MUMBAI: Microsoft has submitted a wide range of suggestions to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on improving the legal immigration system. The immigration agency had invited public comments in this regard.
In its detailed submission, Microsoft has made suggestions for eliminating the green card backlog, such as through green card recapture of unused numbers. The objective should be to ensure that every statutorily available green card number is utilized and not wasted. Referring to a study by CATO Institute, it states that an estimated 2.21 lakh green cards as per the allocation numbers (if extended back to 1992) are not used by any employment or family-based immigrant. These can be recaptured and put back into the system for use.
It has also suggested that filing of applications for adjustment of status (conversion to green card) be enabled before the priority date becomes current. In simple terms priority date means an applicant’s place in the green card queue, when it becomes current (there is no backlog), he or she can file for adjustment of status. Microsoft explains that merely by allowing for an early filing, no application would be approved any faster than the green card availability allows.
However, this revision in policy would allow applicants to move to the final stage of the green card process and access benefits like adjustment of status portability, employment authorization documents, and advance parole travel documents to improve certainty and mobility while waiting in the backlog.
Second, submission of those filings would provide USCIS with a defined set of applications that could be prepared for adjudications, making the coordination with the Department of State on timely usage of green card numbers far more accurate and agile.
And third, the filings would provide a significant revenue stream for operations and the processing of these applications, while also reducing the volume of non-immigrant visa extensions needing processing by USCIS.
For preparing its submissions, Microsoft states that it surveyed thousands of its visa-dependent employees, predominately the survey results showed that lack of predictability in all aspects of the system and the lack of a clear path to permanent residency is causing worry and stress among our visa-dependent colleagues.
56% of survey respondents stated that they think about their immigration matters ‘all of the time,’ which was followed by another 31% of respondents that stated that they think about their immigration matters ‘most of the time.’ Moreover, 50% of the respondents said they could not resolve their immigration related issues by seeking assistance from USCIS.
The tech giant has some interesting observations as regards the process of onboarding of foreign employees. Currently (apart from the leeway given owing to the pandemic) employee verification is to be done in-person and documents cannot be verified using technology.
“The accommodations the agency made during the COVID-19 pandemic to permit remote verification shows that employment verification using today’s technology can be done in a more efficient manner, even when not faced with a pandemic,’’ it points out.
Presently, all employers must complete a Form I-9 for each new hire and then, in addition, those that participate in E-Verify must key in the I-9 information into this system. Technology should be deployed to integrate the I-9 form and content into the E-Verify system, it states.
Microsoft also points out the need to reduce lengthy processing time. For instance, H-4 visa holders suffer from loss of employment because the employment authorization document was not processed in time. It has suggested automatic extensions of employment authorisation if the application for extension was filed timely. This will enable USCIS to process those requests without threatening the employment stability of EAD applicants, it states.