Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Good news for highly-skilled immigrants to the USA

The President authorized several initiatives to make the United States more attractive to highly skilled foreign students and workers. The first initiative will be to expand eligibility for the 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 international students to include students with a prior degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem). Under the current system, the 17-months extension of OPT is only available to F-1 students if the most recent degree they were conferred was in a Stem field. The proposed change expands eligibility to include students with a Stem degree that is not the most recent degree student received. DHS will also review emerging fields for inclusion in the list of eligible Stem degree programs.

The second initiative would allow spouses of F-1 students to enroll in academic classes on a part-time basis while his or her spouse is pursuing full-time studies.

Under current regulations, spouses may only take part-time vocational or recreational classes. This will greatly help those spouses who cannot commit to a full-time student workload because of family or other demands, yet, wish to pursue additional education.

Another initiative would also assist the H-4 spouses of H-1B holders. DHS will propose a change to current regulations to allow certain spouses of H-1B visa holders to legally work while they wait for their adjustment of status applications to be adjudicated. This means H-4 spouses of the principal H1B visa holder who have begun the process of seeking permanent resident status may be granted employment authorization. Presently, H-4 spouses are eligible to apply for employment authorization as adjustment of status applicants. But, if they work with this employment authorization, they lose H-4 status. This is undesirable because, if the adjustment of status application is ever denied, they no longer have an underlying legal status to allow them to remain in the US while either challenging the denial or seeking a new basis to adjust status. This places H-4 spouses in a Catch-22 situation.

One of the most interesting initiatives is the Entrepreneurs in Residence Initiative.

This will be conducted through a series of summits focusing on ensuring immigration pathways perform entrepreneurs a clear and consistent, and better reflect today’s business realities. This initiative calls for the creation of an entrepreneurs in residence tactical team comprised of business experts to work alongside United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) staff in-house. This promises to allow USCIS staff who are removed from current business practices and realities to better understand the environment for which they are adjudicating cases on. This should lead to more approvals of cutting edge business petitions.

SOURCE





Border scandal: failures of British border controls laid bare

In the last week of June 2007, Britain was in the midst of a terrorism crisis after car bombs failed to explode outside one of London’s busiest nightclubs.

Within days, the UK Border Agency had ordered that anyone arriving at British ports and airports was checked against a database which identified those potentially posing a risk to the country.

However, the Vine Report showed that the order failed to secure Britain’s borders and millions of people were able to enter the country with minimal checks.

The Home Office’s “Warnings Index” (WI), first introduced in 1995, is the “single most important electronic check” carried out to identify undesirable people, including suspected terrorists, criminals and paedophiles.

But, almost as soon as the order to check 100 per cent of passengers arriving in Britain against the index had been issued, exclusions already began to be introduced.

Initially, European nationals travelling from French “resorts” such as Disneyland Paris and the French Alps were not checked against the index. This is thought to have led to about 500,000 people arriving in Britain who had not been checked.

In June 2008, the then head of the Border Force also extended this exemption so that school coach parties travelling through Calais were also not automatically checked.

However, it was a more wide-ranging exclusion which led to some of the worst alleged loopholes emerging.

Border Agency executives were given the discretion to temporarily suspend the checks for “health and safety” reasons.

The Vine report found that the definition of a health and safety risk was not clearly defined but it was used regularly when queues became too long.

Labour claimed that the problem became worse after the election as government cuts began to hit the Border Agency, which was reducing staff.

For example, the report found that Warning Index checks were only suspended 6 times in Calais before 2010 – but 83 times since. The report says that some of these suspensions occurred because of a “moderate number of immigration officers on desks”.

In total, the crucial checks were suspended on 354 occasions.

The report concluded: “The Agency’s records relating to the suspension of the WI were poor. We found that records relating to some suspensions had not been kept, whilst other records did not capture important information, such as whether the emergency services had been consulted before checks were suspended.

“There was a lack of effective management oversight of the frequency with which checks had been suspended, the reasons for this and which ports were suspending checks.”

The lax system for checking people against the Warnings Index soon spread to other controls within the immigration system. A second check – Secure ID – is supposed to check passengers’ fingerprints when they are visiting Britain with a visa. This is designed to stop people fraudulently arriving in this country by checking those arriving are the same as the person who applied for the visa.

However, again, as the queues built up at airports and ports, the checks were quickly abandoned. On a total of 463 occasions at Heathrow in the past two years, the checks were suspended “from a matter of minutes to several hours”.

During 2011, Border Agency executives met ministers to discuss a new approach to checking people, the so-called “level two pilot” which effectively meant that only people deemed a higher-risk were thoroughly checked.

This meant it was no longer routine to open the biometric chip contained in the passports of European visitors. Warning index checks were also suspended for European children travelling “in obvious family units or school groups”. In September 2011, a further, potentially unlawful, scheme was also introduced by immigration staff code-named “Operation Savant” which meant that foreign students arriving to study were not routinely checked.

It also emerged that on 14,812 occasions the “biometric chip reading facility had been deactivated” at ports and airports. The Border Agency was unable to explain the exact reasons for this.

The picture that emerged from the 84-page report was one of chaos and confusion, where ministers’ orders to Border Agency executives were either misunderstood or ignored, and Border Agency staff do not consistently apply directives. There were signs that the situation deteriorated significantly under the Coalition.

The result was that millions of people were allowed to enter Britain without thorough checks.

The report also alleged that Brodie Clark, the former head of the Border Force, authorised officials to go beyond the terms of a pilot scheme agreed last summer. The biometric details of non-European visitors were also not checked, although Mr Clark is expected to argue that the instructions were unclear.

Mr Clark was forced to resign last autumn when details of the scandal first emerged. He is currently taking legal action against the Home Office.

For the Conservatives, the resulting scandal is deeply embarrassing as they made political capital out of a succession of immigration errors under Labour. Similar crises caused the resignations of several Labour ministers and the Home Office was branded “not fit for purpose.”

Last night, it appeared that the positions of Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, were secure as the Vine report shared blame between ministers and officials.

However, this summer will see the biggest ever influx of visitors to London for the Olympics and one of the biggest security operations in Britain’s history. Any repeat of the circumstances laid bare in yesterday’s report would spell the end of ministerial careers.

SOURCE

2 comments:

  1. BRITISH BORDERS AND IMMIGRATION GOVERNANCE

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