President Obama just issued another executive order on immigration, this time broadening the definition of “specialized knowledge” for L-1B intracompany transfer visas to potentially cover just about any foreign worker and erasing the requirement for employers to demonstrate a lack of Americans who could perform the job.
The Department of Homeland Security explains that the L-1B classification “enables a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.” If a company does not have an affiliated office in the U.S., the classification also allows them to send over a “specialized knowledge employee” to come into the U.S. to set one up.
As Byron York explains, the term “specialized knowledge”—which is supposed to mean a knowledge or skill difficult to find in America—has always been squishy, but President Obama has just made it essentially meaningless, making it applicable to just about any transferee a company chooses to send:
Companies transferring foreign workers to the U.S. have to make the case to an “adjudicator” from the United States Customs and Immigration Services. It’s not a terribly tough job; the definition of “specialized knowledge” was already pretty loose. In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigated L-1Bs and found that “the program allows for the transfer of workers with ‘specialized knowledge,’ but the term is so broadly defined that adjudicators believe they have little choice but to approve almost all petitions.” Standards were tightened somewhat after the study, but now Obama wants to loosen them again.
York points out that Obama’s new rules also drop the requirement for employers to demonstrate the “lack of readily available workers to perform the relevant duties in the United States,” thus erasing the other crucial aspect of the original policy and kicking open the door for future foreign workers.