In the Annual Report to Congress, USCIS Ombudsman Julie Kirchner has addressed several anti-fraud initiatives that have caused delays and longer processing times for many applications. The Ombudsman’s office is an independent office created by Congress to recommend improvements for immigration and citizenship services. In this report, it is revealed that USCIS have moved to a “risk based” anti-fraud model where a Targeted Site Visit and Verification Program targets H-1B, L-1A, and L-1B worksites. In an initiative to “put American workers first”, this program makes targeted visits across the country to employers where USCIS were unable to validate the employer’s basic information; H-1B dependent employers who have a high ratio of H-1B employees to American workers; and employers who petition workers to work offsite at another company or organization’s location. The anti-fraud program has doubled the amount of staff it has since 2012.
USCIS and Congress have also continued to scrutinize the EB-5 program by devoting more resources to EB-5 site visits, document audits, and increased collaboration with civil and criminal law enforcement agencies, including foreign agencies. USCIS will continue to introduce new regulation proposal reforms to the program in the coming months. These proposals include increasing the capital amount and increased compliance requirements for investors and projects. There have been many recent calls to reform or eliminate the EB-5 program, none of which have successfully passed so far.
There have also been delays in adjudication for all applications, but especially the work permit applications, and this will only continue to increase. Where previously USCIS guaranteed to adjudicate an EAD application within three months, now, with the guarantee gone, some clients have found their applications delayed up to 6 or 7 months. There were no explanations given for these delays or a solution to resolve this issue at this time.
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