July 29, 2016

U.S. State Department May Revoke Visa for DUI Arrest without Determination of Guilt

Based on the recently released guidance from the U.S. Department of State (DOS), individuals who hold nonimmigrant visas in the U.S. are likely to face severe consequences if arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or a related offense. Earlier this year, DOS made public all unclassified content in its policy manual for DOS and its officers. According to its policy manual, DOS “has the authority to prudentially revoke a visa on the basis of a potential [health-related ground of] ineligibility” when DOS receives notification of “an arrest or conviction of driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, or similar DUI arrests/convictions that occurred within the previous five years.”

Please contact our office if you plan to travel internationally using a nonimmigrant visa and have been arrested or convicted for a DUI or a related offense. Please also contact our office if you have any questions.

For more information, please visit the following website.

March 7, 2016

Electronic Travel Authorization for Visa-Exempt Travelers to Canada

Starting March 15, 2016, visa-exempt foreign nationals who fly to or transit through Canada will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). However, from March 15, 2016 until fall 2016, travelers who do not have an eTA can board their flight, as long as they have appropriate travel documents, such as a valid passport. During this time, border services officers can let travelers arriving without an eTA into Canada, as long as they meet the other requirements to enter Canada. Exceptions to the eTA process include U.S. citizens and travelers with a valid visa for entrance to Canada. The eTA process is similar to the U.S.’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), and individuals who travel to Canada on a regular basis or may be seeking to apply to the U.S. consulates in Canada as Third-Party Nationals are encouraged to apply early.

A list of visa-exempt countries can be found here.

For more information on the eTA process and how to apply, please go to the following website.

Please contact our office if you have any questions or need any assistance.

January 26, 2016

DHS’s Final Rule Impacting Highly Skilled Workers Effective February 16, 2016

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) final rule, effective on February 16, 2016, revises regulations affecting highly skilled workers in the nonimmigrant classifications for specialty occupations from Chile, Singapore (H-1B1) and Australia (E-3); the immigrant classification for employment-based first preference (EB-1) outstanding professors and researchers; and nonimmigrant workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) classification.

In particular, DHS is including H-1B1 and principal E-3 classifications in the list of classes of foreign nationals authorized for employment incident to status with a specific employer. This means that H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants are allowed to work for the sponsoring employer without having to separately apply for employment authorization. Additionally, DHS is authorizing continued employment with the same employer for up to 240 days for H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants whose status has expired while their employer’s timely filed extension of stay request remains pending.

This final rule does not impose any additional costs on employers and minimizes the potential of employment disruptions.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about the final rule or need any assistance.

For more information about DHS’s revised regulations affecting highly skilled workers, please go to USCIS’s website.

October 7, 2015

Information on 2017 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program Now Available

Information on the 2017 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2017), including instructions on submitting an electronic entry, answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs), and a list of countries/areas by region whose natives are eligible for DV-2017 is now available. Entries must be submitted electronically between October 1, 2015, and November 3, 2015.

The congressionally mandated Diversity Immigrant Visa Program will provide 50,000 Diversity Visas for the 2017 fiscal year. Diversity Visas are drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who meet strict eligibility requirements, and who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

Successful Diversity Visa entrants must have at least a high school education or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program.

For more information, please go to the U.S. Department of State’s website.

August 13, 2015

Entrepreneurs: Thinking About Starting or Expanding a Business in the United States?

Although a foreign national entrepreneur must usually obtain authorization from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through the immigrant or nonimmigrant visa process to live and work in the United States, there are a variety of options available to come to the United States to start or expand a business. For example, an entrepreneur may be eligible for certain nonimmigrant classifications such as E-2 Treaty Investor or a B-1 Business Visitor. An E-2 classification enables an entrepreneur from a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States to invest a substantial amount of money in a new or existing U.S. business. And a B-1 classification allows an entrepreneur to come to the United States to secure funding or office space, negotiate a contract, or attend certain business meetings in connection with opening a new business in the United States.

It is important to determine which classification works best as not every classification that USCIS administers will allow an entrepreneur to work in the United States. Most employment-based petitions are issued for a specific type of activity with a specific employer. Also, certain nonimmigrant classifications are subject to annual numerical limitations. These limitations can affect the amount of time it may take for an entrepreneur to obtain authorization to live and work in the United States.

We practice exclusively immigration law, and our office can assist in determining the appropriate visa classification for your circumstances and business plans. Please feel free to contact us to learn more information. We recommend that you consult with us early to best explore your U.S. immigration options in light of your business and personal goals.

For additional general information about the visa categories available for foreign nationals looking to start or expand businesses in the United States, visit USCIS’s Visa Guide for Entrepreneurs.

August 12, 2015

California Governor Signs Bill Removing “Alien” from Law

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that removes the term “alien,” used in reference to foreign-born workers, from the California Labor Code. According to KPCC, Democratic Sen. Tony Mendoza of Artesia stated that removing the term was an important step toward modernizing California law because it is now commonly viewed as derogatory term.

To read the KPCC article please go to the following website.

January 31, 2015

USCIS Delays in Processing EAD Applications

The employment authorization document (EAD) provides for employment authorization. Once the EAD expires, however, the employee must stop working. Continued employment is not permitted based on the filing an application to extend the EAD.

The USCIS is required by law to adjudicate EAD applications in 90 days. However, it has recently acknowledged that this requirement is not being met in many cases. The USCIS allows an EAD applicant or their counsel to initiate a service request once the person's EAD application has been pending for at least 75 days. Such a request can be made by calling the National Customer Service Center or using its e-Request system. The expectation is that, once a service request is made, the USCIS will prioritize the case and issue the EAD within the 90-day timeframe.

We recommend applying as far in advance of the EAD expiration date to minimize the probability of a gap in employment eligibility. EAD renewal applications may be filed up to 120 days prior to the expiration date of the existing EAD.

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact our office.

January 30, 2015

USCIS Will Begin Accepting Requests for Expanded DACA on February 18, 2015

On January 29, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it will begin accepting requests for expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on February 18, 2015.

The expanded DACA program expands the population potentially eligible for DACA to individuals of any current age who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, and have lived in the U.S. continuously since January 1, 2010. In addition, the validity period of DACA’s accompanying work authorization is extended from two years to three years.

Please contact our office if you need any assistance filing a DACA request, or if you have questions about the eligibility requirements.

For a summary of USCIS’s planned initiatives relating to the President’s executive actions on immigration, including information on the expanded DACA program, you may go to the following website: http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction#1

October 2, 2014

2016 Diversity Program Registration

The Department of State (DOS) opened registration for the 2016 Diversity Visa Program (DV-2016) on October 1, 2014, and it will close at noon (EST) on November 3, 2014. Applicants must submit entries electronically during the registration period at https://www.dvlottery.state.gov/. DOS encourages applicants not to wait until the last week of the registration period to enter, as heavy demand may result in website delays. There is no cost to register for the DV Program.

The congressionally mandated DV Program provides a maximum of 55,000 Diversity Visas each fiscal year. Diversity Visas are drawn from random selection among all entries to individuals who meet strict eligibility requirements, and who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. To be eligible, successful Diversity Visa entrants must have at least a high school education or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or experience.

Please feel free to contact our office for more information about the Diversity Visa Program.

June 11, 2014

Study Shows Highly-Skilled Immigrants Create Jobs for U.S. Citizens

A recent study from the Partnership for a New American Economy—a group advocating the economic case for streamlining and modernizing our immigration system—found that when companies have difficulty getting H-1B visas for highly-skilled immigrants, it is bad news for the local tech sector and for U.S. born computer workers who do not have college degrees. This study measured how different cities fared in the 2007 and 2008 H-1B lotteries. The study found that cities with a high number of H-1B petitions not selected in the 2007 and 2008 lotteries “[took] a hit” to their computer sectors and their U.S. born workers. These cities generated slightly fewer jobs for U.S. tech workers with college degrees, but many fewer jobs for U.S. born tech workers without college degrees. For more information, see the article in Vox: http://www.vox.com/2014/6/4/5779472/study-high-skilled-immigrants-jobs-Americans-h1b-visa-lottery.

June 6, 2014

USCIS Accepting Renewals for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) Program

On June 5, 2014, Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, announced the renewal process for individuals enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA allows certain individuals who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the U.S. and apply for employment authorization for a period of two years. Effective immediately, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting DACA renewal requests. USCIS encourages individuals to submit their renewal request approximately 120 days (four months) before their current period of deferred action expires to avoid a lapse in the period of deferral and employment authorization.

In addition, USCIS continues to accept initial DACA requests. You may request DACA if you:

(1) Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
(2) Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
(3) Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
(4) Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
(5) Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
(6) Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
(7) Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Please contact Cornerstone Law Group if you need any assistance filing a DACA renewal or an initial DACA request. For more information on the DACA renewal process see http://www.uscis.gov/news/secretary-johnson-announces-process-daca-renewal. Also, to learn more about DACA and its guidelines see www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals.

February 10, 2014

What To Do If Your I-94 Reads "Not Found"

If you tried to retrieve your I-94 from the cbp.gov online system at:


and you receive a response that your I-94 is "Not Found," please review the following checklist to help you check for mistakes and try to enter the information again:

1. Did you enter your first and last name the same way it appears on your Passport? (Do not use dashes or titles.)
2. Did you enter the correct number as your Passport number? (The number is on the upper right hand side of your Passport.)
3. Did you enter your country of citizenship? (The country that issued the Passport, not where you currently live.)
4. Under Class of Admission, did you enter the Visa classification that appears on your U.S. Visa OR if you are traveling under the Visa Waiver program (VWP) enter WT/WB?
5. If you entered your first and middle name and it's not found, try one name or the other. Also try entering your first and middle name in the first name box.
6. Try entering either your most recent date of entry or your original date of entry into the United States.
If you still cannot find your I-94, please contact your nearest Customs and Border Protection Deferred Inspection Site – CBP.gov -- and a CBP Officer will assist you. When you open the link to the Deferred Inspection Site, you will find an alphabetical list of locations within the United States.

Please Note: Asylees and refugees should have received a handwritten or stamped I-94 upon entering the United States and will not be able to retrieve I-94 information online.

-- USCIS website

February 10, 2014

Boehner Darkens Horizon on Immigration Reform

Just days after releasing the House GOP’s draft of principles for immigration reform, House GOP Speaker John Boehner told reporters on February 6 that its chances of passing anytime soon were in mortal peril. Boehner said he and his members “by and large support” the immigration reform framework he and his leadership team had released. But he added, “I’ve never underestimated the difficulty in moving forward this year” and suggested that because of his own party’s complaints about working with the Obama administration, the issue might prove too much to overcome.

President Obama had praised House Republicans for moving forward on immigration this month and has said he’s willing to accept their demands that legislation be broken into a series of smaller parts. But he also hinted that he might consider further executive action, perhaps even expanding an existing White House order deferring deportations for young undocumented immigrants, if Congress fails to act.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the president was “optimistic about the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform in 2014” despite Boehner’s latest comments. As for whether Obama might resort to executive action to bypass Congress on the issue, Carney downplayed the idea. “There’s no alternative to comprehensive immigration reform passing through Congress,” he said. “It requires legislation.”

Regardless of Boehner’s long-term plan, his remarks reflect real concerns within his caucus that passing immigration reform in 2014 is a bad idea either on the policy merits or the politics.

February 3, 2014

GOP Drafts Immigration Reform Principles

House Republicans released a draft of principles on immigration reform as House GOP members gathered for their retreat to discuss their position on a range of issues.
Here is a synopsis of the draft on Immigration Reform:

Reforms to Employment-Based Immigration
The draft emphasizes the importance of employment-based immigration reform. Stating that each year thousands of foreign nationals pursue degrees at U.S. colleges and universities, particularly in high-skilled fields, the draft states that because of current laws, their expertise doesn’t spur economic growth or create jobs for Americans. The GOP’s draft calls for Visa and Green Card allocations that reflect the needs of employers and the need for these individuals to help the U.S. economy.
The draft states that the goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of the country and to strengthen national security by creating realistic, enforceable, usable, legal paths for entry into the United States. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry. It is imperative, the draft states, that these temporary workers are able to meet U.S. economic needs and do not displace or disadvantage U.S. workers.
Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement
Full implementation of a workable electronic employment verification system.
Border Security and Interior Enforcement
First on the GOP agenda is securing the U.S. borders. In addition, once immigration reform is enacted, the draft emphasizes zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their Visas in the future.
Implement Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System
The Republicans want a fully functioning Entry-Exit system, which has been mandated by eight separate statutes over the past 17 years. At least three of these laws call for this system to be biometric, using technology to verify identity and prevent fraud. The Republicans want to implement this system to identify and track down visitors who abuse U.S. laws.
The draft outlines provisions for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to the United States as children once they meet certain eligibility standards, serve honorably in the U.S. military or attain a college degree.
Individuals Living Outside the Rule of Law
The draft outlines a national and economic security policy that will require people living and working in the U.S. illegally to come forward – offering them the opportunity to live in the U.S. if they are willing “to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).” Criminal aliens, gang members, sex offenders, and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program.

June 5, 2013

Mandatory E-Verify is in the Foreseeable Future

E-Verify (Electronic Verification) is an Internet based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). E-Verify is designed to allow participating employers to confirm the employment eligibility of all newly hired employees by using DHS’s and SSA’s databases. Currently, E-verify participation is voluntary for most businesses. However, some companies may be required by state law or federal regulation to use E-Verify, such as most employers in Arizona and Mississippi. E-Verify is also mandatory for employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify clause.

The “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act” (S.744) was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate. S.744 will require all employers to implement E-Verify. Failure to verify work authorization through E-Verify after the mandatory enrollment date will raise a presumption that the employer knowingly hired an unauthorized worker.

E-Verify is also the subject of numerous other bills recently introduced to Congress. These bills would make E-Verify mandatory and would expand to include current employers to make E-Verify part of the employment application process. Additionally, Congress granted the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) funding for the E-Verify program. Whether or not comprehensive immigration reform occurs, it seems highly probable that E-Verify will be mandatory for all employers in the foreseeable future.

Please contact our office for more information about E-Verify. There is also more information, including how to enroll, available on the USCIS website. Go to http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis and click on the E-verify Homepage box on the right.

May 8, 2013

Employers – Remember to switch to the new Form I-9

Starting May 7, 2013, all Employers must only use the new version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (released March 8, 2013), for new hires and re-verifications. You must re-verify an employee on the new Form I-9 if his or her temporary employment authorization has expired. You can find the new Form I-9 and instructions as well as the Handbook for Employers at http://www.uscis.gov/i-9. All previous versions will no longer be valid after May 6, 2013.

Here are a few tips for Employers:

• You will find the revision date of the new I-9 in the lower left corner (03/08/13).
• All current employees must have a Form I-9 on file.
• All new employees and re-verifications must be given the entire new Form I-9, including the "List of Acceptable Documents."
• You should only accept documents that are unexpired when completing an employee’s Form I-9.
• Be sure to keep both pages together. You should consider printing two-sided copies.
• E-Verify users - List B documents must contain a photo, and the Social Security number field must be filled in.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

May 3, 2013

New Automated Form I-94 Arrival/Departure-Record Process for Foreign Visitors

On April 30, 2013, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) went paperless with the automation of the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record for individuals lawfully admitted to the United States. Individuals will no longer have to fill out a paper Form I-94 when entering the U.S. by air or sea. However, CBP will still issue a paper Form I-94 at land border ports of entry. This change has been implemented at some air and sea ports including, Charlotte- Douglas International Airport, Orlando International Airport, Las Vegas Airport, Chicago O’Hare, Miami International Airport and Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport, and will continue across the nation through May 2013. Additionally, individuals will now be able to access their Form I-94 information online at www.cbp.gov/I94.

February 7, 2013

ICE fines San Diego-Area Companies for Hiring Unlawful Employees

One of the ways HSI identifies potential hiring violations is by auditing employers' Form I-9s, the document businesses use to verify an employee's eligibility to work. As part its enforcement strategy to reduce illegal employment and protect job opportunities for the nation's lawful workforce, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that 10 employers in San Diego and Imperial counties were fined by ICE during fiscal year 2012 for various employment-related violations.

Collectively, the fines totaled more than $173,800, with the largest fine, $50,000, being lodged against a San Diego-area medical transportation service. The fines were imposed after ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) found the businesses had failed to comply with laws prohibiting the hiring of unauthorized workers. In fiscal year 2012, HSI conducted 151 worksite audits in San Diego and Imperial counties, compared to 86 audits the previous year and 63 audits in fiscal year 2010.

January 31, 2013

White House Fact Sheet on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

White House fact sheet on 2013 immigration plan that will strengthen our borders, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers, hold undocumented people accountable before earning citizenship and streamline immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

FACT SHEET: Fixing our Broken Immigration System so Everyone Plays by the Rules

America’s immigration system is broken. Too many employers game the system by hiring undocumented workers and there are 11 million people living in the shadows. Neither is good for the economy or the country.

It is time to act to fix the broken immigration system in a way that requires responsibility from everyone —both from the workers here illegally and those who hire them—and guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules.

President Obama’s common sense immigration reform proposal has four parts. First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

Together we can build a fair, effective and commonsense immigration system that lives up to our heritage as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

The key principles the President believes should be included in commonsense immigration reform are:

Continuing to Strengthen Border Security: President Obama has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents since 2004 and today border security is stronger than it has ever been. But there is more work to do. The President’s proposal gives law enforcement the tools they need to make our communities safer from crime. And by enhancing our infrastructure and technology, the President’s proposal continues to strengthen our ability to remove criminals and apprehend and prosecute national security threats.

Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers: Our businesses should only employ people legally authorized to work in the United States. Businesses that knowingly employ undocumented workers are exploiting the system to gain an advantage over businesses that play by the rules. The President’s proposal is designed to stop these unfair hiring practices and hold these companies accountable. At the same time, this proposal gives employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.

Earned Citizenship: It is just not practical to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living within our borders. The President’s proposal provides undocumented immigrants a legal way to earn citizenship that will encourage them to come out of the shadows so they can pay their taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else. Immigrants living here illegally must be held responsible for their actions by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, going to the back of the line, and learning English before they can earn their citizenship. There will be no uncertainty about their ability to become U.S. citizens if they meet these eligibility criteria. The proposal will also stop punishing innocent young people brought to the country through no fault of their own by their parents and give them a chance to earn their citizenship more quickly if they serve in the military or pursue higher education.

Streamlining Legal Immigration: Our immigration system should reward anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules. For the sake of our economy and our security, legal immigration should be simple and efficient. The President’s proposal attracts the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here and helping the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take their skills to other countries. The President’s proposal will also reunify families in a timely and humane manner.

Continuing to Strengthen Border Security

Strengthen border security and infrastructure. The President’s proposal strengthens and improves infrastructure at ports of entry, facilitates public-private partnerships aimed at increasing investment in foreign visitor processing, and continues supporting the use of technologies that help to secure the land and maritime borders of the United States.

Combat transnational crime. The President’s proposal creates new criminal penalties dedicated to combating transnational criminal organizations that traffic in drugs, weapons, and money, and that smuggle people across the borders. It also expands the scope of current law to allow for the forfeiture of these organizations’ criminal tools and proceeds. Through this approach, we will bolster our efforts to deprive criminal enterprises, including those operating along the Southwest border, of their infrastructure and profits.

Improve partnerships with border communities and law enforcement. The President’s proposal expands our ability to work with our cross-border law enforcement partners. Community trust and cooperation are keys to effective law enforcement. To this end, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will establish border community liaisons along the Southern and Northern borders to improve communication and collaboration with border communities, boost funding to tribal government partners to reduce illegal activity on tribal lands, and strengthen training on civil rights and civil liberties for DHS immigration officers.

Crack down on criminal networks engaging in passport and visa fraud and human smuggling. The President’s proposal creates tough criminal penalties for trafficking in passports and immigration documents and schemes to defraud, including those who prey on vulnerable immigrants through notario fraud. It also strengthens penalties to combat human smuggling rings.

Deporting Criminals. The President’s proposal expands smart enforcement efforts that target convicted criminals in federal or state correctional facilities, allowing us to remove them from the United States at the end of their sentences without re-entering our communities. At the same time, it protects those with a credible fear of returning to their home countries.

Streamline removal of nonimmigrant national security and public safety threats. The President’s proposal creates a streamlined administrative removal process for people who overstay their visas and have been determined to be threats to national security and public safety.

Improve our nation’s immigration courts. The President’s proposal invests in our immigration courts. By increasing the number of immigration judges and their staff, investing in training for court personnel, and improving access to legal information for immigrants, these reforms will improve court efficiency. It allows DHS to better focus its detention resources on public safety and national security threats by expanding alternatives to detention and reducing overall detention costs. It also provides greater protections for those least able to represent themselves.

Cracking Down on Employers Who Hire Undocumented Workers

Mandatory, phased-in electronic employment verification. The President’s proposal provides tools for employers to ensure a legal workforce by using federal government databases to verify that the people they hire are eligible to work in the United States. Penalties for hiring undocumented workers are significantly increased, and new penalties are established for committing fraud and identity theft. The new mandatory program ensures the privacy and confidentiality of all workers’ personal information and includes important procedural protections. Mandatory electronic employment verification would be phased in over five years with exemptions for certain small businesses.

Combat fraud and identity theft. The proposal also mandates a fraud‐resistant, tamper‐resistant Social Security card and requires workers to use fraud‐and tamper‐resistant documents to prove authorization to work in the United States. The proposal also seeks to establish a voluntary pilot program to evaluate new methods to authenticate identity and combat identity theft.

Protections for all workers. The President’s proposal protects workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights. It increases the penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers to skirt the workplace standards that protect all workers. And it creates a “labor law enforcement fund” to help ensure that industries that employ significant numbers of immigrant workers comply with labor laws.

Pathway to Earned Citizenship

Create a provisional legal status. Undocumented immigrants must come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass criminal background and national security checks, and pay fees and penalties before they will be eligible for a provisional legal status. Agricultural workers and those who entered the United States as children would be eligible for the same program. Individuals must wait until the existing legal immigration backlogs are cleared before getting in line to apply for lawful permanent residency (i.e. a “green card”), and ultimately United States citizenship. Consistent with current law, people with provisional legal status will not be eligible for welfare or other federal benefits, including subsidies or tax credits under the new health care law.

Create strict requirements to qualify for lawful permanent resident status. Those applying for green cards must pay their taxes, pass additional criminal background and national security checks, register for Selective Service (where applicable), pay additional fees and penalties, and learn English and U.S. civics. As under current law, five years after receiving a green card, individuals will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship like every other legal permanent resident.

Earned citizenship for DREAMers. Children brought here illegally through no fault of their own by their parents will be eligible for earned citizenship. By going to college or serving honorably in the Armed Forces for at least two years, these children should be given an expedited opportunity to earn their citizenship. The President’s proposal brings these undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.

Create administrative and judicial review. An individual whose provisional lawful status has been revoked or denied, or whose application for adjustment has been denied, will have the opportunity to seek administrative and judicial review of those decisions.

Provide new resources to combat fraud. The President’s proposal authorizes funding to enable DHS, the Department of State, and other relevant federal agencies to establish fraud prevention programs that will provide training for adjudicators, allow regular audits of applications to identify patterns of fraud and abuse, and incorporate other proven fraud prevention measures.

Streamlining Legal Immigration

Keep Families Together. The proposal seeks to eliminate existing backlogs in the family-sponsored immigration system by recapturing unused visas and temporarily increasing annual visa numbers. The proposal also raises existing annual country caps from 7 percent to 15 percent for the family-sponsored immigration system. It also treats same-sex families as families by giving U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the ability to seek a visa on the basis of a permanent relationship with a same-sex partner. The proposal also revises current unlawful presence bars and provides broader discretion to waive bars in cases of hardship.

Cut Red Tape for Employers. The proposal also eliminates the backlog for employment-sponsored immigration by eliminating annual country caps and adding additional visas to the system. Outdated legal immigration programs are reformed to meet current and future demands by exempting certain categories from annual visa limitations.

Enhance travel and tourism. The Administration is committed to increasing U.S. travel and tourism by facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining our nation’s security. Consistent with the President’s Executive Order on travel and tourism, the President’s proposal securely streamlines visa and foreign visitor processing. It also strengthens law enforcement cooperation while maintaining the program’s robust counterterrorism and criminal information sharing initiatives. It facilitates more efficient travel by allowing greater flexibility to designate countries for participation in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of designated countries to visit the United States without obtaining a visa. And finally it permits the State Department to waive interview requirements for certain very low-risk visa applicants, permitting resources to be focused on higher risk applicants and creates a pilot for premium visa processing.

“Staple” green cards to advanced STEM diplomas. The proposal encourages foreign graduate students educated in the United States to stay here and contribute to our economy by “stapling” a green card to the diplomas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) PhD and Master’s Degree graduates from qualified U.S. universities who have found employment in the United States. It also requires employers to pay a fee that will support education and training to grow the next generation of American workers in STEM careers.

Create a “startup visa” for job-creating entrepreneurs. The proposal allows foreign entrepreneurs who attract financing from U.S. investors or revenue from U.S. customers to start and grow their businesses in the United States, and to remain permanently if their companies grow further, create jobs for American workers, and strengthen our economy.

Expand opportunities for investor visas and U.S. economic development. The proposal permanently authorizes immigrant visa opportunities for regional center (pooled investment) programs; provides incentives for visa requestors to invest in programs that support national priorities, including economic development in rural and economically depressed regions ; adds new measures to combat fraud and national security threats; includes data collection on economic impact; and creates a pilot program for state and local government officials to promote economic development.

Create a new visa category for employees of federal national security science and technology laboratories. The proposal creates a new visa category for a limited number of highly-skilled and specialized immigrants to work in federal science and technology laboratories on critical national security needs after being in the United States. for two years and passing rigorous national security and criminal background checks.

Better addresses humanitarian concerns. The proposal streamlines immigration law to better protect vulnerable immigrants, including those who are victims of crime and domestic violence. It also better protects those fleeing persecution by eliminating the existing limitations that prevent qualified individuals from applying for asylum.

Encourage integration. The proposal promotes earned citizenship and efforts to integrate immigrants into their new American communities linguistically, civically, and economically.

January 10, 2013

USCIS Customer Service Improvements

USCIS has expanded the capabilities of two online tools, My Case Status and e-Request, to provide these more flexible options:

• My Case Status now allows customers to view the current status of applications they submit, no matter which USCIS form they used. My Case Status now lets them track, through our Secure Mail Initiative (SMI), the mailing and delivery of USCIS-produced cards and documents. SMI permits customers to use our website to access the U.S. Postal Service tracking numbers of their documents.
• e-Request now allows customers to inquire electronically about applications and petitions they submit to USCIS. They can use this tool to request a follow-up on their case status if they do not receive documents related to three of our most-used forms: Form I-485, Application to Adjust Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

In addition, USCIS is expanding operating hours at their National Customer Service Center to include Saturdays. Beginning Jan. 12, customers nationwide can call the toll-free number (800-375-5283) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays to receive nationwide assistance for immigration services and benefits offered by USCIS. USCIS customer service representatives can answer routine questions on a wide variety of topics related to immigration services and benefits, including ordering forms, processing times, and information on local offices and civil surgeons. For individuals seeking answers to more complex issues regarding their case, we recommend calling the NCSC Monday through Friday for access to case adjudication officers.

For more details about contacting USCIS for information and assistance, please visit our website at www.uscis.gov.

January 9, 2013

State Department Introduces Online Visa Status Check

US Department of State has introduced the online "Visa Status Check", which allows both immigrant and nonimmigrant applicants to check the status of their cases at the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC).

Link to the Visa Status Check system: Online Visa Status Check

December 21, 2012

Happy Holidays!


February 23, 2012

Automatic Visa Revalidation

For certain nonimmigrants traveling outside of the U.S. to select geographic locations for 30 days or less, they may be able to avail themselves of a process known as automatic visa revalidation. This procedure allows certain individuals with previously issued visas to be readmitted when:

• Seeking readmission in the same nonimmigrant classification as shown on an expired visa, or

• Seeking readmission under a different nonimmigrant classification than shown on an expired or valid visa if a change of status occurred while in the U.S., and

• Seeking readmission after an absence of 30 days or less from the U.S., and

• Seeking readmission after travel to a "contiguous territory" such as Canada or Mexico (for individuals in F or J status, this also includes travel to "adjacent islands other than Cuba"), and

• Seeking readmission after having maintained nonimmigrant status, and

• Seeking readmission without having applied for a visa while outside the U.S.

The individual must present the following:

• Valid passport

• Valid Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) with an unexpired period of initial or extended authorized stay

• Expired or valid nonimmigrant visa in any classification

• Valid Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 if in F, M, or J status

Please note that Canadian citizens are typically exempt from the requirement to present a visa for admission to the U.S. except in the E or K classifications. In such circumstances, they must have been admitted at least once under the visa in order to be eligible for automatic visa revalidation. Please also note that nationals of Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation. For more information on this process, please contact our offices.

October 20, 2011

USCIS Director Announces Initiatives Aimed at Employment-Based and High-Skilled Immigration

On 10/20/11, USCIS Director, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, issued a letter outlining USCIS’ efforts and commitment to enhancing its policies and procedures towards improving U.S. economic success, particularly with respect to employment-based and high-skilled immigration. He cites to the following examples of the efforts made thus far by USCIS:

Adjudication of Petitions filed by Businesses Requesting L Intracompany Transferees

• On October 12, 2011, USCIS conducted a specialized training session for adjudicators on the L-1B classification to reinforce the principles set forth in existing L-1B policy guidance. We will continue this training.
• USCIS is revising Request for Evidence (RFE) templates for nonimmigrant employment-based categories, including the L intracompany transferee classification. Our RFE practices continue to be an area of intense review and reform.
• On August 18, 2011, the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) launched a new initiative to seek stakeholder input through the submission of amicus curiae briefs. The first request sought amicus briefs relating to the denial of an I-140 petition (Kazarian vs. USCIS). The AAO plans to request amicus briefs on a case related to the L-1B visa classification next.
• USCIS will in the next week make available a new bundled filing option for businesses filing for multiple L intracompany transferees.

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

• In May 2011, USCIS issued a proposal to streamline and enhance the EB-5 program, and we have since implemented the first of the proposed enhancements: direct access for EB-5 Regional Center applicants to reach adjudicators quickly. We have also retained business analysts to support our adjudicators and are in the process of selecting full-time economists to bolster our expertise. In addition, we have retained an outside consultant to reengineer our business process from beginning to end.

Industry-Specific Enhancements

• In August 2011, USCIS announced a series of policy, operational, and outreach efforts to spur economic growth and job creation. Among other things, we clarified our policies to reflect the availability of the H-1B visa and the EB-2 national interest waiver to foreign-born entrepreneurs, and we are providing the needed training complement.
• To build on these efforts, we announced last week a new Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative, which will help us harness the expertise of industry leaders to inform our policy development and our training, so that we better understand and more ably address the realities and needs of the business community we serve.