Posted On: December 28, 2011

January 2012 E-Verify Webinars

USCIS offers free live webinars on topics relating to the E-Verify program, including information on how to maintain a legal workforce, Form I-9, and employment eligibility. E-Verify allows participating employers to verify employment eligibility of workers by comparing the data provided on the Form I-9 against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) databases. The webinars are live interactive seminars presented over the internet where participants can attend from any locale and ask questions. The topics on the January 2012 Webinar schedule are as follows:

Form I-9 Webinars: Get an overview of the Form I-9 process, including step by step instructions on how to complete each section, retention and storage.

E-Verify for Existing Users:A detailed review of E-Verify specifically for existing users. Topics include Form I-9, user roles, case alerts, how to handle a Tentative Nonconfirmation,
and common user mistakes.

E-Verify Overview: Learn how this free service works, how to enroll, employer responsibilities, program highlights, and see a demonstration.

E-Verify for Federal Contractors: Information for Federal contractors that have been or will be awarded a Federal contract with the FAR E-Verify Clause.

Self Check: An overview of the new “Self Check” program - a voluntary, fast, free and simple service that allows individuals to check their own employment eligibility.

For the specific times and dates, as well as information on how to participate, see www.dhs.gov/E-Verify and click on "Take a Free Webinar."

Posted On: December 22, 2011

"Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act" Blocked in Senate

The immigration legislation, bill H.R. 3012, the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, which would place an end to per-country caps on worker-based immigration visas has reached a road block. The bill passed with overwhelming support in the House in November, but has been put on hold by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) who has blocked the bill from coming to a vote in the Senate. Under the proposed legislation, the number of allotted immigrant visas would remain the same, but the elimination of the per-country cap (9,800 per country) would mean that permanent residence visas would be awarded on a first-come, first served basis. Skilled workers from countries such as India and China would benefit as they are currently subject to the longest waits.

Senator Grassley stated that he has placed the bill on hold due to his concerns about “future immigration flows” and the impact it may have on Americans seeking high-skilled jobs in the U.S. Unless substantial changes are made to the bill, he does not plan on removing his hold. Since the legislation needs to be approved by the Senate and then signed into law by the President, we will have to continue to wait and see as the fate of the bill appears to currently lie in the hands of this one Senator.

Posted On: December 13, 2011

January 2012 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5630.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current for all countries; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (Jan. 1, 2009); EB-3 is at February 1, 2006 for all countries, except for India (Aug. 8, 2002) and China (Oct. 15, 2004); EB-3 other workers is at February 1, 2006 for all countries, except India (Aug. 1, 2002), China (April 22, 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 22, 2009 for F2A (spouses and children under 21 of lawful permanent residents) and the longest queue for F4 Philippines (brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizens) of Oct. 8, 1988.

Posted On: December 8, 2011

Changes to Schedule of Fees for Consular Services

Effective December 6, 2011, the Department of State has implemented changes to the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services for nonimmigrant visa and border crossing card application processing fees. These changes include the following:

• Increase of $131 to $140 for the fee charged for the processing of an application for most non-petition-based nonimmigrant visas (Machine-Readable Visas or MRVs) and adult Border Crossing Cards (BCCs)

• New tiers of the application fee for certain categories of petition-based nonimmigrant visas, including treaty trader and investor visas

• Increase from $13 to $14 for the BCC fee charged to Mexican citizens under age 15 who apply in Mexico, and whose parent or guardian already has a BCC or is applying for one

The Schedule of Fee for Consular Services is as follows for Nonimmigrant Visa Services:

Nonimmigrant visa and border crossing card application processing fees (per person):

(a) Non-petition-based nonimmigrant visa (except E category): $140
(b) H, L, O, P, Q and R category nonimmigrant visa: $150
(c) E category nonimmigrant visa: $390
(d) K category nonimmigrant visa: $350
(e) Border crossing card--age 15 and over (valid 10
years): $140
(f) Border crossing card--under age 15; for Mexican
citizens if parent or guardian has or is applying for a
border crossing card (valid 10 years or until the
applicant reaches age 15, whichever is sooner): $14

Posted On: December 1, 2011

Bill Ending Per-Country Limits on Skilled Workers

On November 30, 2011, the House passed immigration legislation that would end per-country caps on worker-based immigration visas. The vote, 389-15, was in favor of a measure that would change the law governing employment-based visas which currently states that any one country cannot exceed 7 percent of the total number of allotted immigrant visas. Currently, the law provides 140,000 green cards annually to employment-based immigrants, but the per country cap of 7% (i.e. 9,800 per country) means that countries like India and China with over a billion population are limited to the same number of visas as much less populated countries around the world. Instead, the new measure would award permanent residence visas or green cards on a first-come, first served basis. The elimination of the per-country cap would therefore particularly benefit skilled workers from India and China who currently face the longest backlogs in obtaining permanent residence visas. Sponsors of the bill, including many high-tech companies, believe that the new legislation will benefit the U.S. by encouraging highly skilled foreign workers to stay in the U.S. and use their skills towards strengthening the U.S. economy. Others, however, fear that it will result in overall backlogs in the employment-based categories as the number of allotted immigrant visas will remain the same. For now, it remains to be seen if this legislation will become law. Although the bill has passed the House, it still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President.