Effective April 5, 2010, Greece may now participate in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This means Greek citizens may apply for admission to the U.S. at the port of entry without first obtaining a visa. The VWP exists for individuals wishing to visit the U.S. for business or pleasure for a period not to exceed 90 days (3 months).
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has changed the policy on work visa issuance for Mexican citizens. Starting February 22, 2010, any Mexican citizen applying for H-1B, H-2B, E-1, E-2, TN or L-1 work visas will receive a one-year validity period only. The policy came about after Mexico decided to raise its visa fees for U.S. citizens coming into its country. In response, the DOS removed the multi-year visa approval options from Mexico. This change applies to Mexican citizens seeking to come to the U.S. and Mexicans already in the U.S. seeking work visa renewals after February 22, 2010.
The USCIS published questions and answers that address the automatic extension of F-1 student status in the U.S. (known as, "cap gap relief") for certain students with pending or approved H-1B change of status petitions (from F-1 to H-1B) under the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 H-1B cap (i.e. petitions requesting a start date of Oct. 1, 2010). If you have questions about whether you or someone you know is eligible for this type of extension, please see the USCIS' Q&A webpage at this site: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=1d175ffaae4b7210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=b56db6f2cae63110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD.
The Department of State (DOS) has a six-month passport list, which includes countries that extend passport validity for an additional six months after expiration. This is relevant to the U.S. requirement upon entry or application that a passport be valid for six months beyond the expiration of the person's authorized stay or authorized admission. Certain countries have entered into agreement with the U.S. to allow the U.S. to add six months validity to the expiration date on a foreign national's passport so that the person may meet this U.S. requirement. The countries on this list include:
Algeris; Andorra; Angola; Antigua and Barbuda; Antilles; Argentina; Armenia; Aruba; Australia; Austria; The Bahamas; Barbados; Belgium; Belize; Bermuda; Bolivia; Bosnia/Herzegovina; Brazil; Bulgaria; Bunna; Canada; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cote D'Ivoire; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Egypt; El Salvador; Estonia; Ethiopia; Fiji; Finland; France; Gabon; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Grenada; Guatemala; Guinea; Guyana; Hong Kong; Hungary; Iceland; India; Indonesia; Ireland; Israel; Jamaica; Japan; Latvia; Lebanon; Libya; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macau; Macedonia; Madagascar; Malaysia; Maldives; Malta; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mexico; Monaco; Mongolia; Montenegro; Mozambique; Nepal; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Norway; Pakistan; Palau; Panama; Papua New Guinea; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; San Marino; Serbia; Seychelles; Singapore; Slovakia; Slovenia; South Africa; South Korea; Spain; Sri Lanka; St. Kitts and Nevis; St. Lucia; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; Sweden; Switzerland; Taiwan; Thailand; Trinidad and Tobago; Tunisia; Turkey; Tuvalu; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; Uruguay; Uzbekistan; Venezuela; Vietnam; and Zimbabwe.
The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_4805.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (China is 09/22/2005 and India is 02/01/2005); EB-3 is at 2001 (India) or 2003 (all other countries); EB-3 Mexico is currently unavailable; EB-3 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.
The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a report stating that 1,130,818 individuals became lawful permanent residents (i.e. "green card" holders) of the U.S. in 2009. 59% of those green card holders already resided in the U.S. when their green card was approved. Approximately 2/3's of the individuals received their green card through family (through either a U.S. citizen or green card holder). Of the 1,130,818 green card applicants, the majority were born in either China, Mexico or the Philippines.
The Department of Labor (DOL) has implemented a program called We Can Help for low wage workers. It includes a hot-line [866-4US-WAGE (487-9243)] that workers can call to obtain information about workplace rights or to file a complaint.
The USCIS has issued a 16-minute naturalization (U.S. citizenship) video for applicants, which includes information about eligibility requirements, the application process, the interview and the required tests. To see the video, please visit this link: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=76574bbe6cb97210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=d6369ddf801b3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD.
The USCIS announced today that it will continue to accept FY2011 H-1B petitions. The H-1B category has annual quotas of 65,000 for holders of Bachelor's degrees or the equivalent and 20,000 for holders of U.S. Master's or higher degrees. The FY2011 period to file these petitions opened April 1, 2010. As of today, the USCIS has received 13,500 Bachelor's degree petitions and 5,600 Master's degree petitions. This means there are many slots left! Please contact our office if you'd like our assistance with your H-1B petition.