Some spouses of immigrants working in the U.S. won’t be required to submit new fingerprints to renew their visas, the Department of Homeland Security said in a court filing Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Trump administration required new fingerprints to safeguard against misrepresentation in 2019, though the requirement caused tens of thousands of immigrants to lose their visas due to processing delays, the WSJ reported. The requirement will be suspended for two years starting May 17, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) decided.
Lawyers representing spouses with H-1B and L-1 visas said the requirement was implemented to slow processing in a class-action lawsuit, the WSJ reported. Around 123,000 people are waiting to renew their visas and the requirement of new fingerprints added to the massive government backlog.
“You have all of these people out of work for a policy that did not need to happen,” Jon Wasden, a lawyer representing immigrant spouses said, the WSJ reported.
An immigrant visa interview backlog has developed because of limitations in staffing and other COVID-19 related operational constraints preventing us from processing the same volume of visa applicants as we did pre-pandemic. https://t.co/iRtDbPVcQs pic.twitter.com/mjmNZkLJzR
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) April 28, 2021
Immigration offices were closed and biometrics appointments were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic causing some spouses to lose work because they couldn’t renew their visas, according to the WSJ. Spouses are prohibited from renewing their visas until six months before their expiration date despite current processing times taking around 11 months.
Biometric requirements were implemented to ensure immigrant spouses weren’t misrepresented and are unrelated to the Trump administration’s views on visas for spouses, former USCIS policy head Rob Law said, the WSJ reported. Law added that the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of agency staff contributed to the delays.
The backlog caused economic problems since businesses had to allow extended leaves of absence for affected employees, companies including Google, Microsoft and Twitter said in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the lawsuit, the WSJ reported.
“Not only does a lapse in work authorization sever important professional and personal relationships and destroy institutional knowledge within companies, it requires employers to expend significant resources on searching for, hiring, and training replacements (often temporary)—all because the government is refusing to process a simple form within a 6-month window,” the companies said in a statement, the WSJ reported.
Temporarily pausing the requirement of additional fingerprints needed to renew a visa helped immigrants but the government hasn’t allocated enough resources to process visa and work permits in a timely manner, Wasden said, according to the WSJ.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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