On May 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved by a vote of 13 to 5 the proposal on comprehensive immigration reform developed by the bipartisan group of Senators known as the “Gang of Eight”. The primary provision of the proposal is a path to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States. The provisions of particular interest to the workforce mobility industry are those which would reduce the employment-based green card backlog and increase the number of high skilled employment-based visas. The bill now proceeds to the full Senate which is scheduled to consider the measure in early June.
The Full Story:
Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of Senators reached an agreement on comprehensive immigration reform which was introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) on April 16 as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744). The group or “Gang of Eight” is comprised of Senators Schumer, Michael Bennett (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). On May 9, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first mark up of S. 744 and completed its deliberations over five meetings spanning nearly three weeks. During the course of the mark up, the Committee considered more than 200 of the roughly 300 amendments offered by Committee members.
The Committee voted 13 to 5 on May 21 to approve the legislation as amended. All Democrats on the Committee consisting of Senators Patrick Leahy (VT), who is Committee Chairman, Dianne Feinstein (CA), Schumer (NY), Durbin (IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Al Franken (MN), Chris Coons (DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Mazie Hirono (HI) were joined by three Republicans who were Senators Orrin Hatch (UT), Graham (SC) and Flake (AZ) in clearing the measure. The five Republicans voting against the bill were Charles Grassley (IA), who is Committee Ranking Member, Jeff Sessions (AL), John Cornyn (TX), Mike Lee (UT) and Ted Cruz (TX).
As amended and approved by the Committee, S. 744 would make several significant changes to current policy regarding high skilled employment-based immigration. First, while the annual limit for employment-based green cards would remain at 140,000, a number of exceptions would actually increase the number of accepted applications for foreign works. The largest exception would be that family members of foreign workers would no longer be included in the annual limit. Additional considerations which would reduce the backlog are the recapturing of unused green cards from previous years, elimination of the individual country caps (9,800 regardless of size of country) and exclusion of other types of applicants counted toward the limit. All of these changes combined should greatly increase the number of high skilled foreign workers who receive green cards each year.
The number of H-1B visas available each year to high skilled foreign workers would increase from a current base of 65,000 to 115,000, and possibly as high as 180,000 in the first year and higher in subsequent years if the limit is exceeded. This year, the FY 2014 cap was reached within the five-day minimum filing period with approximately 124,000 applications submitted toward the 65,000 base cap and separate cap of 20,000 for advanced degree visas. Since the number of applications exceeded the number of available visas, a lottery was held to randomly select the accepted applications. The significant increase in the base number of available annual H-1B visas, and additional 5,000 increase for advance degrees, should help ensure that early applications are not selected through a random lottery.
In addition to changes addressing employment-based green cards and high skilled worker visas, S. 744 would make numerous smaller changes impacting the workforce mobility industry. Most of these changes have to do with new or restructured filing fees and restrictions, administrative processes and requirements intended to safeguard U.S. workers. These revisions combined with the easing and increases in employment-based green cards and visas reflect the tight rope walked by the Gang of Eight in trying to address concerns from both sides of the political spectrum and maintain a bill that could garner broad bipartisan support.
During the course of the mark up of the bill, there were sidebar negotiations between members of the Gang of Eight on the Committee and other Committee members to address potential issues. In order to gain the support of Senator Hatch, Senator Schumer reached an agreement with him to exempt companies within the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) from certain requirements that companies hiring foreign workers need to meet regarding the hiring and retention of U.S. workers for the positions. There were several other negotiations on issues raised from both sides of the aisle which could have derailed approval and support of the bill. In the end, the members of the Gang of Eight on the Committee were able to defeat controversial amendments and keep the core provisions of the bill intact.
There is a fairly clear path forward for consideration of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 in the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has stated he would like the Senate to begin consideration of the legislation in early June. After the bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he would not mount opposition to Senate consideration of the bill. Several Senate Republicans have voiced their strong disapproval with the bill but it is unlikely they have the numbers necessary to indefinitely postpone the bill from reaching the Senate floor.
The path for consideration of comprehensive immigration reform legislation in the House is far less clear. It is doubtful that the House will merely take up a bill passed by the Senate. While there is a bipartisan group of Representatives in the House who recently reached a broad agreement on immigration reform, it could be weeks or months until they have a legislative proposal and it will likely draw strong opposition from the large block of conservative members of the House. One option that has been proposed is for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to have the House consider individual pieces of legislation addressing the various aspects of immigration reform. The downside to that option is it would all but assure that the Senate bill would be the starting point for discussion in conference committee. So while the chances are fairly even we will see the Senate pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year it is far certain where the issue goes from there.
Posted by Tristan North
President Obama and congressional leaders failed to reach an agreement to prevent sequestration so the federal spending reduction trigger officially took effect just before midnight on March 1. However, the full effect of sequestration absent a deal will likely not be realized for a majority of Americans until April or even later. The President met with congressional leaders on March 1 in one last attempt to address sequestration before the official deadline but as widely anticipated the negotiations did not produce significant progress. As a result, $85 million in spending reductions for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013 will be spread across a majority of federal government departments, agencies and programs.
The President and Congress need to find offsets to the $85 billion through spending reductions, additional revenue or a combination of both to delay sequestration through the end of the fiscal year. Presently, the President and congressional Democrats are calling for a combination of spending reductions and revenue increases to offset sequestration with congressional Republicans stating they will only agree to spending cuts. Due to the impasse, President Obama on the evening of March 1 issued an Executive Order directing federal department and agency heads to implement the reductions. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a report that evening to Congress noting the specific reductions to each federal agency and program.
What is Sequestration?
Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, President Obama and congressional Republicans and Democrats reached an agreement to temporarily raise the debt ceiling as well as implement a structure to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over ten years. The legislation established a bipartisan committee, known as the “Super Committee”, of members of the House and Senate to develop the details on deficit reduction. In the event the Super Committee did not reach an agreement, the legislation established a trigger known as “sequestration” to automatically cut spending for a majority of government departments, agencies and programs in order to reduce the deficit.
The Super Committee failed to reach an agreement but as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 Congress delayed the initial implementation date of sequestration from January 1, 2013 until March 1, 2013. Now that sequestration is in effect, it means a 7.9% cut in nonexempt mandatory defense funding, 7.8% cut in nonexempt discretionary defense funding, 5.1% cut in nonexempt nondefense mandatory funding, 5.0% cut in nonexempt nondefense discretionary funding and a 2.0% cut in Medicare provider payments. According to OMB, since the reductions are over the seven months remaining in FY2013 which ends on September 30, the percentage reductions will be approximately 13% for non-exempt defense programs and 9% percent for non-exempt nondefense programs. The Budget Control Act did specifically exempt several federal agencies and programs from reductions including Social Security benefits, Medicaid, military personnel pay and veteran benefits and several agencies including the U.S. Postal Service and Amtrak will not see budget reductions.
At this point, much of the specific impact of sequestration is still yet to be determined and speculation. Sequestration was developed as a fallback position because neither political party ever thought it would actually happen. The trigger inflicts reductions to both domestic programs traditionally favored by Democrats and robust national defense funding long supported by Republicans. Thus, many officials in the Administration and Congress until recently had not been forced to give serious consideration to or analyzed the full implication of the cuts if sequestration actually occurred. What is troubling now for many lawmakers is that the cuts are across-the-board and thus government officials have very little discretion as to what areas within their department or agency can be cut to spare higher priority budgetary items. While many of the particulars of the cuts still remain uncertain, some details are now emerging.
Federal Employees and Contracting
Those most affected by sequestration will be federal employees and contractors. Spokespersons for the Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have stated that they plan to issue notices shortly to thousands of federal civilian and contracted employees for furloughs starting in early April. Many Cabinet Secretaries and federal agency heads with more discretion in their budgets have stated that furloughs are a last resort. Instead, they are scaling back on planned spending on new technology, not filling open positions and cutting in other areas of their budget including on travel. OMB has granted agencies wide leeway in implementing the reductions but did state that “sequestration will inevitably affect agency contracting activities and require agencies to reduce contracting costs where appropriate.” The potential impact on federal transferees and contractors therefore varies greatly by agency.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) are all spared from reductions under sequestration. This is due to the fact that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are quasi government agencies and the FHFA is funded by fees collected by the federal home loan banks. The Federal Reserve and other financial oversight agencies are also not subject to sequestration since they are also either quasi government and/or funded by fees. One agency that is subject to sequestration is the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which will see a reduction of 5.1% or 23 million of its $448 million budget.
It is unlikely that the decrease in its budget will impact the new Bureau as it is still expanding to reach its staffing goals. It could have an impact on future hires but the agency presently has sufficient staff to carry out much of its current activities and directives. So it is unlikely that we will see a delay as a result of sequestration to proceeding on regulations dealing with quality mortgages, quality residential mortgages and the proposed new closing and settlement forms. The impact on the mortgage industry is also expected to be minimal at this time but long-term reductions could impact various aspects of every industry.
Immigration and Travel
The budget for U.S. Customs and Border Protection is being reduced by $294 million and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) by $276 million. In a letter dated January 31 to Senator Barbara Mikulski, Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano stated that these reductions would likely result in the furlough of U.S. Customs and TSA employees causing longer wait times for customs and security checks at airports. In a similar letter from Secretary of State John Kerry, the new Secretary stated that reduced funding would undermine progress made toward timely processing of visas. Finally, the letter from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to Senator Mikulski warned of that the $232 million reduction to the budget of the Federal Aviation Administration would likely result in furloughs of air traffic controllers as well as aviation safety inspectors causing slower safety inspections and approvals and a disruption in air travel.
When will Sequestration End?
Even though an agreement was not reached by March 1, the President and Congress can still develop a deal at any point that retroactively prevents the reductions and/or stops future cuts. However, it could be days, weeks or even longer for leaders to come together as both sides wait for the effects of sequestration to be grasped by their constituents and politicians determine which political party is blamed most for letting the spending trigger actually take effect. The next significant date is March 27 which is days before Administration officials have stated much of the impact of sequestration will be realized and when the current temporary Continuing Resolution funding the federal government for FY 2013 expires. Speaker of the House John Boehner stated on March 1 that he and the President are in agreement that the Continuing Resolution should be extended to avoid a government shutdown. The two had also previously agreed though that sequestration should not take effect.
If an agreement is reached to end sequestration, it will likely only address reductions for FY2013. Congress will then need to address the remaining approximately $1.1 trillion in cuts scheduled under sequestration for the next nine years.
Posted by Tristan North
Recommendations by Worldwide ERC® and the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC) to improve cross border access and facilitate the relocation of employees between the U.S. and Canada continue to be implemented. In early 2011, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper announced a collaboration to improve perimeter security and economic competitiveness between the U.S. and Canada. In December 2011, the U.S. and Canada released an action plan on their shared cross border vision which included many recommendations suggested by Worldwide ERC® and the CERC. Since then, additional recommendations by Worldwide ERC® and CERC have been implemented and representatives of Worldwide ERC® have attended key stakeholder functions.
The Full Story:
In February 2011, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper issued a declaration to improve economic competitiveness and perimeter security for the two countries. The declaration, entitled Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness, created the Beyond the Border Working Group to address the issues identified by the two leaders. A key component of the declaration was to streamline business activity and promote better mobility of individuals between the U.S. and Canada. In November 2011, Worldwide ERC® and the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC) sent a joint letter to the Beyond the Boarder Working Group calling for improving consistency in inspections and adjudications, removing operational impediments and improving policies that unnecessarily limit access to skilled workers.
Worldwide ERC® and CERC had convened a working group in July of 2011 to discuss the submission of comments to the Beyond the Border Working Group. Worldwide ERC® and CERC developed recommendations on how best to address the administrative and legal challenges facing organizations relocating employees based in part on a survey of CERC members with experience with the mobility of employees between the two countries. The survey was conducted from June 23 to July 22, 2011 and included the participation of 75 organizations.
On December 7, 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper released the "Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan - Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness." Numerous recommendations made in the November letter submitted by Worldwide ERC® and CERC were contained in the Action Plan. For a copy of the specific recommendations made by Worldwide ERC® and CERC and the corresponding response in the Action Plan, please go to: http://www.cerc.ca/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=iMMuc5pEqus%3d&tabid=36.
Since the release of the Action Plan, Worldwide ERC® President and CEO Peggy Smith represented the Association at a reception in February at the Embassy of Canada for the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC). The RCC was created as part of the Beyond the Border declaration.
Worldwide ERC® was then asked as a private sector partner to participate in an intergovernmental roundtable discussion in May regarding the Beyond the Border initiative. Peggy Smith again represented Worldwide ERC® at the roundtable which led to a follow up letter from the private sector partner, including Worldwide ERC®, to the Canadian Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and The Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The letter provided an outline of ways to reduce the barriers hindering the transfer of employees between the U.S. and Canada. The creation of a private sector-governmental work group to address cross-border challenges with the relocation of employees was one of the recommendations of the November 2011 Worldwide ERC® and CERC letter. To access a copy of the letter, please go to: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/pdf/submission-observations/CERC.pdf.
The latest action on a recommendation contained in the November 2011 Worldwide ERC® and CERC letter was announced on September 28. Worldwide ERC® and CERC had recommended that TN applicants be able to pre-file their applications instead of having to file at the point of entry. Effective October 1, I-129 forms may now be pre-filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services on behalf of Canadian citizens with respect to a TN nonimmigrant classification. This will allow Canadian business travelers to know in advance whether they will be eligible for the TN classification instead of having to wait to learn at the point of entry if they eligible. Applicants still have the option of applying to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the TN classification.
The implementation of the recommendations by Worldwide ERC® and CERC is very encouraging. Especially since the agencies of jurisdiction have so far adhered to the deadlines for when the recommendations would be met as directed in the Beyond the Borders Action Plan. In the case of the private-governmental working group, the plan stated a March 31 deadline for initiating such a group. In the case of the pre-filing of TN applications, the Action Plan listed a September 30 date to improve current processes. Worldwide ERC® will continue to monitor the implementation of the recommendations and participate in work group discussions to address the administrative and legal challenges facing organizations relocating employees, but so far so good.
Posted by Tristan North
Senator Grassley has dropped his opposition to the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 3012) which would eliminate country caps for employment-based visas. However, the fate of the legislation in the Senate is still uncertain. Also, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that on June 11 the agency had reached the annual statutory cap on H-1B petitions for FY 2013.
The Full Story:
Grassley Drops Opposition to Legislation Eliminating Employment Visa Country Caps
On July 11, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which has jurisdiction over immigration issues, announced that he was releasing his “hold” on the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 3012). Under Senate rules, any Senator can place a “hold” on a piece of legislation which prevents the Senate from considering it using an expedited process which requires the unanimous consent of Senators. The opposition by Senator Grassley therefore prevented the bill from being considered in the Senate without a prolonged process with potentially multiple votes to just override his opposition.
The “hold” is often used to strengthen the negotiating power of an individual Senator to alter language of a bill or get other concessions. While Senator Grassley has dropped his opposition, there are still other Senators who have concerns with it who could prevent the Senate from taking up the bill. So the fate of the bill in the Senate is still uncertain.
H.R. 3012 would alter the system of how employment-based visas are issued. It would have the effect of replacing cutoff dates for individual countries like China and India and instead have a cutoff date for all countries once the overall visa limit was reached. This would apply for each of the different types of employment-based visas with each category having a different cutoff date. Under current law, workers from an individual country can claim no more than 7 percent of the 140,000 employment-based visas issued annually. H.R. 3012 would also raise the country limit for family visas from 7 percent to 15 percent of the 226,000 family visas issued annually.
Senator Grassley had opposed the bill because of his stated concerns that the bill would not protect access to high-skilled jobs for Americans during a time of high unemployment. Senator Grassley removed his hold on the bill after an agreement was reached with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, to alter the language. As a result, H.R. 3012 would provide greater authority to the Department of Labor to review labor condition applications and investigate misrepresentation. The agreement would also allow annual compliance audits of employers who bring foreign workers to the U.S. through the H-1B visa program.
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 3012) had passed the House by a vote of 389 to 15 on November 29.
H-1B Cap for Temporary Foreign Workers Already Reached for FY2013
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that on June 11 the agency had reached the annual statutory cap on H-1B petitions for FY 2013. H-1B petitions are limited to 65,000 per year. On June 7, USCIS had received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed for individuals who are exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption.
For FY 2012, the annual statutory cap on H-1B petitions was reached on November 22, 2011. For FY2011, the cap was reached on January 26, 2011. The H-1B is a temporary visa for specialty occupations or highly skilled foreign workers which permits employment in the U.S. for three years.
Posted by Tristan North
Canadians who are working in the United States for long enough to be considered “residents” under U.S. tax law will be taxed on the earnings of Canadian retirement plans unless they file Form 8891 to report the plans, and make an election to defer tax on the earnings. They must also file Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBAR’s) with the U.S. Treasury Department if the value of those accounts is at least $10,000 during the year, check a box on Schedule B of the U.S. tax return whether or not those accounts exceed $10,000, and file Form 8938 with the U.S. tax return reporting those accounts if the value exceeds $50,000 at the end of the year or $75,000 at any time during the year. Companies with Canadian employees in the U.S. should make sure those employees understand these requirements, as failure to comply can result in substantial tax liabilities and penalties.
The Full Story:
Today’s tax quote: “The trick is to stop thinking of it as ‘your’ money.” Anonymous tax auditor
As discussed in detail below, Canadians who are resident workers in the U.S. need to be very careful in dealing with their Canadian retirement plans if they wish to continue thinking of those accumulated funds as “their” money.
As has been discussed previously in this space (see the blog entry “U.S. and Canada Issue Border Action Plan,” January 24, 2012, by Tristan North) Worldwide ERC and the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC) have worked jointly to assist their respective governments to address cross-border issues in order to facilitate movement of employees between the two countries.
While this important and worthy effort has not focused on taxes, citizens of either the U.S. or Canada moving to the other country to work also face tax questions, some of which can lead to quite unfortunate results if not properly understood. One of these concerns the treatment of Canadian retirement plans left behind in Canada.
Canada treats Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIF’s) and Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP’s) the same as IRA’s and 401k plans are treated in the United States. That is, tax on the earnings is deferred until the earnings are withdrawn or the beneficiary reaches a certain age. Unfortunately, U.S. tax law does not allow for this deferral for U.S. citizens or residents who maintain RRIF’s or RRSP’s. Owners of those accounts would be taxed on the earnings without some form of relief.
Relief is provided under the United States-Canada Income Tax Convention (“Treaty”). Under the Treaty, an individual who is a beneficiary of a Canadian retirement plan that is exempt from Canadian income tax may elect to defer U.S. tax on the accrued but undistributed income of the plan until the income is actually distributed.
IRS implementation of this provision over the years has been somewhat confusing. A series of IRS Revenue Procedures and Notices beginning with Rev. Proc. 89-45, and including Rev. Proc. 2002-23 and Notices 2003-25, 2003-57, and 2003-75, addressed how and when to make the required election, and for a time IRS was insisting that beneficiaries of these accounts not only make the required election, but also file Forms 3520 reporting the ownership of “foreign trusts.” Eventually, however, IRS issued Form 8891, which currently must be filed by any U.S. citizen or resident who is a beneficiary of a Canadian retirement plan, and is also used to make an election to defer tax on earnings of those plans.
A separate Form 8891 must be filed for each retirement plan, and attached to the Form 1040 U.S. income tax return. If spouses are each beneficiaries of a plan, each must file a separate Form 8891. And if the beneficiary elects on the Form 8891 to defer tax on the earnings of the plan, that election is irrevocable.
Canadians moving to the United States to work, and who remain in the United States long enough to be considered a “resident,” (ordinarily, more than 183 days during the year), must file Form 8891 to report any Canadian retirement plans they still own, and unless they want to pay U.S. tax on the accrued income, must make the election to defer tax. Unfortunately, sometimes these workers are not aware of the requirements, and that lack of awareness can create major problems.
If the Form 8891 is not filed, and no election is made, the deferred income from the retirement plan should have been reported on the Form 1040, and tax paid. Failure to do so will lead to an underpayment of tax, interest on the underpayment, and potential penalties for negligence and failure to pay. Moreover, if the Canadian has been a resident for several years without the required filing and election, IRS may go back and assert tax for at least three of those prior years under the normal statute of limitations on assessment of tax, or six of them if the omission of income was substantial, or all of them if the omission was due to fraud.
Nor is the taxpayer ordinarily permitted to go back and make a retroactive election, unless the taxpayer obtains specific permission to do so from the IRS by filing a private letter ruling request asking for relief under section 301.9100-1(c). Doing so is difficult, costly, and will not be successful unless done before IRS itself discovers the failure to report and elect.
As if these unfortunate results were not enough, there are also two other reporting requirements for beneficiaries of Canadian retirement plans, with substantial penalties for failure to comply.
Owners of foreign financial accounts exceeding $10,000 in value during the year must file a Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR), Form TD F 90-22.1, with the Treasury Department by June 30 of each year. Generally, a Canadian RRIF or RRSP worth $10,000 or more would require such a report. There are substantial penalties even for an inadvertent failure to file the FBAR. Such accounts also require that a box be checked on Schedule B of Form 1040, revealing that the taxpayer has foreign accounts, even if the accounts do not exceed the $10,000 FBAR reporting threshold. And, beginning for the 2011 tax year, a new Form 8938 is required to be filed with the U.S. tax return reporting foreign assets whose value exceeded $75,000 at any time during the year, or $50,000 at the end of the year, which is a threshold that many existing Canadian retirement accounts would no doubt exceed.
Consequently, for companies moving a Canadian to the U.S. to work, the U.S. requirements concerning retained Canadian retirement plans simply must be a part of the instruction and planning for that assignment. The employees should be informed and counseled as to the requirements to make sure that they do not incur costly U.S. tax liabilities and penalties for failing to report the accounts.
Posted by Peter K. Scott
Worldwide ERC® and the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC) have been advocating that the U.S. and Canada address cross-border issues in order to better facilitate that relocation of employees between the two countries. In December, the U.S. and Canada released an action plan to improve economic competiveness and perimeter security which included many of the recommendations suggested by Worldwide ERC® and the CERC. Since then, the Obama Administration has issued an Executive Order to further facilitate entry into the U.S. In this most recent case, improved entry is for travel and tourism.
The Full Story:
On February 4, 2011, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper issued a declaration to improve economic competitiveness and perimeter security for the two countries. The declaration, entitled Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness, created the Beyond the Border Working Group to address the issues identified by the two leaders. A key component of the declaration and an objective of the Working Group was to streamline business activity and promote better mobility of individuals between the U.S. and Canada.
To access a copy of declaration, Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness, please go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/02/04/declaration-president-obama-and-prime-minister-harper-canada-beyond-bord
In November, Worldwide ERC® and the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (CERC) sent a joint letter to the Beyond the Boarder Working Group calling for improving consistency in inspections and adjudications, removing operational impediments and improving policies that unnecessarily limit access to skilled workers. The letter contained a series of recommendations developed by Worldwide ERC® and CERC which were based in part on a survey of CERC members with experience with the mobility of employees between the Canada and the U.S. Prior to the declaration, Worldwide ERC® and CERC had convened a working group in the fall of 2010 to address many of the border issues identified by the two organizations. The organizations submitted a letter on their findings and recommendations in April of last year to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
On December 7, 2011, President Obama and Prime Minister Harper released the “Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan - Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness.” Numerous recommendations made in the November letter submitted by Worldwide ERC® and CERC were contained in the Action Plan.
The joint letter focused on three areas which are as follows:
- Improve consistency in inspections/adjudications
- Remove operational impediments
- Improve policies that unnecessarily limit access to skilled workers
The Action Plan addressed all three areas by stating that enhanced training of border personnel will be provided, current processes and regulations would be reviewed and improved and stakeholders would be further consulted on immigration matters.
For a copy of the specific recommendations made by Worldwide ERC® and CERC and the corresponding provision in the Action Plan addressing the recommendation, please go to: http://www.cerc.ca/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=iMMuc5pEqus%3d&tabid=36
A complete copy of the Beyond the Border Action Plan can be found at: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/canada/303578/pdfs/us-canada-btb_action_plan.pdf
Executive Order on Travel and Tourism Promotion
Along the same lines as the efforts to improve economic competitiveness for the U.S. with Canada, on January 19, President Obama issued an Executive Order to increase tourism to the U.S. To accomplish this objective, the Executive Order would improve the processing of visas for foreign visitors and create a task force on travel and competitiveness.
The Executive Order identifies four specific actions which are as follows:
(1) Increase nonimmigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent over the coming year;
(2) Ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application, recognizing that resource and security considerations and the need to ensure provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions;
(3) Increase efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals of Visa Waiver Program participants; and
(4) Expand reciprocal recognition programs for expedited travel, such as the Global Entry program.
The Executive Order would also establish the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness which would develop a strategy to further improve and promote domestic and international travel opportunities to increase tourism in the United States.
To access a copy of the Executive Order, please go to: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/19/executive-order-establishing-visa-and-foreign-visitor-processing-goals-a