USCIS has announced a large decline in the filing of employment-based immigrant petitions in the EB-1 category (Priority Worker, including Aliens of Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Professors and Researchers; and certain Multinational Executives and Managers). The reduction in EB-1 filings began in October 2010 and continues to be in decline. As a result, the unused numbers will be reallocated to the EB-2 category (Members of Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability). Currently, at least 12,000 additional numbers will be made available to the EB-2 category. The unused numbers will be distributed according to the priority date order and India has the greatest concentration of early dates. Therefore, the EB-2 category for India with a current cut-off date of May 2006 will soon be experiencing an advancement in the movement of priority dates.
USCIS has launched the E-Verify Self Check Program, an online service that will allow workers to check their own employment eligibility status. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) already have in place the E-Verify program, a similar on-line service used by employers to compare data from worker’s Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9) against federal government databases to verify a worker’s employment eligibility. The E-Verify Self Check allows workers to verify their own information and make any corrections to inaccurate data that may otherwise result in a mismatch when seeking employment. E-Verify Self Check is a free, voluntary on-line process made up of these four steps:
1. Users enter identifying information online (such as name, date of birth and address)
2. Users confirm their identity by answering demographic and/or financial questions generated by a third-party identity assurance service
3. Users enter work eligibility information such as a Social Security number or Alien Registration number
4. E-Verify Self Check checks users’ information against relevant SSA and DHS databases and provides information on users’ employment eligibility status
The on-line tool is fast and secure, and the data provided by users will not be shared with their current or prospective employers. Please note however that the results derived from this self-check service used by workers will not replace the search results that an employer will continue to conduct through the employer E-Verify Program. Currently, the E-Verify Self Check service is only available to users living in Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, Mississippi, Virginia or the District of Columbia, but USCIS plans to expand the service in the months to come. For more information, see www.uscis.gov/everify.
On April 1, 2011, USCIS will begin accepting FY 2012 H-1B cap petitions with employment start dates beginning October 1, 2011. Cases will be considered accepted on the date that it is received by USCIS, not the postmarked date. Meanwhile, USCIS will continue to accept H-1B cases that are not subject to the numerical cap, including the following petitions:
• H-1B extension of status.;
• H-1B change of employer;
• H-1B amendments; and
• H-1B concurrent employment.
For assistance in filing a timely FY 2012 H-1B petition by April 1, 2011, please contact our office
Immigration Relief for Japan and Other Pacific Region Nationals Effected by Earthquake and Tsunami Crisis
USCIS has announced relief for Japanese and other foreign nationals from the Pacific region effected by the current tsunami and earthquake crisis in Japan. Those stranded in the U.S. and who have either exceeded or about to exceed their authorized stay will be allowed up to an additional 30 days to depart. Visitors traveling under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are advised to contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at the airport, and all others traveling under a non-immigrant visa should visit the local USCIS office. Stranded individuals should bring their passports, proof that they are stranded (e.g. an itinerary for the cancelled flight), and their I-94 departure record. For additional immigration relief options, see the Special Situation page at www.uscis.gov.
The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5368.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 remains current, except for India (May 2006) and China (July 2006); EB-3 is at July 2005 for all countries, except for India (April 2002), China (Mar. 2004), and Mexico (May 2004); EB-3 other workers is at July 2003 for all countries, except India (April 2002), China (April 2003); 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 April 2007.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that the compliance date for the REAL ID Act has been changed from May 11, 2011 to January 15, 2013. Under the REAL ID Act, federal agencies cannot accept a state driver's license or personal identification card for any official purpose unless the document meets the requirements set forth in the Act. ``Official purpose'' pursuant to the Act and regulations includes, but is not limited to, accessing federal facilities and boarding federally regulated commercial aircrafts. Therefore, an individual with non-compliant state identification would be subject to additional screening or would have to provide additional or alternative documents in order to travel on commercial airlines or access government facilities for federal services. In order for states to comply with the standards set forth in the Act, states will have to implement systems and infrastructure enhancements, including upgrades to security features on identification documents and the protection of personal identity information. Many states continue to struggle with the funds and resources to implement the necessary changes to comply with the REAL ID Act. In light of these difficulties, DHS has extended the date by which states must show full compliance to January 15, 2013.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing a rule that will require employers who are filing petitions on behalf of individuals subject to the H-1B cap to first file electronic registrations with USCIS during a designated registration period. H-1B petitions are subject to a numerical cap of 65,000 per fiscal year and an additional 20,000 H-1B petitions are set aside for individuals who have earned a U.S. masters’ degree or higher. Based on the electronic registration information, USCIS will be able to determine whether the H-1B cap will be reached by the first day that H-1B petitions are accepted for filing for a particular fiscal year. If the cap is not reached, USCIS would then notify the registered employers of their eligibility to file an H-1B petition and will continue to accept and select registrations until the H-1B cap is reached. If USCIS determines that the H-1B cap will be reached by the first day that H-1B petitions may be accepted for filing for a particular fiscal year, it will close the registration before the said date and randomly choose registered petitioners to meet the allotted cap. Remaining registrations may be placed on a waitlist should the H-1B applicants that were originally selected be denied. Those who are not waitlisted will be notified of their inability to file an H-1B petition for that particular fiscal year. Under this proposed rule, USCIS hopes this registration and selection process will save the prospective employer from investing the time and resources in filing an H-1B without knowing whether the cap has been reached. Additionally, it hopes this new process will reduce the administrative strain on service centers handling H-1B cases.
DHS seeks comments to the proposed registration rule. Written comments may be submitted on or before May 2, 2011 via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and include DHS Docket No. USCIS-2008-0014 in the subject line of the message.
The Department of State is warning the public to be aware of an increasing number of scams aimed at Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program applicants. The DV program is an annual lottery open to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S., and individuals who are selected are permitted to seek lawful permanent residence. The scams involve fraudulent emails and letters supposedly from the U.S. government aimed at extracting payment from the DV applicants. Applicants selected for the FY 2011 DV program were notified by the Department of State, Kentucky Consular Center, by letter. They are advised to check the status of their entries at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov from July 1, 2010, until June 30, 2011. Applicants for the FY 2012 DV program will not receive a notification letter from the U.S. government but must check their status online between May 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012. DV Entry Status Check will only be provided through the Department of State secure online site at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov. Moreover, applicants should be mindful that any website or email that does not end in “.gov” suffix is not from an official government website. For more information on the DV process, particularly on how to avoid scams, see the Diversity Visa Program webpage at http://travel.state.gov.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo has suspended all visa services and will resume its visa operations once security concerns have subsided. Visa applications for individuals interviewed through January 27, 2011 will continue to be processed and case status information for these pending cases can be found at the Embassy’s website at http://cairo.usembassy.gov. The Embassy in Cairo plans on resuming limited processing of immigrant visas shortly for the spouses and children of U.S. citizens and will contact applicants with previously scheduled interviews for rescheduling. Immigrant visa applicants who have not yet been interviewed may request another U.S. embassy to accept their immigrant visa case for processing by sending a direct request to the Immigrant Visa Unit of the respective embassy. Likewise, applicants seeking non-immigrant visas during this suspension of visa services in Cairo may apply for their visa at any U.S. embassy or consulate outside Egypt. Applicants for the 2011 Diversity Visa (DV) 2011 with interviews scheduled at the Embassy in Cairo from January30-March 31, 2011 will be contacted to have their interviews rescheduled, while remaining DV 2011 applicants who expected to be interviewed in Cairo from April–September 2011 should monitor rescheduling procedures at http://travel.state.gov. The American Citizens Services Unit at the Embassy in Cairo is currently open to U.S. citizens from 9:00 am-12:00 noon Sunday-Thursday for emergency services only. For more information on visa requirements and locations of U.S. embassies and consulates, see http://travel.state.gov.
The U.S. Consulate in Mumbai, India is reducing its visa operations as it seeks to construct a new consulate. The consulate cannot accommodate its visa applicants due to the declining conditions of the current building and anticipates opening its new facilities later this year. Applicants with H or L visa interviews that are already scheduled at the Mumbai Consulate will be able to keep their appointments. However, beginning March 7, 2011, new H or L visa appointments will no longer be available at the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai and will have to be scheduled at other sites in India, including New Delhi, Chennai, or Hyderabad. Appointments can be scheduled via VFS at https://www.vfsusa.co.in/USIndia/Index.html.