THE STORY: On Tuesday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services enacted a new policy that provides officers with the discretion to deny any visa or green card application without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) when the application is submitted without the required evidence.
THE CONTEXT: Since President Trump signed an executive order in 2017 ordering his administration to further enforce immigration laws, the visa and green card process has been getting more restrictive. The denial rate for H-1B visas went up by 41% in the last three months of the 2017 fiscal year and immigration lawyers are noticing increased scrutiny on what they say used to be standard applications. USCIS says that the new policy to allow outright denial of visas and green cards is meant to discourage individuals from submitting incomplete applications that afford them more time in the U.S. Immigration lawyers worry that having an immediate path to deny applications will only further the restrictions being imposed on the 7 million or so people who apply for visas and green cards every year.
WHAT’S NEXT: With the USCIS’ policy just going into place and the Trump administration focused on curbing legal immigration, it’s unlikely that this policy will be reversed any time soon. Policy analysts like Sarah Pierce, who works at the Migration Policy Institute, think there are better solutions than making the visa process more restrictive across the board. Pierce told Pro Publica better policies would be cracking down on companies that rely heavily on H-1B workers or imposing certain limits on contractors that hire H-1B employees.
Read further: USCIS Updates Policy Guidance for Certain Requests for Evidence and Notices of Intent to Deny (USCIS) and Authorities Can Now Deny Visa and Green Card Applications Without Giving Applicants a Chance to Fix Errors (Pro Publica)
THE STORY: USCIS recently announced that it will increase the premium processing fee for certain visa applications. The fee will increase from $1,255 to $1,410, a nearly 15% increase, for the I-129 and I-140 forms.
THE CONTEXT: USCIS allows premium processing on certain employment visas, whereby applications are processed in 15 days. Without the premium processing service, applications can take more than four months. USCIS says the fee hike “represents the percentage change in inflation since the fee was last increased in 2010.” USCIS also says they will use the funds from the fee increase to hire more staff and make investments in IT systems. The fee increase comes as USCIS recently extended the suspension of premium processing for certain H-1B applications.
WHAT’S NEXT: The fee increase is scheduled to take effect on October 1st. The premium processing suspension period is scheduled to end February 19, 2019.
Read further: USCIS Adjusting Premium Processing Fee (USCIS)
THE STORY: A new report by Citi GPS titled “Migration and the Economy” found that migration is a significant engine for economic growth in the U.S. The report found that between 1990 and 2014, “U.S. economic growth would have been 15 percentage points lower without the benefit of migration.”
THE CONTEXT: The report points out three main reasons migration is a boon to the U.S. economy. First, migration tends to have a “strong positive effect on GDP per capita as 75% of migrants are of working age.” Second, migrants are increasingly educated and infuse that knowledge into the U.S. workforce. Between 1999 and 2010, “the number of migrants with a tertiary degree rose by 130%.” Third, migration tends to increase a countries’ ability to innovate, with “over 40% of global patent applications” being filed by immigrants. The innovation immigrants create is clear in the U.S. where more than half of “unicorns”, startups with a valuation of $1 billion or more, have at least one co-founder who is an immigrant.
WHAT’S NEXT: With the Trump White House promoting the idea that immigrants are an economic drain on the U.S., it’s important to be aware of reports like this that show that rhetoric isn’t based in fact.
Read further: Migration and the Economy: Economic Realities, Social Impacts & Political Choices (Citi GPS: Global Perspectives and Solutions)