Posted On: June 30, 2009

USCIS Continues Tally of Filings of H1-B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2010

As of June 26, 2009, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated its tally for H1-B petition filings for the fiscal year beginning October 1st, 2009. To date, the agency has collected over 44,800 H-1B cap petitions. The US Congress has capped the number of potential filings at 65,000 per year. Thus far, the USCIS has collected at least 20,000 alien petitions from individuals with advanced degrees towards the 20,000 advanced degree cap. Although this particular cap has been reached, the agency plans to continue taking petitions because, statistically, a significant percentage of those 20,000 applications will be invalidated or otherwise disallowed or can be counted against the general 65,000 pool of petitions.

With 20.200 slots left, we encourage H1-B applicants to contact our office to ensure the H-1B petition is filed while the numbers are still available.

Posted On: June 30, 2009

USCIS Resumes Premium Processing For Alien Workers Petitioning Via

The USCIS has announced that, starting June 29nd, 2009, alien workers petitioning for immigration via Form I-140 will be allowed to resume using the so-called premium processing service. The USCIS had removed this service due to the influx of I-140 filings in 2007. However, because their backlogs have decreased, the USCIS is in a position to resume I-140 premium processing.

Who can use premium processing service?

Not all petitioners can enjoy this faster processing service. Those who can include:

• EB-1 aliens with extraordinary ability or outstanding professors and researchers
• EB-2 aliens with exceptional ability or members of professions with advanced degrees (who are NOT concurrently trying to apply under a national interest waiver).
• EB-3 professional, skilled, and other workers.

Petitioners who cannot use this service include:

• EB-1 multinational executives and managers
• EB-2 petitioners (discussed above) who are applying under the national interest waiver category

How does the premium processing service benefit petitioners?

By paying a $1,000 fee to USCIS, petitioners can get responses to their applications guaranteed within 15 days (“approval,” “denial,” or “request to collect evidence or investigate further”). Petitioners can also access information about their petition status via email and a special phone number.

The USCIS press release reaffirms that petitioners who have previously been designated as available for premium processing service will continue to have this option at their disposal. For instance, non-immigrant workers petitioning via Form I-129 can still use the premium processing service.

For more information on changes to I-140 processing, you can connect with USCIS via the official website, or via 1 (800) 375-5283.

Posted On: June 30, 2009

Department of Homeland Security Eases Restrictions on Widows and Widowers of U.S. Citizens

A June 9, 2009 press release issued by the Department of Homeland Security reports that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has changed the rules by which widows and widowers of U.S. citizens may seek adjustment to their immigration status.

Secretary Napolitano’s rule changes will allow these individuals and their children (less than 18 years old) to take advantage of a policy known as “deferred action,” as long as said individuals have lived two years in the United States.

Per these new rules, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been ordered to stop adjusting applications and visa petitions in the cases of widows and widowers whose spouses died prior to their second wedding anniversary. Secretary Napolitano’s orders also change the directives of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (ICE), which now must defer initiating, proceeding with attempts to remove, or finalizing the removal of said widows/widowers and their children from the country. Widows/widowers whose petitions have been revoked may be granted a second chance to have their cases heard. In addition, the USCIS must consider humanitarian reinstatement for said individuals. Furthermore, even if a widowed spouse had not previously petitioned for citizenship, he or she will still qualify for deferred action protection under this DHS directive.

Deferred action is not a permanent solution to immigration status. It is merely a mechanism by which individuals or groups can bide time to apply for work authorization in the U.S. The DHS directive does not grant alien spouses of deceased U.S. citizens permanent resident status. For a change like that to take effect, Congress would have to revise the wording of the Immigration Nationality Act to allow spouses and qualified immediate relatives to remain indefinitely in the country.

Posted On: June 12, 2009

USCIS Announces Delays in Production of Green Cards

The USCIS, per a May 29, 2009 announcement, has warned permanent residents of a delay in the delivery of green cards. According to officials, this delay may take up to eight weeks for some applicants. The delay is due to technical reasons: the USCIS is repairing and upgrading its permanent resident card equipment.

What should you do if you need a green card now?

Just because you can’t get your permanent resident card right away doesn’t mean that you must (or even should) go without evidence of your immigration status for long.

The USCIS operates a number of field offices for your convenience. Set an interview appointment at one of these field offices to start the process of obtaining an I-551 Stamp. This will serve as temporary evidence of your status. Bring a passport to your interview. If you don’t have a current passport, you’ll need appropriate identification. The USCIS recommends alternatively bringing along a “passport style photo” as well as your current U.S. government issued ID. National Benefit Centers and Service Centers can also assist you with obtaining this temporary evidence of status stamp.

What happens after your interview?

After your in-person appointment, you will need to take one additional step to collect your I-551 stamp: gather your documents and make an INFOPASS appointment to physically obtain the stamp. Once you have this temporary proof of status, remember that you’ll still need to follow through and get your permanent green card. If your delay is longer than eight weeks, you may want to contact a USCIS Field Office or Service Center for assistance.

Posted On: June 12, 2009

USCIS Urges Applicants to Get Advance Parole Prior to Traveling Abroad

A May 29, 2009 update put out by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) warns visa applicants that they must obtain Advance Parole before they traveling outside of the U.S.

What is Advance Parole?

It is essentially a permission slip to allow visa applicants and other aliens to be able to return to the U.S. after traveling outside the country. Without Advance Parole, individuals can have a very difficult time returning to the U.S. As a result, their pending visa applications can be denied or closed.

Who needs Advance Parole?

As a visa applicant, you need Advance Parole if:

1. You have an application for legalization pending.
2. You have an application for adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent U.S. resident pending.
3. You have an application pending to seek relief under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act pursuant to Section 203.
4. You have an application pending for asylum in the United States.
5. You are classified as under Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

How do you obtain Advance Parole?

Applicants need to fill out Form I-131. You can find this at the USCIS website under the heading “Immigration Forms.” It’s also referred to as “Application for Travel Document.”

What else do you need to know about Advance Parole?

• Applicants should plan in advance. It takes around 90 days to process I-131 Forms.
• Illegal aliens may be barred from re-entry even if they do obtain Advance Parole. That said, immigration law is nuanced in this regard. An illegal alien may or may not be granted Parole, depending on how long he or she has been in the U.S. See the USCIS website for details.
• Refugees and asylum seekers may not need Advance Parole – instead, these individuals may need a Refugee Travel Document. Form I-131 (see above) can be used to apply.
• Refugees and asylum seekers may have to complete other requirements, like biometric processing, before they may travel abroad.