U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has released the final version of its “same or similar” policy memo, which provides guidance to individuals with pending permanent residency applications who hope to change positions or jobs. The 21-page Policy Memorandum, released on March 18, is a mixed bag for employers.

The Department of Labor uses Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes that have been used historically when analyzing the similarity of jobs. The Policy Memorandum continues to rely in part upon the SOC codes, explaining that, identical SOC codes likely will result in a favorable determination under the preponderance of the evidence standard, although all relevant evidence should be considered,. The DOL cautions, however, that sometimes two jobs are described within the same broad SOC, but are not similar. For example, Political Scientist (19-3094) and Geographers (19-3092) both are found within the broad occupational code for Misc. Social Scientists (19-3090), but these occupations are very different and would not support portability.

The DOL discusses how “Career Progression” and other variations affect the analysis under the totality of the circumstances review. It remains to be seen how heavily USCIS weights an exact match of SOC codes in determining whether a job is “same or similar.” A narrow interpretation of the Policy Memorandum could change adjudications from mostly favorable to denials, as we have seen in other types of cases.

It is no longer business as usual for job changes. A professional evaluation is recommended prior to acceptance of that new position.