H-1B Visa Rule About To Die For Good

Of note. May reduce the relative attractiveness of Canada:

An H-1B visa regulation that would make it less likely international students can work in the United States appears ready to die for good. Critics asked why the Biden administration was defending an immigration rule championed by Trump adviser Stephen Miller. The answer is the Biden administration is no longer defending the rule.

“Our plaintiffs are thrilled with the government’s apparent, yet belated, decision to no longer defend the H-1B Lottery Rule,” said Jesse Bless, director of litigation at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), in an interview. “While we wish that the government had not waited until we had completed briefing on cross-motions for summary judgment, we are fully committed to settlement negotiations, which will hopefully ensure that our plaintiffs receive all the relief to which they are entitled.” 

The case is Humane Society of NY, et al. v. Alejandro Mayorkas, et al. “Following the completion of briefing in this case, the parties entered into settlement negotiations,” according to an unopposed motion filed in the case on December 6, 2021. “There is now a good-faith reason to believe that the parties will reach an agreement in the near future that will fully resolve this matter. However, the parties need additional time to confer and fully resolve the issues presented. In light of the current state of play, plaintiffs hereby move for a sixty-day extension of time to file the Joint Appendix of the Administrative Record which is due on December 6, 2021. Plaintiffs conferred with opposing counsel and they expressed support for the requested extension. The parties anticipate that sixty days will allow the parties to exhaust the possibility of resolving this case without further involvement of the court and move for a dismissal of this matter.”

Plaintiffs’ attorneys in the Humane Society case, in addition to Bless, are Greg Siskind (Siskind Susser), Jeff D. Joseph (Joseph & Hall) and Charles H. Kuck (Kuck Baxter Immigration).

Background: On January 8, 2021, the Trump administration published a regulation as “final” to end the H-1B visa lottery and replace it with a system that awards H-1B petitions by highest to lowest salary. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses the lottery when companies file more H-1B applications than the annual limit of 85,000 (65,000 plus a 20,000-exemption for advance degree holders from U.S. universities). In 2021, USCIS received more than 300,000 H-1B registrations for FY 2022.MORE FROMFORBES ADVISORBest Travel Insurance CompaniesByAmy DaniseEditorBest Covid-19 Travel Insurance PlansByAmy DaniseEditor

H-1B petitions are essential because they typically represent the only practical way foreign nationals, including international students, can work long-term in the United States.

The H-1B rule would be bad news for international students. “The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) found that an international student may be 54% more likely to get an H-1B petition under the current H-1B lottery system than under the Trump administration’s regulation that would end the H-1B lottery,” according to an NFAP analysis of cases of recent international students and filings for H-1B petitions. “The data demonstrate the new regulation would have a significant negative effect on the ability of international students to gain an H-1B petition.”

In its September 20, 2021, motion for summary judgment in Humane Society of NY, et al. v. Alejandro Mayorkas, et al., plaintiffs cited NFAP research on the primary reason why the rule would prevent most international students from gaining H-1B status: “Initial registrations for these freshly graduated H-1B workers are generally assigned a Level I wage.” 

In other words, employers would naturally offer individuals with less experience in the U.S. labor market lower salaries (Level 1 under the Department of Labor wage level system) than more experienced professionals. Adopting the rule would lead the United States to establish a system—unlike any of its competitors for talent in other countries—that favors the most senior foreign nationals over young, promising talent, particularly recent graduates of U.S. universities.

Difficulty in gaining H-1B status and permanent residence contributed to an increase in Indian students at Canadian universities from 76,075 to over 172,000 between 2016 and 2018. At the same time, at U.S. universities, Indian graduate students in engineering and computer science fell 25%. The evidence indicates America is losing talent because it is much easier to work after graduation and gain permanent residence in Canada and other countries—and the Trump administration’s H-1B regulation would exacerbate this problem. 

In its complaint (May 17, 2021) and motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs argued the regulation is illegal because Chad Wolf was not properly serving as acting secretary of Homeland Security when the rule was issued. Also, according to the plaintiffs, “This final rule unlawfully makes the H-1B nonimmigrant visa selection process dependent on wage level and unlawfully gives priority for lottery selection to those H-1B applicants who are paid the highest wages.”

In a defendants’ reply in further support of their cross-motion for summary judgment, filed on November 22, 2021, the Biden administration argued, “The final rule was promulgated by an authorized official, the final rule comports with the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act]” and “DHS [Department of Homeland Security] responded sufficiently to the public comments.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Lawsuit: Earlier in the year, the Biden administration lost a different lawsuit over the H-1B rule. In his order on September 15, 2021, issued in Chamber of Commerce v. DHS, Judge Jeffrey S. White agreed with a critical legal argument made by the plaintiffs. 

“Plaintiffs argue the Final Rule must be set aside because Mr. Wolf was not lawfully appointed as Acting Secretary at the time DHS promulgated the rule,” Judge White wrote. “In ILRC, the Court concluded the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that Mr. Wolf’s appointment was not lawful. At that time, two other district courts had considered and rejected DHS’s arguments, as had the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”). . . . Since then, a number of other courts also have determined that Mr. McAleenan and Mr. Wolf not acting with lawful authority. . . . Because he was not lawfully appointed, Mr. McAleenan’s subsequent attempts to amend the order of succession and to elevate Mr. Wolf to Acting Secretary also were not valid.”

Judge White ruled against the regulation solely on the DHS appointment issue and did not address other arguments raised by plaintiffs. Paul Hughes of McDermott Will & Emery, representing the plaintiffs (the Chamber of Commerce and others), argued the H-1B rule also violated current law. “First, the Lottery Rule is flatly inconsistent with the text of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” according to the plaintiffs. “The statute provides unambiguously that H-1B visas ‘shall be issued . . . in the order in which petitions are filed for such visas.’ Yet the Rule instead unabashedly institutes ‘ranking and selection based on wage levels,’ such that the relatively highest-paid noncitizens are issued visas first, likely leaving none for those at lower wage levels. Agencies are powerless to thus ‘rewrite clear statutory terms.’”

Department of Justice lawyers representing the Department of Homeland Security filed an unopposed motion for dismissal in the Chamber of Commerce case on November 30, 2021. That action foreshadowed the Biden administration’s willingness to bring the Humane Society case to a close as well.

Now that the litigation on the H-1B rule appears to be finished, one question remains: Will the Biden administration allow the regulation to stay dead, or will it issue a new regulation that critics believe embraces Stephen Miller’s vision of business immigration?

An H-1B visa regulation that would make it less likely international students can work in the United States appears ready to die for good. Critics asked why the Biden administration was defending an immigration rule championed by Trump adviser Stephen Miller. The answer is the Biden administration is no longer defending the rule.

“Our plaintiffs are thrilled with the government’s apparent, yet belated, decision to no longer defend the H-1B Lottery Rule,” said Jesse Bless, director of litigation at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), in an interview. “While we wish that the government had not waited until we had completed briefing on cross-motions for summary judgment, we are fully committed to settlement negotiations, which will hopefully ensure that our plaintiffs receive all the relief to which they are entitled.” 

The case is Humane Society of NY, et al. v. Alejandro Mayorkas, et al. “Following the completion of briefing in this case, the parties entered into settlement negotiations,” according to an unopposed motion filed in the case on December 6, 2021. “There is now a good-faith reason to believe that the parties will reach an agreement in the near future that will fully resolve this matter. However, the parties need additional time to confer and fully resolve the issues presented. In light of the current state of play, plaintiffs hereby move for a sixty-day extension of time to file the Joint Appendix of the Administrative Record which is due on December 6, 2021. Plaintiffs conferred with opposing counsel and they expressed support for the requested extension. The parties anticipate that sixty days will allow the parties to exhaust the possibility of resolving this case without further involvement of the court and move for a dismissal of this matter.”

Background: On January 8, 2021, the Trump administration published a regulation as “final” to end the H-1B visa lottery and replace it with a system that awards H-1B petitions by highest to lowest salary. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses the lottery when companies file more H-1B applications than the annual limit of 85,000 (65,000 plus a 20,000-exemption for advance degree holders from U.S. universities). In 2021, USCIS received more than 300,000 H-1B registrations for FY 2022.MORE FROMFORBES ADVISORBest Travel Insurance CompaniesByAmy DaniseEditorBest Covid-19 Travel Insurance PlansByAmy DaniseEditor

H-1B petitions are essential because they typically represent the only practical way foreign nationals, including international students, can work long-term in the United States.

The H-1B rule would be bad news for international students. “The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) found that an international student may be 54% more likely to get an H-1B petition under the current H-1B lottery system than under the Trump administration’s regulation that would end the H-1B lottery,” according to an NFAP analysis of cases of recent international students and filings for H-1B petitions. “The data demonstrate the new regulation would have a significant negative effect on the ability of international students to gain an H-1B petition.”

In its September 20, 2021, motion for summary judgment in Humane Society of NY, et al. v. Alejandro Mayorkas, et al., plaintiffs cited NFAP research on the primary reason why the rule would prevent most international students from gaining H-1B status: “Initial registrations for these freshly graduated H-1B workers are generally assigned a Level I wage.” 

In other words, employers would naturally offer individuals with less experience in the U.S. labor market lower salaries (Level 1 under the Department of Labor wage level system) than more experienced professionals. Adopting the rule would lead the United States to establish a system—unlike any of its competitors for talent in other countries—that favors the most senior foreign nationals over young, promising talent, particularly recent graduates of U.S. universities.

Difficulty in gaining H-1B status and permanent residence contributed to an increase in Indian students at Canadian universities from 76,075 to over 172,000 between 2016 and 2018. At the same time, at U.S. universities, Indian graduate students in engineering and computer science fell 25%. The evidence indicates America is losing talent because it is much easier to work after graduation and gain permanent residence in Canada and other countries—and the Trump administration’s H-1B regulation would exacerbate this problem. 

In its complaint (May 17, 2021) and motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs argued the regulation is illegal because Chad Wolf was not properly serving as acting secretary of Homeland Security when the rule was issued. Also, according to the plaintiffs, “This final rule unlawfully makes the H-1B nonimmigrant visa selection process dependent on wage level and unlawfully gives priority for lottery selection to those H-1B applicants who are paid the highest wages.”

In a defendants’ reply in further support of their cross-motion for summary judgment, filed on November 22, 2021, the Biden administration argued, “The final rule was promulgated by an authorized official, the final rule comports with the INA [Immigration and Nationality Act]” and “DHS [Department of Homeland Security] responded sufficiently to the public comments.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Lawsuit: Earlier in the year, the Biden administration lost a different lawsuit over the H-1B rule. In his order on September 15, 2021, issued in Chamber of Commerce v. DHS, Judge Jeffrey S. White agreed with a critical legal argument made by the plaintiffs. 

“Plaintiffs argue the Final Rule must be set aside because Mr. Wolf was not lawfully appointed as Acting Secretary at the time DHS promulgated the rule,” Judge White wrote. “In ILRC, the Court concluded the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that Mr. Wolf’s appointment was not lawful. At that time, two other district courts had considered and rejected DHS’s arguments, as had the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”). . . . Since then, a number of other courts also have determined that Mr. McAleenan and Mr. Wolf not acting with lawful authority. . . . Because he was not lawfully appointed, Mr. McAleenan’s subsequent attempts to amend the order of succession and to elevate Mr. Wolf to Acting Secretary also were not valid.”

Judge White ruled against the regulation solely on the DHS appointment issue and did not address other arguments raised by plaintiffs. Paul Hughes of McDermott Will & Emery, representing the plaintiffs (the Chamber of Commerce and others), argued the H-1B rule also violated current law. “First, the Lottery Rule is flatly inconsistent with the text of the Immigration and Nationality Act,” according to the plaintiffs. “The statute provides unambiguously that H-1B visas ‘shall be issued . . . in the order in which petitions are filed for such visas.’ Yet the Rule instead unabashedly institutes ‘ranking and selection based on wage levels,’ such that the relatively highest-paid noncitizens are issued visas first, likely leaving none for those at lower wage levels. Agencies are powerless to thus ‘rewrite clear statutory terms.’”

Department of Justice lawyers representing the Department of Homeland Security filed an unopposed motion for dismissal in the Chamber of Commerce case on November 30, 2021. That action foreshadowed the Biden administration’s willingness to bring the Humane Society case to a close as well.

Now that the litigation on the H-1B rule appears to be finished, one question remains: Will the Biden administration allow the regulation to stay dead, or will it issue a new regulation that critics believe embraces Stephen Miller’s vision of business immigration?

Source: https://e.email.forbes.com/c2/869:5df3a796a806e2781760c8d7:rm202112111300:5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40:1/56c3e6d7?jwtH=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9&jwtP=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&jwtS=Q41VLkxtpbyTDTU7aGedDln-Agp94UQVb-c0_tBKuh0

Federal government quietly offered a settlement to halt lawsuits over immigration program

No government has managed to get this right, given that demand vastly exceeds the levels, which reflect a balance between economic (which also includes family members: spouses and children), family and refugee classes.

A version of the point system for family class applicants holds the potential for greater transparency but would be extremely difficult to develop given the explicit and implicit choices that it would make, which would invariably controversial:

The federal government made a secret settlement to quash two lawsuits that claimed its contentious online application process to reunite immigrant families was flawed and unfair, CBC News has learned.

To resolve the group litigation, the government awarded at least 70 coveted spots to applicants allowing them to sponsor their parents’ or grandparents’ immigration to Canada.

Legal actions were launched in Toronto and Vancouver after the widely criticized online application process went ahead on Jan. 28 — a process which left tens of thousands of people frustrated and furious because they couldn’t access the form or fill it out fast enough.

The process opened at noon and closed less than nine minutes later.

A flurry of angry complaints erupted. Some said the sprint to file applications worked against those who couldn’t fill them out quickly, such as people with disabilities or literacy issues, or those living in places with slow internet connections.

CBC News learned of the settlement through a legal source who was not directly involved in the lawsuits.

Lawyers who were involved in the settlement of the lawsuits, which included a non-disclosure agreement, declined to provide any details to CBC. There are no public court records on the settlement.

Immigration lawyer Mary Keyork said she was unaware of the legal settlement and called it “very unfair” to those who didn’t know about the lawsuits, or couldn’t afford to join them.

20,000 spots were available

“I think they’re going to feel very disappointed and I think they’re going to feel like they were cheated somehow,” she said.

“As much as people who have means are entitled to go and get a lawyer and start procedures and fight for their rights … when it happens personally to you, it’s very painful, especially when you have people who have been trying to bring their parents here for many, many years.”

This year, the federal government offered 20,000 spots for sponsoring parents or grandparents, and confirmed that more than 100,000 had attempted to access the online form to express interest.

A government official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case, said the government opted to settle the legal challenges because the number of applicants was relatively small, because it included plaintiffs with disabilities and because a court proceeding could have suspended the entire set of applications.

Immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman — who said he also was unaware of the settlement — said the online application process was extremely problematic and opened up multiple grounds for legal challenges.

“Obviously, what the government’s hope is … that by settling it quickly and by keeping the matter secret, other people won’t launch challenges as well,” he said. “So they’re trying to keep a cap on the number of people who will benefit from the legal challenge.”

He said he expects that once people learn about the settlement, they’ll seek similar concessions from Ottawa.

“When it’s made public, it’s basically an invitation to everybody else who didn’t get a spot to commence an action and demand the same equal treatment,” he said.

Waldman said the government ultimately must find a way to reform the program so that people are selected fairly, not arbitrarily.

Records from a federal court challenge filed in Toronto Feb. 12 by 13 applicants called the online registration process “so deeply flawed that thousands of interested parties, including the applicants … were denied a reasonable opportunity to sponsor their parents for immigration to Canada.”

‘Arbitrary, unfair, unjust’

“The online registration process in both its design and implementation was arbitrary, capricious, procedurally unfair and unjust,” the court document reads.

Dan Miller, the lawyer representing applicants seeking judicial review of the government’s process, said he could not state if their case was related to the litigation. He would not discuss the matter except to say the case has been resolved.

The parent and grandparent sponsorship program has been plagued with problems for years.

The Liberal government moved to a first-come, first-served online application system this year after scrapping a controversial lottery system for reuniting immigrant families. The lottery system was contentious, with critics claiming it essentially gambled with peoples’ lives.

The lottery process had replaced another first-in system which itself was unpopular because it led to a “mad rush” every January, with people lining up overnight at the doors of processing centres or paying placeholders to stand in line and deliver applications prepared by consultants or lawyers.

A statement from Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s office said the online application process was brought in to ensure fairness and to safeguard against abuse, but added the system is now under review.

“We are continually monitoring all of our programs to find ways to improve them. It is too early to speculate on potential changes to next year’s application process,” the statement reads.

“Our government remains committed to family reunification, which is why we quadrupled the intake of parent and grandparent applications to 20,000 this year from 5,000 under the Conservatives.”

Canadian citizens and permanent residents also can apply to bring their parents and grandparents to Canada for up to two years at a time with a ‘super visa’, which allows multiple entries for up to 10 years.

Under that program, applicants must show proof of private medical insurance and financial support.

Source: Federal government quietly offered a settlement to halt lawsuits over immigration program

‘Anything would be better:’ Critics warn Ottawa’s family-reunification lottery is flawed, open to manipulation – The Globe and Mail

Almost comical if it were not for the impact on people. And it should not be surprising, given our immigration system’s emphasis on high skilled economic immigrants, that some of them should have the mathematical and technical smarts to point out the lack of randomness:

Canada’s family-reunification program is using a common spreadsheet application to select candidates as part of a process critics say is flawed and open to manipulation.

As the first step in the program, the federal government uses Microsoft Excel to randomly pick applications in its lottery, The Globe and Mail has learned. Experts have warned that using Excel to conduct such a sensitive lottery could be problematic, and that the lottery process itself may make the system less fair over all.

The Parents and Grandparents Program allows Canadians to sponsor family members for permanent-resident status. The Liberals introduced a lottery in 2017 in an effort to make the system fairer – previously, applications were accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The program receives roughly 100,000 applications each year and selects 10,000.

Details on the lottery, obtained through an Access to Information request shared with The Globe, show a procedure carried out in just a few steps: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) uses Excel to assign each application a random number, then takes the first 10,000 numbers.

Excel’s method for generating random numbers is “very bad,” according to Université de Montréal computer-science professor Pierre L’Ecuyer, an expert in random-number generation. “It’s a very old generator, and it’s really not state-of-the-art.” Prof. L’Ecuyer’s research has shown that Excel’s random-number generator doesn’t pass certain statistical tests, meaning it’s less random than it appears. Under the current system, “it may be that not everybody has exactly the same chance,” Prof. L’Ecuyer said.

Excel uses pseudo-random number generators, a class of algorithms that rely on formulas to generate numbers. These generators have a key flaw – they rely on a “seed” number to kick off the mathematical process. In the case of Excel, this seed is generated automatically by the application. “If you know one number at one step,” Prof. L’Ecuyer explained, “you can compute all the numbers that will follow.”

This means the process could be exploited by someone with the right skills. It’s happened before: In 1994, IT consultant Daniel Corriveau discovered a pattern in a keno game – which uses a random numbering system – at the Casino de Montréal and won $620,000 in a single evening. An investigation later determined the game was using the same seed number at the start of each day.

Using more robust generators, such as the ones used for cryptography, may not cost the government much, either. “Cryptographic generators are free. They are on the internet,” Prof. L’Ecuyer said. “Just pick one, you need to know about it and that’s all. It’s not complicated.

“Anything would be better.”

For its part, IRCC is satisfied with its use of Excel, spokeswoman Shannon Ker said in an e-mailed statement. “We stand by this randomized selection process as a sufficient means of equal opportunity for all who look to express an interest in sponsoring their parents and grandparents.”

Others would rather see the lottery scrapped altogether. For the past two years, Igor Wolford, a data-analytics manager at Loblaws, has applied to sponsor his parents in Russia. He hasn’t made it past the lottery stage, and recently started a website to petition the federal government to abandon the system.

Mr. Wolford has corresponded with members of Parliament about his concerns. “I actually prepared an Excel sheet showing how random processes work,” Mr. Wolford said. “After 10 years of selection, only half of people who were eligible 10 years ago would be selected.”

Number of people from an original pool of 95,000 applicants who haven‘t made it past the lottery stage
Assuming 20,000 new applicants each year and 10,000 applicants selected each year

https://s3.amazonaws.com/chartprod/cZByyEpAhKuPixSBk/thumbnail.png 

Although the lottery selects roughly one in 10 applications, the number of people who pass additional vetting and ultimately make it into the program is far lower.

“Last year, they selected the original 10,000 people [during the lottery], but only 6,000 people actually [made it into the program],” Mr. Wolford said. This is partly be cause the lottery is the first step in the process, meaning anyone can fill out the form.

IRCC responded to these complaints in 2018 by including a self-assessment screening for applicants. However, the questions are still optional, as one Twitter user noted.

When told the lottery was conducted in Excel, Mr. Wolford wasn’t surprised. “That’s a very sad process. It’s easily manipulatable,” he warned. According to IRCC, the process is double-blind, and to date there is no indication the system has been manipulated.

“The process has become unpredictable,” Mr. Wolford said. “Before, you knew that it would take seven years from start to finish, and you could plan your life. Right now, you don’t know if it will happen this year, in five years, in 15 years.”

“Because it’s a lottery, you might never be selected.”

via ‘Anything would be better:’ Critics warn Ottawa’s family-reunification lottery is flawed, open to manipulation – The Globe and Mail

Parent sponsorship program still deeply flawed despite changes, immigration lawyers warn

No perfect system:

The federal government has made changes to a problem-plagued lottery program for those wishing to bring their parents or grandparents to Canada, but immigration lawyers warn the updated system is still deeply flawed.

The 2018 sponsorship program for parents and grandparents opened Tuesday. This year, those interested will have to provide more information about who they want to sponsor and whether they meet the program’s income requirements before their names are entered in the lottery. The change is an attempt to winnow out those who aren’t eligible to apply, after thousands of people selected last year failed to follow through with their applications.

“Helping more people reunite with their parents and grandparents in Canada demonstrates the government’s commitment to keeping families together, leading to successful integration and stronger ties to Canada,” said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen in a statement from Dec. 22, when the 2018 program was announced.

But Elizabeth Wozniak, a Halifax-based immigration lawyer, said the lottery system is “just a bit of a crapshoot.” She believes ineligible applicants will still submit the initial paperwork, bogging down the system and making it harder for those who do meet the criteria to bring their loved ones to Canada.

“Anyone can throw their name in once again, same as last year,” she said. “It’s just going to be more of the same.”

In years past, the sponsorship program for parents and grandparents was first-come, first-served. People submitted full applications during the earliest days of the new year, and the first 5,000 would be processed. In 2016, that number was doubled to 10,000.

But last year, the government decided to change the rules and use a lottery system instead. Those interested had to submit only basic information using an online form between January and February, after which 10,000 names were randomly selected to submit complete applications.

The change was intended to make the system fairer for those living further afield and for those who couldn’t afford a lawyer to help them prepare the full application on time.

Last year, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada received 95,000 online forms, and randomly chose 10,000 of them. But according to information presented by Hussen in the House of Commons in December, the department only ended up receiving 6,020 applications.

Wozniak said the program’s income requirements are the biggest obstacle for would-be applicants. The government requires that sponsors prove they meet income thresholds for the previous three years, which vary depending on the size of their family.

But the 2017 online form didn’t ask for any information about income, which meant ineligible people could be selected from the lottery and only then realize they couldn’t actually apply.

This year, the new online form asks whether would-be applicants meet the income thresholds — but it doesn’t require proof. Wozniak said that’s not good enough. “Ineligible people can still be selected and they won’t be vetted out,” she said.

Last year, the immigration department eventually sent out a second round of invitations to make up the rest of the 10,000 spots. The applications were due in December. The government has yet to say whether it reached its target.

Wozniak said she had about 25 clients who were in the pool last year, and none were selected in either draw. “It was a real letdown for people who were eligible,” she said.

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Matthew Jeffery said the new online form is a “definite improvement” over last year, but cautioned that it will still be difficult to weed out ineligible applicants.

“At the end of the day, I consider the process arbitrary and unnecessary,” he said. “It boils down to luck. So someone who’s qualified to sponsor their parents and has been for a long time, if they’re unlucky, they may never be able to sponsor their parents.”

He believes the 10,000-person limit should be scrapped altogether, and said he thinks the income threshold and other requirements are enough to limit the number of applicants.

Wozniak said the old first-come, first-served system was working fine.

“It wasn’t great, it wasn’t perfect… but we had no issues getting eligible people into processing,” she said. “It’s much more certain and it was faster, easier, more predictable.”

As for her 25 clients from last year, she said, their parents and grandparents would be permanent residents by now under the old system: “No doubt.”

Source: Parent sponsorship program still deeply flawed despite changes, immigration lawyers warn

Subsequent article with some of the comments during consultations on the changes: ‘Cruel’ immigration lottery system relaunched after angry backlash – Kathleen Harris

‘Profoundly unfair:’ Frustration mounts over immigration lottery to reunite families

No matter which system, there will always be more demand for family reunification that can be accommodated easily within the overall levels of immigration.

And kind of funny to hear Conservative critic Michelle Rempel arguing the government to use a “sober, management lens.” After all, when in power, the Conservative government reduced the levels for parents and grandparents as part of the relative shift to more economic class immigrants, thus creating a backlog even with the introduction of longer visitor visas to address the demand.

A valid policy choice, although one that was not necessarily popular with affected communities:

Hundreds of Canadians frustrated by the government’s shift to a lottery system to sponsor their parents and grandparents as immigrants to Canada are hoping to prompt change through an electronic petition.

Petition e-739, which closes for signatures this afternoon, calls on the Liberal government to take a phased-in approach and give priority to qualified sponsors who have made repeated applications.

This year the government moved from a first-come, first-served process to one where potential applicants were randomly selected by draw. The change was announced in December 2016 by then immigration minister John McCallum, just weeks before the deadline under the old system.

Brad Fach, a Cambridge, Ont., software engineer who launched the petition, was shocked to learn of the sudden change after he and his wife spent much time and money preparing the required forms and documentation to apply for her mother and father to emigrate from Belgium. He said the government has reduced a sensitive, emotional process to an undignified, “botched” system.

“I believe it mocks a very serious issue of family reunification, and is the wrong way to go,” he told CBC News.

Last week, the government announced that 95,000 people had filed an online form to win one of 10,000 spots to apply for sponsorship under the new lottery system. That put the chances at roughly one in 10.

Under the previous system, the first 10,000 completed applications turned in to the immigration processing office when it opened in January were accepted. The switch to a lottery system aimed to make it more fair and transparent, according to the government, as the old process favoured those who were geographically close to the centre or had the financial means to pay for couriers or legal representatives to help get them to the front of the queue.

Fach rejects that rationale. To qualify as a sponsor for parents or grandparents, he said, you must be in strong financial shape.

“You need money regardless, so you already have an advantage over the rest of the population. To claim that this somehow levels the playing field is complete crap,” he said.

Give ‘ray of hope’

Fach believes the new system is flawed because the online form to enter the lottery required only basic information, not details to ensure applicants were qualified and met financial requirements to sponsor their parents or grandparents.

If the government remains committed to the lottery, Fach said, it should at least devise a system that accounts for waiting time to give people a “ray of hope” they will eventually be invited to apply as sponsors.

Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel likened the lottery to an “abdication of responsibility,” leaving the system to chance instead of making improvements in a systemic, purposeful way.

“It almost seems like we’re giving up. We’re giving up on process efficiencies, and it’s luck of the draw on whether you get into Canada or not,” she said.

Rempel said Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen must look through a “sober, management lens” to improve processes that match up with new legislation and immigration priorities.

“That’s going to be a tall order, because they’ve changed this so much and they’ve got so many problems now,” she said.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the parent and grandparent program is the only immigration category where the fate of applicants is up to the “luck of the draw.”

“I think that is fundamentally wrong,” she said.

Source: ‘Profoundly unfair:’ Frustration mounts over immigration lottery to reunite families – Politics – CBC News

Liberals scrap parent visa application process over concerns people pay for spots at the front of the line

Market responds and government reacts:

Coveted spots for the parent and grandparent visa program will be awarded by lottery in 2017 after the federal Liberals have scrapped the old first-come, first-serve system that had raised concerns over people paying to be at the front of that line.

Applications for the always over-subscribed program had been accepted only via courier or mail at a single immigration office and since they were processed in the order received, couriers had been doing brisk business promising to be at the front of the line, in exchange for fees that could be as high as $400.

But that system has now been replaced by a random draw, the federal immigration minister announced Wednesday.

“We’re ensuring everyone can access the application process by giving them the same chance to have their name chosen,” Immigration Minister John McCallum said in a statement.

Beginning Jan. 3, Canadians will have 30 days to fill out an online form indicating their desire to sponsor a parent or grandparent. From those, immigration officials will randomly draw 10,000 individuals who will then be asked to submit the full application within 90 days.

The change comes after The Canadian Press first reported earlier this year that the previous first-come, first-serve process was seeing couriers charge more than $400 to guarantee applications would be at the top of the pile for the spots available in 2016.

That raised concerns that the visas were going to those who could afford to pay the high fees or camp out for hours at the Mississauga, Ont., immigration office.

A lot of people had been rejected in the past and were looking forward to this year

High demand came in part from the fact the previous Conservative government closed the program entirely between 2011 and 2014 to bring down a massive backlog.

It re-opened in 2014 with an annual cap of 5,000 applications. Last year, 14,000 applications were received and the Liberals later raised the cap on the number of applications they would accept to 10,000.

Couriers had already started taking reservations to deliver 2017 applications, with fees ranging from $60 to $200, depending on whether someone wanted to guarantee their application was delivered first.

Source: Liberals scrap parent visa application process over concerns people pay for spots at the front of the line | National Post

USA: Time to Eliminate Diversity Visas?

It is a weird system:

There has been too little public debate about legal immigration, however, beyond the affirmation by many that amnesty for illegal aliens is unfair to those immigrants who abided by law or remain overseas waiting for their turn.

Sure, there has been some debate about who the United States should welcome: refugees fleeing Syria? Family reunification? Birthright citizenship? Those with special technical ability or willing to invest vast sums in the American economy?

One of the strangest categories of legal American immigration is the “diversity visa,” sometimes known as the green card lottery. The concept of the lottery is simple: Citizens of countries from which fewer than 50,000 people have immigrated to the United States over the previous five years are eligible to apply to a lottery, from which 55,000 immigrants to the United States are chosen. Russians, Poles, Guatemalans, and Taiwanese can apply, for example, but Haitians, Colombians, and Mexicans cannot. Here, it gets more complicated: The State Department and Department of Homeland Security divide the world into six regions for the purpose of the lottery and seek to privilege lottery applicants from those regions which have sent fewer immigrants than other regions. Hence, for 2017, Africa has been allotted 20,400 slots, while Europe receives 14,000. Five lucky Bahamians will win spots reserved just for them.

The green card lottery is a relatively new phenomenon, a legacy of three Democratic congressmen—Howard Berman, Brian Donnelly, and Bruce Morrison—during the Reagan administration. The Immigration Act of 1990, sponsored by Chuck Schumer, formalized the program in more or less its current form. The bar for green card lottery winners is low—no criminal history, a high school education, and be in generally good health. There is no ideological bar, however. Pakistanis, Uzbeks, or Yemenis who win the lottery might be sympathizers to radical causes, but so long as they don’t have a criminal history they are good to go.

Given the fact that winners often bring their families, there are now well over a million Americans—probably twice that—who can attribute their citizenship to the lottery. But is that a wise way to welcome citizens? Does diversity really mean bringing people from East Timor to East LA or from South Sudan to South Dakota? Is there anything wrong with cynically seeking to benefit not only the immigrant but in a more immediate sense the United States by choosing the best educated, best able to immediately integrate into society and contribute to the economy? This isn’t mean to suggest that humanitarian concerns shouldn’t come into play, but the lottery doesn’t alleviate suffering; it is just random.

Many liberals and even many conservatives may feel unease as President-elect Trump’s populist rhetoric about immigration but that does not mean the system isn’t broken or outdated and can’t be reformed. When that debate comes—and it is looming—the notion that the United States should still have a visa lottery should certainly be on the agenda.

Source: Time to Eliminate Diversity Visas? | commentary