New USCIS Policy Expected to Increase Denials of US Visa Applications

New USCIS Policy Expected to Increase Denials of US Visa Applications

Under a new policy that came into effect on Tuesday, visa adjudicators at US Citizenship and Immigration Services are now allowed to deny visa applications or petitions without first issuing a notice of intent to deny or a request for additional evidence. In announcing the policy in July, the agency said the policy was “intended to discourage frivolous or substantially incomplete filings used as ‘placeholder’ filings and encourage applicants, petitioners, and requestors to be diligent in collecting and submitting required evidence. It is not intended to penalize filers for innocent mistakes or misunderstandings of evidentiary requirements.”

Immigration lawyers, however, tell ProPublica that the policy will effectively make it much harder for visa applications to succeed, adding to the various procedural barriers the Trump administration has erected to slow down legal immigration to the US. The attorneys expressed concern that “there is not enough oversight or clear standards to ensure fair handling”:

One reason the lawyers are worried is that they’ve seen a barrage of scrutiny directed at once-standard immigration applications since Trump took office. ProPublica spoke with a dozen lawyers and reviewed documentation for several of these cases.

Many responses cited technicalities: One application was not accepted because the seventh page, usually left blank, was not attached. Another was rejected because it did not have a table of contents and exhibit numbers, even though it had other forms of organization. “It seems like they are just making every single submission difficult,” Bonnefil said. “Even the most standard, run-of-the-mill” application.

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Applicants for US Visas May Soon Have to Provide Social Media Handles

Applicants for US Visas May Soon Have to Provide Social Media Handles

In what looks like the Trump administration’s latest effort to tighten the US border by subjecting entrants to greater scrutiny, the State Department announced in the Federal Register on Friday that it was proposing to require that people seeking both immigrant and non-immigrant visas provide consular officials with additional information, including their social media accounts from the past five years, Ana Campoy reports at Quartz:

“This is an indirect way that the Trump administration is trying to limit immigration to the US that does not require for them to go to Congress,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell University, of the proposed rules.

The US had already been requesting social-media information from people suspected to represent a national security threat. That policy targeted a sliver of travelers to the US—about 65,000. The new measures would cover nearly 15 million people. Along with the handles, the State Department is also asking for a five-year history of email addresses, telephone numbers, and international trips.

The proposals must be approved by the Office of Management and Budget after a 60-day public comment period, so these new requirements will not come into effect until this summer at the earliest, but if they do, Campoy surmises, it may make some people think twice about traveling to the US. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement condemning the proposals as “ineffective and deeply problematic”:

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Major Companies, CHROs Call on Congress to Protect DACA Beneficiaries

Major Companies, CHROs Call on Congress to Protect DACA Beneficiaries

Over 100 human resource leaders have expressed their support for undocumented workers and made a call to action in light of the Trump administration’s announcement that will phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that grants temporary work permits and protection from deportation to younger undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as children. Recently, according to Erin Mulvaney at the National Law Journal, chief human resource officers from companies such as Target, HP, and 21st Century Fox signed and sent a letter to Congress late last month calling for a legislative solution to preserve DACA and expressing concern over the intensity of political rhetoric on immigration:

“We are concerned that the rhetoric around immigration issues often obscures the truth about how foreign-born workers of all skill levels benefit their companies, American workers, American communities, and the American economy,” according to the letter, organized by the HR Policy Association. “Further, while we believe the existing immigration laws need to be responsibly enforced, we are concerned that discouraging these workers’ participation in the U.S. workforce through stricter policies would reduce productivity, intensify the ongoing workforce crisis, and disadvantage American businesses and their U.S. employees operating in the global economy.”

Last month also saw the launch of the Coalition for the American Dream, a group of employers dedicated to lobbying for the rights of these workers, which includes major power players such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. The coalition is also urging Congress to take action to protect the DACA program’s participants, often referred to as “Dreamers”:

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Trump Administration Ends Interview Waivers for Foreign Employees Seeking Green Cards

Trump Administration Ends Interview Waivers for Foreign Employees Seeking Green Cards

Under US law, applicants for permanent residency (green cards) are required to undergo an in-person interview as part of the application process, but in the past decade, it became common for US Citizenship and Immigration Services to waive the interview requirement for most applicants. But a new policy announced last Friday and coming into effect October 1 will end these waivers and make interviews mandatory for people in the following categories:

  • Individuals on employment-based visas who are transitioning to permanent residency
  • Family members of refugees or asylees, who are seeking provisional status as a first step toward permanent residency

Other categories of green card seekers will also be subject to mandatory interviews in the future as the administration expands this requirement incrementally.

According to Politico, the new policy is in fulfillment of President Donald Trump’s promise to apply “extreme vetting” to immigrants and travelers to the US, and is a direct result of the “travel ban” executive order Trump signed in January and re-issued in revised form in March following multiple legal challenges. The revised ban has also been subjected to litigation, but its essential provisions were allowed to stand in June pending its review by the Supreme Court.

USCIS says the new policy is intended “to further improve the detection and prevention of fraud and security risks,” but former officials at the agency doubt whether it will have much of an effect. “It probably does add some marginal value,” former USCIS chief counsel Stephen Legomsky told Politico, “but whether that value is enough to offset that additional work is hard to say.”

US Senators Unveil Plan for Points-Based Immigration System

US Senators Unveil Plan for Points-Based Immigration System

Republican Senators David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas introduced a bill this week that would reform US immigration procedures to implement a skills-based point system that gives preference to prospective immigrants with skills needed in the American labor market, while reducing the number of immigrants admitted each year by as much as half. The legislation, an updated version of the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, or the RAISE Act, Perdue and Cotton first proposed in February, has secured the endorsement of President Donald Trump, the Washington Examiner reported on Wednesday:

The revised RAISE Act steals a page from Canada and Australia, whose immigration laws prioritize high-skilled workers for employment-based green cards. The number of skills-based visas would increase under the proposal though businesses could rely more on outsourcing jobs to cheaper employees in other countries.

Trump argued that accepting job-qualified immigrants will increase wages for U.S. and immigrant workers, but the change could prove challenging for corporations who benefited from a steady flow of low-skilled workers. Trump said the change would reduce the amount of government welfare being paid out because immigrants are increasingly working good-paying jobs. …

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Proposed Program Would Let US States Issue Guest Worker Visas

Proposed Program Would Let US States Issue Guest Worker Visas

Since President Donald Trump, a fierce critic of existing US immigration policy, took office six months ago, not much has changed in how the government allocates visas for temporary skilled workers from other countries, although Trump has called for changes in the H-1B program, the primary vehicle for hiring foreign talent in the US. Even before this issue became part of the White House’s agenda, Congress already had its eye on reforming the H-1B and other visa programs. The latest proposal for visa reform comes from Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who submitted a bill in May that would enable states to set up their own guest worker visa programs in coordination with the federal government. According to the Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times, the bill would create a non-immigrant visa for non-citizens to work in a given state, without tying them to a specific employer:

Visas could be granted for a period of up to three years, and could be renewed at the end of the term. … To set a up a program, a state would need approval from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and from its Legislature. States could also enter into agreements to jointly administer a guest worker program.

Workers could move from one job to another, but would be required to remain in the state of sponsorship unless that state had a reciprocity agreement with other states. States would be required to notify the Department of Homeland Security of a worker’s address and employment. In the first year of the program, a state could issue 5,000 guest worker visas. Additional visas would be available from a pool of 250,000, allocated based on the state’s population as a percentage of the U.S. population. Participants in the program would be able to apply for permanent residency without jeopardizing their status as state-based non-immigrants.

Johnson’s bill—accompanied by a corresponding bill in the House of Representatives submitted by Colorado Republican Ken Buck—has garnered support from a wide range of organizations, Roy Maurer notes at SHRM, including pro-immigration groups such as FWD.us and ImmigrationWorks USA, as well as business associations including the the Associated General Contractors of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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France’s Macron Aims to Court Startups, Talent with Tech Visas

France’s Macron Aims to Court Startups, Talent with Tech Visas

France’s newly elected president Emmanuel Macron is proposing a new tech visa that would enable French tech companies to more easily hire talent from abroad, as well as to encourage entrepreneurs to start businesses there. The plan is clearly designed to convince startups that France is an easier place to hire from the globalized tech workforce than the US or UK, both of which have grown increasingly hostile toward immigration, John Detrixhe reports at Quartz:

The French process appears “significantly” simpler than in the US, which doesn’t have a dedicated visa for tech workers, according to Kristie De Pena, senior immigration council at the Niskanen Center, a think tank. … In the UK, meanwhile, it’s been a year since the vote to leave the EU, and future rules on the rights of EU immigrants after Britain quits the bloc are far from finalized. Nearly half of the UK’s highly skilled workers from elsewhere in the EU are considering leaving in the next five years, according to a survey by Deloitte. Still, the UK has a substantial head-start on other European hubs in the capital-raising game, a crucial consideration for startup founders.

In this regard, Macron’s scheme is similar to what Canada is doing in pitching itself as a friendlier destination for global talent. In contrast to the nativist trend in US and UK politics, leaders like Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are doubling down on globalization—and at least in Trudeau’s case, diversity—as engines of economic growth.

At the same time Macron is pushing tech visas, the world’s largest tech incubator opened this week in Paris. The 34,000 square-meter campus, called “Station F,” was built out of a converted railway depot and is designed to accommodate over 1,000 startups, its director Roxanne Varza tells João Medeiros at Wired:

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