Posted On: January 27, 2010

11 New Countries Eligible for H-2A and H-2B Visa Programs

The DHS secretary has designated 11 new countries as eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant visa programs. The new countries include: Croatia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ireland, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia and Uruguay. This update is published in the Federal Register.

Posted On: January 26, 2010

Department of State Creates 2010 Haiti Earthquake Website

The Department of State has created a Haiti earthquake webpage, which includes a Person Finder that can be used by anyone looking for or having information about anyone in Haiti. There is also contact information to use with respect to the welfare and whereabouts of U.S. citizens in Haiti. The webpage is found at http://www.state.gov/p/wha/ci/ha/earthquake/index.htm.

Posted On: January 26, 2010

USCIS Joins Blogging Community

USCIS has launched an official blog titled, The Beacon, which is found at http://www.uscis.gov/blog. It provides information about various issues of interest and concern to the USCIS.

Posted On: January 26, 2010

Visa Waiver Program Travelers Must Complete Online Application

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds U.S.-bound travelers from visa waiver program (VWP) countries that they must obtain an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding a plane or ship headed to the U.S. ESTA has been mandatory since Jan. 12, 2009 and does not affect U.S. citizens returning from overseas or citizens of VWP countries traveling on a valid U.S. visa. ESTA applications are submitted online at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/esta/ and are generally valid for up to 2 years with multiple entries permitted. A relative, friend, or travel agent may submit an application for a VWP traveler. The ESTA website is currently available in 21 languages.

Posted On: January 22, 2010

USCIS Changes Organizational Structure

The USCIS has announced changes to its organizational structure, including the creation of a Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate and a Customer Service Directorate. The USCIS has also divided the Domestic Operations Directorate into two directorates. These changes have been made by the USCIS in an attempt to deliver better service. An organizational chart showing these changes can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/News/Images/USCISOrgChart.JPG.

Posted On: January 22, 2010

Form DS-160 Now Required at U.S. Consulates in India

Effective January 19, 2010, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas at U.S. Consulates in India must use the Department of State's new web-based Form DS-160. This form replaces the DS-156, DS-157 and DS-158, which are no longer accepted in India. More information about this change can be found at: http://www.usembassy.gov/.

Posted On: January 22, 2010

Immigration Judges Now Have Authority to Make Employment Portability Decisions

On January 21, 2010, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) held that Immigration Judges (IJ's) can decide if an I-140 immigrant petition, which is filed when seeking an employment-based green card, remains valid after the beneficiary changes jobs or employers. There is a law, known popularly as AC21, that allows a beneficiary of an immigrant petition to switch jobs during the employment-based green card process (provided certain criteria are met). Whether someone is eligible to port (transfer) to a new employer has typically been a decision reserved for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is not part of the court system. Today's BIA decision places this authority in the hands of IJ's for those in deportation/removal proceedings. This is a significant decision for employment-based green card beneficiaries in proceedings as it allows IJ's the authority to determine that an individual's employment-based immigrant petition is still valid and they are still eligible for permanent residence in the U.S.

Posted On: January 21, 2010

USCIS Brochure - Avoiding Immigration Fraud

Today the USCIS published a brochure for the public about how to avoid becoming a victim of immigration fraud when seeking assistance with your immigration case. The brochure is found here: http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/USCIS%20fraud%20brochure.pdf. You should only seek assistance from attorney(s) in good standing or authorized representatives as discussed in the brochure. If you have any questions about this brochure or need our assistance with your immigration case, application or petition, please don't hesitate to contact our office. Detailed information about our law firm can be found at this site: http://immigration.cornerlaw.com/.

Posted On: January 21, 2010

DHS Secretary Names 39 Countries that may Participate in H-2A and H-2B Programs This Year

Every year, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, in consultation with the Department of state, identifies (through a notice published in the Federal Register) the countries that are eligible to participate in the H-2A (temporary agricultural worker) and H-2B (temporary non-agricultural worker) programs for that year. This year, the following countries have been designated:

Argentina, Australia, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Moldova, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

No other changes were made to the H-2A or H-2B nonimmigrant categories.

Posted On: January 20, 2010

Notice of TPS for Haitians to be Published 01/21/2010

On 01/19/2010, the USCIS issued an advance copy of the notice granting Haitians in the U.S. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for the next 18 months due to the 7.0 earthquake that has devastated their country. TPS means that Haitians currently in the U.S. with TPS protection cannot be removed/deported to Haiti at this time. The final notice will be published in the Federal Register on 01/21/2010. Haitian nationals must register for TPS in order to receive the protection. The registration period will run for 180 days (6 months) and TPS eligibility will be for 18 months. Fees will be required for the forms, fingerprints, and for travel documents, if sought. Eligible applicants may apply for fee waivers. Please contact our office for further assistance.

Posted On: January 20, 2010

Expedited U.S. Citizenship for Members of the Military

The DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced January 15, 2010 that the citizenship process for men and women defending the U.S. has been streamlined by a new law amending former DHS regulations. This new law reduces the time requirements for naturalization through U.S. military service from 3 years to 1 year for applicants who served during peacetime. The law also extends benefits to members of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve of the U.S. Armed Forces. Members who have served honorably in active-duty status or in the Selected Reserve for any time since 09/11/2001, can file for citizenship immediately. In an effort to increase efficiency and honor those defending the U.S., the new law also eliminates the need for military members to provide certain redundant biographic information with their citizenship applications.

Posted On: January 15, 2010

It's H-1B Season!

The FY2011 H-1B cap filing period will open 04/01/2010 (for a 10/01/2010 start date). Employers that sponsor foreign nationals for H-1B temporary worker status must show that the proffered position is a "specialty occupation," which means that it requires a minimum of a Bachelor's degree (or equivalent experience) for entry. The foreign national must also hold the relevant Bachelor's degree or higher to serve in the position.

As you may know, there is a limited number of H-1B slots each year (known as the H-1B quota). Currently, there are 65,000 slots afforded to foreign nationals with a Bachelor's degree or higher and 20,000 afforded to U.S. Master's degree holders. In prior years, as early as 2008, the quota was reached within days of April 1. Last year, the quota remained open until December 21, 2009 due to the poor economy and lack of H-1B filings. There is no telling what will occur this year as the results are often unpredictable. Accordingly, we plan to file all H-1B petitions on March 31, 2010 for an April 1, 2010 arrival at the immigration service. This leaves under 3 months to prepare these petitions. Please contact our office as soon as possible if you'd like to file an H-1B petition under this year's cap. We'd be pleased to assist you with this process.

Posted On: January 15, 2010

Temporary Protected Status Granted to Haitians

On January 15, 2010, the DHS Secretary granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians in the U.S. as of January 12, 2010. TPS will allow eligible Haitians to continue working and living in the U.S. for the next 18 months. Those who attempt to travel to the U.S. after January 12, 2010 will not be eligible for TPS and will be repatriated.

Posted On: January 14, 2010

Senators Urge President Obama to Grant TPS to Haitians

On January 13, 2010, 15 Senators wrote to President Obama, urging him, as a result of the recent devastating earthquake, to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians currently in the U.S. TPS is a protection granted to nationals who cannot safely return to their home country due to natural disasters or armed conflict. TPS was granted to Honduras and Nicaragua in 1999, following Hurricane Mitch, and to El Salvador in 2001, following several earthquakes. In line with many organizations, law firms, and individuals demanding TPS for Haitians, the 15 Senators explained that the chaos that has ensued as a result of the earthquake has put all Haitian citizens at risk and that deporting Haitians at this time would worsen an already dire situation. The Senators, and the many in line with the Senators thoughts, believe granting TPS would be one small way of many to address this horrible catastrophe.

Posted On: January 14, 2010

Removals to Haiti Halted Due to Earthquake

On January 13, 2010, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton stopped all removals to Haiti until further notice as a result of the recent earthquake that has devastated the area.

Posted On: January 13, 2010

USCIS Speaks on H-1B Employer/Employee Relationship

Today the USCIS issued guidance on the employer/employee relationship for purposes of H-1B specialty occupations. Whether a sufficient employer/employee relationship exists depends on the employer's right to control the means and manner in which the work is performed. The USCIS is supposed to review a variety of factors (i.e. a totality of the evidence presented in the H-1B petition) to determine whether a valid employer/employee relationship exists. Among the factors include: the petitioner's right to control the beneficiary; the supervision provided; the petitioner's control of daily work and work product; and the petitioner's right to hire, pay and fire the H-1B worker.

Posted On: January 12, 2010

USCIS Publishes 2008 Annual H-1B Report

The USCIS has compiled and published the 2008 statistics for the H-1B category. The highlights include: (1) 5% decrease in the number of H-1B petitions filed in comparison to 2007; (2) 2% decrease in the number of H-1B petitions approved in comparison to 2007; (3) 54% of H-1B petitions approved for 2008 were for workers born in India; (4) 2/3rds of the petitions were for workers between 25 and 34 years old; (5) 43% of workers had Bachelor's degree, 41% had Master's, 11% had a doctorate, and 5% had a professional degree; (6) 50% of H-1B petitions approved were for computer-related occupations; and (7) the median annual salary was $60,000.

Posted On: January 12, 2010

February 2010 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link:http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_4611.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (China is 05/22/2005 and India is 01/22/2005); EB-3 is at 2001 or 2002 depending on the category; other workers are at 2001; EB-4, religious workers, EB-5, and targeted employment areas and regional centers are all current. Family based petitions are backlogged, with the most recent date at 2006.

Posted On: January 7, 2010

Surviving Spouses File Now!

On December 2, 2009, the USCIS published an internal memorandum providing additional guidance for surviving spouses of immediate relative petitions regarding President Obama’s elimination of the widow penalty on October 28, 2009. President Obama signed a new law on that date that keeps surviving spouses and their children eligible for lawful permanent residence even if they were married to their U.S. citizen spouse fewer than 2 years at the time that spouse died. Prior to this law, there was a “widow penalty” for foreign national spouses of deceased U.S. citizens if the couple had been married fewer than 2 years at the time of the spouse’s death. In those instances, the foreign national lost his/her immediate relative status and could no longer seek permanent residence. This is no longer the case under President Obama’s new law. However, surviving spouses must file for permanent residence within 2 years of the U.S. citizen’s death to obtain the benefit of this new law. If the person’s death occurred prior to October 28, 2009, surviving spouses have until October 28, 2011 to file their petitions. This applies whether the person is pursuing an immigrant visa abroad or adjusting his/her status in the U.S. If you have any questions or need assistance with this type of petition, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.