DHS Launches Trial Program to Streamline Employment Visa Applications

On March 3, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced its launch of the Known Employer Program,1 under which certain employers are eligible to use an online platform to submit information that can be used for multiple employees' visa applications. Although the pilot program is currently limited to a small number of employers, at the conclusion of the trial period the DHS will assess whether to expand the program.

Under DHS’s current practice, an employer must separately submit certain company information, forms, and documentary evidence along with each employee’s visa application for adjudication by a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer.  As a result, employers expend resources re-submitting identical documents and information for different individuals' visa applications, which in turn requires various agencies to re-review the same information multiple times.  In an effort to improve intra-agency communication, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, the Known Employer Program allows an employer to instead provide certain information that pertains to multiple visa applications one time via an online system, the Known Employer Document Library (KEDL).  

Employers can upload information and documents relating to the requirements for multiple visa categories to KEDL, and officers will issue a predetermination as to whether the employer has satisfied those requirements.  If so, the employer’s information stored in KEDL may be used to support multiple visa applications.  Where the employer data is predetermined to be satisfied on an individual’s visa application, the adjudicating officer will only need to make a determination on the parts of the application specific to the applicant.  

The pilot is being tested on a limited scale, with only a small number of employers preselected by DHS and the Department of State.   DHS has indicated that up to nine employers may ultimately take part in the pilot.

The Known Employer Program pilot is also limited as to the types of visa applications to which information stored in KEDL may be applied. These include:

  • E12, outstanding professor or researcher
  • E13, multinational executive or manager
  • 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
  • TN, Canadian and Mexican citizens engaged in business activities at a professional level under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The pilot is scheduled to last for one year, although USCIS may elect to terminate or extend the program at its discretion. DHS will announce its findings as to the effectiveness and feasibility of the program at its conclusion, and will assess at that time whether to expand the program to additional eligible employers and/or institute it as a regular program.

See Footnotes

1 Information from DHS on the program is available at https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/known-employer-pilot.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.