Posted On: August 31, 2011

FY2012 H-1B Cap Update

As of August 26, 2011, the USCIS has received approximately 29,000 Bachelor's degree petitions and 15,800 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: August 29, 2011

California Service Center Open House

The California Service Center (CSC) located in Laguna Niguel, California will be holding an open house on Wednesday, September 21, 2011. Half hour sessions will start at 1:00 p.m. and end at 3:30. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet with CSC staff, tour the facility, and attend informational session on family and employment immigration. RSVP to CSCopenhouse@dhs.gov or check the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov under the Outreach tab.

Posted On: August 26, 2011

DHS Prioritizes Removal Cases

On August 18, 2011, DHS announced that it is focusing resources on the highest enforcement priorities and identifying removal cases that are of the lowest priority. The working group consists of various government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Executive Office of Immigrantion Review (EOIR) and Office of Immigration Litigation (OIL). The working group is in the process of identifying low priority cases that are pending before the immigration court and taking steps to administratively close these cases. The working group will also set up guidelines for immigration authorities to review prior to placing individuals in removal proceedings and immigration court. The DHS announcement is NOT an amnesty program and individuals should retain a qualified immigration attorney to evaluate his/her immigration situation. More information can be found on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website: http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=36705

Posted On: August 15, 2011

Changes in I-130 Processing For Petitioners Abroad

According to a recent New York Times article, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/13/us/13iht-immigration.html, the new approach of the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) towards I-130 processing that has taken effect today appears likely to substantially lengthen the amount of time that Americans living overseas must wait before bringing along their noncitizen spouses or children if they return to the United States.

The USCIS' new approach towards the processing of a visa document known as the I-130—which allows the entry of a citizen's alien relative—requires those abroad to now mail their petitions to a central office in Chicago. According to the USCIS, this system will be more "efficient and consistent and centralized," as Americans in the United States with foreign-national relatives are currently required to file their petitions in Chicago as well. Authorities predict a maximum processing time of about five months, after which applicants apply to the U.S. State Department for the actual visa. But the current system for those abroad relies on in-person visits to U.S. consular or immigration offices and generally takes just one to three months.

The USCIS has been seeking a more efficient method of processing I-130 petitions after the State Department billed the agency for its I-130 work last year for a total of $3 million. The USCIS has said that the change "will increase the efficiency of the relative petition filing process and give USCIS more flexibility in managing its workload."

While the change affects a relatively small number of people, expatriates say the procedures will impose serious burdens on U.S. companies doing business overseas and that consular officials, in face-to-face interviews, are better situated to catch fraud, to understand local documents and languages, and to quickly resolve potential problems.

Should you have any questions or concerns surrounding the new I-130 filing procedures for those abroad, please contact our office.

Posted On: August 10, 2011

September 2011 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin for September 2011 is out at this link: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5542.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 August 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 December 2008.

Posted On: August 9, 2011

Prevailing Wage Determinations Delayed

The Department of Labor (DOL) has suspended its issuance of new Prevailing Wage Determinations (PWDs) so that all its resources can be dedicated to complying with a federal court order requiring the reissuance of approximately 4,000 H-2B PWDs.

Suspending prevailing wage processing effectively prevents employers from filing PERM and other applications, such as Schedule A I-140 petitions. As a result of this delay, all new PERM and Schedule A I-140 cases should expect significant delays. There has been no official notification as to when the issuance of PWDs will resume, but the DOL has urged employers to file Prevailing Wage Requests at least 60 days in advance. As such, if you are interested in beginning the PERM or Schedule A process, please contact our office immediately.

We will continue to provide updates as we receive information regarding the status of PWDs.

Posted On: August 5, 2011

FY2012 H-1B Cap Update

As of July 29, 2011, the USCIS has received approximately 22,700 Bachelor's degree petitions and 13,800 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: August 4, 2011

Government Immigration Initiatives to Encourage Entrepreneurship

The United States government has recently unveiled several initiatives designed to attract and retain foreign entrepreneurs, particularly in the high-tech sector, who wish to launch start-up companies in the United States. Although there will be no statutory or regulatory changes to immigration law, clarifications will be issued for existing visa categories to enable more entrepreneurs to gain entry into the United States and to bring speed and efficiency to the visa application process.

EB-2 Initiative

Among the initiatives is a plan to make it easier for foreigners who can demonstrate their work will be in the U.S. national interest to qualify for legal permanent residence, or green cards.

Foreign entrepreneurs will be eligible for a second-preference (EB-2) immigrant visa without a specific job offer as long as they demonstrate that their business endeavors will be in the U.S. national interest.

To qualify, an entrepreneur must seek employment in an area that has substantial intrinsic merit, must demonstrate that the proposed benefit to be provided will be national in scope, and present a national benefit so great as to outweigh the national interest inherent in the labor certification process, a process requiring employers to prove to the Department of Labor that they are unable to find a suitable candidate for the job position in the domestic market.

H-1B Initiative

The government seeks to bolster use of H-1B visas by foreign entrepreneurs by allowing sole entrepreneurs to qualify for an H-1B if the individual's employment is decided by a corporate board or shareholders of the start-up company. This would satisfy the regulatory requirement that a United States employer establish that it has an employer-employee relationship with respect to the beneficiary, as indicated by the fact that it may hire, pay, fire, supervise or otherwise control the work of any such employee.

As long as documents provided in support of the H-1B petition show that there is a right to control by the petitioner over the employment of the beneficiary, then a valid employer-employee relationship may be established. The start-up company must also be able to establish that the right to control the entrepreneur's work will continue to exist throughout the duration of his or her employment term.

EB-5 Initiative

The EB-5 investor program that enables foreign investors and their families to qualify for green cards if they invest at least $500,000 in a U.S. project that generates at least 10 jobs will also undergo improvements to be more welcoming to foreign entrepreneurs.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) seeks to speed up the approval process by hiring additional adjudicators to evaluate applications. Petitioners will also be provided with the opportunity to make their case before an expert panel should their application require further evidence or be denied.

To discuss immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs, please contact our office.

For more, see http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904292504576482573203358158.html.

Posted On: August 3, 2011

Nonimmigrant Visa Denials: Players Benched

The media has issued several recent articles documenting the United States' notable nonimmigrant visa denials of the Ugandan Little League Team and members of the Newcastle United Football Club.

The Rev. John Foundation Little League team from Kampala, Uganda was set to be the first African team to participate in the Little League Baseball World Series, held every summer in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. However, problems surrounding the players' documentation plagued the 11- to 13-year-olds, mainly due to the fact that in Uganda, establishing age and identity is complicated because birth certificates are rare and parents or guardians are often illiterate.

In failing to meet the United States' requirements for travel visas, the team was denied visas at the American Embassy. Little League Baseball and Softball officials chose not to appeal to the State Department. Some urge that in the future, Little League should require teams attempting to qualify for the World Series to go through a preliminary visa approval process so that there are no last-minute disappointments.

Another team has suffered setbacks due to U.S. visa denials: the Newcastle United Football Club. Midfielders Joey Barton and Yohan Cabaye and Striker Nile Ranger were denied U.S. visas to participate in the Premier League club's pre-season tour of the United States. Barton and Ranger both failed to get visas due to previous criminal convictions and Cabaye's denial was based on minor technical problems.

In light of the United States' strict requirements surrounding nonimmigrant visas, particularly in an age of increased immigration enforcement, we urge all those seeking to obtain U.S. visas abroad to closely adhere to the requirements of the U.S. consulates and embassies.

Please visit http://www.usembassy.gov/ for more information regarding specific visa application requirements.

Posted On: August 1, 2011

Halting the HALT Act?

The HALT Act ("Hinder the Administration's Legalization Temptation" Act, H.R. 2497) was introduced on July 12, 2011 by Representative Lamar Smith, D-Tex., Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. A companion bill (S. 1380) was introduced in the Senate by Senator David Vitter, R-La.

Proposed legislation would suspend certain powers the President has under current law to prioritize the deportation of criminals and suspend the deportation of individuals whose countries have been decimated by natural disasters, whose families serve in the U.S. military, or for whom other circumstances warrant leniency or special consideration. Executive powers would be restored on January 22, 2013, the day after President Obama's first term ends.

Seventy-five Democratic members of Congress subsequently signed a letter to President Obama in opposition to the HALT Act, which they described to Obama as "a direct attack on your judgment, knowledge of the law, and ability to apply the laws of the United States firmly and equitably for the benefit of the American people."

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held a hearing on the HALT Act on July 26, 2011. The American Immigration Lawyers Association stood with over 70 organizations working with victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, and other violent crimes, in urging Congress to reject the HALT Act.

For more information on the HALT Act, please see http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/dissecting-halt-act-impact-eliminating-discretion-our-immigration-system.