Connecticut, US
Whether or not we see comprehensive immigration reform legislation anytime in the near future, an easy reform that could be implemented without the need for new legislation would be for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to create a “Trusted Employer” program to help streamline the filing and processing of employment-based immigration cases. Such a program would provide huge savings in both time and money for both employers and for the government.

As set out by the Council for Global Immigration (a strategic affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management), currently employers sponsoring foreign employees for nonimmigrant or immigrant visas are required to submit a comprehensive description of the company’s business, organizational structure, finances and recurring job classifications with nearly every individual immigration petition and application the company files, even in cases where the employer may file dozens if not hundreds of similar petitions and applications each year. Similarly, government adjudicators must read and assess the validity of such documentation in every individual case. Under a Trusted Employer program, USCIS would pre-qualify those U.S. employers that have a demonstrated record of compliance with federal immigration laws and regulations. Trusted Employer status would not guarantee approval of any particular petition or application filed on behalf of a prospective employee, but it would streamline processing by allowing government adjudicators to focus on the merits of each case, rather than wasting time re-inventing the wheel by confirming the bona fides of the petitioning employer in each and every case. Streamlining adjudications in this way would also allow the government to focus precious resources on other priorities including backlog reduction and fraud prevention.

There is ample precedent for such a program. For example, the Department of Homeland Security already operates Trusted Traveler and Trusted Shipper programs. The agency’s Trusted Traveler programs, including Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI, provide an expedited lane for certain frequent, low-risk travelers at airports and at certain land and sea ports of entry, making the screening process more efficient for everyone. The Trusted Shipper program provides expedited processing at ports for commercial importers that meet certain eligibility requirements and have completed background checks. DHS also operates TSA Pre-Check, which allows certain frequent flyers to receive expedited screening at U.S. airports.

Moreover, Trusted Employer provisions have been introduced in Congress by both Republicans and Democrats several times over the past several years as part of various immigration reform bills, so the concept clearly has bipartisan support. Most recently, the SKILLS Visa Act (H.R. 2131), introduced in May 2013 by Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), includes a provision directing the establishment of a streamlined pre-certification procedure for employers that file multiple petitions for specified categories of immigrant and nonimmigrant workers. Other countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, already operate employer registration programs that provide priority case processing for trusted employers. These programs work, and would provide both government and employers with greater certainty, efficiency, and flexibility in the processing of employment-based petitions on behalf of foreign workers.

A predictable and transparent Trusted Employer system would ultimately benefit everyone by yielding more resources for case processing and priority initiatives. As the government takes steps to transition forms and case processing to online electronic formats, it makes sense to implement a Trusted Employer program that would modernize immigration adjudications and put America on par with our global economic competitors.