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U.S. officials said to be clamping down on work permits for Canadians

Windsor Star logo Windsor Star 2019-10-04 Dave Battagello, Windsor Star
a man wearing a suit and tie: The crest of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer is shown during a press conference on Wednesday, October 17, 2018, in Detroit. © Dan Janisse The crest of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer is shown during a press conference on Wednesday, October 17, 2018, in Detroit.

Securing a job across the border for Windsorites and other Canadians has been growing difficult of late as work permits are increasingly being denied by U.S. Customs and Immigration authorities, said a leading Windsor immigration lawyer.

Individuals on this side of the border seeking to legally work in the U.S. are seeing their requests for required permits either getting held up or flat-out rejected due to a lack of clarity on legislation that too often creates a grey area for U.S. decision-makers to decipher, said Andrew Porter, an immigration specialist with Miller Canfield law firm.

“Work permits are getting more difficult to come by,” he said. “There is much more scrutiny. Work permits, at times, are being denied for less than valid reasons.”

Often the decisions being made at the border are to the detriment to the U.S. economy or desperate needs of various employers across Michigan where there are shortages in qualified personnel, Porter said.

He cited as one example how a Canadian company attempts to expand into the U.S. — entities where Americans would primarily be employed — yet senior managers or administrators from Canada have been denied permits, such as an L-1A, necessary for them to locate across the border and launch the business.

“You have a Congress looking to promote U.S. economy,” Porter said. “You have a Canadian company looking to expand there and needs a senior manager going in to set up things and you have these people being denied.

“It’s like putting the cart before the horse. It doesn’t make sense.”

a man wearing a black shirt:  U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are shown in the secondary inspection area in Detroit on Oct. 17, 2018. © Dan Janisse U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are shown in the secondary inspection area in Detroit on Oct. 17, 2018.

Porter as another example cited a desperate need for speech language therapists to work in Detroit Public Schools, yet a qualified Canadian resident who desired the job was unable to secure the proper work permit.

“They are in dire need to fill a job because there are none available (in Michigan),” he said. “You have a well-defined shortage and decided not to issue (the permit). You are restricting reasonable applicants for positions otherwise going unfulfilled.”

It gets to the point where some people seeing the costs of obtaining lawyers and going through proper channels for a permit may get so fed up it becomes “an incentive for illegal immigration,” Porter said.

For those seeking a work permit for a U.S. job, it’s a complicated process that can involve a variety of agencies, several steps to complete and can take several weeks up to nearly three months depending on the type of visa required.

One type is required for anyone seeking to both work and live in Michigan, another is needed for commuters who live in the Windsor area and calls on the employer to be involved as a sponsor. Yet another completely different permit application (a TN visa) is needed for any job that falls under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Depending on the permit required, an application must either initially go through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or U.S. Customs and Border Protection and eventually be approved by the U.S. Department of State.

The U.S. state department lists reasons for denying applications online as being “because the consular officer does not have all of the information required,” the applicant does not qualify for the visa category for which they applied or because there is information of someone’s inadmissibility due to “grounds of the law.”

“An applicant’s current and/or past actions, such as drug or criminal activities, may make the applicant ineligible for a visa,” the state department said.

Another factor around a tightened grip on work visas may be due to how on April 18, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order which seeks to “protect the economic interests” of U.S. workers “by rigorously enforcing and administering our immigration laws.”

It called on USCIS to strengthen policies and regulations to protect U.S. workers by enhancing fraud detection of those who carry work permits. It also calls for workplace visits by USCIS where individuals carrying visas must show the “burden of proof” their “immigration benefit” is valid.

The Canadian Consulate in Detroit would not say this week whether its staff gets involved in individual cases involving disputes on work permit applications or whether it has been active to address confusing U.S. legislation regarding the application process with counterpart American authorities.

A Consulate spokesman in Detroit indicated the office was not allowed to comment on any issue during the current federal election campaign and referred the inquiry to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. That federal agency in Ottawa did not respond to The Star on the issue.

Given the myriad of agencies and paperwork involved in granting work permits, U.S. officials earlier this year launched efforts to hopefully streamline the process for Canadians or other non-residents, said a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Thursday.

“In May, USCIS announced eProcessing, a technology strategy of connecting previously isolated computer systems to boost the speed and effectiveness of our modernization efforts,” said Jessica Collins on behalf of USCIS. “This process will accelerate the availability of online filing, giving USCIS adjudicators immediate access to digital immigration records.

“Ultimately, those applying for immigration benefits will encounter a more responsive and effective USCIS.” 

Going digital and moving away from paperwork is making it far more “convenient and interactive” for those who submit applications as they will now have online ability to check the status of their case and receive notices from USCIS, she said.

“Applicants who file online can be confident their application enters our processing queue faster than mail delivery, that they are providing the necessary information and payment as they apply, and that receipt and processing of their case will not be delayed by mail or clerical errors,” Collins said.

“The expansion of online filing is a priority for USCIS as we make our operations more efficient and effective for the agency and our stakeholders.”

dbattagello@postmedia.com

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