The U.S. Immigration Policy is subject to continuous evolution and adjustment, influenced by various factors, including government priorities and global events. Understanding how these policy changes can affect applicants is crucial for those seeking entry to the U.S.
Immigrants are a vital part of the United States’ economy. They contribute to our communities and create jobs, paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits.
They also drive innovation and spawn technologies that benefit both U.S. workers and the global economy. However, current immigration policies confine millions of unauthorized immigrants to life in the shadows and deprive them of many foundational social protections.
Introduction to U.S. Immigration Policy Changes
With 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants and hundreds of thousands of people who live in the United States with temporary status such as Dreamers, individuals brought here as minors and those granted relief from removal, the United States needs to make serious changes to its immigration system.
Rather than creating obstacles and delays, immigration policies should facilitate growth and economic opportunity by enhancing national security and ensuring that our laws are well-administrated.
Specifically, it is time to clear employment-based visa backlogs, recapture millions of unused visas, reduce lengthy wait times and eliminate per-country visa caps. It is also time to expand the Optional Practical Training program, retain foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees and provide a streamlined path to green cards.
We must increase the number of Diversity Visas and reinstate the Central American Minors program, while limiting presidential authority to issue future religious and other bans and strengthening programs that support immigrant integration and citizenship. It is time to establish an earned roadmap to citizenship for our neighbors, colleagues, parishioners, family members and friends—including Dreamers and essential workers—who contribute to our communities.
Recent U.S. Immigration Policy Shifts
The Biden administration has made a number of moves to ease restrictions on visa applicants. It has proposed expanding the employment-based green card cap, reducing the waiting time for refugees and lowering the bar for who qualifies for U visas (for victims of crimes who assist law enforcement) and for deportation relief (DACA).
However, processing backlogs persist. Immigration courts have nearly two million pending cases, USCIS has more than 5.7 million pending applications and about 9.5 million people waiting for an interview with the State Department. The pandemic and other factors have contributed to these delays, but they also reflect a larger, structural problem.
Congress needs to create a points-based system that grants entry and permanent residency based on an applicant’s skills, education, work history and family ties to the United States. Such a system would address the growing need for skilled workers, while ensuring that family members and entrepreneurs also have access to visas. It would also ensure that the immigration process remains fair and consistent for all applicants. This includes avoiding arbitrary application of the laws and soliciting public input, as well as providing adequate notice of changes before they take effect.
How Immigration Policy Changes Affect Visa Applicants
Immigration policy should reflect the reality that our country benefits from the knowledge, skills and hard work of immigrants. Immigrants have made countless contributions to our society and economy, helping to fuel growth and improve lives.
Under previous administrations, immigration law enforcement prioritized the removal of immigrants convicted of serious crimes and those who threaten national security. However, Trump-era immigration enforcement priorities have changed dramatically. In fact, as recently as 2019, the number of deportations by ICE rose, while the percentage of those convicted of crimes fell.
The Biden Administration has acted to reverse several Trump-era restrictions, including plans to boost refugee admissions and preserving deportation relief for unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States as children. It has also continued the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program, extending protections to immigrants from Venezuela and Myanmar.
The administration has also stopped enforcing a rule that denies green cards to applicants who might be likely to use public benefits like Medicaid. This is known as the “public charge” rule. It’s important for businesses to know about these policy changes and how they can impact their employees.
Navigating Policy Changes: Tips for Applicants
Immigration policy changes can be frustrating and complicated. However, with some preparation and support, applicants can navigate these shifts and continue their journey toward a secure future.
A clear and stable immigration system is beneficial for both the economy and society. Businesses are more likely to invest in the United States if they can plan around predictable adjudication timelines and know that their talented employees will be able to continue working here.
Talented foreign workers are more likely to seek opportunities in the United States if they can anticipate what types of visas they will need and how long it will take for those applications to be processed. Furthermore, people with family based and employment-based petitions are more likely to proceed with their cases if they have a clear picture of what is in store for them.
Additionally, Congress should consider reforming the H-2B prevailing wage requirement so that employers can pay workers by their skill level rather than by comparing them to other employees with the same job titles and responsibilities. This would save both US employers and workers time and money.
Seeking Professional Guidance Amid Policy Changes
Under the Trump administration, refugee admissions were set at record lows and stringent vetting measures were implemented. President Biden reversed these policies and returned to a policy of allocating refugee admissions based on region. He also lifted a ban on transferring visas from countries that have high rates of terrorism and other security risks. In addition, he reinstated a 1999 interim field guidance that allows USCIS to consider noncash public benefits (such as medical, housing and food assistance) in making public charge determinations.
Similarly, immigration reforms are needed at both the federal and state levels. Congress should heed calls to increase penalties for child labor violations, address chronic underfunding of agencies that enforce labor standards and eliminate occupational carve-outs that permit lower employment standards in agricultural work (Costa 2022). At the state level, lawmakers should repeal restrictive laws that limit access to social safety net programs and deprive unauthorized immigrants and unaccompanied migrant youth of opportunities to find jobs and support themselves. These workers are a valuable complement to the American workforce and should not be exploited.
Q1: How often do U.S. immigration policies change?
- A: Immigration policies can change frequently due to shifts in government priorities, legislative changes, or external factors. It’s essential to stay informed about policy updates regularly.
Q2: Can policy changes affect my existing visa or immigration status?
- A: Yes, policy changes can impact individuals with existing visas or pending applications. It’s crucial to monitor policy developments and seek legal advice if you believe a change may affect your status.
Q3: Do policy changes impact all visa categories equally?
- A: No, policy changes can vary in their impact. Some may affect specific visa categories more than others. It’s essential to understand how changes may apply to your particular situation.
Q4: What can I do to prepare for potential policy changes affecting my visa application?
- A: To prepare, stay informed about immigration news, maintain accurate documentation, and consider consulting an immigration attorney for guidance on adapting to policy changes.
Q5: Can policy changes lead to delays in visa processing times?
- A: Yes, policy changes can sometimes lead to increased processing times as immigration authorities adapt to new procedures or requirements.
Q6: Are there advocacy groups or resources that can help applicants navigate policy changes?
- A: Yes, there are advocacy groups, legal aid organizations, and resources available to provide information and support to applicants affected by immigration policy changes.
Q7: Can I challenge or appeal a visa denial or negative decision resulting from policy changes?
- A: In some cases, you may have the option to challenge or appeal a negative decision. Consult an immigration attorney to explore your options if you believe you’ve been unfairly affected by policy changes.