White House Recommends Modernizing Immigration System24 Jul 2015
On July 15, 2015, the White House released a report outlining recommendations for changes to the U.S. immigration system, in order to “…bring the system into the 21st century.” The report identifies avenues for making improvements to the immigration system and is titled, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century. Included in the report are some early outlines of potential changes that would increase job flexibility and portability in the employment-based permanent resident (“green card”) process.
Purpose of White House Report
On November 21, 2014, President Obama issued a memorandum that instructed the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to suggest recommendations for improving the U.S. immigration system. Specifically, the memo asked for recommendations on ways to:
1. Reduce government costs, improve services for applicants, reduce burdens on employers, and combat waste, fraud, and abuse in the system.
2. Ensure that policies, practices, and systems use all of the visa numbers that Congress provides for and intends to be used, consistent with demand.
3. Modernize the information technology infrastructure underlying the visa processing system with the goal to reduce redundant systems, improve the experience of applicants, and enable better oversight.
In response, the federal government solicited input from stakeholders and received some 1,650 responses, including a list of suggestions contributed by the Murthy Law Firm, as reported in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, Murthy Law Firm’s Recommendations for Improvements to U.S. Immigration System (04.Mar.2015). These comments, along with the input received from government agencies, were considered in preparation of the July 15th White House recommendations.
Recommendations Split into Three Major Categories
The report breaks down the recommendations into three main categories: modernizing our system for efficiency and accessibility, streamlining our legal immigration system, and strengthening our humanitarian system.
Modernizing our System for Efficiency and Accessibility
This portion of the report focuses on how best to “…modernize the technical infrastructure, and make the process more reliable and efficient.” The report concludes that the current system is costly and inefficient, but notes that the integration of new technologies should greatly improve the process. The report recommends that paper processes, by and large, be moved online, and that the system be designed to be “intuitive” for stakeholders and in a manner that helps eliminate redundancies. The report stresses the importance of increased “information sharing across agencies” and provides ways the immigration process could be made more user-friendly.
Streamlining Legal Immigration
Improvements to Immigrant Visa Process
This is the longest and likely most intriguing section of the report for MurthyDotCom readers. It includes recommendations related to the Department of State (DOS) visa bulletin, offering suggestions to better ensure that the “…maximum number of available visas [are] issued each year, while also minimizing the potential for visa retrogression.”
Notably, the report states that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intends to publish a long-awaited regulation “…clarifying and expanding upon the protections afforded under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21).” This regulation is expected to make it easier for those with pending I-485s to receive job promotions or otherwise move to new employment pursuant to AC21 portability. The regulation will also provide some flexibility and added protections for H1B workers in certain situations who are changing jobs or employers.
The anticipated AC21 regulation will also “…enabl[e] individuals whose employment-sponsored petitions [I-140s] have been approved for more than one year to retain eligibility for lawful permanent resident status despite the petitioning employer closing its business or seeking to withdraw the approved petition.” The report does not, however, explain exactly what is meant by this.
New PERM Regulation
The report states that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will also be publishing a new regulation, this one related to the PERM program. The regulation will update recruitment methods and provide more transparency in the process for the foreign nationals being sponsored. The DOL is also working to reduce processing times, including for cases being audited.
Recommendations for EB5, RFEs, H1Bs, Dual Intent
Some of the other recommendations made in this section of the report include:
- Updating standards for the EB5 immigrant investor program
- Simplifying request for evidence (RFE) templates
- Providing more transparency to foreign nationals in the H1B petition process
- Clarifying which nonimmigrant classifications permit dual intent
Strengthening Our Humanitarian System
The report recommended that a parole program be created for certain family members of Filipino veterans who fought for the United States during World War II. The report also makes several recommendations on ways to improve the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) program, which provides protections to certain family members of abusive lawful permanent residents (i.e. green card holders) and U.S. citizens. The report goes on to explain that steps are being taken to clarify some of the eligibility requirements under the U visa program, which offers immigration benefits to qualifying foreign nationals who have been victims of certain types of crimes.
This report does not serve to make any actual changes to immigration laws or regulations. Rather, it offers a number of recommendations for future changes, and also provides information related to regulations that are expected to be released in the future. While some of the recommendations and promised regulations offer reasons to be optimistic, there are few specifics or timelines available. When more details emerge, they will be shared on MurthyDotCom. To remain informed on changes to U.S. immigration law, please subscribe to the free MurthyBulletin.
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