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Top 10 Legal Immigration Predictions for 2019

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It’s no secret that 2018 was a troublesome yr for the authorized immigration system, as we predicted this time final yr.

As 2019 begins with a authorities shutdown over border wall funding, it’s straightforward to miss the truth that the overwhelming majority of immigration modifications are occurring behind the scenes, deep inside the government department.

You in all probability gained’t see motion in Congress. There’s all the time the slim probability that Congress might cross a slender invoice that gives aid for Dreamers with stepped-up border safety, however the White Home torpedoed simply such a deal final yr and people elementary dynamics haven’t modified.

You’ll undoubtedly see motion within the courts, as advocates and the federal government interact in high-profile litigation over the last word destiny of Dreamers, Short-term Protected Standing (TPS), asylum-seekers, refugees, and immigrant detainees.

Much less apparent, however simply as inevitable, are additional efforts by this administration to constrict the variety of immigrants who can acquire (or maintain on to) their work permits, visas, inexperienced playing cards, and even U.S. citizenship. On the subject of the difficult equipment of our authorized immigration system, listed here are the tales — and the lawsuits — to observe in 2019:

  1. Slicing Authorized Immigration in Half
  2. Denaturalizing and Deterring New American Residents
  3. Pricing Out Low-Revenue Immigrants
  4. Driving Up Denials and Deportations
  5. Creating 100,000 “Involuntary Housewives”
  6. Turning Away Worldwide College students
  7. H-1B Visas in Chaos
  8. Closing the Door to Entrepreneurs
  9. Ballooning Backlogs
  10. The Component of Shock

1. Slicing Authorized Immigration in Half

Should you’ve already learn concerning the “public cost rule,” you might know that this proposed coverage would penalize lower-income immigrants for utilizing social security internet packages that they’re in any other case legally entitled to make use of. You might not know that this coverage would slash authorized immigration by nicely over 50%, by denying each inexperienced playing cards and short-term visas to immigrants based mostly on an entire vary of things far past utilizing public advantages — akin to not incomes a middle-class revenue, not being in good well being, not talking fluent English, not having an ideal credit score rating, and extra.

Search for three totally different federal businesses to make new strikes to advance “public cost” insurance policies in 2019, for 3 very giant however totally different populations:

Visa candidates in the USA

On October 2018, the Division of Homeland Safety (DHS) unveiled its proposed “public cost rule,” a backdoor wealth check that may separate almost 200,000 married couples annually, hurt U.S. companies, and price as much as $13 billion in annual compliance prices alone. By the federal government’s personal estimate, this newly restrictive check would apply to 900,000 candidates for visa extensions and inexperienced playing cards yearly. Earlier than DHS can implement this rule, nevertheless, it should course of and reply to the over 200,000 public feedback it acquired — a process that would final nicely into 2019.

Visa candidates overseas

In the meantime, the Division of State processes some 13 million visa and inexperienced card purposes annually at U.S. consulates and embassies everywhere in the world, and has been making use of a harder “public cost” check since January 2018. Consular workplaces have been instructed to reject candidates if they’re deemed too poor, previous, or unhealthy. The town of Baltimore just lately sued the State Division to dam this coverage.

Everlasting residents

Sooner or later in 2019, the Division of Justice (DOJ) might suggest its personal new “public cost” requirements that would broaden the federal government’s means to deport immigrants who have already got inexperienced playing cards, creating immense new uncertainty for some 13 million lawful everlasting residents of america.


2. Denaturalizing and Deterring New American Residents

Silhouettes Against US Flag

Turning into a U.S. citizen brings nice privileges and duties, and the naturalization course of just isn’t straightforward. As soon as an immigrant has taken the Oath of Allegiance and turns into a U.S. citizen, they will relaxation assured that they are going to be handled the identical as native-born U.S. residents.

However this sense of safety is beneath menace.

Final yr, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Providers (USCIS) launched a brand new workplace devoted to ramping up the variety of naturalized People who’re finally stripped of their U.S. citizenship for previous infractions. Generally often known as the “denaturalization process pressure,” this effort might result in an unprecedented wave of People dropping their citizenship within the years to return.

On the similar time, it’s grow to be harder to develop into a citizen within the first place, and USCIS might create new hurdles in 2019:

Rising wait occasions: The federal government’s processing time for citizenship purposes is now over 10 months on common, almost doubling between 2014 and 2018. Advocacy teams have sued to uncover whether or not these growing wait occasions and backlogs are deliberately discriminatory.

Greater charges: USCIS is chipping away at longstanding insurance policies that scale back charges lower-income citizenship seekers. Whereas lower-income candidates can nonetheless apply for a waiver of the complete $725 naturalization charge, USCIS plans to make this rather more troublesome in 2019, probably decreasing the variety of charge waivers by two-thirds. And relying on how the above-mentioned DOJ public cost rule shakes out, merely making use of for a charge waiver might make some everlasting residents deportable.

Extra pink tape: USCIS already eradicated the fingerprinting exemption for candidates aged 75 and older. Now, the company has very quietly proposed to change the naturalization software type in 2019, asking far more expansive questions and requiring many candidates to dig up 10 years of prior worldwide journey data (quite than the longstanding established order of 5 years). In the meantime, USCIS additionally lately elevated scrutiny on immigrants with disabilities who search an exception to the English and civics testing necessities for U.S. citizenship, and may go additional in 2019 with plans to tighten up medical certifications of incapacity.


Three. Pricing Out Low-Revenue Immigrants

Woman Counting Money

Almost each federal company that helps run the U.S. immigration system might hike its charges in 2019.

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has already introduced plans to extend scholar visa charges by as much as 75%. It additionally has a brand-new visa safety program payment beneath improvement for worldwide vacationers.
  • The State Division is working to extend a number of charges (see right here, right here, and right here).
  • USCIS plans to overtake its charges throughout the board. That’s not unreasonable for an company funded virtually totally by consumer charges, nevertheless it’s attainable that this administration will use this regulation extra aggressively — for instance, to utterly remove payment waivers for low-income citizenship candidates.

USCIS might additionally make its providers costlier in different methods which might be much less direct however no much less burdensome. For instance, whereas it’s excellent that citizenship candidates now have the choice to file electronically, immigrant advocates are deeply involved concerning the company’s plan to “mandate digital submission for all immigration profit requests.” How would such a mandate have an effect on lower-income immigrants, who usually tend to face obstacles in utilizing the required know-how?


Four. Driving Up Denials and Deportations

Visa Rejected Stamp

Final yr, USCIS issued denials 37% extra typically than in 2016, together with purposes for work permits, journey permits, inexperienced playing cards, H-1Bs, and different visas.

This can in all probability worsen in 2019, as USCIS ramps up its “zero-room-for-error” coverage towards authorized immigration. First, will probably be far more troublesome for candidates to right minor errors and keep away from the costly and time-consuming prospect of beginning over, since USCIS plans to cease issuing as many Requests for Proof.

And the stakes are even larger for anybody who lacks immigration standing. In 2019, USCIS will absolutely implement a brand new coverage of initiating deportation proceedings towards anybody who’s out of standing in the meanwhile their software is denied — whether or not they have been all the time undocumented or they solely fell out of standing whereas ready for the federal government to reply.


5. Creating 100,000 “Involuntary Housewives”

Snapshot of Indian Woman

Expert staff with H-1B visas are approved to work in the USA, however till 2015, their spouses (who’ve “H-Four” visas) weren’t allowed to acquire their very own work permits. That’s when a new regulation made it potential for these spouses to work, in the course of the years-long wait for his or her households to acquire inexperienced playing cards.

In 2019, USCIS plans to roll again this coverage, making it unattainable for over 100,000 people to proceed working in america, even though they have already got an permitted inexperienced card petition. Most of those H-Four staff are Indian, feminine, and extremely educated.

A grassroots group of allied immigrants just lately intervened in a lawsuit to defend the legality of those work permits.


6. Turning Away Worldwide College students

Keep Out Sign

U.S. schools and universities have seen worldwide scholar enrollment plummet during the last 2 years, and 2019 could also be much more difficult.

Going ahead, DHS will bar worldwide college students from america for as much as 10 years based mostly on any visa infraction, regardless of how minor or harmless. A lot of universities have sued to dam this transfer.

In the meantime, DHS is engaged on a plan to shorten the time that worldwide college students are allowed to stay in the USA and require extra frequent extensions. (That is on prime of the State Division’s earlier transfer to shorten visas from 5 years to 1 yr for Chinese language college students researching aviation, robotics, and superior manufacturing.)

One other massive story to observe in 2019 is the destiny of the Elective Sensible Coaching (OPT) program, which permits worldwide college students to work for U.S. corporations for 1–Three years after graduating. The OPT program allowed 1.5 million graduates of U.S. universities to remain and work between 2004 and 2016.

Main enterprise associations have moved to hitch a lawsuit in protection of OPT, fearing that the Trump administration plans to aspect with opponents of this system in courtroom or remove it totally via regulation. (This isn’t altogether paranoid, provided that DHS beforehand tried to limit OPT job placements via a barely-noticed web site change, resulting in yet one more lawsuit.)


7. H-1B Visas in Chaos

Keyboard Thumbs Down

This administration has taken a dim view of the H–1B visa program, which permits U.S. employers to usher in over 85,000 high-skill staff annually. Opponents consider that many of those jobs must be going to native-born staff.

The large H-1B story to observe in 2019 is how precisely DHS plans to flesh out its broad regulatory plan to (a) “revise the definition of specialty occupation to extend concentrate on acquiring the most effective and the brightest overseas nationals,” (b) “revise the definition of employment and employer-employee relationship to raised shield U.S. staff and wages,” and (c) “guarantee employers pay applicable wages to H-1B visa holders.” If this plan is finally enacted, and survives courtroom challenges, it might dramatically change which staff are eligible for H-1B visas.

In the meantime, there’s no scarcity of different curveballs being hurled on the H-1B system:

  • USCIS has proposed to overtake the best way it runs the “H-1B lottery,” the place employers vie for a restricted variety of visas every April. Some specialists worry that by dashing into this new on-line registration system, the company might trigger uncertainty and even chaos this spring.
  • Whereas H-1B visas have historically been granted for Three-year renewable durations, USCIS has began to restrict a few of these visas to just a few days, and even unfavorable days (think about getting an approval discover on your visa solely to study that it has already expired). A current lawsuit is difficult the legality of this unprecedented apply.
  • USCIS beforehand issued a memo proscribing the power of corporations to put H-1B staff at third-party worksites, main to a different lawsuit.
  • Then there was the time that USCIS made it unimaginable for some lower-salary staff to satisfy the H-1B visa’s “speciality occupation” requirement. In case you guessed that this might spawn yet one more lawsuit, you’d be proper.

Mix all of this with strikes by USCIS to require duplicative H-1B paperwork each Three years, droop fast-track processing at a second’s discover, improve the Request for Proof price by 45% and the denial price by 41%, and it’s no marvel that many corporations and immigrants consider that the H-1B program is beneath siege.


eight. Closing the Door to Entrepreneurs

Business Closed Sign

The Worldwide Entrepreneur Rule is an Obama-era coverage to make it simpler for startup founders to construct corporations in america and make use of American staff. The Trump administration tried to kill this program in a single day in 2017, obtained sued by a number of would-be immigrant entrepreneurs, received ordered by a federal decide to implement this system, did so begrudgingly, after which issued a proposed regulation final yr to finally scrap the Worldwide Entrepreneur Rule as soon as and for all.

Setting apart the adverse financial impression of such a transfer, the Worldwide Entrepreneur rule additionally serves as a bellwether for different immigration insurance policies in 2019. It was the primary Obama-era immigration regulation that the brand new administration tried to overturn, and now DHS has some 2 dozen different regulatory actions on its menu. If the ultimate cancellation of the Worldwide Entrepreneur Rule continues to fall not on time, the remainder of these laws could also be delayed as properly.


9. Ballooning Backlogs

Stack of Files

Over the previous 2 years, wait occasions have elevated dramatically for households, staff, and even crime victims navigating the authorized immigration system — with some ready as much as eight occasions longer than in 2014. (The federal government’s public knowledge doesn’t go any additional again in time.)

These delays create immense uncertainty at greatest and may have life-altering penalties at worst. (Keep in mind, DHS has a brand new coverage of initiating deportation proceedings towards anybody who loses their immigration standing whereas ready for a type to be processed.) Sadly, 2019 might set new data for administrative delay.

Too many interviews

One main contributor to rising wait occasions was a 2017 USCIS coverage to require an in-person interview for anybody making use of for an employment-based inexperienced card (about 122,000 individuals annually) or relations of refugees and asylees making use of for a inexperienced card from inside the USA (about 46,000 individuals annually).

On the finish of 2018, USCIS quietly carried out a brand new impediment for over 166,000 married couples annually: Almost all of them will now be required to attend an in-person interview 2 years after receiving a marriage-based inexperienced card, once they should show the authenticity of their marriage for a second time.

Since USCIS subject officers have restricted time (and there’s no proof of a brand new hiring surge), this doubling-down on new interviews is sure to exacerbate backlogs for a lot of different visas, inexperienced playing cards, and U.S. citizenship as nicely.

extra Purple Tape within the works

An in depth take a look at the DHS regulatory agenda for 2019 reveals a looming wave of deliberate modifications that would decelerate the authorized immigration system much more:

  • If USCIS finally enacts the general public cost rule (as described above), over 14 million individuals might all of a sudden discover themselves required to fill out a posh new type that Boundless estimates will possible take about 18 hours to finish (400% longer than the USCIS lowball estimate) — and that’s not together with the additional time it is going to take for USCIS officers to guage these types utilizing a mind-bendingly complicated new “public cost” check.
  • USCIS needs to finish “concurrent filings” for a lot of inexperienced card candidates, which might imply that households can not put all of their inexperienced card types in the identical submitting package deal. That is the type of coverage change that’s each extremely boring and extremely consequential — it might trigger vital new delays.
  • USCIS additionally needs to unburden itself of the present requirement that it course of work allow purposes from asylum seekers inside 30 days.
  • What does USCIS imply by its plan to “permit for the enlargement of the varieties of biometrics required to determine and confirm an id”? Don’t guess on issues getting any simpler.
  • Similar with this plan to “streamline the prevailing processes for submitting motions and appeals.” We will see …

Comply with the info

Here’s a abstract of the federal government’s personal knowledge on processing occasions for some the most typical authorized immigration purposes.

The Regular Rise of USCIS Processing Occasions (fiscal yr common, in months)
Type FY2014 FY2015 FY2016 FY2017 FY2018
Fiancé(e) visa (I-129F) Three.5 Three.eight  2.9  Four.1 6.7
Household-based inexperienced card sponsorship (I-130)  6.eight  6.1  6.zero  7.7  9.7
Employment-based inexperienced card sponsorship (I-140)  2.9  5.1  5.7  6.9  7.eight
Household-based inexperienced card software (I-485)  5.7  6.6 6.eight eight.Four 11.1
Employment-based inexperienced card software (I-485)  Four.5 6.5 6.eight eight.1 11.zero
U.S. citizenship (N-400)  5.2   5.eight   5.6 eight.1 10.2 
Journey allow (I-131)  2.1 2.Three 2.Three Three.zero Three.9
Work allow (I-765)  2.1  2.Four 2.6 Three.1 Four.1
Shift from conditional to everlasting spousal inexperienced card (I-751)  5.7  7.Four 9.1 11.eight 16.1
Shift from conditional to everlasting investor inexperienced card (I-829)  9 13.1 19.1 27.7 27.1
 T visa for trafficking victims (I-914) 5.eight  6.Four 7.9 9.zero 11.Four
 U visa for crime victims (I-918) 5.zero   11.Four  22.1  32.1 40.5
 Numerous waivers 6.eight  10.zero  16.9 23.6 29.1

10. The Factor of Shock

Unexpected Banana on Ground

Whereas the above listing of looming immigration modifications is lengthy (congrats for studying this far), it’s virtually definitely incomplete. If 2019 is something like 2018, the yr shall be filled with easy-to-miss Friday-afternoon coverage bulletins that no one noticed coming.

It’s additionally value maintaining a tally of beforehand tabled coverage modifications that would come again to life:

  • Keep in mind that time Stephen Miller needed to cancel the visas of all 350,000 U.S. college college students from China?
  • How about when DHS shelved a plan to terminate H-1B extensions and boot from the USA maybe one million individuals on the inexperienced card ready record?
  • The State Division should be contemplating “main reductions” for the J-1 cultural trade visa, together with this system for au pairs who present youngster look after U.S. households, in addition to the summer time work-travel program.
  • And don’t overlook concerning the new Nationwide Vetting Middle, a Trump administration creation that quietly commenced operations final month and will have big sway over worldwide vacationers.

Backside line: Within the yr forward, anticipate many extra laws, restrictions, and lawsuits with impacts all through the authorized immigration system.


Boundless is consistently monitoring modifications to the U.S. immigration system to assist hold you knowledgeable. Keep updated by following Boundless on Twitter or Fb.

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