Posted On: July 27, 2011

Costco Becomes ICE IMAGE Partner

Costco Wholesale Corporation has partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to strengthen its hiring practices and help ensure it is employing a legal workforce, becoming a member of ICE's Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE).

IMAGE is a free, voluntary program that allows private sector businesses across all industries to partner with ICE to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents. Currently, over 100 businesses nationwide are IMAGE members.

Once an employer pursues IMAGE membership, ICE provides education and training on proper hiring procedures, including employment screening tools such as E-Verify and the Social Security Number Verification Services. The company's obligations under IMAGE are:

  • Enroll in the E-Verify program within 60 days of the execution of the IMAGE agreement.
  • Submit to an ICE Form I-9 inspection.
  • Within 120 days of the execution of the IMAGE agreement, establish (or provide evidence of an existing) a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy that includes internal Form I-9 audits at least once a year.

In exchange, ICE will:

  • Publicly recognize the employer.
  • Not subject the employer to a subsequent Form I-9 inspection for two years following the inspection required for IMAGE certification, absent any specific intelligence of unlawful employment.
  • Grant the employer ample time to resolve discrepancies discovered during the Form I-9 inspection.
  • Mitigate or waive fines if substantive violations are discovered on fewer than 50% of the Forms I-9.
  • Issue fines at the statutory minimum of $110 per violation if more than 50% of the Forms I-9 are found to contain substantive violations.

Employers seeking to learn more about IMAGE membership should contact a local IMAGE coordinator at 206-442-2200 or visit http://www.ice.gov/image/.

Posted On: July 26, 2011

FY2012 H-1B Cap Update

As of July 22, 2011, the USCIS has received approximately 21,600 Bachelor's degree petitions and 13,300 U.S. Master's degree petitions. The USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions for FY2012 until the quota of 65,000 Bachelor's degree petitions and 20,000 U.S. Master's degree petitions is met.

Posted On: July 22, 2011

India Biannual Fraud Update

The India Biannual Fraud Update, issued by the Department of State, provides details on the level and type of immigrant and nonimmigrant visa fraud in India-wide consular operations and concludes that fraudulent applications, particularly in the regions of Gujarat and Punjab, are still significant.

We encourage applicants at any Indian post to consider the information below prior to applying for immigrant or nonimmigrant visas abroad. Should you have any concerns about proper documentation, please contact our office.

The Update states that in FY2009, the nonimmigrant visa classes most often targeted for fraud were B1/B2 business travelers/tourists, H-1B temporary workers, F1 student visas, and P3 culturally unique artists. The most commonly targeted immigrant visa classes were IR1s or CR1s (immigrant visas for spouses of U.S. Citizens), F2B (unmarried sons and daughters 21 years of age or older of Permanent Residents) and F2A (spouses and children of Permanent Residents).

Nonimmigrant visas

Fraudulent nonimmigrant visa applications constitute the vast majority of cases referred to the Fraud Prevention Unit. B1/B2 visa fraud is the most common. Several posts are in the process of implementing improved fraud detection measures. For example, once a fraudulent document package is identified, Chennai conducts an extensive text search to identify additional cases with the same fraudulent details.

With respect to H-1B fraud, all posts regularly encounter inflated or fabricated educational and employment qualifications. H and L fraud conferences have been held throughout India to better train officers.

Student applications, even legitimate ones, have been highly scrutinized due to the involvement of document vendors who present fraudulent documents for applicants. Chennai has encouraged Indian students not to rely on visa facilitators.

Immigrant visas

False family relationships and fictitious marriages and divorces plague the F and CR categories across all posts. Because the Indian custom of arranged marriages makes adjudicating IR and CR particularly difficult (as husband and wife often do not meet until just before marriage), Fraud Prevention Officers often rely on online phone lists to locate phone numbers in the area in which applicants live and call neighbors to obtain information about the applicants.

Posts also frequently encounter misrepresentations of marital status in order to benefit from later "current processing dates" and misrepresentations of the ages of children in order to become eligible to immigrate.

The Update notes that the primary factors affecting fraud rates are the existence of regionally-based fraud rings and document vendors throughout the country that produce fraudulent documents for visa application and travel purposes, the ease of obtaining genuinely-issued, but fraudulent passports, and the ease of obtaining fraudulent civil documentation.

Posted On: July 20, 2011

FY2012 H-1B Cap Update

As of July 15, 2011, the USCIS has received approximately 20,500 Bachelor's degree petitions and 12,800 U.S. Master's degree petitions. The USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions for FY2012 until the quota of 65,000 Bachelor's degree petitions and 20,000 U.S. Master's degree petitions is met.

Posted On: July 18, 2011

2012 Diversity Visa Entry Status

Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) lottery entrants may now check the status of their DV-2012 entry at the Department of State Electronic DV website through June 30, 2012.

Good luck!

Posted On: July 18, 2011

ICE I-9 Audits of Small Businesses

The New York Times recently published an article on Form I-9 audits of small businesses by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/14/business/smallbusiness/how-a-small-business-can-survive-an-immigration-audit.html. As noted in the article, the Obama administration has stepped up ICE's worksite enforcement program on the theory that employers who hire unauthorized workers create the demand that drives most illegal immigration.

Because ICE does not categorize audits by business or industry type, employers of all sizes should comply with I-9 requirements, retain proper I-9 documentation, and take appropriate action upon receipt of "no-match letters" from the Social Security Administration. Employers can also enroll in E-Verify, a federal program that lets employers determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States electronically, or choose to participate in the Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program, designed to provide participating employers with the knowledge and tools needed to establish proper hiring procedures, detect fraudulent documents, and avoid discrimination in the hiring process.

Please contact our office if your company would like assistance in developing a worksite compliance program.

For more on E-Verify, please see http://www.dhs.gov/e-verify.
For more on IMAGE, please see http://www.ice.gov/image.

Posted On: July 14, 2011

August 2011 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin for August 2011 is out at this link: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5518.html.

Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (April 2007); EB-3 is at November 2005 for all countries, except for India (June 2002) and China (July 2004); EB-3 other workers is at May 2005 for all countries, except India (June 2002) and China (April 2003); EB-4, religious workers, EB-5, and targeted employment areas and regional centers are all current.

Family based petitions remain backlogged, with the most recent date at July 2008.

Posted On: July 14, 2011

FY2012 H-1B Cap Update

The USCIS has issued an updated cap count for its last count on July 1, 2011.

As of July 1, 2011, the USCIS has received approximately 19,000 Bachelor's degree petitions and 12,200 U.S. Master's degree petitions. The USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions for FY2012 until the quota of 65,000 Bachelor's degree petitions and 20,000 U.S. Master's degree petitions is met.

Posted On: July 6, 2011

FY2012 H-1B Cap Update

As of July 1, 2011, the USCIS has received approximately 18,400 Bachelor's degree petitions and 11,900 U.S. Master's degree petitions. The USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions for FY2012 until the quota of 65,000 Bachelor's degree petitions and 20,000 U.S. Master's degree petitions is met.