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Reviving the American Economy: Is Mass Immigration the Solution?

two U.S. visa pages and one pen

Following a period of restrictions under the Trump administration, mass immigration may help revive America’s economy, along with its politics and culture. Specifically, certain changes in demographics, trends in the labor market, and other factors have led experts to believe that mass immigration is a viable solution to renew the country. 

The Perceived Threat of Increased Immigration

Critics of mass immigration claim that immigration has a generally negative effect on various facets of American life, including its politics and economy. Oftentimes, they believe that immigrants deprive native-born American workers of employment opportunities, despite the fact that locations with the largest number of immigrants are more likely to progress overall compared to areas with smaller immigrant populations.

What Demographic Trends Reveal

Some demographic changes have further shed light on the issues resulting from restricted immigration. With increasing life expectancies and decreasing birth rates, mass immigration can be invaluable in helping the U.S. economy grow. This is because if the immigration rate decreased dramatically in the years ahead, data shows that by 2060 there would be a mere two working adults for every retiree. As a result, workforces would be diminished.

Ultimately, the number of immigrants seeking residence and citizenship in the U.S. is going to increase, especially with factors such as climate change and the crisis in Afghanistan leading more people to emigrate to the U.S. In the process, the economy and other aspects of American life are likely to see a gradual improvement over time.

What Is the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office

To help protect Afghan people whom the U.S. employed or worked with, the U.S. government developed the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Established in 2009, the SIV program has seen a considerable backlog that the government is looking to alleviate.

The Start of the SIV Program for Afghan Citizens

Congress initially launched the SIV program to provide Afghan citizens with permanent protection if they provided assistance to American troops. These citizens filled the roles of translators, interpreters, and many others. They either worked directly under or on behalf of the U.S. throughout the war in Afghanistan.

At this point, there are tens of thousands of Afghans who qualify for the program. Meanwhile, only approximately 118,000 SIV holders and their families have been evacuated in an attempt to seek protection. 

Individuals who qualify for the program may be able to receive one visa for themselves. They also have the ability to apply for visas for their families, including spouses and children under 21.

Reducing the Backlog

Prior to recent legislation, SIV applicants had to undergo a long period of processing and approval that could take years. With the help of the Biden administration, on the other hand, applicants will benefit from a more efficient process that enables them to receive approval within 30 days of entering the U.S.

In addition, a new “Priority-2” designation is intended to help qualify U.S.-connected Afghans who aren’t eligible for an SIV at this time. To qualify, they would be required to leave Afghanistan and go through a third nation before traveling to the U.S.

The Growing Demand for SIVs

Throughout the Taliban’s acquisition of Afghanistan and the U.S.’s withdrawal, Afghan citizens have sought protection from the U.S. as they face many dangers. The Taliban is actively searching for any citizens who may have helped the U.S. and could cause harm to them if exposed. Subsequently, a growing number of Afghan citizens are seeking asylum in the U.S. as a means of escaping the Taliban’s grasp.

As a result, the SIV program has become a necessity for many who are trying to evade the dangers in their home country. With reduced backlog and expedited approval, many people could benefit from this program as they request help from the federal government.

Filing Form I-129F? Here’s What You Need to Know

Business man holds a file k-1 visa checklist

There are certain things that K1 visa applicants should know when filing Form I-129F, the Petition for Alien Fiancé. This form is the first that K1 visa applicants will need to complete. The following is a guide to this form that can help fiancés(e)s of U.S. citizens who seek to gain entry into the U.S. and get married.

When Visa Applicants Need to Complete Form I-129F

Immigrants engaged to U.S. citizens can apply for a K1 visa to enter the country if they intend to get married within 90 days after arriving in the U.S. For K1 visas, the first form the petitioning spouses and fiancés need to fill out is Form I-129F.

Who Is Eligible to File Form I-129F?

U.S. citizens petitioning for fiancés to enter the U.S. for marriage can complete Form I-129F if they have met their fiancé in person within the last two years of applying. Only U.S. citizens can complete and file Form I-129F, which means that if an applicant is a green card holder, they won’t be eligible to file this form.

Supporting Documents Required for Form I-129F

When filing Form I-129F, applicants will need to provide various supporting documents that prove both their identity and the relationship with their fiancé. Some of the documentation required includes:

  • Proof that the petitioner is a U.S. citizen through a copy of their birth certificate, a copy of a valid passport, or naturalization or citizenship certificate
  • A single color passport-style photo of the petitioner and fiancé was captured within 30 days of completing Form I-129F.
  • Proof of the petitioner’s legal name change if a name change took place at any point.
  • If the petitioner and fiancé have been married in the past, the petitioner will also need to prove that the marriage was officially terminated through an annulment order or divorce decree.

When petitioning for a fiancé applying for a K1 fiancé visa, petitioners also need to include proof that the couple intends to marry no more than 90 days upon arrival in the U.S. Additionally, the petitioner will need to provide proof that the couple met in person within two years of filing the initial form. If the couple hasn’t met in person at this point, the petitioner will need to provide proof explaining why they haven’t had the chance to meet, which could be due to cultural norms or other restrictions.

The Timeline for Form I-129F

The processing time for Form I-129F is around 10-13 months at the Dallas Lockbox, according to USCIS. The agency offers a tool for individuals to check the processing time after completing this form. 

Upon approval, the fiancé sponsored by the petitioner will be required to apply for their K1 visa, schedule an interview, and gain entry into the U.S. before applying for a green card. After receiving the K1 visa, the couple will need to enter the country and get married in the next 90 days. After the marriage takes place and the fiancé is now a spouse, the spouse will need to file Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status). This will enable them to initiate the spousal green card application process, which typically takes a few months to years to process.

If a couple seeks to expedite the process, they may be able to request expediting through the USCIS Contact Center using a 13-digit case number on their receipt.

Taking all of these steps can help fiancés successfully apply for K1 visas to gain entry into the U.S.

Will Additional Staff Alleviate DACA Processing Backlog?

Employees working in an office

The Biden administration has begun to assign more immigration officers to help tackle the processing backlog for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applicants.

Helping Review More DACA Applications

To inform potential DACA applicants regarding what to expect when applying, USCIS indicated that it would help launch public awareness campaigns. These campaigns would educate applicants with details regarding ways to shorten processing times. They would also send reminders to DACA beneficiaries when they need to renew work permits and deportation deferrals.

As of the end of May 2021, USCIS had adjudicated only 1,900 of more than 62,000 recent DACA applications submitted by undocumented teens and young adults since December 2020. By June of this year, the backlog had increased to over 81,000 applications, along with 13,000 requests for renewal still pending review.

After becoming aware of certain concerns over the way USCIS has processed DACA applications and renewal requests, Tracy Renaud, USCIS interim director, indicated that the agency was working to process all requests promptly. At the same time, Renaud revealed that specific issues were causing delays in processing, one of which had included a “technical problem” with validating “alien registration numbers” that USCIS had managed to resolve. Additionally, fiscal challenges contributed to staff shortages that forced the agency to reallocate resources.

Streamlining the Application Process for the DACA Program

In addition to getting more staff to review applications, USCIS has made the processing of biometric data more efficient. DACA applicants need to submit biometric data in person at a designated office location. By the end of July 2021, more than 33,000 new DACA applicants had managed to provide this data through approximately 11,000 appointments.

To determine eligibility, USCIS has also started to send formal requests for evidence to many first-time applicants, which would help prove that they have clean criminal records, have lived in the country since 2007, arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16, served in the American military without dishonorable discharge, and earned a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent in the U.S.

Due to the initiative of the Biden administration and USCIS, it’s expected that the backlog will continue decreasing as additional staff and other measures help ease the process.

Will Technology and Transparency Improve the Immigration System in America?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with U.S. flag

According to an annual report from the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Ombudsman, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must digitize the entire immigration process in an attempt to improve the U.S. immigration system. This innovation could help streamline the process for millions of immigrants, reducing processing times and shortening the path to citizenship.

Detailing USCIS Inefficiencies

An ombudsman is a designated third-party official in U.S. federal agencies who is responsible for investigating complaints and working to resolve them, typically by recommending solutions. The CIS Ombudsman releases an annual report discussing the problems facing USCIS, along with specific, actionable solutions.

In the latest report, the ombudsman acknowledges the effects of COVID-19 on the immigration process under USCIS in 2020. As a result of the pandemic, USCIS had to close its national and international offices, which worsened certain issues, including a rising backlog in application processing. Additionally, staff shortages forced the agency to redirect its resources. The report also identified issues regarding digital technology, such as the inability to communicate online with applicants who didn’t speak English. Insufficient technology also limited the amount of public information and resources available.

The Need for Improved Technology and Transparency

To help resolve these issues, the report also detailed solutions. One of these solutions was to improve pandemic preparedness to relieve some of the hindrances of office closures, which prevented in-person appointments. The report emphasized the importance of introducing more digital solutions while seeking sources of revenue elsewhere other than support from Congress along with fees. 

Today, a mere 40% of filings are handled solely via the digital process, while another 40% depend on paper and 20% use a combination of paper and digital processing. However, the report also detailed that USCIS intends to put a plan into effect that would allow for 100% electronic filing processes for all applicants, along with two-way electronic communication systems for all customers. The plan would be implemented by 2026. 

In addition to digitization, the report also recommends steps to take to improve transparency in USCIS and its processes. These steps would include upgrading technology for better customer service, faster responses to requests for assistance, identifying certain trends, and releasing studies with recommendations to further improve processes.

If USCIS can implement more digital solutions and work to boost transparency, the U.S. immigration process would be far more efficient for individuals and immigrant families of all types.