Recently an IT consultant posted the following on Trackitt.com, a website that helps non-citizens track their immigration status:
Hello All, I have Created this forum to check H-1B Extension without End Client Letter. My Client Recently changed their policy to not to issue Client letter to anyone.
The consultant received several replies noting that extending an H-1B visa without an end-client letter is not impossible, but it carries challenges. That’s also true for the initial filing of an H-1B visa petition.
A law firm that specializes in immigration cases has an article about end client letters on its website. The article notes, “The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has repeatedly made it clear that an end-client letter is not required for approval of an H-1B petition, and that H-1B employers are allowed to provide other comparable documentation instead. However, the absence of an end-client letter when filing under an E-V-C (employer-vendor-client) model makes it likely that the case will receive a request for evidence (RFE). It also greatly increases the risk of denial.”
Quick review for anyone who may be in the dark: The H-1B visa program allows companies in the US to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge, along with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Information technology has been one of those occupations since the program was launched in 1990.
The E-V-C model is the one used by an IT staffing firm recruiting a foreign worker for a spot at a client site, and that’s when the end-client letter is an important component of the H1-B visa petition.
So what needs to be in an end-client letter? According to the law firm, “Ideally, the end-client letter should describe the duties to be performed by the H-1B employee at the client worksite, specify the expected duration of the project, and explicitly state that the H-1B worker is not considered to be an employee of the end-client, but rather remains under the control of the petitioning employer. The letter should be on the letterhead of the end client and signed by an appropriate employee of the end client.”
The end-client letter became even more important two years ago when the USCIS implemented stricter H-1B visa guidelines.
Explaining the reasons for the guidelines, a USCIS spokesperson at the time said, "Based on the agency's experience in administering the H-1B program, USCIS recognizes that significant employer violations, such as paying less-than-required wages, benching employees and/or having employees performing nonspecialty occupation jobs, may be more likely to occur when petitioners place employees at a third-party worksite."
The idea that the H-1B visa program is used by US companies to bring in foreign workers to displace Americans and pay them substandard wages is one that’s held by a range of officials who have repeatedly pushed for tighter regulations.
When the stricter guidelines went into effect in February 2018, experts predicted that they would likely lead to more requests for evidence (RFEs), limited visa approval periods, and petition denials for outsourcing firms. They were right; in the first quarter of federal fiscal year 2019, USCIS fired off additional Requests for Evidence (RFE) in 60 percent of cases, a number that dipped to 40 percent in subsequent quarters but is nonetheless significantly higher than the 20 percent “historical rate” for RFEs. There was also a surge of H-1B visa denials.
We’re in the second quarter of the fiscal 2020, and so far the number of RFE requests has dropped slightly from last year’s level. But heightened scrutiny of all H-1B visa applications continues to be the rule, so it really makes sense for clients who need foreign workers to write end-client letters.
Especially that company whose IT consultant is seeking an H-1B visa extension; the one mentioned at the top of this blog post. Since you’ve already shown that a foreign worker is necessary to get the work done, why not help extend the visa by writing a letter?