The USCIS has been discussing some options to provide positive immigration relief if legislation on comprehensive immigration reform does not get passed. In an internal memo to the Director of USCIS, the offices of Chief Counsel and Policy and Strategy lay out some suggestions for USCIS to take administratively within the current structure of the law without having to wait for Congress to pass legislation. Some of the key suggestions include the following:
1. Provide work authorization for H-4 dependent spouses if the H-1 applicant has an application for permanent residence and has extended beyond the 6 year limit. Currently H-4 dependents have to wait for the filing of an I-485 application to get work authorization, however, that can’t be done unless the priority date is current.
2. Expand the ‘dual intent” doctrine to non-immigrants such as TN’s and F-1. This could be especially helpful for applicants in TN status (such as registered nurses) who have delayed filing an I-140 petition because of concerns about traveling since TN is not currently a “dual intent” status.
3. Create a grace period ranging from 45 to 90 days for some non-immigrant categories. This would be especially helpful for H-1b applicants to do an H-1b transfer if they lose a job and soon find a new job, whereas current law holds the person to be “out of status” and subjects the H-1b applicant to returning to his/her home country to get a new visa stamped.
4. Eliminate unlawful presence (3 year and 10 year bar) for adjustment of status applicants. This would allow applicants who are subject to the bar on re-entry to freely travel and re-enter the U.S. to resume their application.
5. Expand premium processing to all employment-based cases. USCIS noted that they do not have a current backlog in cases so they are equipped to expand their premium processing unit.
6. Utilize defferred inspection to applicants whose removal is not in the public interest. This allows a “stay”in the U.S. to buy time for the applicant to have some form of legislative relief in the future.
7. Expand the EB-5 investor visa program. This program provides permanent residence to foreign nationals who invest in a U.S. business that creates at least 10 jobs, however, the program has been underutilized. The USCIS views this program as an important tool to revitalize the U.S. economy.
8. Extend work authorization on EAD when an extension is filed. This would allow automatic 240-day work authorization for an applicant who files an EAD extension before the current one expires. Currently the renewed EAD must be approved by the time the current one expires for the foreign national to continue to lawfully work.
SCIS believes these options are immediately at their disposal or can be quickly implemented through notice in the Federal Register based upon current authority. There is no word yet on if or when USCIS will implement these suggestions.