U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a request for information at 86 FR 20398 (April 19, 2021), titled Identifying Barriers Across Benefits and Services, with a 30-day comment period.

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is seeking comments from the public on how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can reduce administrative and other barriers and burdens within its regulations and policies, including those that prevent foreign citizens from easily obtaining access to immigration services and benefits.  This effort will help DHS identify process improvements for USCIS, with benefits for state, local, and tribal governments, for businesses (including small businesses and startups), for educational institutions of all kinds, for nonprofits, and for individuals."

The notice says this initiative stems out of President Biden's Executive Order EO 14012 of February 2, 2021: Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans.

NAFSA's Comment Letter

Read NAFSA's comment letter, submitted on May 18, 2021. In it's letter, NAFSA states that "USCIS should focus on the mission given to it by Congress when it was written into law - to provide service. USCIS must:

  • prioritize providing efficient and fair service,
  • use available resources wisely and effectively,
  • act as a good steward of funds paid by those seeking service, and
  • allow for reasonable flexibility that favors the assumption of and maintenance of legal immigration status when available."

NAFSA's specific suggestions to USCIS include:

  • Enhance Stakeholder Engagement and Inter-Agency Coordination
  • Restore the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Committee (HSAAC)
  • Reestablish and Revitalize Stakeholder Engagement
  • Solicit Public Input on Policy Guidance
  • Complete Development of USCIS Policy Manual Guidance on F and M Students
  • Improve USCIS Processing Times
  • Expand the Premium Processing Program
  • Continue Progress Towards Online Filing and Documentation
  • Revise Form I-765 and the Online I-765 to Allow Filing by Students Temporarily Abroad
  • Prioritize Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Adjudications
  • Withdraw the Proposed Rule to Eliminate Duration of Status for Foreign Students and Exchange Visitors (F and J Status)
  • Streamline and Expand the Special Student Relief (SSR) Program
  • Preserve Experiential Learning Opportunities Like Curricular and Optional Practical Training for Foreign Students
  • Allow F-2 Spouses of F-1 Students to Obtain Employment Authorization and Study Full-Time
  • Revise Regulations and Policy Guidance to Allow Certain, Limited Educational Activities in B-1/B-2 and Other Nonimmigrant Statuses
  • Revise Regulations to Expand the Filing Window for Post-Completion Optional Practical Training
  • Revise the F-1 Reinstatement Regulations so that Inadvertent Unauthorized Employment is Not Disqualifying
  • Revise the F-1 Reinstatement Regulations to Include Reinstatement to Participate in Optional Practical Training
  • Promulgate Unlawful Presence Regulations Modeled After USCIS's 2009 Guidance
  • Fully Restore and Expand the MAVNI Program
  • Provide for Maintenance of Nonimmigrant Status While Extension and Change of Status Applications Are Pending
  • Rescind Policy That Requires Unnecessary "Bridge" Applications When Changing to F, M, or J Nonimmigrant Status
  • Allow Visitors (B-1 and B-2 status), and the Dependents of Foreign Students (F-2 status) to Begin Full-Time Study Immediately Upon Filing an Application for Change of Status
  • Eliminate the Practice of Searching for “Preconceived Intent” in Change of Status Applications
  • Establish a Trusted or Frequent Filer Program to Reduce the Burden on Employment-based Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Petition Filers
  • Engage with Stakeholders to Ensure Equitable Implementation of the H-1B Cap Selection Final Rule
  • Allow Provisional Adjustment of Status to Respond to Immigrant Visa Backlogs
  • Apply Policy and Operational Changes to Attract the Talented Entrepreneurs Who Want to Start and Grow Their Business in the United States
  • Revise the H-1B Regulations to Eliminate Unnecessary Credential Evaluations
  • Eliminate the In-Person Interview Required of Form I-485 Applicants for Adjustment of Status or Expand the Waiver Bases
  • Expand the Interpretation of O-1 Extraordinary Ability

NAFSA note: May 19, 2021 comment deadline. The April 19, 2021 notice stated that the deadline for submitting comments was April 19, 2021, the same day the notice was published. However, there should be a 30-day comment period according to the public inspection version of the notice. An April 19, 2021 USCIS news release confirmed that comments must be received on or before May 19, 2021. USCIS officially corrected the comment deadline to May 19, 2021, in a Federal Register notice published at 86 FR 22064 (April 26, 2021).

Here is the non-exclusive list in the notice of specific questions on which USCIS requested feedback:

C.     List of Questions for Commenters 

The below non-exhaustive list of questions is meant to assist members of the public in formulating comments, and is not intended to restrict the feedback that members of the public may provide: 

(1) Are there any regulations; policies; precedents or adopted decisions; adjudicatory practices; forms, form instructions, or information collections; or other USCIS procedures or requirements that you consider to be unjustified or excessive barriers that impede easy access to legally authorized immigration benefits and fair, efficient adjudications of these benefits? Please provide specific examples identifying the specific program or subject matter (for example, adjustment of status, naturalization, H-1B nonimmigrant status, refugee status, asylum, parole). 

(a)  With respect to the identified regulations; policies; precedents or adopted decisions; adjudicatory practices; forms, form instructions, or information collections; or other USCIS procedures or requirements that you have identified as potential barriers, are the barriers you perceive created by duplication, overlap, or inconsistency of requirements? If so, please specify. 

(2) Are there any USCIS regulations or processes that are not tailored to impose the least burden on society, consistent with achieving the regulatory objectives? 

(3) Are there USCIS regulations or processes that disproportionally burden disadvantaged, vulnerable, or marginalized communities?  If so, please specify the regulation and/or process, to include any applicable CFR and/or USCIS Policy Manual citation, providing a description of the specific burden to the relevant communities. 

(4) Are there USCIS regulations or processes that disproportionally burden a specific industry or sector of the economy, geographic location within the US, or government type (e.g. a specific tribal or territorial government or a specific local government)? 

(5) What aspects of the immigrant and nonimmigrant perspectives or experiences should USCIS be aware of that could better inform our qualitative and quantitative analyses when identifying actually or potentially excessive administrative burdens, or when evaluating regulatory impacts in general? 

(6) Are there existing sources of data that USCIS can use to evaluate the post-promulgation effects of regulations and administrative burdens over time? 

(7) Are there instances where the costs of USCIS regulations to the public far surpass the benefits, for reasons that were not anticipated or discussed during the rulemaking process? 

(8) Are there instances where the administrative burdens imposed in USCIS regulations are not cost-effective, in the sense that a different approach would achieve regulatory goals with significantly lower burdens? 

(9) Are there instances where current regulations may have added unintended or unanticipated costs, or imposed unintended or unanticipated administrative barriers, and in which those costs and barriers may not have been adequately considered in previous assessments of the regulation's direct costs? 

(10) Are there USCIS regulations that are still necessary, but have not operated as well as expected, such that a modified approach is justified to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens? For example, are there current regulations, policies, or procedures, specifically related to citizenship and naturalization, family-based immigration (including intercountry adoptions), educational opportunities in the United States, employment-based immigrant/nonimmigrant programs, adjustment of status, or humanitarian programs that could be modernized, streamlined, or otherwise improved? 

(11) Is there information you believe USCIS currently collects that it does not need or that USCIS does not use effectively to achieve regulatory objectives? 

(12) Are there data-sharing activities in which individual DHS components (for example, USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and/or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) should engage, so that repetitive collections of the same data do not occur from one component to the next? 

(13) Are there data-sharing activities in which DHS components should engage with other Federal Government agencies (such as the Departments of State, Justice, Labor, or Health and Human Services) so that repetitive collections of the same data do not occur from one agency to the next? 

(14) Are there areas where DHS components' regulations (including those of USCIS) create duplicative, conflicting, or difficult to navigate situations for individuals also navigating regulatory requirements of another Federal Government agency (such as those from the Departments of State, Justice, Labor, or Health and Human Services), such that consideration of greater cooperation or coordination would be warranted? 

(15) Are there regulations or forms that have been overtaken by technological developments or that should be amended as part of USCIS' eProcessing initiative?4 

(16) Are there new technologies that USCIS should consider leveraging to modify, streamline, or do away with existing regulatory or form requirements? 

(17) Are there "bright spots," in the form of existing USCIS regulations and/or processes – or processes previously in place – that are not burdensome, and that you recommend DHS/USCIS look to as examples it can emulate in other program areas?