Matt Davis Communications
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Alec Regino–Talent Beyond Boundaries
Advocates Cheer Changes to U.S. Employment Visa Process To Accommodate Refugees, Stateless People
(Washington, D.C., Feb 9, 2024, for immediate release).—New U.S. rules on the primary visa that U.S. employers use to bring college-educated professionals to the country provide more flexibility for beneficiaries such as refugees and stateless people to register using documents other than passports, following intensive advocacy by Talent Beyond Boundaries and United Stateless.
USCIS will allow H-1B visa beneficiaries to register using valid travel documents, including documents other than passports. It noted that the modification from its original proposal is “consistent with the Administration's dedication to promoting access for refugees and stateless individuals” and “intended to narrowly accommodate stateless individuals, refugees, and other individuals who cannot obtain valid passports."
Travel document requirements unreasonably bar refugees and stateless people from pursuing employment-based and other kinds of visas. Demand far exceeds the number of visas, leading to a lottery for the opportunity to apply for an H-1B visa. Late in 2023, the U.S. government proposed new restrictions on registering for the lottery. Among other things, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed that it would require, to register for the H-1B lottery, the visa beneficiary to provide the passport number that they would use to apply for the visa. However, before those restrictions were final, there was an opportunity to comment on the proposed rules. Talend Beyond Boundaries and United Stateless expressed concern that this requirement would establish a new obstacle for stateless people and refugees who cannot obtain travel documents.
This week, the U.S. government announced its decision about this policy proposal. In doing so, USCIS directly quoted from the advocates’ recommendations: "A joint comment from two advocacy groups commended USCIS' 'demonstrated concern for stateless individuals' and stated that USCIS should allow individuals to provide a unique identifier other than a passport, accompanied by an explanation of why they cannot obtain a valid passport."
Encouragingly, USCIS also cited interest from members of Congress who also wrote to USCIS: "A comment from multiple members of Congress recommended that DHS 'create an exception to the passport requirement for stateless individuals and those who are unable to obtain a valid passport due to extraordinary circumstances outside their control.'”
Talent Beyond Boundaries U.S. Director Betsy Fisher said: “Refugees and stateless people should be able to relocate through pathways that recognize their skills – as well as through pathways that recognize their needs. We have consistently asked the Biden administration to address obstacles that prevent refugees and stateless people from accessing employment-based visas, and we are excited to see the impact of that advocacy.”
United Stateless Executive Director Karina Ambarstoumian-Clough said: “I’m grateful that our advocacy efforts have influenced U.S. government policy to expand access to employment-based for refugees and stateless people beyond USCIS’ original proposed rule. It shows that the government is listening, and that’s important.”
About Talent Beyond Boundaries
Talent Beyond Boundaries is building a world where displaced people can safely migrate for work and fully realize their skills to rebuild their lives with dignity and purpose. TBB is opening up safe, regular pathways to ensure displaced people have equitable access to skilled migration by working with governments, the private sector, impacted communities, and refugee-serving organizations. Founded in 2016, TBB’s mission is to help refugees with talents in demand in the global market find employment opportunities in countries where their skills are sorely needed. Learn more about TBB by visiting its website: talentbeyondboundaries.org.
About United Stateless
United Stateless is a national organization led by stateless people. Our mission is to build and inspire community among those affected by statelessness. We also advocate for their human rights. Founded in 2018, United Stateless is the only U.S. organization dedicated to this issue. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the beacon for our work. We hew to its vision of a world that respects everyone's human right to nationality.
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