Williamsburg is playing host this week to a three-day federal conference that is looking at immigration issues and ways to prevent fraud.
The Kentucky Consular Center is hosting the three-day H&L Fraud Prevention Workshop, which includes 41 participants from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Labor, and representatives from some embassies overseas.
The Kentucky Consular Center first opened in Williamsburg in 2000, and employees over 450 people.
The workers perform various tasks ranging from processing about 50,000 Diversity Visa applications that are randomly selected each year, to performing 40 million facial recognition tests on visa applicants annually.
Francis Cissna, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Carl C. Risch, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, who returned to the U.S. last week after a trip to North Korea where he helped escort three prisoners back home, are just two of the conference attendees.
Cissna noted that Whitley County is a connection point between his agency, which oversees a green card production facility in Corbin, and Risch’s agency, which oversees the Kentucky Consular center.
“We have two card production facilities in the entire country where we make the green cards, the employment cards, which is one of the main products of the immigration service and that is just down the road, and here you have the Kentucky Consular Center,” Cissna noted.
“All this work between our two agencies is done right here. It is a miniature reflection of the cooperation that is going on in Washington.”
Risch noted that part of the operation at the Kentucky Consular Center is preprocessing the employment-based visa categories applications before they are passed along to offices around the world.
The name of the conference is a reference to two types of visa categories.
The H-1B visa program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations may include fields such as science, engineering and information technology.
The L visa program relates to a company transferring a worker with specialized knowledge to the United States.
Cissna noted that the H1B and L category visas are both used by American employers, who are trying to bring skilled workers to the country from overseas.
“These programs are very complicated mess of regulations and rules that govern the circumstances under which you can bring over these workers. The bottom line is that these workers are supposed to be brought over, generally speaking, when you can’t find somebody here to do that job,” Cissna said.
“The reason why these two visa programs are so critical and so important and why it is proper that we have this conference bringing people from literally over the world from all the consular posts overseas to come here to talk about this is because first these visa categories bring thousands of people.”
Cissna added that the president has made it very clear he wants to ensure that whatever is done in immigration work makes sure that American workers are protected as the law requires.
“We want to make sure no one is getting one of these visas, who isn’t supposed to. If we can stomp that out, then we have at least to that extent have protected American workers while at the same time have maintained the integrity of the visa program. It is super important that this conference happen, and I can’t think of a better place for it to happen than here where all of this good work is being done,” Cissna said Tuesday.
“All the things that the adjudicators and consular officers will learn the next three days will ultimately improve protections for American workers and make sure the law is being correctly administered with integrity that is the key.”
Risch noted that this is his second visit to the Kentucky Consular Center since December when he met with the staff and did a town hall.
“The staff here understands how important they are to our collective operation around protecting America and making sure every VISA decision is a national security decision,” Risch said.
“Their dedication to the mission is inspiring to me. I want them to know that back in Washington we respect that and appreciate and acknowledge that.”
Kentucky Consular Center Director Chris Beard noted that in 2010, a similar workshop was held at the Kentucky Consular center.
Tuesday afternoon, both Risch and Cissna were scheduled to visit a facility in Corbin that manufactures green cards.