On July 15, 2015, The White House released a report, Modernizing & Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century, which details the combined efforts of 12 Federal Agencies to advance President Barack Obama’s Executive Actions of November 20, 2014. The specific items identified below apply to efforts at modernizing the immigration systems for high-skilled workers, entrepreneurs, and students. According to the Council of Economic Advisor’s Report, the President’s executive actions, if fully implemented, would boost our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) by between $100 billion and $250 billion, expand the size of the American labor force, raise average annual wages for U.S.-born workers by 0.4 percent, over the next 10 years, and cut the Federal deficit by $30 billion in 2024. Highlights of the entire report are as follows:
Modernizing Our System for Efficiency and Accessibility:
Currently, the immigration application and adjudication process is mostly paper-based, requiring documents to change hands and locations among various federal actors at least six times for some petitions. These recommendations will make our system more accessible to applicants, bring our technology into the 21st century, and enhance data transparency:
- Create a cross-agency digital services team to support the implementation of the modernized immigrant visa project, which is aimed at improving the visa applicant experience and increasing efficiencies in the adjudication process through digitization;
- Redesign systems with an eye towards a human perspective and accessibility for users;
- Convene a communications task force to create clearer, plain-language instructions;
- Adopt best practices for software development and modernize technology stacks to improve content management; and
- Create an interagency task force to enhance data collection and publication in order to increase transparency.
Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System:
Our legal immigration system provides numerous options for individuals to obtain status, temporary or permanent, in the United States, as governed by existing law. Many of these programs are backlogged as a result of statutory caps, which can only be addressed through legislation. However, the following recommendations serve to improve existing programs, making our system more efficient and effective for the applicant as well as our agencies and their teams:
- Improve the issuance of employment-based immigrant visa numbers;
- Increase efficiency for international arrivals through enhanced technology and an increased focus on high-risk travelers;
- Implement the “Known Employer Program,” which will allow employers meeting strict criteria to pre-establish certain requirements as petitioners, by creating a prototype, publishing a report upon completion of the pilot, and creating an implementation plan for a permanent program;
- Improve integrity and increase the minimum investment for immigrant investor visas; and
- Enhance opportunities and provide greater clarity for certain nonimmigrants, including the circumstances under which U.S. employers may directly sponsor students on F-1 visas for lawful permanent residence.
Permanent Immigration Reform
While the Obama Administration continues to believe that Congress must pass comprehensive, commonsense immigration reform in order to overhaul our immigration laws and fully fix our broken immigration system, President Obama has taken action within his authority to fix what he can within the broken immigration system. These commonsense measures, announced on November 20, 2014, help secure the border, set smart enforcement priorities, and streamline processes so that high-skilled immigrants, entrepreneurs, students, and families can contribute as fully as possible to our economy. America needs a 21st century immigration system that supports a growing economy and lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.