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Updated “Ability to Pay” Requirement for Employment-Based Visas

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently issued updated policy guidance regarding the analysis of an employer’s ability to pay the proffered wage for immigrant petitions in certain employment-based visa classifications. This guidance, effective as of January 5, 2024, particularly addresses instances where a sponsored worker is changing employers under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21). This blog post will explore the key aspects of the updated guidance, its implications, and the broader context of its significance.

Key Highlights of the Updated Guidance

  1. Continuing Ability to Pay: Employers seeking to classify employees under the first-, second-, and third-preference employment-based immigrant visa classifications that require a job offer must demonstrate their continuing ability to pay the proffered wage to the beneficiary. This obligation extends from the priority date of the immigrant petition until the beneficiary obtains lawful permanent residence.
  2. Beneficiary “Ports” to a New Employer: The updated guidance specifically addresses situations where the beneficiary of a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, moves or “ports” to a new employer under AC21 while the Form I-140 is pending. In such cases, USCIS will evaluate the petitioner’s ability to pay requirements only by reviewing the facts from the priority date until the filing of the Form I-140. 
  3. Technical Revisions for Clarity and Readability: The updated guidance also includes minor technical revisions aimed at improving the clarity and readability of the document, and otherwise streamline existing guidance.
  4. Immediate Application and Prospective Effect: The updated guidance, contained in Volume 6, Part E, Chapter 4 of the Policy Manual, is effective immediately upon publication. It applies prospectively to petitions filed on or after the publication date, ensuring that new filings adhere to the clarified guidelines.

Implications and Context

This latest guidance builds upon previous instructions issued on March 15, 2023, concerning how USCIS analyzes employers’ ability to pay the proffered wage. The emphasis on reviewing facts from the priority date until the filing of the Form I-140 is a strategic move to provide a comprehensive assessment of the employer’s financial standing throughout the critical stages of the immigration process.

The USCIS’s issuance of updated policy guidance on employers’ ability to pay the proffered wage in employment-based immigration reflects a commitment to transparency, fairness, and efficiency in the immigration process. Furthermore, this update aligns with various recent actions taken by USCIS to support adjustment of status applicants. By ensuring clarity in the evaluation process, USCIS aims to streamline procedures, facilitate smoother transitions for beneficiaries changing employers, and maintain the integrity of the employment-based immigration system.

If you have any questions about the updated ability to pay the proffered wage requirement, contact our office today to set up a consultation with one of our attorneys!