USCIS has taken an important step in the right direction with its recent announcement that it is reviewing its policy on H-1B cap exemptions for non-profit entities that are related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education, and that until further notice, the agency will give deference to its prior determinations that a non-profit entity is related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education, absent any significant changes in circumstance or prior clear error.

This announcement allows numerous organizations affiliated with colleges and universities–such as teaching hospitals and research institutions–to breathe a sigh of relief as they gain some assurance that they can continue to employ doctors, researchers and other highly-skilled specialists in H-1B status.

Although we do not have the final answer from USCIS yet with respect to this issue, the announcement that the agency would not make a sudden reversal in policy was an important sign that the agency takes seriously its pledge to engage the public in dialogue about its policies and that it gives substantial consideration to stakeholder feedback. Moreover, it shows that USCIS understands the importance to U.S. employers of predictability and consistency in the immigration process.

The announcement by USCIS is also a fine example of the agency’s adherence to President Obama’s recent Executive Order on Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review, issued on January 18, 2011. The Executive Order stressed the importance of a regulatory system that maximizes net benefits in terms of various national interests including our public health and welfare, and underlined the importance of public participation in the regulatory process. USCIS is listening. Isn’t this the way government is supposed to work?