers.
What is the AC21 Portability Rule?
Porting, in this context, explains the process of staying qualified for a green card when moving from one job or employer to another, without needing to file a new Form I-140, Immigrant Petition.
The AC21 Portability Rule is a rule that grants applicants whose I-485 has been undecided for 180 days or more the capacity to transfer the pending I-485 to another job or employer. There are numerous requirements for this rule, with the essential being that the latest job must meet similar criteria or classification of the previous one.
To begin the porting process, you will have to file Form I-485 Supplement J. This form validates the legitimate job offer provided by the employer to the employee. Both parties will be required to sign this form.
Extending H-B1 Status Under AC21 and Labor Certification Application
H-1B visa aliens qualified for the AC21 extension and have time left towards their maximum six years to invoke a single petition to prolong their stay. They can do this for the remainder of the six years or up to one year of AC21 eligibility past six years.
The AC21 is essentially a lifeline provision against processing delays of permanent residency applications or delays caused by backlogs in the employment-based visa options. One of the many challenges of visa application is having many with labor certification or similar occupational classification take time before the entire process is completed. For instance, a recipient of an I-140 petition for the third visa preference might have to wait years to issue a green card.
However, AC 21 allows the H-1B status of the immigrant to be prolonged even after the six-year limit has been exceeded. This allows the highly skilled immigrant or foreign nationals to work in the US for a nonprofit research organization, any affiliated nonprofit entity, or even for government research organizations while keeping their status.
Can I Invoke AC21 and Notify USCIS?
The AC21 Act is triggered automatically. When you meet the AC21 requirements, you can reap the green card provision portability benefits. However, you will have to notify the USCIS of the job switch and the satisfaction of its requirements. This notification helps prevent future issues.
The main reason for the invocation of the AC21 Act by the USCIS is to preempt a Request for Evidence (RFE) when dealing with an address change. The AC21 is also invoked when the adjudicator is needed to file a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID).
When Can You File AC21?
Typically, there are two periods you can file an AC21 notification. First, after the individual begins their job with the new employer, a NOID or RFE is issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act – Major Points Relating to Immigration Law
Some of the key highlights of the AC21 Act include;
- It provides relief for beneficiaries of employment-based visas by allowing them to change jobs.
- It offers extensions in one-year increments to H-1B workers with labor certification.
- Its portability provisions give non-immigrants previously allowed a visa to start working with a new employer as soon as they file for an H-1B petition.
Analysis of the American Competitiveness In the 21st Century Act (AC21) – Similar Occupational Classification
The analysis of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) involves the critical examination of the law regarding the immigration of people with H-1B visas seeking new employment. These include other points like the numerical limitation for a new job, multiple petitions by foreign nationals and the similar occupational classification, post-6th year extensions, and the 180-day portability.
It also ensures more cases approved are implemented by bridging the digital divide and reducing the processing times the entire process was known for. It spells out the occupational classification for visa allotments and states instances where there can be a temporary increase now or in the future years.
Title I – American Competitiveness In the Twenty-First Century
The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century affects the H-1B cap, backlog clear out, adjustment application, and cap exemption. It achieves this through the portability of the H-1B status and high technology we have around us. All these processes work together to ease the situations of visa-holders whose green card status faces completion before their six-year stay. It also saves the stress of lengthy adjudications for status applications needed for work authorization.
How Can We Be of Help to You?
Let’s be honest, understanding the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act AC21 is no walk in the park; you are alone. With over 26 years of experience in all aspects of immigration services, the best research facilities and informed attorneys, we can help you.
You can schedule an appointment with us today about visa petition or other provisions of the act by contacting us via +1-800-808-4013. You can also schedule a personal consultation with Richard Herman by filling the online form. You don’t have to worry about walking into law offices as consultations can be done via Skype, Zoom, or WhatsApp.
The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century act has many special provisions that provide a lifeline for many H-1B workers and those seeking to consider higher educational institutions. You need to understand its rules and how it relates to fiscal years to ensure you fall under the conditions to reap its benefits.