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Report proposes greater access to employment-based green cards, visa-processing efficiencies
The White House released a series of recommendations designed to “modernize and streamline” the nation’s employment-based immigration processes, including greater access to green cards for workers and a proposal to speed up the visa petitions of employers that meet certain criteria.
The report follows President Barack Obama’s November 2014 request from his administration for recommendations on improving the immigration system.
The report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century, includes key concepts which The Council for Global Immigration (CFGI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) have long advocated for, most notably a program like what the White House is calling “Known Employer.” The program is designed to make immigration adjudications more efficient and less costly while reducing paperwork and delays for both the government and for U.S. employers. “We thank the administration for committing to implement a Known Employer pilot program that takes steps to improve government efficiency and reward compliant employers and we're looking forward to making sure that the pilot is implemented consistent with priorities long promoted by CFGI and SHRM,” said Rebecca Peters, director and counsel for legislative affairs at CFGI.
The U.S. government currently requires employers hiring foreign professionals to submit identical documentation—including company description, organizational structure, finances, and recurring job classifications and descriptions—with nearly every individual immigration petition and application. Similar to other government programs such as Trusted Traveler, Trusted Shipper and TSA Pre-Check, the Known Employer program would allow the government to pre-certify U.S. employers that have a proven track record of compliance with federal immigration laws and regulations, thereby reducing the time required to review petitions. “The Known Employer pilot focuses on pre-certifying employer bona fides.This is an initial step and just one component of CFGI’s overall recommendations to improve petition processing, which also includes other concepts such as pre-certifying recurring job classifications and job descriptions for the employer," Peters said.
At the conclusion of the proposed one-year pilot, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will publish a report describing its effectiveness in meeting the goals of reducing paperwork and time in the adjudication process, while maintaining the integrity of adjudications. The department then intends to refine the program, incorporating lessons learned during the pilot period, and prepare an implementation plan and timeline for a permanent program.
“We are encouraged to see the administration committing to new approaches to improving the system, especially the Known Employer pilot,” said Lynn Shotwell, executive director of CFGI.
“Our members continuously cite long visa-processing times and delays that cause uncertainty as major challenges when making business decisions, and the recommendations included in this report are a step in the right direction toward improving this outdated system.”
Additional recommendations in the report include the need for:
*A series of information technology upgrades aimed at improving the visa applicant’s experience, including increased information-sharing across agencies and increased accessibility through the electronic filing of forms and payments.
*Improving the State Department’s monthly visa bulletin to better estimate immigrant visa availability for prospective applicants seeking permanent residency. “This is an issue CFGI has long advocated for with SHRM, as green card backlogs cause many HR concerns and make it difficult to retain talent for those waiting in line when they cannot easily change jobs or receive promotions,” said Justin Storch, manager of agency liaison at CFGI. Specifically, the report recommends better information-sharing between the Department of State and DHS; refining the monthly allocation of visas to ensure that visa numbers issued are as closely aligned with statutory mandates as possible; improving numerically controlled immigrant visa appointments at the end of each fiscal year to maximize visa usage; and clarifying and expanding protections such as green card portability, H-1B portability and H-1B recapture for time spent outside of the U.S.; H-1B statutory cap exemptions; and a grace period for temporary workers whose period of authorized stay has expired to better allow them to obtain other employment without losing their status. “The revisions will help ensure that the maximum number of available visas is issued every year, while also minimizing the potential for visa retrogression. These changes will further allow more individuals seeking legal permanent resident status to work, change jobs and accept promotions,” the report said.
*Modernizing the PERM employer-sponsored green card process, including updating recruitment methods, addressing the correction of minor errors in applications and reducing the pending audit caseload.
*Simplifying the request for evidence templates.
*Clarifying the meaning of dual intent, particularly with regard to F-1 students who wish to attain legal permanent resident status. CFGI has advocated making the F-1 visa category a dual intent category.
*Strengthening and improving the Optional Practical Training program for foreign students and graduates from U.S. universities. New regulations are expected in August 2015.
*Enhancing protections for J-1 visa private-sector exchange visitors at their host placements and in their housing, strengthening cultural activity offerings, and increasing support to summer work travel participants at each stage of the program’s process.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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