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2013 USCIS Priorities: DACA Stats, Provisional Waivers, EB-5 Program & More

Today, USCIS held a public engagement teleconference reviewing some of its most recent accomplishments while also providing a forum for the public to ask questions and voice their comments.  As usual, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas kicked off the engagement by outlining the primary focus for 2013 followed by USCIS Office of Policy and Strategy Chief, Denise Vanison.  We’ve summarized the top six (6) issues most relevant to our readers with an update to this article once USCIS releases updated data.

1.     I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver

Director Mayorkas boasted one of the two most significant accomplishments of USCIS this month has been to promulgate the final rule for provisional unlawful presence waivers for certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.  Announced earlier this month, the Provisional Waiver has indeed been big news.  So big in fact, we are hosting a webinar Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 2pm Eastern, to provide expert tips from leading practitioners in the field.  You can register here. Director Mayorkas reminded the public that USCIS will consider broadening the eligible group from U.S. citizens to Legal Permanent Residents in an “iterative fashion” but no timetable has been set. At some point in the future, we may also be invited to an engagement meeting presented by both USCIS and the U.S. Department of State to hopefully address adjudicatory delays of immigration visas and other procedural issues. Finally, Associate Director of Field Operations, Donald Monica, confirmed that USCIS adjudicators tasked with reviewing I-601A Provisional Waivers will be specializing in this area (though some rotation may take place).

2.     Policy Manual Is Here to Stay

The other most significant accomplishment was the recent launch of the Policy Manual resource announced earlier this month.  The effort to centralize all polices, relevant legislative intent, and precedent case law in one uniform repository began four years ago and culminated in the Policy Manual publication in response to a need for consistency, transparency, and predictability. According to Chief Vanison, the agency conducted an internal review of more than 10,000 policy documents obtained from USCIS headquarters and its field offices. It reviewed the volume of written policies for consistency and began assembling the documents by assigning them to various working groups to prioritize the policies. After the documents have been categorized and rewritten to form the Policy Manual, the Adjudicator’s Field Manual will eventually be obsolete.  Meant as a One-Stop-Shop, the Policy Manual will supersede prior agency policy memos which practitioners have been so accustomed with only law-enforcement related guidance redacted.  Chief Vanison indicated the publication online is more user friendly, written in plain language, organized in volumes, parts and chapters are dedicated to particular areas, and searchable by topic.

3.     DACA Still Going Strong

Director Mayorkas announced that as of this January, the number of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) applications has surpassed the 400,000 mark.   The implementation of DACA in 60 days by USCIS was an all-hands-on-deck approach.  Data for January’s DACA stats are available here.

4.     Precedential Cases

In the last 12 years, USCIS has officially certified only two cases for “precedential imprint,” as confirmed by Director Mayorkas.  It’s hard to believe that of the hundreds of thousands of cases appealed to the Administrative Appeals Unit (or legacy Office) that in the last twelve years only two merited certification!  This year though, practitioners may have reason to cheer (finally).  We may be expecting to see a published draft policy on certifying cases for precedent next month.  (We’ll report more on this if/when the guidance is released.)

5.     The EB-5 Program Office in D.C. Gets a New Chief!

Although the creation of EB-5 Program Office is still in process, we now know who is (temporarily) in charge.  Mr. Robert H. Cox from the USCIS Office of Chief Counsel was appointed as the Acting Chief of the Immigrant Investor Program to serve as the leader during this bridge period.  USCIS is still aspiring to fully launch the office as operational sometime in four-five months. USCIS hopes to publish EB-5 guidance in the next week or two.  We’ll bring that to you when it becomes available.

6.     Improving USCIS Customer Service

Improving USCIS services and access to its customers and stakeholders is one important priority for 2013.  In addition to the Electronic Immigration System (ELIS) and the Policy Manual, USCIS also retained IDEO to assist with reforming its customer contact center to no longer be dependent on the call center.  [It’s about time!] This would include a review of how and to what extent its current physical infrastructure should support mobile employees dispatched to remote locations in order better serve the public.  The goal would be to create a legacy for at least the next five years.

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It looks like more details will be forthcoming in the weeks to follow.

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