On October 30, 2009, the USCIS announced that 53,800 of 65,000 regular cap petitions have been received. In addition, approximately 20,000 U.S. Master's or higher petitions (i.e. advanced degree petitions) have been received. Any advanced degree petitions received from here on out will count toward the regular cap of 65,000. The USCIS is still accepting petitions at this time, but it is advised that any H-1B petitions be filed as soon as possible as the USCIS could announce that the cap is closed at any time.
On October 28, 2009, Obama signed into law a bill that ends the widow penalty for surviving spouses of deceased U.S. citizens. Previously, a foreign national married fewer than two years to a U.S. citizen who died was deportable upon that death. This new bill removes the two year requirement and allows surviving spouses to self-petition for permanent resident status (i.e. green card status). This includes any children as well. For those married two years or more at the death of the spouse, the law remains the same and self-petitioning is permitted.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an individual seeking admission as an immigrant or seeking to adjust status to lawful permanent resident is inadmissible if he/she is likely to become a public charge. "Public charge" is defined as "primarily dependent on the government for subsistence as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long term care at government expense." Over the years there has been concern that non-citizens who receive certain public benefits may face immigration consequences and be incorrectly labeled a "public charge" as a result of this law. For example, some individuals are eligible for disaster relief programs, treatment against communicable disease immunizations, and child nutrition and health programs. These benefits do not render someone a "public charge" as defined above. In order to ensure that the label of "public charge" is properly used, there are several factors for the immigration service to consider, including age, health, family status, assets, resources, financial status, education and skills. Hopefully by doing a careful analysis of these factors the immigration service will not make erroneous public charge determinations at the expense of admissible and lawful non-citizens.
President Obama signed a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) FY2010 spending bill on October 28, 2009 that extends various immigration programs through 2012, including non-minister religious workers, E-Verify, and EB-5 visas. The law also allows the immigration service to continue processing the green card applications of surviving spouses whose husband or wife dies during the adjudication process.
The Department of Homeland Security has published a report estimating the lawful permanent resident (i.e. green card) population as of January 2008. In it, the DHS approximates that 12.6 million green card holders lived in the U.S. as of that date with half obtaining green card status in 2000 or later and the other half obtaining it between 2005-2007.
The USCIS has issued an update reminding applicants to apply early for advance parole and refugee travel documents to ensure adequate processing. Advance parole is required for travel for applicants who have been granted Temporary Protected Status, applicants who have pending applications for adjustment of status, applicants with pending applications for relief under NACARA 203, applicants with pending asylum applications, or applicants with pending applications for legalization.