Continued from Immigration Accountability Executive Action Overview on February 18, 2015.
Presidential Memorandum on Visa Modernization
The Presidential Memorandum on “Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century” was issued on November 21, 2014, calling on immigration agencies to improve the current visa system starting with recommendations. Agencies called upon included the Secretaries of the Departments of Homeland Security and State to work with the White House, the Attorney General, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, and Education, and non-governmental stakeholders. Recommendations are to be submitted to President Obama by March 20, 2015 and must include metrics to measure said recommendations’ progress.
Recommendations are to ensure:
- That the processing of all immigrant (permanent) and non-immigrant (temporary) visas is done efficiently, with an emphasis on reducing costs, waste, and fraud while improving services;
- That all available immigrant visa numbers are used consistent with demand;
- That a stronger technology infrastructure exists to improve the applicant’s experience, enable better oversight, and eliminate duplicative systems
Employment-Based Visa Proposed Changes
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson outlined new policies in a memorandum that supporting U.S. employers, high-skilled businesses, and workers.
First, the USCIS has been directed to improve visa processing and to begin reducing wait times for employment-based immigrant visas. Policy and regulatory changes are to be considered by USCIS that will ensure those with pending immigration visas who change jobs will not lose their place in line.
Second, policy changes have been announced with the intention of preventing high-skilled, creative, and ambitious persons, especially those whom received their higher education in the U.S., from leaving the country to work abroad.
- Expand the Optical Practical Training (OPT) program – which authorizes work experience in their fields to foreign students before and after graduation from U.S. schools;
- Expand opportunities for foreign inventors, founders of start-up enterprises, and researchers to to pursue research, development and create U.S. jobs;
- Consolidate guidance for the adjudication of L-1B visas, which allow multinational companies to transfer specific executives, managers, or persons with specialized knowledge in their fields to the U.S. temporarily;
- Increase flexibility for employment-based permanent resident status holders to change jobs, if their applications are stalled due to processing delays;
- Review of the Department of Labor’s PERM certification process for foreign labor. This process determines if there is not a sufficient number of U.S. workers for the position and that employment of the foreign worker will not adversely affect U.S. workers;
- Providing employment authorization to certain spouses of foreign workers with H-1B visas
What is a provisional waiver and how does it help family members of US citizens and LPRs?
The current process for unauthorized family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) can take years and is uncertain, often times separating the individual from his or her family. He or she must leave the U.S., request and obtain a waiver of inadmissibility for their unlawful presence in the U.S., and then apply for an immigration visa through a U.S. consulate abroad.
USCIS adopted regulations in 2013 allowing spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens to apply for the inadmissibility waiver while in the U.S. before traveling abroad for consular processing after USCIS granted the waiver. These changes significantly reduced the time family members were required to remain outside of the country.
New regulation to be adopted by USCIS to provide additional guidance for obtaining a “provisional waiver” has been directed by DHS. A person must demonstrate that his or her absence from the U.S. would cause “extreme hardship” to a spouse or parent who is a citizen or LPR in order to obtain a waiver. Family members eligible for the “provisional waiver” process to include adult children of U.S. citizens and LPRs and spouses and minor children of LPRs.
Changes to parole policies.
Individuals granted parole may be able to gain lawful permanent status without leaving the United States, if they are otherwise eligible. Parole refers to allowing an individual to temporarily enter the U.S. for purposes of significant public benefit or for humanitarian reasons without technically admitting them into the country. Advance parole refers to allowing an individual currently residing in a temporary status in the U.S. permission to travel abroad for a short period and return to the U.S. without jeopardizing the existing status. Parole-in-place grants parole to an individual who is already in the U.S., but who is her without permission, without having to leave the country.
- Parole in place to protect military families
- DHS issued guidance in 2013 permitting parole-in-place for unauthorized family members of military personnel and veterans. The new guidance expands availability of parole-in-place and deferred action to family members of citizens and LPRs who seek to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Department-wide advance parole policy
- Ensure consistent application process across the department.
- Parole for investors, researchers, and founders of start-up enterprises
- USCIS has been directed to draft regulations to enable certain inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up businesses to enter the US before they become eligible for a visa under a new category for parole.
Source: American Immigration Council, http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/special-reports/guide-immigration-accountability-executive-action