The President asked Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to undertake a rigorous and inclusive review to inform recommendations on reforming our broken immigration system through executive action. This review sought the advice and input from the men and women charged with implementing the policies, as well as the ideas of a broad range of stakeholders and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. Our assessment identified the following ten areas where we, within the confines of the law, could take action to increase border security, focus enforcement resources, and ensure accountability in our immigration system.
The White House Now Apparently Focusing on the Dream Act, H-1B, L-1 and other Skilled/Professional Work Visas
Newley Purnell of the The Wall Street Journal blogged today about the White House’s Plans for H-1B and other Skilled/Professional Work Visas. The changes are likely to include “Tighter restrictions on skilled worker visas” which could be issued via “both executive action by President Donald Trump and via Congressional moves“. The article notes that “President Trump could use an executive directive to take steps like ending a provision announced in 2014 that allows spouses of H-1B visa holders [H-4 Spouses] to work in the U.S.” As well, any such changes would be included in a more comprehensive immigration reform effort.
Fixing Our Broken Immigration System Through Executive Action – Key Facts
A recent article by CNBC entitled “Investors to Obama: We need more foreign workers” explores the substantial problems faced by investors and entrepreneurs in securing sufficient numbers of foreign professional workers: the engine of innovation in the U.S. Last year we met the H-1B cap the first week it was open, again: the only solution to the problems highlighted in the article is an increase in H-1B visas, else the demand for the same will relocate to a country like Canada, which intelligently recognizes the true value of such talent.
The CNBC article was forwarded to me by a highly capable entrepreneur/investor client of mine. His situation warrants a short discussion, because it is supports the message in the article as well as the broader subject of our defective Business Immigration laws. This client moved his family to the U.S., and recently invested almost $500,000 in a new U.S. based business which employs nine (9) U.S. workers. Further, this client has purchased two Mercedes Benz vehicles and plans on buying a large house and, in the near term, investing another $1 to $5 million dollars in the U.S. – but only if USCIS approves an extension of his Business Immigration case. Unfortunately, USCIS seems a step away from denying his case, as our 1200+ page application on his behalf (which by the way weighed more than a newborn baby) was met with a ten (10) page Request for Additional Evidence (“RFE”).
Executive Actions on Immigration
On November 20, 2014, the President announced a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
These initiatives include:
USCIS and other agencies and offices are responsible for implementing these initiatives as soon as possible. Some initiatives will be implemented over the next several months and some will take longer.
Over the coming months, USCIS will produce detailed explanations, instructions, regulations and forms as necessary. The brief summaries provided below offer basic information about each initiative.
While USCIS is not accepting requests or applications at this time, if you believe you may be eligible for one of the initiatives listed above, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish your:
Share this page with your friends and family members. Remind them that the only way to be sure to get the facts is to get them directly from USCIS. Unauthorized practitioners of immigration law may try to take advantage of you by charging a fee to submit forms to USCIS on your behalf or by claiming to provide other special access or expedited services which do not exist. To learn how to get the right immigration help, go to the Avoid Scamspage.
Below are summaries of major planned initiatives by USCIS, including:
Key Questions and Answers
Q1: When will USCIS begin accepting applications related to these executive initiatives?
A1: While USCIS is not accepting applications at this time, individuals who think they may be eligible for one or more of the new initiatives may prepare now by gathering documentation that establishes factors such as their:
USCIS expects to begin accepting applications for the:
Others programs will be implemented after new guidance and regulations are issued.
We strongly encourage you to subscribe to receive an email whenever additional information is available on the USCIS website. Remember that the only way to get official information is directly from USCIS. Unauthorized practitioners of immigration law may try to take advantage of you by charging a fee to submit forms to USCIS on your behalf or by claiming to provide other special access or expedited services which do not exist. To learn how to get the right immigration help, visit www.uscis.gov/avoidscams for tips on filing forms, reporting scams and finding accredited legal services.
Q2: How many individuals does USCIS expect will apply?
A2: Preliminary estimates show that roughly 4.9 million individuals may be eligible for the initiatives announced by the President. However, there is no way to predict with certainty how many individuals will apply. USCIS will decide applications on a case-by-case basis and encourages as many people as possible to consider these new initiatives. During the first two years of DACA, approximately 60 percent of potentially eligible individuals came forward. However, given differences among the population eligible for these initiatives and DACA, actual participation rates may vary.
Q3: Will there be a cutoff date for individuals to apply?
A3: The initiatives do not include deadlines. Nevertheless, USCIS encourages all eligible individuals to carefully review each initiative and, once the initiative becomes available, make a decision as soon as possible about whether to apply.
Q4: How long will applicants have to wait for a decision on their application?
A4: The timeframe for completing this new pending workload depends on a variety of factors. USCIS will be working to process applications as expeditiously as possible while maintaining program integrity and customer service. Our aim is to complete all applications received by the end of next year before the end of 2016, consistent with our target processing time of completing review of applications within approximately one year of receipt. In addition, USCIS will provide each applicant with notification of receipt of their application within 60 days of receiving it.
Q5: Will USCIS need to expand its workforce and/or seek appropriated funds to implement these new initiatives?
A5: USCIS will need to adjust its staffing to sufficiently address this new workload. Any hiring will be funded through application fees rather than appropriated funds.
Q6: Will the processing of other applications and petitions (such as family-based petitions and green card applications) be delayed?
A6: USCIS is working hard to build capacity and increase staffing to begin accepting requests and applications for the initiatives. We will monitor resources and capacity very closely, and we will keep the public and all of our stakeholders informed as this process develops over the course of the coming months.
Q7: What security checks and anti-fraud efforts will USCIS conduct to identify individuals requesting deferred action who have criminal backgrounds or who otherwise pose a public safety threat or national security risk?
A7: USCIS is committed to maintaining the security and integrity of the immigration system. Individuals seeking deferred action relief under these new initiatives will undergo thorough background checks, including but not limited to 10-print fingerprint, primary name, and alias name checks against databases maintained by DHS and other federal government agencies. These checks are designed to identify individuals who may pose a national security or public safety threat, have a criminal background, have perpetrated fraud, or who may be otherwise ineligible to request deferred action. No individual will be granted relief without passing these background checks.
In addition, USCIS will conduct an individual review of each case. USCIS officers are trained to identify indicators of fraud, including fraudulent documents. As with other immigration requests, all applicants will be warned that knowingly misrepresenting or failing to disclose facts will subject them to criminal prosecution and possible removal from the United States.
Q8: What if someone’s case is denied or they fail to pass a background check?
A8: Individuals who knowingly make a misrepresentation, or knowingly fail to disclose facts, in an effort to obtain deferred action or work authorization through this process will not receive favorable consideration for deferred action. In addition, USCIS will apply its current policy governing the referral of individual cases to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the issuance of Notices to Appear before an immigration judge. If the background check or other information uncovered during the review of a request for deferred action indicates that an individual’s presence in the United States threatens public safety or national security, USCIS will deny the request and refer the matter for criminal investigation and possible removal by ICE, consistent with existing processes.
Q9: If I currently have DACA, will I need to do anything to receive the third year of deferred action and work authorization provided by the executive initiatives?
A9: The new three-year work authorization timeframe will be applied for applications currently pending and those received after the President’s announcement. Work authorizations already issued for a two-year period under the current guidelines will continue to be valid through the validity period indicated on the card. USCIS is exploring means to extend previously issued two-year work authorization renewals to the new three-year period.
Q10: Will the information I share in my request for consideration of deferred action be used for immigration enforcement purposes?
A10: Information provided in your request is protected from disclosure to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the purpose of immigration enforcement proceedings unless you meet the criteria for the issuance of a Notice to Appear or a referral to ICE under the criteria set forth in USCIS’ Notice to Appear guidance. Individuals who are granted deferred action will not be referred to ICE. The information may be shared, however, with national security and law enforcement agencies, including ICE and CBP, for purposes other than removal, including:
This policy covers family members and guardians, in addition to you.
Q11: What is USCIS doing to assist dependents of U.S. armed services personnel?
A11: USCIS is working with the Department of Defense to determine how to expand parole authorization to dependents of certain individuals enlisting or enlisted in the U.S. armed services. For information on the existing parole-in-place policy for military personnel, please read this policy memorandum.
You can find definitions of other terms used on our website in Glossary of Terms.
Last Reviewed/Updated: 11/20/2014
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WHITE HOUSE: Presidential Memorandum — Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century
Presidential Memorandum — Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century
November 21, 2014
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century
Throughout our Nation’s history, immigrants have helped the United States build the world’s strongest economy. Immigrants represent the majority of our PhDs in math, computer science, and engineering, and over one quarter of all U.S.-based Nobel laureates over the past 50 years were foreign-born. Immigrants are also more than twice as likely as native-born Americans to start a business in the United States. They have started one of every four American small businesses and high-tech startups, and more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
But despite the overwhelming contributions of immigrants to our Nation’s prosperity, our immigration system is broken and has not kept pace with changing times. To address this issue, my Administration has made commonsense immigration reform a priority, and has consistently urged the Congress to act to fix the broken system. Such action would not only continue our proud tradition of welcoming immigrants to this country, but also reduce Federal deficits, increase productivity, and raise wages for all Americans. Immigration reform is an economic, national security, and moral imperative.
Even as we continue to seek meaningful legislative reforms, my Administration has pursued administrative reforms to streamline and modernize the legal immigration system. We have worked to simplify an overly complex visa system, one that is confusing to travelers and immigrants, burdensome to businesses, and results in long wait times that negatively impact millions of families and workers. But we can and must do more to improve this system. Executive departments and agencies must continue to focus on streamlining and reforming the legal immigration system, while safeguarding the interest of American workers.
Therefore, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to modernize and streamline the U.S. immigration system, I hereby direct as follows:
Section 1. Recommendations to Improve the Immigration System. (a) Within 120 days of the date of this memorandum, the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security (Secretaries), in consultation with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Director of the National Economic Council, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Attorney General, and the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, and Education, shall develop:
(i) in consultation with private and nonfederal public actors, including business people, labor leaders, universities, and other stakeholders, recommendations to streamline and improve the legal immigration system — including immigrant and non-immigrant visa processing — with a focus on reforms that reduce Government costs, improve services for applicants, reduce burdens on employers, and combat waste, fraud, and abuse in the system;
(ii) in consultation with stakeholders with relevant expertise in immigration law, recommendations to ensure that administrative policies, practices, and systems use all of the immigrant visa numbers that the Congress provides for and intends to be issued, consistent with demand; and
(iii) in consultation with technology experts inside and outside the Government, recommendations for modernizing the information technology infrastructure underlying the visa processing system, with a goal of reducing redundant systems, improving the experience of applicants, and enabling better public and congressional oversight of the system.
(b) In developing the recommendations as set forth in subsection (a) of this section, the Secretaries shall establish metrics for measuring progress in implementing the recommendations and in achieving service-level improvements, taking into account the Federal Government’s responsibility to protect the integrity of U.S. borders and promote economic opportunity for all workers.
Sec. 2. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
(d) The Secretary of State is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
President Obama will address the nation tonight to lay out the executive actions he’s taking to fix our broken immigration system. The address will be made at 8 p.m. ET and a live feed is available at WhiteHouse.gov/Live
This is a step forward in the President’s plan to work with Congress on passing common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform. He laid out his principles for that reform two years ago in Del Sol High School in Las Vegas — and that’s where he’ll return on Friday to discuss why he is using his executive authority now, and why Republicans in Congress must act to pass a long-term solution to immigration reform.
This week, Bill Snyder, a blogger for the anti-H-1B propaganda site Infoworld posted an article attacking Immigration of the Educated. What is especially interesting about Mr. Snyder’s position is the fact that it signals the resumption of the 2008 attack on the Optional Practical Training program (OPT). OPT being a temporary work authorized status granted to eligible F-1 students who may thus gain professional work experience post graduation, and perhaps a portion back of 20+ billion dollars in tuition they pay into our coffers each year.
Unjustified ire towards OPT is peaking only because the program may be utilized by eligible F-1 Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM) graduates. Apparently, for Mr. Snyder, it is only then that the program transforms into what he terms “a sleazy end run around the law”. Mr. Snyder claims that these new STEM graduates, supported by their “tech company” employers, enter the U.S. workforce en masse to undercut IT wages. Said wages, which he admits in the first sentence, are already “climbing to more than $87,000 a year”.
The fact that Mr. Snyder’s argument against OPT flies in the face of the concept of American Exceptionalism and two basic economic principles, or that it is entirely bereft of any unbiased and relevant data is moot. The most significant takeaway from his article is that STEM OPT is nothing more than a scapegoat: this attack is actually and truly directed against the H-1B program itself. Mr. Snyder and other IT protectionists seek justification to undermine the OPT program not because of any alleged misuse, but because OPT allows a post graduate STEM worker precious time to find a good employer who may agree to pay government fees of up to $5,550.00 (plus attorney fees) to file an H-1B petition on their behalf. (There are no guarantees of approval, nor is the worker forced to even ultimately take up employment with the H-1B petitioner. As well, in the future, the H-1B worker, for any reason, may transfer to a new H-1B employer in as little as one week.)
Our immigration policy is increasingly hobbled by protectionists who, for short term gain (or perhaps unknowingly), damage our nation’s international lead in the STEM fields. Our insufficient H-1B cap that does the same: tens of thousands of highly qualified, valuable STEM professionals were rejected in last year’s random selection process (H-1B lottery), and sadly the scene is set be repeated again this year in April.
Our repeated rejection of STEM professionals is untenable and is certain to diminish our ability to attract the worlds best and brightest, unless we make drastic changes. Already, other nations are eagerly recruiting STEM workers (sometimes from within our own borders). The bottom line: the yearly H-1B cap must be increased to an amount commensurate to demand, or at the very least, to a level that isn’t exhausted in one week.
The H-1B program is used by U.S. corporation to employ foreign professional workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields. The program allows for about 85,000 new H-1B workers each Fiscal Year, a paltry number in the face of the U.S.’s need for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (“STEM”) workers. In an interview with Reuters last year, I predicted that 2013’s H-1B quota would be exhausted instantly – something that had not occurred since 2008. I was subsequently proven correct as USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, each vying for one of the 85,000 “slots” available. On April 7, 2013, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (the “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption limit.
This year, the Fiscal Year 2015 Cap season will begin on April 1, 2014 and I anticipate an even larger number of H-1B applications. This prediction is based not only on the strengthening national economy but also because U.S. Immigration authorities have reduced or eliminated other possible options for U.S. companies in acquiring STEM professional workers. Despite the tremendously positive impact that H-1B visa holders make in this country (including the substantial revenue the hefty H-1B application fees generate for USCIS and U.S. worker training programs nationwide), they are treated poorly by U.S. Immigration authorities. H-1B employers and beneficiaries suffer from absurdly high query rates and illogical consular delays. Many also subject to unusually long delays in filing for Permanent Residence, for example, an Indian born Software Engineer currently faces a wait time of eleven (11) years to obtain an employment based third preference (EB-3) green card.
As I have previously stated, our national immigration policy should emphasize our immediate need: to retain and increase our advanced degree professionals so that the we can continue to compete internationally and maintain our lead in new technologies. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to take concrete steps towards increasing the H-1B cap amount to 250,000.
Board of Immigration Appeals Holds DOMA Irrelevant For Same-Sex Marriage Immigration Cases if Marriage Valid in the State Celebrated
The Board of Immigration Appeals recently held that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) is no longer an obstacle to the recognition of lawful same-sex marriages and spouses under the INA if the marriage is valid under the laws of the State where it was held.
TITLE IV OF THE SENATE’S S.744 IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL – RELATING TO CHANGES IN H-1B, L-1, E-2 NONIMMIGRANT VISAS
TITLE IV–REFORMS TO NONIMMIGRANT VISA PROGRAMS
Subtitle A–Employment-based Nonimmigrant Visas
SEC. 4101. MARKET-BASED H-1B VISA LIMITS.
(a) In General- Section 214(g) (8 U.S.C. 1184(g)) is amended–
(1) in paragraph (1)–
(A) in the matter preceding subparagraph (A), by striking `(beginning with fiscal year 1992)’; and
(B) by amending subparagraph (A) to read as follows:
`(A) under section 101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b) may not exceed the sum of–
`(i) the base allocation calculated under paragraph (9)(A); and
`(ii) the allocation adjustment calculated under paragraph (9)(B); and’;
(2) by redesignating paragraph (10) as subparagraph (D) of paragraph (9);
(3) by redesignating paragraph (9) as paragraph (10); and
(4) by inserting after paragraph (8) the following:
`(9)(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (C), the base allocation of nonimmigrant visas under section 101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b) for each fiscal year shall be equal to–
`(i) the sum of–
`(I) the base allocation for the most recently completed fiscal year; and
`(II) the allocation adjustment under subparagraph (B) for the most recently completed fiscal year;
`(ii) if the number calculated under clause (i) is less than 115,000, 115,000; or
`(iii) if the number calculated under clause (i) is more than 180,000, 180,000.