On Nov. 21, 2014, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum on “Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century”1 wherein the president called on immigration agencies to develop recommendations to improve upon the current visa system by March 20, 2015. Nearly concomitantly, a Memorandum2 by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Jeh Johnson outlined new policies intended to prevent the highly skilled, many of whom were educated in the United States, from leaving the country in search of a more welcoming immigration environment. For employers, key among the Secretary’s directives are the following.
(1) The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must take steps to reduce wait times for employment-based immigrant visas and improve visa processing. Specifically, USCIS must work with the U.S. Department of State to ensure that all visas authorized by Congress are issued to eligible individuals when there is sufficient demand. USCIS must also work with the State Department to improve the process for determining when immigrant visas are available to applicants during the fiscal year, and the USCIS must consider regulatory or policy changes to ensure that individuals with pending immigrant visa petitions will not lose their place in line if they change jobs.