Congress Asks USCIS To Explain Immigration Delays And Denials

For the past two and a half years, Congress has largely granted U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a free pass on immigration backlogs and application delays, denials and Requests for Evidence. That began to change at a July 16, 2019, House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, told a panel of USCIS witnesses, “I’m concerned about how the processes have changed.” She went on to describe how international students now experience delays for Optional Practical Training (OPT) that last 5 months or more, which means an internship has likely ended by the time an approval for the student comes through from USCIS.

Rep. Lofgren expressed concern that approximately half of H-1B petitions received a Request for Evidence in the second quarter of 2019. She related a recent conversation with an entrepreneur who told her USCIS requested additional evidence on an existing employee who had an H-1B visa, asking if the person’s Ph.D. was well-fitted to the job (even though the person already had been working in the job). The entrepreneur asked a question that tech employers across the country have been asking: What would USCIS know about the employee’s Ph.D. and technical skills as compared to the employer who hired him?

Marketa Lindt, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), testified that AILA’s analysis of USCIS data “reveals that the agency’s average case processing time surged by 46% from FY 2016 to FY 2018 and by 91% from FY 2014 to FY 2018.” Lindt testified that USCIS’s own policies had driven the delays, including requiring in-person interviews for employment-based green card applicants, no longer deferring to prior decisions when adjudicating an extension application for a current visa holder and significantly increasing the number of Requests for Evidence.

When Rep. Lofgren asked the panel about the increase in Requests for Evidence, USCIS Associate Director for Service Center Operations Donald Neufeld said, “I can tell you that a number of changes have been made affecting H-1B processing over the last couple of years.”

By Stuart Anderson for FORBES
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