National Stakeholder Meeting to Streamline USCIS Systems and Processes25 Feb 2011
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director, Alejandro Mayorkas, addressed stakeholders in early February 2011 with a report on the agency’s accomplishments in 2010 and projected initiatives for 2011. This overview of Director Mayorkas’s address emphasizes topics that may be of special interest to MurthyDotCom and MurthyBulletin readers. Most our readers would be considered stakeholders, as you have a stake in what is going on within the USCIS.
USCIS’s Accomplishments in 2010
New Procedures for Filing Fee Waivers with Form I-912
Director Mayorkas credited the USCIS with initiating a special procedure for requesting filing fee waivers. This procedure was described in, USCIS Fee Waiver Considerations Under Newly Created Form I-912 (17.Dec.2010).
Two AAO Binding Decisions on Burden of Proof and AC21 Portability
Another of the most significant accomplishments mentioned by Director Mayorkas was the Administrative Appeals Office’s (AAO’s) issuance of two precedent decisions. This is important, as it had been many years since the AAO issued precedent decisions. The two decisions were issued prior to 2010, and adopted by the USCIS as guidance. With the designation as precedent, these key decisions are now legally binding authority. The cases address the important issues of the burden of proof in most administrative proceedings and matters pertaining to AC21 portability in permanent residence (“green card”) cases.
Current USCIS Initiatives and Efforts to Combat Fraud
Director Mayorkas reported that the USCIS will continue efforts to combat fraud and increase security. Below are a few examples of the various initiatives to combat fraud and determine bona fide businesses.
Tracking Postal Delivery to Customers
One of the current pilot projects in collaboration with the U.S. Postal Service, Secure Mail Initiative, is aimed at providing better tracking of mail to customers. This tracking would include delivery confirmation in cases for which this service was not available previously.
Unauthorized Practice of Law by Non-Lawyers Results in More Errors and Fraud
The USCIS has also been involved in an initiative to combat the unauthorized practice of law (UPL). UPL is a source of both legal mistakes in case filings as well as criminal actions.
Verification of Each Business Organization
Another USCIS initiative, known as the Validation Instrument for Business Enterprise (VIBE), is aimed at enhancing the features available to E-Verify users. According to Director Mayorkas, the USCIS has initiated a pilot project in an effort to enable checking the status of every business organization, including a validation of the name and data provided, without having to issue a request for evidence (RFE).
Outreach to Distant Communities from USCIS Field Offices
In an effort to provide a wider outreach to communities that do not have easy access to USCIS offices, another initiative involves the use of mobile locations and services to those groups and individuals who reside in specific remote locations. In addition, as part of this outreach effort, the USCIS service centers would team up (one team of the California and Vermont Service Centers and another team of the Texas and Nebraska Service Centers) in an effort to improve and enhance public participation in USCIS processes.
USCIS Review of Existing Memos and Policies
According to Director Mayorkas’s report, the USCIS has gathered at one physical location all Legacy INS/USCIS-issued memoranda. The memoranda are currently being reviewed by designated personnel with the goal of identifying any inconsistencies in guidance provided to USCIS adjudicators and the general public. This is a long and burdensome process, but the first results should already be formulated later this month. This initiative was reported in our news article, New USCIS Policy Review Announcement in July 2010 (06.Aug.2010).
USCIS Use of Standard RFE Templates
This large-scale review gave rise to a question from one of the participants regarding whether the templated RFE currently under review for extraordinary ability (EB1) cases should be implemented, as it might be subject to change. This matter is an ongoing controversy within the immigration field and has made obtaining approval of an EB1 petition more difficult. The template RFE (PDF, 224KB)> for the Form I-140 EB1 Alien of Extraordinary Ability is based on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Kazarian v. USCIS. Director Mayrokas responded that the specific policy based on the Kazarian case is likely to stand, but he did not provide any further information on any other interim memoranda or RFE templates.
EB5 Investor Policies Need Review and Revision
Most notably, Director Mayorkas stated that the EB5 process for immigrant visas for investors is too complicated and is in need of revision. He has already spoken with Chief of Service Center Operations Barbara Velarde and Acting Associate Director of Domestic Operations Donald Neufeld about conducting a hearing on the EB5 process to reveal areas in need of improvement and help formulate the corrective actions.
Improvement of USCIS Customer Service
In addition, Director Mayorkas will be personally involved in improvements to USCIS customer service. He indicated that he is open to suggestions and comments and considers making significant changes in USCIS operation in this area.
Arts and Entertainment Adjudications
Another area cited as in need of improvement is the process of adjudication for cases within the arts and entertainment field, as the need for an artist to join a specific project in the United States may require a more expedient process.
Director Mayorkas should be applauded for holding an open and transparent discussion regarding the USCIS program and policy processes. We at the Murthy Law Firm appreciate these efforts to engage the general public and solicit input with regard to some important aspects of USCIS operations. Under his direction, the USCIS has initiated efforts toward positive changes to a number of processes. As noted by Director Mayorkas, these initiatives are in addition to increased public engagement in USCIS processes and were implemented on a limited budget. We encourage USCIS, under the direction of Alejandro Mayorkas, to continue its efforts to provide consistent adjudications policies, and better services for the benefit of U.S. employers and foreign nationals.
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