OMB Releases Fall 2019 Unified Regulatory Agenda; DHS & USCIS Expect Active Rulemakings

OMB Releases Fall 2019 Unified Regulatory Agenda; DHS & USCIS Expect Active Rulemakings

Twice a year, the Office of Management and Budget, in concert with the General Services Administration and its own Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, publish the Unified Regulatory Agenda (Unified Agenda). The Unified Agenda is a transparency program that publishes federal agency rulemakings in process. It is not a process set in concrete but rather a snapshot in time to inform the public of rulemakings and regulations being developed by federal agencies.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) postings, released Nov. 21 for Fall 2019 are here. In addition to enabling the searching of regulations by agency and content, the agencies offer a regulatory “plan” which sets out regulatory principles. The DHS statement can be found here.

As many readers are interested in USCIS for visa reasons, the USCIS statement of regulatory priorities is pasted below for convenience:

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government agency that administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.

USCIS is committed to the principles and direction to deregulate and reduce burden on the public as much as possible, while balancing our needs to ensure well founded policies that are aimed at protecting American workers, strengthening our legal immigration system, reducing fraud, and protecting our national security. Importantly, USCIS has been taking steps to reduce burdens and enhance operational efficiencies. This is most apparent in our continued effort to centralize immigration policies into a comprehensive online tool, the USCIS Policy Manual, on our public website. In addition, we are actively working towards creating more online filing options for USCIS immigration requests.

In the coming year, USCIS will promulgate several regulatory actions to directly support our mission.

Asylum Reforms. USCIS and DOJ will jointly propose revisions to existing asylum procedures in response to the growing affirmative and defensive asylum backlogs. The amendments aim to address frivolousness in the asylum caseload and increase efficiency in the resolution of applications for aliens who are barred from applying for asylum. (Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications; Procedures for Asylum and Withholding of Removal, Credible Fear and Reasonable Review; Procedures for Asylum and Bars to Asylum Eligibility). In addition, USCIS will propose amendments to the reasonable fear determination process to take into account operational realities. (Procedures for Asylum Applications and Reasonable Fear Determinations). USCIS will propose regulations aimed at deterring the fraudulent filing of asylum applications for the purpose of obtaining Employment Authorization Documents. (Asylum Application, Interview, and Employment Authorization for Applicants). USCIS will propose to remove the regulatory provision requiring that USCIS has 30 days from the date an asylum applicant files the initial Application for Employment Authorization to grant or deny that application (Removal of 30-Day Processing Provision for Asylum Applicant-Related Form I-765 Employment Authorization Applications).

Heightened Screening and Vetting in Immigration Programs. USCIS will propose regulations to better track, and enforce obligations under the contractual agreements that sponsors enter into with the federal government by signing an Affidavit of Support. (Enhancing the Integrity of the Affidavit of Support). USCIS will propose to update its regulations to eliminate multiple references to specific biometric types, and to allow for the expansion of the types of biometrics required to establish and verify an identity. The goals of this proposal will be to establish consistent identity enrollment and verification policies and processes,

and to provide clear proposals on how biometrics will be used in the immigration process. (Collection and Use of Biometrics by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). USCIS will also propose updates to its regulations to improve the efficiency and integrity of the Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions process. (Improvements to the Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions Processing).

Removal of International Entrepreneur Parole Program. Pursuant to the direction in Executive Order 13767, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement, to ensure that parole authority is exercised on a case-by-case basis, USCIS issued a proposed rule in May 2018. The rule proposed to remove the international entrepreneur parole program and solicited public comments on the proposal. USCIS is reviewing the public comments received in response to the proposed rule.

Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization. USCIS will propose to rescind the final rule published in the Federal Register on February 25, 2015. The 2015 final rule amended DHS regulations by extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status.

H-1B Nonimmigrant Program and Petitioning Process Regulations. To improve U.S. worker protections as well as to address the requirements of Executive Order 13788, Buy American and Hire American, USCIS will propose regulations aimed at improving the H-1B nonimmigrant program and petitioning process. Such initiatives include a proposed rule that would require petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions to pay a fee for each registration they submit to USCIS for the H-1B cap selection process (Fee for Registration Requirement for Petitioners Seeking To File H-1B Petitions on Behalf of Cap Subject Aliens); and a proposed rule that would revise the definition of “specialty occupation” and definition of “employment and employer-employee relationship” to help better protect U.S. workers and wages. (Strengthening the H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Classification Program).

Improvements to the Overall Immigration System. USCIS will propose to amend its regulations to provide a process for mandating digital processing of immigration benefits. If finalized, this proposal will enhance efficiency and efficacy in USCIS operations, and improve the experience for those applying for immigration benefits (Electronic Processing of Immigration Benefit Requests). In addition, USCIS has performed its required biennial fee review and as a result, will propose adjustments to certain immigration and naturalization benefit fees to ensure that the fees recover full costs borne by the agency (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule).

The next Unified Regulatory Agenda should be published in Spring of 2020.

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