December 5, 2014

President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration—What this Means for Business Immigration

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration that will include: (1) creating a deferred action program for the parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children who meet the eligibility requirements; (2) implementing a “Priority Enforcement Program”; and (3) streamlining immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to boost the economy and create jobs in the U.S.

Actions related to business immigration changes include:

• Providing portable work authorization for high-skilled workers awaiting Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status and their spouses;
• Enhancing options for foreign entrepreneurs;
• Strengthening and extending on-the-job training for STEM graduates of U.S. universities;
• Streamlining the process for foreign workers and their employers, while protecting American workers;
• Reducing family separation for those waiting to obtain LPR status; and
• Ensuring that individuals with lawful status can travel to their countries of origin.

For more detailed information from the White House, please click here (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/11/20/fact-sheet-immigration-accountability-executive-action).

The President’s announcement was welcome news. However, as is often the case with new immigration measures, it may be some time before the actual implementation of the new programs. The USCIS has not yet announced any timeline for implementation of these changes. Detailed information about the timeline for implementation can be found on the USCIS’s Executive Actions website at: http://www.uscis.gov/immigrationaction.

November 21, 2014

President Obama Addresses the Nation on Immigration Reform

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced he will provide immediate relief for many of those impacted by of our immigration system, and he is offering Congress an architecture for the permanent reforms.

Under the new policies announced, the Obama Administration will build on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by providing temporary relief for the parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents. The new program, to be called Deferred Action for Parents (DAP), will ensure that millions of U.S. Citizen and lawful permanent resident children will remain unified with their parents. The President also announced new enforcement policies and steps to improve the adjudication of business and family visas.

According to the American Immigration Council, every U.S. President since at least 1956 has granted temporary immigration relief to one or more groups in need of assistance. Like his predecessors, President Obama did not provide a permanent legal status to anyone—only Congress can do that.

For questions and updates on eligibility and application procedures, please contact our office.

September 4, 2014

Recent Trend: A Purchased Airline Ticket May Result in COS or AOS Denial

A number of U.S. employers have recently received denials for change of status (COS) and adjustment of status (AOS) applications where the beneficiary purchased, but did not use, an airline ticket to depart the United States. The only reason cited in the denials is that the foreign national’s alleged departure from the United States shows constructive abandonment of the application.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has informed USCIS of this trend, classifying it as a simple office training issue. On August 6, 2014, CBP explained that when a foreign national purchases an international plane ticket, this information is uploaded to its computer system, which is shared with USCIS. Referred to as an “implied departure,” the ticket is displayed on the preliminary screen in the system’s electronic record for the ticketed foreign national. If the USCIS officer fails to click to a deeper level of the electronic record, he or she will not know whether the foreign national actually boarded the plane and departed the United States. CBP is actively taking steps to rectify this issue and expects a speedy resolution.

If you would like to find out more about “implied departures” or have received such a denial, feel free to contact our office.

August 4, 2014

Technical Difficulties at Embassies and Consulates Worldwide

On July 29, 2014, the U.S. Department of State announced that its consular system is experiencing technical difficulties, which began in mid-July. The problem is worldwide and not specific to any particular country or visa category. These difficulties have prevented some U.S. embassies and consulates from issuing passports, visas, and other official documents. The State Department assured the public that it is working diligently in investigating the cause of the performance issues and to restore full functionality to its global database. Please refer to the State Department website for regular updates on the status of visa issuance.

If you would like to know more about the status of visa issuance and/or how this affects you, please contact our office.

July 29, 2014

DACA and State Driver’s Licenses

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy permits individuals who arrived in the United States before the age of 16 and who meet other age, education, continuous presence, and criminal history-related requirements to remain in the United States for a renewable two-year period and to apply for work authorization. The federal REAL ID Act specifically identifies deferred action as a lawful status that would permit the issuance of a federally recognized driver’s license.

However, because the rules governing eligibility for driver’s licenses are determined at the state level, a DACA grant does not automatically provide eligibility for a state driver’s license. Because the REAL ID Act federally recognizes deferred action as lawful presence, there are strong arguments for states to issue driver’s licenses to deferred action grantees. DACA recipients who do obtain work authorization and social security numbers qualify under the eligibility rules for a driver’s license in almost every state. Currently, otherwise-eligible DACA grantees can get a driver’s license in every state except Arizona and Nebraska. Litigation challenging the denial of driver’s licenses to DACA grantees in those two states is ongoing.

For more information about DACA, please contact our office.

July 14, 2014

CSC and VSC System Glitches Lead to Approval Notices Without I-94s

The USCIS California Service Center (CSC) reports that it accidentally issued I-797 approval notices without I-94 cards. It notes that corrected approval notices have been issued. If you do not receive a corrected notice by July 20, email reports@aila.org with the subject line “CSC I-797 Problem.”

The Vermont Service Center (VSC) reports a similar glitch resulting in the issuance of deficient approval notices. If you received a deficient notice from VSC for a premium processing case and have not yet received a corrected notice, contact the VSC Premium Processing Unit. If you received deficient notice for a non-premium processing case and have not yet received a corrected notice, email reports@aila.org with the subject line “VSC I-797 Problem.”

July 9, 2014

NSC Clarifies Issues for I-140 NIW and I-485 Applications

Earlier this month, the USCIS Nebraska Service Center (NSC) addressed several employment based matters at a meeting with immigration attorneys. The following is a summary of the unofficial minutes from that meeting.

Updates on Adjudicating National Interest Waiver Petitions

According to NSC, adjudications of NIW petitions have slowed because of an “[u]nforeseen operational impact.” NSC has reassured the public that the normal processing timeframe of 4 months had been restored at the end of June. The USCIS Processing Time website reflects this update.

NSC also confirmed that it approves NIW applications for entrepreneurs, though acknowledged that entrepreneurs often find it difficult to meet all three NYSDOT prongs in addition to the EB-2 advanced degree or exceptional ability requirement. The report highlighted the second prong, which a purely local business cannot fulfill; and the third prong, which a first-time entrepreneur lacking a history of achievement cannot fulfill. NSC recommended that interested entrepreneurs visit the USCIS Entrepreneurs Pathways website for useful tips and examples of evidence for NIW entrepreneur applications.

Updates on Adjudicating Employment-based Applications for Permanent Residence (Form I-485)

NSC clarified why Requests for Evidence (RFEs) are issued for all status documents (e.g., I-94s, I-797s) in employment-based I-485 cases. NSC emphasized that adjustment of status is a “discretionary benefit,” for which it can weigh previous violations or overstays as a negative factor in the adjustment adjudication process.

In addition, NSC provided four specific reasons for reviewing all of an applicant’s status:

1) The Service must look for previous periods of unlawful presence that may trigger a bar for admissibility under INA 212(a)(9).

2) The Service must ascertain whether an applicant is subject to the J-1 home residency rule under INA 212(e).

3) The Service must identify A, E, and G nonimmigrants who may be required to submit an I-508 or I-566 waiver before being able to adjust.

4) The Service must identify foreign medical graduates who may require a waiver for INA 212(e) or were admitted in H status while performing a previous medical service obligation.

If you have questions about a pending immigrant petition or a Request for Evidence you have received, please feel free to contact our office.

June 16, 2014

Medical Exam Change for AOS Applications

On June 1, 2014, USCIS limited the validity period for all Forms I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, to one year from the date of submission to USCIS. Applicants must also submit Form I-693 to USCIS within one year of the immigration medical examination. USCIS also will provide additional ways to submit Form I-693. As outlined in policy alert PA-2014-005, this updated policy applies to any Form I-693 supporting a benefit application that USCIS adjudicates on or after June 1, 2014.

June 4, 2014

Canadian Posts Can Only Process Limited TCN Cases This Summer

On April 3, 2014 the Department of State announced that all U.S. visa processing posts in Canada will accept only a very limited number of non-immigrant visa applications from Third Country Nationals (TCN) during the peak demand period of June, July, and August. A TCN applicant is a foreign national who is applying at a consulate in a country other than his home country. Canadian posts typically have appointment availability for non-Canadian applicants. However, these posts are currently experiencing such a heavy demand by Canada-based visa applicants that their ability to process TCN cases is limited. The Canadian posts encourage TCN applicants to seek appointments elsewhere in the world, such as their home countries. Emergency cases may request consideration for an interview at a Canadian post by visiting canada.usembassy.gov. TCN applicants with appointments already scheduled at a post in Canada during these months will not be affected.

May 1, 2014

Visa Office Update on Priority Dates and Demand

On April 21, 2014, the Department of State’s Visa Office made statements regarding what might be expected in terms of upcoming Visa Bulletin movement. Its comments included following:

Employment-Based 5th Preference China (EB-5):
• China EB-5 could retrogress later this year, possibly in August or September.
• Retrogression for China EB-5 in FY 2015 appears to be inevitable because there are over 7,000 I-526 applications pending and 80% are from China.
• More information about China EB-5 retrogression will likely be released this month.

Employment-Based 1st Preference (EB-1):
• It is too early in the fiscal year to predict how many unused cases will drop into the EB-2 category, though EB-1 usage is heavier this year than last year.

Employment-Based 2nd Preference India (EB-2):
• It is possible that in August or September, India EB-2 will open at 1/1/2008 (or perhaps later in 2008) to utilize the rest of the EB-2 visa numbers that were unused by the WW categories.
• The numbers that will be utilized will depend on EB-1 and EB-2 usage in the WW categories for the rest of the fiscal year (it could be 5,000 or more). This would be less than what was available in FY 2013.

Employment-Based 3rd Preference Worldwide (EB-3):
• USCIS has encouraged the Department of State to “move the category forward” over the past 5 months, though the Visa Office has limited knowledge as to the number of eligible applicants. Demand appears to be increasing, so it is unlikely that the category will move forward anytime soon. In fact, if current demand continues, something may have to be done as early as this month to slow the demand in this category.
• Q4 for FY 2014 does not look good. No movement or retrogression is possible.

Employment-Based 3rd Preference China (EB-3):
• Many Chinese nationals who are waiting in the EB-2 category have been filing to downgrade to EB-3. The effect of these requests will be reflected in the coming months.
• High demand is expected to continue in this category and a correction may be reflected within the next few months.
• If China FB-2A retrogresses because of the WW FB-2A retrogression referenced above, the unused FB demand could be used by China EB-3.

March 3, 2014

How to Update or Correct Your Immigration Records

USCIS identifies 5 ways to update or correct immigration records, depending on which document must be changed. Employees should be aware of each of these ways, especially after the resolution of an E-Verify Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC). E-Verify is an online database that employers can use to confirm the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. The employer representative submits information provided on the Form I-9 to compare with government databases. A mismatch of information results in a TNC, of which the employer must alert the employee to take steps to resolve. Notably, the employee is allowed to work until the TNC is resolved.

TNCs may be issued because the employee’s immigration records themselves are inaccurate. Correcting these inaccuracies can prevent future TNCs and other employment and immigration-related issues down the road. After resolving a TNC, USCIS recommends to the employee the following methods to correct any inaccuracies in his or her immigration records:

(1) Contact USCIS to correct Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident card) or Form I-766 (EAD card). The employee may schedule an appointment for an in-person interview at a local USCIS office on the Infopass website or call 1-800-375-5283.

(2) Submit a Privacy Act Amendment Request in writing. The written request should include (a) the reason the employee is submitting the request; (b) the information that is inaccurate; (c) proposed changes to the record; (d) date and place of birth; (e) a return address; (f) copies of the inaccurate immigration or citizenship document; (g) reason it is inaccurate; (g) A-File number and/or the full name; (h) notarized signature of the applicant; and (i) other information that may help locating the record. The request is submitted to the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act (FOIA/PA) office:

Privacy Act Amendment
USCIS
National Records Center
FOIA/PA Office
P.O. Box 648010
Lee’s Summit, MO 64064-8010

If the employee does not know the information that needs to be corrected, he or she may submit Form G-639, FOIA/PA request, to obtain his or her records. The Form can be downloaded off the USCIS website. The Form should be sent to the address above and the envelope marked with “Privacy Act Request” rather than “Privacy Act Amendment.”

(3) Contact USCIS or CBP to correct a Form I-94. If the inaccuracy is on an USCIS-issued I-94, the employee can call 1-800-375-5283. If it is on a CBP-issued I-94 (i.e., one issued when the employee entered the US), the employee must visit a local CBP Deferred Inspection Site, Port of Entry, or Port of Admission. A list of these locations is available online at the CBP website (click the “Ports” link at the bottom of the page).

(4) Visit the USCIS website for information on how to renew or replace an immigration document.

(5) Contact the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). If the employee is a student or exchange visitor, he or she can visit the ICE website for information on how to update records for students or exchange visitors.

For more information, please read through USCIS’s Fact Sheet on the topic.

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:

https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html

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.
-- MSNBC

February 3, 2014

When On-Site Inspections Cross the Line

Should you have an immigration fraud inspector visit your work site for any H-1B or L employee, please ask him or her to wait before you answer any questions until you have contacted your attorney. USCIS site inspectors are asking questions that are inappropriate to the non-immigrant Visa process. It is recommended that you do not answer any questions and contact your attorney instead. We at Cornerstone Law Group would be happy to assist you to ensure proper protocol is followed.

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.
Youth
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.

January 14, 2014

Undocumented Immigrants Eligible for CA Driver’s Licenses

In October 2013, CA Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 60, allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for CA driver’s licenses. When the law takes effect January 1, 2015, California will be the ninth state (along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) to allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally.

Under the law, the CA Department of Motor Vehicles is required to issue driver’s licenses to an undocumented immigrant who can prove his or her identity, has established CA residency, and passes the requisite driving exams. Officials have estimated that 1.4 million individuals will apply for licenses under the law.

Details about how the new licenses will look and the exact process for obtaining them are still unknown. However, Federal law does require the card to have some distinguishable letters. For example, the front of the licenses may read “DP” for “driving privilege” before the license number rather than the “DL” used on traditional licenses. Additionally, language may be added to the back of the license stating limitations, such as that the holder may not use it for federal identification purposes.

Related bills that await Governor Brown’s signature include allowing non-citizens to serve on juries and making it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers by threatening to report them to immigration authorities. Earlier this month, California allowed the first undocumented immigrant to be admitted to the CA Bar Association and legally practice law in the state.

For more details regarding the new law, please see the Reuter’s article “Illegal immigrants can get driver’s licenses under new California law.”

January 3, 2014

Undocumented Immigrant Granted CA Law License

On January 3, 2014 the California Supreme Court granted a California license to practice law to an undocumented immigrant. Sergio Garcia, 36, is from Mexico and has lived in the United States for years. He first entered California when he was less than two years old, returned to Mexico at 9, and illegally re-entered the United States at the age of 17. He attended Cal Northern School of Law and passed the California Bar exam. However, he has not yet been granted a visa due to the long backlog of applicants (his father has resident status and filed for a visa on his son’s behalf in 1994).

Garcia challenged a 1996 law barring undocumented immigrants from receiving professional licenses from government agencies or with the use of public funds. The federal government argued the California courts were funded by public money, thus precluding him from being granted a license. Meanwhile, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a series of immigrant rights bills in October, including one allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain law licenses. This law took effect January 1, 2014. On January 3, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Garcia, determining he “possesses the requisite good moral character to qualify for a law license.”

Two similar cases are pending in Florida and New York. The Obama administration has made it clear that it will oppose Bar entry to undocumented immigrants unless each state’s Legislature passes its own laws allowing it. This position is surprising considering the Obama administration has shielded from deportation those who were brought to the United States illegally as children, graduated from high school, and have a clean criminal record.

Some questions on this matter remain unresolved. It is unclear how many people will qualify to practice law under the ruling. It is also unclear whether Garcia can argue cases in federal court or in other states. It is illegal under federal law for law firms to hire him.

This ruling may lead the way to allowing undocumented immigrants to receive professional licenses in other fields, such as medicine, nursing, and accounting.

More information about Garcia and the case can be found on CNN.

November 26, 2013

Poll: Majority in U.S. Support Path to Citizenship

At a time when the prospects of the House taking up immigration reform legislation any time soon do not look promising, a new poll finds a solid majority of Americans favor a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“Today, 63% of Americans favor providing a way for immigrants who are currently living in the United States illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements, while 14% support allowing them to become permanent legal residents but not citizens,” states a new report from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute. The report found the number of Americans supporting a pathway to citizenship is even higher when the question mentions certain requirements immigrants must meet in order to qualify.

The results show Americans have remained consistent on the issue for the past year; the institute found the same number (63 percent) in March and August.

These findings are consistent across regions of the country, as well as political parties and religions. Broken down, this includes 73 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Republicans, and 57 percent of Independents. Roughly six-in-10 residents of Arizona, Ohio, and Florida also agree, as well as white evangelicals (55 percent), minority Protestants (69 percent), white, mainstream Protestants (60 percent), Catholics (62 percent), and those with no religious affiliation (64 percent).

Fifty-five percent of Hispanics thought immigration should be a priority for the President and Congress, a significantly higher number than non-Latino whites (38 percent) and non-Latino blacks (39 percent). In total, about 4 in 10 say this should be a priority.

by Sandra Lilley/NBC Latino News

August 9, 2013

Facebook CEO speaks out about Immigration Reform

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, joined tech leaders, civil rights activists and undocumented immigrants to call for comprehensive immigration reform. Zuckerberg said that this is an issue that touches not just Silicon Valley, but “the whole country.” According to the San Francisco Chronicle, political observers believe the gathering was a significant move in the immigration debate.

"You have Mark Zuckerberg, who is not known for being a big player in politics, stepping out quietly and, now, stepping out publicly," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a leading immigrants rights group in Washington, D.C. And now Zuckerberg has publicly aligned himself with Jose Antonio Vargas – [a former San Francisco State student and Chronicle staff writer who made national headlines by revealing in a New York Times Magazine article two years ago that he is an undocumented immigrant] – Sharry said. "It's not surprising this kind of political innovation is coming from Silicon Valley. They're playing to win."

To read the San Francisco Chronicle article, please see http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Zuckerberg-speaks-out-for-immigration-reform-4708737.php

July 19, 2013

House of Representatives to Discuss Children of Immigrants

The House Judiciary Committee plans to discuss at a hearing next Wednesday whether children of undocumented immigrants should be granted citizenship or legal permanent status. According to the Washington Post, this could be significant in how the House addresses immigration reform in the coming weeks.

“….the “path to citizenship” for the nation’s undocumented immigrants [will need to be addressed] in order to begin negotiations with the Senate over an immigration bill. President Obama told reporters that he would veto any House bill that didn’t include plans to establish ways for undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens or at least to obtain a permanent legal status.”

To read the Washington Post article, click here

July 18, 2013

Janet Napolitano’s Resignation – What this could mean for Immigration Reform

Janet Napolitano is resigning as Secretary of Homeland Security to become President of the University of California system. According to the Washington Post, some leading reform advocates believe Napolitano’s resignation could actually help immigration reform.

“….if Obama nominates an outsider with impeccable law enforcement bona fides — who would obviously be subject to Republican questioning at a confirmation hearing — it could take some of the steam out of GOP arguments that the Obama administration can’t be trusted to enforce border security…..bringing in someone from outside that has independent enforcement credibility could change the dynamic between the administration and the House.”

To read the Washington Post article, click here

June 28, 2013

Immigration Reform Bill Passes in Senate

On June 27, 2013, the Senate passed the immigration reform bill, “S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” with a 68-to-32 vote. This moves the U.S. towards significant immigration reform which will affect immigrant families, businesses, and the entire economy. The bill will now be sent to the House. If you have any questions, please contact Cornerstone Law Group. Additional information is available HERE

June 28, 2013

Statement by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on DOMA

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, issued a statement to the press on June 26, 2013:

“I applaud today’s Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor holding that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. This discriminatory law denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits. I am pleased the Court agreed with the Administration’s position that DOMA’s restrictions violate the Constitution. Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today's decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws."

If you have any questions, please contact Cornerstone Law Group. Additional information on DOMA can be found HERE

October 4, 2012

USCIS Introduces TN Filing Option

USCIS is now offering a new filing option for Canadians who are outside of the U.S. Effective Oct. 1, 2012, USCIS began accepting TN filings at its service centers. Currently, USCIS only accepts TN filings from those present in the U.S. who wish to extend their TN status or change their current status to TN. Canadian citizens will continue to have the option of applying for admission in TN status at a port of entry with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Additionally, please be reminded that Canadians who are outside of the U.S. also have the option of filing an L-1 petition with USCIS. They may also apply for L-1 classification and admission by presenting the L-1 application to CBP.

September 18, 2012

2014 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2014)

The Department of State (DOS) has published information on the 2014 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program on their website: http://travel.state.gov/pdf/DV_2014_Instructions.pdf. There will be 50,000 diversity visas available for FY2014 and a "green card lottery" is conducted to select winners from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Natives of the following countries are NOT eligible to apply: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible. Changes in eligibility this year include natives of Guatemala who are now eligible.

DV lottery winners must also qualify based on education (high school education or its equivalent) or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience.

Entries for the DV-2014 DV program must be submitted electronically between noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4), Tuesday, October 2, 2012, and noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4), Saturday, November 3, 2012. Applicants may access the electronic DV Entry Form (E-DV) at www.dvlottery.state.gov during the registration period. Paper entries will not be accepted. DOS strongly encourages applicants not to wait until the last week of the registration period to enter as heavy demand may result in website delays. No entries will be accepted after noon, EDT, on November 3, 2012. For the full set of DV-2014 instructions, see the above-mentioned DOS website.


September 10, 2012

U.S. Embassy In India Implements New Visa Processing System

The U.S. Embassy in India announced it is implementing a new visa processing system throughout India. Effective September 26, 2012, the new system features improved standardized procedures and simplified fee payment and appointment scheduling through a new website at www.ustraveldocs.com/in. This new website, available in English and Hindi, will allow visa applicants to fill out application forms, find out what documents are required, pay visa application fees, schedule an appointment for biometrics collection, and schedule an interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Specifically, the new visa processing system includes the following:

• U.S. visa applicants will be able to pay application fees via Electronic Fund Transfer(EFT) or with their mobile phones. They can also pay in cash at more than 1,800 Axis bank branches.
• Applicants will be able to schedule their appointments online or by phone. The new system will also allow companies and travel agents to purchase multiple fee receipts for group travel, and it accommodates the scheduling of group and emergency appointments.
• Applicants will be able to have their questions answered via telephone, email, or online chat. Call center agents in Noida and Hyderabad will answer questions in Hindi, English, Punjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, and Telugu. Call centers will be open 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday. The numbers are (91-120) 660-2222 or (91-22) 6720-9400 in India or 1-310-616-5424 in the United States. Applicants can email in English or Hindi at supportindia@ustraveldocs.com, or they can chat with the consulate directly from its website (www.ustraveldocs.com/in) during call center hours.
• Applicants will have to make two appointments. Prior to their visa interviews, applicants will have to visit an Offsite Facilitation Center (OFC) to submit their fingerprints and a photo. In March, the U.S. Mission in India introduced the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) that allows applicants who meet certain criteria to be considered for waivers of personal interviews. Under the IWP and the new processing system, an increasing number of applicants will be able to complete all visa requirements without having to visit a U.S. Embassy or Consulate at all.

For information about the visa application process, please visit http://www.ustraveldocs.com. To receive regular updates, follow the U.S. Embassy on Facebook at www.facebook.com/India.usembassy.

August 27, 2012

E-Verify Alert: I-94 Processing Delays

Please note that USCIS' E-Verify system is currently experiencing delays in obtaining up-to-date Form I-94 information. Form I-94 is the arrival-departure record issued to certain non-immigrants, and the Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) current processing time for entering the I-94 information into its database is 30 days or more. E-Verify uses this informatoin to confirm work authorization and CBP's delays in updating the database may result in an increase in E-Verify Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNC). E-Verify users are advised that the delay in recording Form I-94 information should not affect how they complete the Form I-9 or an E-Verify case. For more information, see the CBP website or contact CBP at (877) CBP-5511.

August 17, 2012

USCIS Begins Accepting Requests for Deferred Action

Effective August 15, 2012, USCIS announced that it will start accepting requests for deferred action. Earlier this summer on June 15, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had announced that a certain class of young individuals will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those eligible for consideration are individuals who came to the U.S. as young children and who meet the following criteria:

• Be 15-30 years old, and have entered before age 16;
• Have been present in the U.S. for 5 years as of June 15, 2012;
• Have maintained continuous residence;
• Have not been convicted of one serious crime or multiple minor crimes, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
• Be currently enrolled in high school, graduated or have a GED, or have enlisted in the military.

USCIS will review requests and grant deferred action on a case-by-case basis. Eligible individuals will receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be allowed to apply for work authorization.

For more information on the deferred action process, see www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

August 13, 2012

USCIS Extends Validity of Form I-9 Beyond August 31, 2012 Expiration Date

USCIS has announced that employers should continue using the current version of the Form I-9 after the form’s expiration date of August 31, 2012. The current version of the Form I-9 shows an expiration date of August 31, 2012 printed in the upper right corner and a revision date of August 7, 2009 printed in the lower right corner. Employers are advised to use the current version of Form I-9 until further notice, however USCIS will also accept the prior version of the Form I-9 which has a revision date of February 2, 2009.

August 13, 2012

CBP Plans to Eliminate Form I-94

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced plans to eliminate Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Form I-94 is the white card that is completed by non-immigrants upon arrival in the U.S. and surrendered upon their departure. Its main purpose is to document proper admission and maintenance of status. One of the reasons cited by CBP for eliminating Form I-94 is the fact that it already has access to the data gathered on Form I-94, including information that is gathered through the visa application process at the U.S. consulate, as well as data provided to CBP through the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS), a web-based system used by transportation carriers. Another reason is that CBP hopes to reduce time and money by eliminating Form I-94 as it costs an estimated $36 million a year in labor and resources to print, store, and enter the data.

CBP anticipates an immediate system-wide elimination of the form beginning later this summer. It plans to issue an admission stamp in the passports of nonimmigrant aliens which will include a handwritten notation indicating the status and authorized period of stay. CBP will also create an electronic record for arriving nonimmigrant aliens, and may consider creating a web portal to allow nonimmigrant aliens to verify their status and print an admission record receipt. Nonimmigrants arriving at air and sea ports using APIS will no longer receive a Form I-94 (However, during this transitional period, CBP may continue to issue the paper form even though it will not serve any actual function). Nonimmigrant arriving at a land border, unless otherwise exempted, will continue to receive a valid paper Form I-94. Also certain classes of individuals, such as refugees, will continue to be issued a valid Form I-94.

It currently remains to be seen how CBP will meet the challenges of administering these new procedures and how it will impact USCIS, employers, the Social Security Administration, and other agencies that currently rely on the Form I-94 for proof of alien status, employment eligibility, and identification purposes.

August 6, 2012

ELECTRONIC SYSTEM FOR TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION (ESTA): DISCLOSURE OF PREVIOUS REFUSALS AND DENIALS

Individuals who are eligible to apply for admission under the Visa Waiver Program must first seek authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program. In order to apply for travel authorization through ESTA, an applicant must meet the following criteria:

• Currently not in possession of a visitor’s visa.
• Travel to the U.S. is for 90 days or less.
• Travel to the U.S. is for business or pleasure.

Completing ESTA Form: Tips on Avoiding a Misrepresentation Finding

When completing the ESTA form, a failure to disclose visa refusals as a result of administrative processing or entry of an incorrect visa category on the Form DS-160, Non-Immigrant Visa Application, may be deemed as a misrepresentation which could make the applicant inadmissible. Therefore, such “refusals” on account of administrative processing or an incorrect visa category on Form DS-160 should be reported as a visa “denial” when completing the ESTA form.

• Visa Applications Subject to Administrative Processing

A visa application that has been suspended for administrative processing under § 221(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is deemed a visa “refusal” by the Department of State (DOS) even if the issuance of the administrative processing notice is to request missing documents or other additional information and the visa is ultimately granted.

• New DS-160, Non-Immigrant Visa Application, Due to Incorrect Visa Classification

A visa applicant may be required to complete a new DS-160, Non-immigrant Visa Application, if s/he failed to select the correct visa category. The consular officer may note this error in the system as a refusal under INA § 221(g).

• Reporting Visa “Refusals” as “Denials” on ESTA Form

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requires that such refusals be reported as “denials” on the ESTA application. For example:

ESTA question: “Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry into the U.S. or had a U.S. visa canceled?”

Answer “Yes” if the applicant’s visa application is under administrative processing by a consular post and/or if the applicant has been required to complete a new DS-160 due to incorrect entry of visa classification and there is a refusal notation in the system. Please note that in some instances, the applicant may not be informed by the consular officer of such a notation so it is best to treat the requirement to complete a new DS-160 as a visa denial on the ESTA form and explain the circumstances in the space provided.

CBP will then review the ESTA application and typically make a determination on whether the applicant is eligible for travel within 72 hours of submission.

For more information on the ESTA application process, please contact our office.

August 2, 2012

Tips on Completing Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record

Individuals entering the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa are required to fill out a Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record.

Completing Form I-94

Form I-94 must be completed upon arrival in the U.S. and is a white card with two perforated sections as follows:

Upper portion, Arrival Record, requests the following information:

• Family Name
• First Name
• Date of Birth
• Country of Citizenship
• Sex (Male or Female)
• Passport Number
• Airline and Flight Number (if applicable)
• Country Where You Live – Lawful Permanent Residence
• City Where You Boarded (if applicable)
• City Where Visa was Issued (if applicable)
• Date Issued (Day/Mo/Yr) (if applicable)
• Address While in the United States (Number and Street)
• City and State

Lower portion, Departure Record, requests the following information:

• Family Name
• First Name
• Date of Birth
• Country of Citizenship

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will stamp your Form I-94 and passport, noting the date of entry and period of admission. The CBP officer will retain the Arrival Record, i.e. the upper portion of the Form I-94, and return the Departure Record, i.e. the lower portion of the Form I-94, and passport to you.

Checking Accuracy of Form I-94

Please ensure that the CBP officer has entered the correct information on your Form I-94 particularly with respect to the period of admission, i.e. length of stay in U.S. should correspond to the date granted on your Form I-797, Approval Notice. If you are not granted a period of admission pursuant to your Form I-797, Approval Notice, please request that the CBP officer correct the error immediately to avoid future complications with your immigration status. However, please note that in some circumstances, the period of admission may be shortened if your passport is expiring before the dates of authorized stay. For those admitted as academic students or exchange visitors (F or J classifications), they are granted “duration of status” on Form I-94, which means they are authorized to stay in the U.S. as long as they are engaged in a course of study/work pursuant to the terms of their visa.

Retaining Form I-94 Departure Record

The bottom portion of Form I-94 is a departure record and should be kept in your passport until you depart the U.S. as it must be returned to U.S. officials upon exiting the U.S.:

• If departing by air or sea, please turn the I-94 into the transportation carrier prior to departure.
• If departing by land and you will not be returning to the U.S. within 30 days, please turn the I-94 into the Canadian authorities when crossing the Canadian border and to a U.S. Official when crossing the Mexican border.

Please note that if you have been admitted to the U.S. under certain visa classifications, you may take short trips (30 days or less) to Canada or Mexico and be readmitted on the same Form I-94 for the balance of time remaining on your I-94. Similarly, individuals in F or J status may take short trips (30 days or less) to Canada, Mexico, and the Adjacent Islands, and be readmitted on the same Form I-94 for the balance of the time required for them to complete their program.

As each traveler’s circumstances may vary with respect to their nationality, visa classification, destination, and immigration history, please consult with our office prior to your departure.

July 12, 2012

White House Blog Issues Post on Immigration's Positive Impact to the Economy

The White House Blog issued a recent post titled “Ten Ways Immigrants Help Build and Strengthen Our Economy.” It spoke of America as a nation of immigrants where our history and success would not be possible without the presence of immigrants and their contributions to our economy. The following are cited as the top 10 ways in which immigrants have helped build the American economy:

1. Immigrants start businesses.
2. Immigrant-owned businesses create jobs for American workers.
3. Immigrants are also more likely to create their own jobs.
4. Immigrants develop cutting-edge technologies and companies.
5. Immigrants are our engineers, scientists, and innovators.
6. Immigration boosts earning for American workers.
7. Immigrants boost demand for local consumer goods.
8. Immigration reform legislation like the DREAM Act reduces the deficit.
9. Comprehensive immigration reform would create jobs.
10. Comprehensive immigration reform would increase America’s GDP.

To view the article in full, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/07/12/ten-ways-immigrants-help-build-and-strengthen-our-economy.

June 15, 2012

DHS Announces Deferred Action Process to Select Young Individuals

Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that a certain class of young individuals will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, explained as follows: “Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner. But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”
Those eligible for consideration are individuals who came to the U.S. as young children and who meet the following criteria:

· Be 15-30 years old, and have entered before age 16;
· Have been present in the U.S. for 5 years as of June 15, 2012;
· Have maintained continuous residence;
· Have not been convicted of one serious crime or multiple minor crimes, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
· Be currently enrolled in high school, graduated or have a GED, or have enlisted in the military.

Those who meet the above criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization. Although this rule is effect immediately, USCIS and ICE anticipate implementation of the application processes to be within sixty days. In the meantime, for more information on the new policy, see USCIS’s website (at www.uscis.gov), ICE’s website (at www.ice.gov), or DHS’s website (at www.dhs.gov). Beginning June 18, 2012, you can also call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 regarding the process.

June 15, 2012

DHS Announces Deferred Action Process to Select Young Individuals

Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that a certain class of young individuals will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, explained as follows: “Our nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner. But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here.”
Those eligible for consideration are individuals who came to the U.S. as young children and who meet the following criteria:

· Be 15-30 years old, and have entered before age 16;
· Have been present in the U.S. for 5 years as of June 15, 2012;
· Have maintained continuous residence;
· Have not been convicted of one serious crime or multiple minor crimes, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety; and
· Be currently enrolled in high school, graduated or have a GED, or have enlisted in the military.

Those who meet the above criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization. Although this rule is effect immediately, USCIS and ICE anticipate implementation of the application processes to be within sixty days. In the meantime, for more information on the new policy, see USCIS’s website (at www.uscis.gov), ICE’s website (at www.ice.gov), or DHS’s website (at www.dhs.gov). Beginning June 18, 2012, you can also call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 regarding the process.

May 24, 2012

DOL Expands Use of Supervised Recruitment With Labor Certifications

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has revealed plans to expand its use of supervised recruitment with respect to labor certifications. Some cases that DOL is focusing their supervised recruitment efforts on include: applications submitted on behalf of individuals in H-2A, H-2b or E.W.I. status; applications that did not have an educational requirement; and applications for financial positions in New York City. Employers should be advised of the possibility of supervised recruitment as any labor certification application can be subject to supervised recruitment, but ways to avoid an audit or supervised recruitment include avoiding the use of job requirements that appear to be too restrictive or job requirements that are too broad and fail to identify specific bona fide job requirements. Additionally, if selected, compliance with supervised recruitment is important as an employer, attorney, or agent with a history of non-compliance to supervised recruitment can be excluded from filing labor certification applications for up to three years.

May 23, 2012

Centralization of Inadmissibility Waiver Applications

Effective June 4, 2012, applicants abroad who have been deemed ineligible for certain visas can now mail their waiver applications for certain grounds of inadmissibility directly to a USCIS Lockbox facility. This centralized procedure is aimed at improving the processing and adjudication of waiver applications as applicants are currently subject to processing times ranging from one month to over a year depending on their filing location. The applications effected by this change include the following:

• Form I-601, “Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility”
• Form I-212., “Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the U.S. after Deportation or Removal”
• Form I-290B, “Notice of Appeal or Motion”, (if filed after a denial of a Form I-601 or Form I-212)

Applicants submitting waiver request forms via mail are instructed to use the address indicated in the revised form instructions on the USCIS website. Additionally, applicants can now track the status of their case on-line and may receive a text message or email confirmation of receipt of their waiver request by submitting Form G-1145, “E Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.”

Please note that during a limited 6 month transition period, immigrant visa waiver applicants in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico can either mail their waiver request to the USCIS Lockbox or file in person at the USCIS office in Ciudad Juarez.

April 3, 2012

DOS Announces Changes to Visa Application Fee Schedule

Effective April 13, 2012, the U.S. Department of State will enforce new visa application fees under its revised Schedule of Fees for consular services, including nonimmigrant visa application processing fees, border crossing card application processing fees and immigrant visa application processing fees. Most Non-immigrant Visa Services, including employment-based visas in the H, L, O, P, and R categories, experienced fee increases while Immigrant and Special Visa Services saw a reduction in fees. The amended fee schedule is as follows:

Non-Immigrant Visa Services

Nonimmigrant Visa Application and Border Crossing Card Processing Fees (per person):
(a) Non-petition-based nonimmigrant visa (except E category):$160 (new fee) $140 (current fee)
(b) H, L, O, P, Q and R category nonimmigrant visa: $190 (new fee) $150 (current fee)
(c) E category nonimmigrant visa: $270 (new fee) $390(current fee)
(d) K category nonimmigrant visa: $240 (new fee) $350 (current fee)
(e) Border crossing card--age 15 and over (10-year validity): $160 (new fee) $140 (current fee)
(f) Border crossing card--under age 15; for Mexican citizens if parent or guardian has or is applying for a border crossing card (valid for 10 years or until the applicant reaches age 15, whichever is earlier): $15 (new fee) $14 (current fee)

Immigrant and Special Visa Services

Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee (per person)
(a) Immediate relative and family preference: $230 (new fee) $330 (current fee)
(b) Employment-based applications: $405 (new fee) $720 (current fee)
(c) Other immigrant visa applications (including I-360 self-petitioners and special immigrant visa applicants: $220 (new fee) $305 (current fee)

Diversity Visa Lottery fee (per person applying as a result of the lottery program):$330 (new fee) $440 (current fee)

Special Visa Services:
(a) Determining Returning Resident Status: $275 (new fee) $380 (current fee)

March 13, 2012

U.S. Visa Interview Waiver Program Available in Russia

The U.S. Visa Interview Waiver Program has been extended to Russia. Earlier this year, President Obama issued an executive order establishing more efficient visitor visa processing goals to promote travel and tourism to the U.S. The establishment of the Visa Interview Waiver Program allows certain applicants with a previously issued visa that expired in the past 47 months to be eligible to renew their visa without an interview. Under the current provisions, individuals with visas that have expired in the last 11 months are allowed to apply for a renewal without being subject to an interview. Under the expanded program, applicants seeking to renew a B1/B2 (tourist) or C1/D (crew or transit) visa that has expired within the last 47 months can now apply for a renewal without an interview. Please note however that consular officers continue to reserve the right to interview any applicant as they see fit. The expanded interview waiver provisions are effective immediately at all U.S. consular posts in Russia.

March 8, 2012

Employers Face Hefty Fines for I-9 Noncompliance

Employers continue to be subject to substantial fines by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for "suspect documents" and failure to properly complete I-9 employment forms and verification of U.S. work authorization. An analysis of ICE internal records reveal that of the nearly 800 audit cases since October 2010, approximately half of the 117 companies fined were not specifically on account of hiring illegal immigrants, but for errors with the I-9 employment verification paperwork. Records show that a third of the total $1.8 million in fines issued by ICE involved companies where there was actually no finding of workers with suspect documents. One employer complained, "They're not looking for illegals. They're looking for clerical errors . . . It's a money grab." However, ICE states that some employers fined only for paperwork errors may have knowingly hired illegal immigrants, but often auditors are unable to prove it since by law, employers are only required to complete an I-9 and accept a Social Security card that appears to be "reasonably genuine." And of the 337 companies where auditors found to have had suspect documents, 52 of them were issued fines averaging more than $20,000 and several companies faced criminal charges or debarment from future government contracts. However, records also indicate that many companies with suspect employees are merely issued a warning notice. This lack of consistency in enforcement by ICE is a source of frustration and confusion for many employers. ICE spokeswoman, Danielle Bennett, responds "Employers need to understand that the integrity of their employment records are as important to the federal government as the integrity of their tax files or banking records. Much like the IRS uses audits as a deterrent strategy to prevent people from falsifying tax records, part of our strategy in conducting audits is to encourage businesses to comply with the law."

February 16, 2012

Enhanced Consular Processing in China: New Interview Waiver Pilot Program

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has announced upcoming changes to consular procedures that are aimed at increasing the visa processing capacity in China by up to 40% in 2012. These changes are in response to the recent Executive Order signed by President Obama that seeks to benefit the American economy through increased travel and tourism to the U.S. In 2011, consular posts in China processed over 1 million visa applications, accounting for approximately 11% of the total U.S. visa workload from around the world. In order to meet the increasing visa demand, efforts are being made to enhance consular processing, including the opening of new consular offices in Guangzhou and Shanghai, as well as adding 50 new consular officers. Additionally, a new pilot program will be implemented allowing certain qualified applicants who were previously interviewed and screened for a prior visa to be eligible to renew their visas without undergoing another interview. In these select circumstances, consular officers will be able to waive interviews for qualified applicants who are renewing their visa in the same classification within 48 months of the expiration of their previously held visa. These changes are expected to greatly enhance the visa processing capacity in China, opening up as many as 100,000 interview appointments. For more details, see http://beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/20120209amb-visa.html.

February 9, 2012

Report Shows Huge Increase in Denials and Delays for H-1B and L-1 Petitions

New research results released by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) reveal that USCIS has had increasingly high denial rates of L-1 and H-1B petitions over the last four years. Analysis of data gathered from USCIS show that 63 percent of all L-1B petitions (e.g. intra-company executives/managers or specialized knowledge workers) received a Request for Evidence and 27 percent were issued a denial which means that between 63 to 90 Percent of L-1B Petitions were denied or delayed in 2011. Additionally, the data reveals that the increase in denials is largely related to petitions filed on behalf of Indian-born professionals and researchers.

“The dramatic increase in denial rates and Requests for Evidence for employment petitions without any change in the law or regulations raises questions about the training, supervision and procedures of the career bureaucracy that adjudicates petitions and the U.S. government’s commitment to maintaining a stable business climate for companies competing in the global economy,” states the report and concludes that "such actions are harming the competitiveness of U.S. employers and encouraging companies to keep more jobs and resources outside the United States." Additionally, the report found that the increase in Request for Evidence and denials is costing employers undue time and money, including millions of dollars in project delays and contract penalties.

The NFAP analysis includes the following findings:

- Denial rates for L-1B petitions filed with USCIS, which are used to transfer employees with “specialized knowledge” into the United States, rose from 7 percent in FY 2007 to 22 percent in FY 2008, despite no change in the law or relevant regulation. The denial rates stayed high for L-1B petitions at 26 percent in FY 2009, 22 percent in FY 2010 and 27 percent in FY 2011. In addition, 63 percent of L-1B petitions in FY 2011 were at least temporarily denied or delayed due to a Request for Evidence.

- Denial rates for H-1B petitions increased from 11 percent in FY 2007 to 29 percent in FY 2009, and remained higher than in the past for H-1Bs at 21 percent in FY 2010 and 17 percent in FY 2011.

- Denial rates for L-1A petitions increased from 8 percent in FY 2007 to 14 percent in FY 2011. L-1A visas are used to transfer executives and managers into the United States.

- The denial rates also increased for O-1A petitions, which are used for “individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics.” Denials for O-1A petitions rose from 4 percent in FY 2008, to 10 percent just one year later in FY 2009, increased again to 11 percent in FY 2010, and stood at 8 percent in FY 2011.

- Along with increased denials have come skyrocketing rates of “Requests for Evidence” or RFEs, which are used by USCIS adjudicators to obtain more information in lieu of making an immediate decision on a petition. Employers note that simply the act of an RFE can result in months of delays, affecting costs and potentially delaying projects and contract performance.

- The Request for Evidence rate for L-1B petitions (to transfer employees with specialized knowledge) rose from 17 percent in FY 2007 to 49 percent in FY 2008, and, as noted, reached an astonishing level of 63 percent rate in FY 2011. As recently as FY 2004, USCIS adjudicators requested additional evidence for L-1B petitions in only 2 percent of the cases. There appears to be no reasonable explanation for the rate of Request for Evidence for L-1B petitions to rise from 2 percent to 63 percent in just 7 years.

- The Request for Evidence rate for L-1A petitions (to transfer managers and executives) increased from 4 percent in FY 2004, to 24 percent in FY 2007, up to 51 percent in FY 2011.

- For H-1B petitions, the Request for Evidence rate rose from 4 percent in FY 2004, to 18 percent by FY 2007, to a high of 35 percent in FY 2009. In FY 2011, the rate for H-1Bs was 26 percent.

- For O-1A petitions, the Request for Evidence rate increased from 1 percent in FY 2004, to 13 percent in FY 2007, and then more than doubled to 28 percent in FY 2009, 30 percent in FY 2010, and 27 percent in FY 2011.

- Country specific data on new (initial) L-1B petitions indicate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is far more likely to deny a petition from an Indian-born professional than nationals of other countries. The denial rate for Indian-born applicants for new L-1B petitions rose from 2.8 percent in Fiscal Year 2008 to 22.5 percent in FY 2009, a substantial increase that resulted in many employers being unable to transfer their employees into the United States to work on research projects or serve customers. In comparison, the denial rate for new L-1B petitions for Canadians rose from 2.0 percent in FY 2008 to only 2.9 percent in FY 2009. Illustrating the abrupt change, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied more L-1B petitions for new petitions for Indians in FY 2009 (1,640) than in the previous 9 fiscal years combined (1,341 denials between FY 2000 and FY 2008).

To see the report, “Data Reveal High Denial Rates for L-1 and H-1 Petitions at USCIS,” in full, visit the NFAP website at www.nfap.com.

February 2, 2012

Pending Final Rule: Issuance of L Visas Based on Visa Reciprocity Schedule

Pending final rule with the Department of State (DOS) is a regulation governing issuance of full validity L Visas to individuals with approved L petitions. The rule permits the issuance of L visas with validity periods based on the visa reciprocity schedule which reflects the reciprocal treatment the applicant’s country accords the U.S. Under the current rule, L visas are limited to the petition validity period which is determined by USCIS and currently cannot exceed 3 years. An individual in L status may apply for an extension in increments of up to two years, but the total period of stay may not exceed 5 or 7 years for individuals employed in a specialized knowledge or managerial/executive capacity, respectively. The change in regulation allowing for issuance of full validity L visas based on the visa reciprocity schedule will benefit those who are nationals of countries for which the reciprocity schedule prescribes visa validity for a longer period of time than the initial validity indicated in the petition approved by USCIS and who have extended their L stay while in the United States. As such, these individuals would not be required to apply again for an L visa if they were to travel outside the United States during the period prescribed under the applicable reciprocity schedule, as is currently required when petition validity has been extended. Please note that this change is pending final rule and is not yet effective.

January 26, 2012

On-Line Processing of U.S. Passport Cards

On January 24, the Department of State's Office of Passport Services implemented a 90-day pilot program allowing for on-line U.S. passport card applications. The U.S. passport card is a wallet-sized passport that serves as a lower cost alternative to a passport book as it is only $30. However, it is not valid for international air travel and is limited to land and sea travel to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The pilot program allowing for on-line passport card applications is available to adult U.S. citizens living in the United States and Canada who currently possess a valid 10 year U.S. passport book. It is intended to save applicants both time and money as applicants can now submit their application on-line by uploading a digital photo and making an on-line payment rather than having to mail in the requisite documents. To apply for the passport card using the online application, visit travel.state.gov.

January 19, 2012

President Issues Executive Order to Improve Visitor Visa Processing

On January 19, 2012, President Obama issued an executive order establishing visitor visa processing goals and a Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness. The goal is to promote travel and tourism which will, in turn, create jobs and stimulate economic growth in the U.S. The travel and tourism industry ranks as one of our country's leading service sectors and sources of exports, but the U.S. market share in this lucrative industry has dropped from 17 percent to 11 percent over the last 10 years. The decline is a result of a combination of factors, including greater international competition, changes in global development, and stricter security measures folllwing 9/11.


The new executive order seeks to improve current visitor visa processing by implementing the following goals:


(i) increase nonimmigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent over the coming year;


(ii) ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application, recognizing that resource and security considerations and the need to ensure provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions;

(iii) increase efforts to expand the Visa Waiver Program and travel by nationals of Visa Waiver Program participants; and

(iv) expand reciprocal recognition programs for expedited travel, such as the Global Entry program.


To view President Obama's executive order in full, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/19/executive-order-establishing-visa-and-foreign-visitor-processing-goals-a

January 8, 2012

Proposed Changes to Unlawful Presence Waivers

On January 6, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced plans to implement changes to the processing of unlawful presence waivers for certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. The current procedure requires those who have been unlawfully present in the U.S. to return to their home country to consular process their immigrant visas. Howerver, individuals who have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 days will trigger a 3 or 10 year bear to re-entry upon departure. Those subject to the bar can apply for unlawful presence waivers in their home country by showing that the bar would be an extreme hardship to their U.S. citizen spouse or parent, but the adjudication of such waivers can take weeks, months, or years. Under the new proposed regulations, individuals will be able to apply for the waiver of unlawful presence while remaining in the U.S. which will reduce the period of waiting and separation. If found qualified, the individual will be granted a provisional waiver and will still be required to depart the U.S. for consular processing of their immigrant visa. At the time of the consular interview, the provisional waiver will be applied and the immigrant visa will be granted assuming there are no other grounds of inadmissibility. The newly proposed procedure will only apply to immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen spouse or parent and to those who are subject to the 3 or 10 year bar for unlawful presence. Family members of lawful permanent residents or those without a qualifying relationship to a U.S. citizenship spouse or parent will not be able to benefit from the new procedure. Likewise, individuals seeking waivers for other grounds of inadmissibility will still be required to depart the U.S. in order to apply for a waiver. Please note that the new waiver process will not be made effective until DHS publishes the proposed regulations and the final rule is issued.

January 5, 2012

Updates on Visa Processing in India

As of January 1, 2012, the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai is no longer processing Immigrant Visa petitions. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and U.S. Consulate in Mumbai will be the only consular posts in India accepting Immigrant Visa applications. Individuals who are currently in the process of applying for an Immigrant Visa at the U.S. Consulate in Chennai are advised to contact ChennaiIVU@state.gov for further details and instructions.

Please also note that visa processing in India has becoming increasingly subject to administrative delays. When applying for a visa, an applicant may encounter unforeseen and undetermined delays due to additional administrative processing. The admininstrative delays may be on account of name checks, security clearances, or review of petition information. Applicants are therefore advised to be prepared and plan accordingly for these possible adminstrative delays.

January 4, 2012

Illegal Immigrants Contribute to Social Security

Many make the argument that illegal immigrants are a burden to the system because they don't pay taxes. However, illegal immigrants actually contribute billions of dollars annually to the Social Security Administration from the deductions taken on their paychecks. The most recent figures from Social Security show that employers in 2009 reported wages of $72.8 billion from workers who could not be matched to legal social security numbers in their system. The majority of these unmatched numbers are believed to belong to illegal immigrants. Jeannie Economos of the Farmworker Association Florida, states the following:

"When you hear people voicing anti-immigrant sentiments, one of the first things they say is, 'They don't pay any taxes, and they just take money out of the system . . . But that just isn't true. Yes, some are paid under the table, but the majority are paid by check, and they pay taxes out of those checks."

But unlike other workers who contribute to Social Security with the hopes of benefiting from it in the future, these illegal immigrants will not likely be in a position to make a claim or derive any benefit from their contributions. To see the article on this matter in full, please see http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2017113852_immigtaxes29.html.

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."

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.

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

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.

November 29, 2011

USCIS Case Status and Other On-Line Functions Unavailable 12/2/11 through 12/5/11

From Friday, December 2nd at 7pm (EST) until Monday, December 5th at 9am (EST), USCIS’ on-line case status information and other on-line services will not be available as the site undergoes system maintenance. As a result, the following services will not be available:

􀁺 Check My Case Status
􀁺 Sign-Up for Case Status
􀁺 Check Processing Times
􀁺 Change of Address Online
􀁺 Civil Surgeon Locator
􀁺 e-Request
􀁺 Office Locator

November 16, 2011

U.S. Posts With Limited Visa Services

The Department of State (DOS) has compiled a list of the U.S. embassies and consulates that currently have limited or suspended visa services, as well as countries that do not have an existing U.S. post. DOS explains that visa services may be affected at these posts due to various reasons, including natural disasters, civil unrest, war, and security concerns. To consult the list of countries with limited or no U.S. visa services, see http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/info/info_1302.html.

November 7, 2011

Changes to Exchange Visitor Summer Work Travel Program

Effective January 1, 2012, the Department of State (DOS) will place limitations on the Exchange Visitor Program (J-1), specifically the size of the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program. It will also place a moratorium on the designation of new Summer Work Travel sponsor organizations, effective immediately. Since 1963, the Summer Work Travel program has served as a cultural and diplomatic exchange, enabling foreign post-secondary students to come to the U.S. for travel and work for a maximum period of four months.

After an extensive review of the Summer Work Travel program in spring 2010, DOS made major changes to the program, including the creation of a pilot program in the 2011 season that placed stricter requirements on certain participating countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Belarus, Moldova and Romania. Additionally, the following regulations were implemented:

(a) Strengthening sponsor oversight requirements with respect to both program participants for whom sponsors are responsible and the third parties that sponsors rely upon to assist them in administering their programs (i.e., U.S. employers and foreign agents);

(b) requiring that participants from non-Visa Waiver Program countries be pre-placed in a job before the Form DS-2019 is issued;

(c) requiring sponsors to fully vet employers and all SWT job offers; and,

(d) requiring sponsors to contact current program participants on a monthly basis to monitor their welfare and whereabouts.

However, DOS is continuing to receive a high volume of complaints with regard to the Summer Work Travel Program and has cited to the following problem areas: reports of improper work placements, fraudulent job offers, job cancellations upon participant arrival in the United States, inappropriate work hours, and problems regarding housing and transportation. As a result, DOS has decided to place a cap on the current participating levels and moratorium on new sponsor applications. In the meantime, current participating sponsors can continue to operate under their present designations, but will not be able to increase the number of program participants beyond their actual total 2011 participant program size until further notice.

November 4, 2011

From Denial to Approval: An Immigrant Entrepeneur's Story

Amit Aharoni, an Israeli national and graduate of Stanford Business School, is an immigrant entrepreneur who recently made big headlines after being featured on various media outlets, including ABC News “World News” on November 2, 2011. Aharoni, along with two co-founders, had obtained $1.65 million in venture capital funding for a start-up called CruiseWise.com, an online cruise booking company. In the last year, the company has already hired 9 Americans and is being touted as one of the "20 Hot Silicon Valley Startups You Need to Watch.” Aharoni, however, was recently denied a visa by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and had no choice but to depart the U.S. and relocate to Canada where he’s been running his company remotely.

USCIS’ denial of Aharoni’s visa has been met with much criticism as many question a U.S. immigration policy that keeps out smart and talented immigrant entrepreneurs like Aharoni who want to invest in the U.S. and have the potential to create hundreds of jobs for Americans. This sentiment was shared by President Obama earlier this summer:

"What I want to do is make sure that talented people who come to this country to study, to get degrees, and are willing and interested in starting up businesses can do so, as opposed to going back home and starting those businesses over there to compete against the United States and take away U.S. jobs," he said.

Many fear that the current U.S. immigration policy is placing the country at an economic disadvantage. Other countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Chile, are making efforts to encourage immigration of entrepreneurs by extending special visas and funding. For example, Chile even provides $40,000 in seed funding. Additionally, statistics shows that immigrants have historically benefitted the U.S. in stimulating the economy. Statistics from Partnership for a New American Economy show that 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.

Meanwhile, USCIS has acknowledged that it needs to “streamline” the visa process for immigrant entrepreneurs and has issued the following statement:

"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is working to streamline the visa issuance processes to realize the full potential of our nation's immigration laws and enable immigrants to invest capital, create new jobs for American workers, and further dedicate their talent to the growth of our nation's economy," stated USCIS spokeswoman Edna Ruano.

Following all this media attention, Aharoni on November 3, 2011 received an email from USCIS stating that his petition has been approved after reconsideration. Aharoni is thrilled and is looking forward to obtaining his visa and returning to the U.S. For more information on ABC’s World News Story of Aharoni, see http://abcnews.go.com/WN/Economy/immigrant-entrepreneur-visa-world-news-story/story?id=14867513#.TrIbIVY0L40.

November 1, 2011

Newly Revised Form I-693, Report of a Medical Examination and Vaccination Record

Effective Nov 1, 2011, USCIS issued a newly revised, more user-friendly version of Form I-693, Report of a Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. Form I-693 is a form completed by a designated civil surgeon that reports the results of a medical examination for applicants seeking certain immigration benefits, including those seeking adjustment of status as legal permanent residents. The new form is dated 10/11/11 and civil surgeons are advised to use the new form when completing medical examination between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. However, the previous version dated 7/20/10 will continue to be accepted for examinations completed between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. But please note that beginning Jan. 1, 2012, civil surgeons must use the new version of the form as USCIS will reject the submission of an outdated form and require the applicant to return to the civil surgeon and resubmit the new form. See below for summary of the relevant dates.

- If a medical examination is completed before Nov. 1: Use the I-693 dated 7/20/10
- If a medical examination is completed between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011: Use the I-693 dated 10/11/11, although USCIS will continue to accept the 7/20/10 version
- If a medical examination is completed on or after Jan. 1, 2012: Must use the I-693 dated 10/11/11

October 31, 2011

November 2011 E-Verify Webinars

USCIS offers free live webinars on topics relating to the E-Verify program. 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 November 2011 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."

October 27, 2011

Legislative Updates

California Governor, Jerry Brown, has signed a bill that bans mandatory participation of employers in the E-verify program. E-Verify is a program by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) allowing employers to confirm employment eligibility of employees by comparing the information provided on the Form I-9 against the DHS and SSA databases. Introduction of this bill is in response to certain parts of California that have been passing laws to mandate E-verify participation.

The “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act” (H.R. 3012) which was introduced on 9/22/2011 seeks to remove the employment-based per-country cap by fiscal year 2013 and increase the family-sponsored per-country cap from 7% to 15%. The Act was received favorably by the House Judiciary Committee on 10/27/11, including adoption of an amendment that would make adjustments to the three year phase-in period. The Act will likely be scheduled for House floor debate in the weeks to come.

October 25, 2011

USCIS Issues Redesigned EAD and Certificate of Citizenship

USCIS has announced the production of a newly redesigned Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-560) with enhanced security features to prevent counterfeiting and allow for easier authentication. USCIS, along with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Forensic Document Laboratory, have incorporated state-of-the-art technology into the redesign process, including tactile features and greatly improved printing techniques to deter tampering. USCIS began issuing the new EADs on Oct. 25th and will issue the new Certificates of Citizenship beginning Oct. 30th. All previously issued EADs will remain valid until the expiration date on the card. Additionally, all previously issued Certificates of Citizenship will remain valid indefinitely.

October 24, 2011

FY 2011 Removal Numbers Total Nearly 400,000

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced its removal numbers for FY 2011 which totaled nearly 400,000, the largest number of removals in the agency’s history. These numbers reflect the agency’s goal in prioritizing its resources towards the removal of individuals who fall within its target enforcement areas, including the removal of convicted criminals, those who pose a threat to national security, recent border crossers, and repeat immigration law offenders and immigration fugitives. Specifically, ICE's Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations removed 396,906 persons, and of these, nearly 55 percent or 216,698 of those removed were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. The breakdown is as follows: 1,119 aliens convicted of homicide; 5,848 aliens convicted of sexual offenses; 44,653 aliens convicted of drug related crimes; and 35,927 aliens convicted of driving under the influence. The remaining 45% percent were civil immigration offenses with more than two-thirds involving recent border crossers or repeat immigration violators.

October 20, 2011

USCIS Reverts Back to Prior Mailing Procedures of Receipt and Approval Notices

USCIS announced on 10/20/11 that it will be resuming its previous practice of sending original Form I-797 receipt and approval notices to the attorney or accredited representative of record. USCIS had previously made effective on 9/12/2011 a new procedure of mailing original notices directly to the applicant and petitioner and sending the copies to the attorney or accredited representative. However, after receiving feedback from the public regarding its negative impact, USCIS has decided to restore their old system of mailing the original notice to the attorney or accredited representative of record and sending a copy to the applicant or petitioner. Due to the time needed to reprogram its system, USCIS anticipates being able to resume its previous mailing practices in approximately six weeks.

October 19, 2011

USCIS Transitions to Direct Mailing of Original Receipt and Approval Notices to Applicants and Petitioners

Effective 9/12/2011, USCIS began mailing original I-797 receipt and approval notices directly to applicants and petitioners. Copies of the notices are being sent to attorneys or accredited representatives, if a Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, was submitted with the application. Prior to this, USCIS had sent the original notice to the attorney or accredited representative of record and the copies went to the applicant or petitioner. Additionally, effective 11/28/11, documents produced as the result of an approved application will be mailed directly to the address provided by the applicant rather than the attorney or accredited representative on file. These adjustments are to ensure that original receipts and notices, decisions, and documents produced are mailed directly to the address specified by the applicant or petitioner.

For Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, USCIS will allow petitioners who wish to continue the practice of having the original receipt and approval notices sent to their attorney may use the attorney’s address as the mailing address on the petition. However, please note that using an alternate address other than the petitioner’s address as the mailing address may result in processing delays related to the Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE) which automatically uses the address provided on the petition to validate the petitioner’s current location. Therefore in these circumstances where the petitioner uses an attorney’s address as the mailing address on Form I-129, USCIS recommends including a cover letter indicating the actual address of the petitioner. Please also note that if an attorney’s address is used as the petitioner’s mailing address, the petitioner will not receive any I-797 notices.

Lastly with regard to cases filed through premium processing, USCIS will mail the original approval notice to an alternate address as long as the applicant or petitioner provides a pre-paid, self-addressed envelope with the requested alternate address.

October 18, 2011

Update on Alabama’s Controversial Immigration Law, HB 56

On 10/14/11, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta blocked two important provisions of Alabama’s controversial immigration law, HB 56. HB 56 was first signed into law on June 9, 2011 and introduced controversial provisions targeting undocumented immigrants. The law has since been met with great opposition in court by the Department of Justice and other various organizations seeking to stop its enforcement. On 9/28/11, Chief U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn enjoined certain provisions of the law, including the following:

• Section 8: Prohibiting undocumented aliens from attending or enrolling in an Alabama public post-secondary educational institution.
• Section 11(a): Prohibiting undocumented aliens from applying, soliciting, or performing work as an employee or independent contractor.
• Section 11(f): Prohibiting drivers from blocking or impeding traffic while attempting to hire or hiring/picking up passengers for work at a different location.
• Section 11(g): Prohibiting persons from entering a vehicle in order to be hired for work at a different location if the vehicle blocks or impedes traffic.
• Section 13: Prohibiting concealing, harboring, transporting, etc. of undocumented aliens.

However, certain key provisions remained in effect, such as the requirement of schools to identify undocumented students, restriction upon state courts to enforce contracts with undocumented individuals, making entering a business transaction a felony for the undocumented, and permitting local law enforcement to ask for immigration documents and deeming it a misdemeanor for failure to carry such identification.

The most recent developments on 10/14/11 by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals have resulted in the blocking of the following two key provisions:

• Section 10, making it a state crime to be undocumented in the state of Alabama;
• Section 28, requiring public school students to prove their immigration status or be presumed undocumented.

The following two provisions continue to be upheld:

• Section 30, making it a felony for undocumented individuals to enter into business transactions with the state or any subdivision thereof;
• Section 12, allowing local law enforcement to stop, detain, or arrest anyone they suspect of being undocumented.

October 11, 2011

USCIS Forms "Entrepreneurs in Residence" Initiative

USCIS announced a new initiative, “Entrepreneurs in Residence,” during a recent session of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in Pittsburg. The announcement was made at the Jobs Council’s High Growth Entrepreneurship Listening and Action Session before the Council’s quarterly meeting with President Obama. The initiative is aimed at collaborating with industry experts to gain valuable insights towards strengthening USCIS policies and procedures regarding immigrant investors, entrepreneurs, and workers with specialized skills. In doing so, USCIS also hopes to promote economic growth within the U.S. as it recognizes the important role immigration law plays in creating and protecting American jobs. The initiative will lead off with a series of informational summits, bringing together industry experts from both the private and public sectors for the first stage of strategic planning and input. A team of leading industry experts and entrepreneurs will then be formed to work alongside USCIS to enhance current policies and procedures. This new initiative is another step towards USCIS’ increasing efforts to promote the growth of jobs and investments through continuing improvements to its EB-5 (immigrant investor), EB-2 (advanced degrees or exceptional ability), and L-1B (specialized knowledge) visa classifications. Please see visit www.uscis.gov for more information on its new developments and programs.

October 10, 2011

U.S. Legal Permanent Residence Trends Between 1892-2010

The Department of Homeland Security has compiled a study showing the legal permanent resident trends between 1892 and 2010. Its Office of Immigration Statistics has gathered information showing the total number of immigrants obtaining legal permanent status in the U.S. during this period. The information is presented in a map series showing a census broken down by region and division of residence across the U.S. The map series shows that the greatest numbers of individuals obtaining legal permanent residence occurred in the early 1900s in the Northeast region of the U.S. and another large influx occurred in the decade between 1990 and 2000 in the Western and Pacific regions of the U.S. To see the data and map series in full, see http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/maps/lpr/lpr-historical-resident-trends-by-state-1892-2010.pdf.

October 9, 2011

2013 DV Lottery Registration is Open

The Department of State has started accepting 2013 Diversity Visa Applications entries, beginning on Tuesday, October 4, 2011, at noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4) through Saturday, November 5, 2011, at noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4). All entries must be submitted electronically and the Diversity Visa form (E-DV) can be accessed at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov.

The Diversity Visa Program is an annual lottery open to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. If chosen, the winning applicant will be allowed to seek lawful permanent residence. For DV-2013, natives of the following countries are deemed ineligible: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, The Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. For more information on the eligibility requirements and the on-line application process, see http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1318.html. Please contact our office for assistance.

September 30, 2011

Widow(er) I-360 Filing Deadline on October 28, 2011

The requirement that widow(er)s of U.S. citizens be married at least two years at the time of death to be eligible to self-petition for immediate relative status was abolished in October 28, 2009; widow(er)s of U.S. citizens married any length of time can file an I-360 self-petition for immediate relative status, but must still file within two years of the death.
Individuals married to a U.S. citizen for less than 2 years whose spouse died prior to October 29, 2009 can still be eligible for a green card but must file the I-360 petition no later than October 28, 2011.  For example, a widow who was married in 1999 and whose spouse died in 2000 could still be eligible for a green card if an I-360 is filed before October 28, 2011.  This deadline is critical because if the widow(er) misses the deadline, she or he would lose the ability to qualify for a green card based on the death of his or her U.S. citizen spouse.  The I-360 must be filed by the deadline but the immigration process does not need to be completed by October 28, 2011.  More information can be found on the USCIS website:  http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=67eba65290e62310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=e7801c2c9be44210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD.
 

September 26, 2011

Transformation – USCIS Moving Towards a Web Based Application System

USCIS is implementing a new web-based system, Transformation, which allows for online filing and monitoring of immigration applications. Transformation will be deployed in multiple phases starting this winter, and will enable immigration benefit seekers to submit applications, information, respond to requests, and view status updates online with greater efficiency and security. It will also facilitate more complete, accurate and timely responses to customer requests. For more information, please see www.uscis.gov/transformation.

September 26, 2011

Immigration and Counterterrorism Databases Now Automatically Linked

The Associated Press reports that the Obama Administration is now using a new system, known as Secure Communities, to identify individuals who are in violation of their visas. Formerly, immigration databases were checked manually; the new system is automated to simultaneously check immigration, law enforcement and security databases, determining which individuals have overstayed their visas or require further investigation. This new automated program is designed to eliminate human errors and allow for broader searches. While the focus is on counterterrorism, the new search capabilities will speed identification of a variety of visa violations. To view the entire article, see http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gAK06mhrfq4BhUP8l-z3ZcXuTtgQ?docId=73b1b20b32bc498fa53d064d9d814de0

Secure Communities has been in effect since 2008, and while the Department of Homeland Security plans for each state to participate by 2013, this system has received continued criticism. This summer, several states withdrew from the program stating that Secure Communities is not accomplishing the main goal of removing foreign nationals who are convicted of serious crimes, and instead may undermine local law enforcement agencies by deterring reporting of criminal activity. For related articles, go to the following links.

http://www.ice.gov/secure_communities/

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/us/politics/07immig.html?_r=1

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/02/nyregion/cuomo-pulls-new-york-from-us-fingerprint-checks.html

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/09/dhs-task-force-criticizes-immigration-fingerprint-program/

September 19, 2011

2013 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV-2013)

The Department of State published information on the 2013 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program on their website: http://travel.state.gov/pdf/DV_2013_instructions.pdf. There are 55,000 diversity visas available per year and a "green card lottery" is conducted to select winners from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Natives of the following countries are NOT eligible to apply: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

DV lottery winners must also qualify based on education (high school education or its equivalent) or two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience.

The Department of State will start accepting online registration on Tuesday, October 4, 2011, at noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4) until Saturday, November 5, 2011, at noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT-4).

September 9, 2011

US Consulate in Mumbai Resumes H and L Visa Issuance

H and L visas are now being processed at the United States Consulate in Mumbai, India. The consulate opened the appointment schedule on August 26, 2011 with the first scheduled interview on September 6. All interviews will be located at the Lincoln House building located at 78, Bhulabhai Desai Road. Appointments can be made via VFS at http://www.vfs-usa.co.in/ApplnForms/SchduleMenu.aspx.

September 6, 2011

DHS Report of Non-immgrant Admissions in 2010

DHS published a report of the number of individuals who were admitted as non-immigrants in 2010. Non-immigrants are individuals who enter the U.S. on a temporary basis and include visitors for business or pleasure, students, temporary workers, investors, exchange visitors, athletes and entertainers. There were 160 million non-immigrants who entered in 2010 and a majority of them (87%) were visitors entering for business or pleasure. The countries with the highest number of individuals entering in non-immigrant status include Mexico, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, France, Canada, South Korea, Brazil, India, and Italy. A copy of the report can be found at: http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ni_fr_2010.pdf

September 1, 2011

ICE Issues FAQ on Enforcement Priorities

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) issued a FAQ on the Administration's announcement regarding the re-focusing of immigration enforcement efforts and resources to high priority case. The process was created to allow ICE to focus efforts on the removal of undocumented individuals who threaten national security, public safety and are repeat immigration violators or fugitives. The FAQ further clarifies that the process will enhance border security since the government can reallocate its resources to preventing illicit travel and trade at the border. A working committee of federal agencies will review cases pending in the immigration and federal court and on a case-by-case basis determine which cases warrant prosecutorial discretion. Federal and immigration judges will rule on high priority cases and accelerate the removal of high priority undocumented individuals from the United States. Individuals who are the recipient of prosecutorial discretion, will be allowed to apply for work authorization and pay the required fees and work permit applications will be reviewed base on its merits. The FAQ's reiterate that this is NOT an amnesty and individuals who will benefit from prosecutorial discretion will NOT obtain a green card. There is NO application process to obtain prosecutorial discretion and only individuals who are currently pending in immigration and federal court are eligible. Any individual who self surrenders to ICE will be placed in removal proceedings and will not be protected from removal from the US. More information can be found on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website: http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=36705 and the ICE FAQ can be found at the following site: http://www.ice.gov/doclib/about/offices/ero/pdf/immigration-enforcement-facts.pdf.

September 1, 2011

Immigration Seminar Annoucement

Cornerstone Law Group is pleased to announce the following complimentary in-person seminars presented by Charina P. Garcia:

Full-Service Representation: Advising HR Managers on Employment-Based Immigration from Interview to Termination

Topics to be covered include:

• Interview
• Immigration Sponsorship
• Developing the Corporate Immigration Policy
• Salary Reductions
• Mandatory Company-Wide Shutdowns and Furloughs
• Termination

Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time: 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM

Location:

Alameda County Bar Association
70 Washington Street, Suite 200
Oakland, CA 94607

To register, please e-mail cpgteam@cornerlaw.com with the number of attendees. An e-mail confirmation will be sent prior to the seminar date.

Should you have any specific questions that you hope will be addressed at the seminar, please e-mail them to cpgteam@cornerlaw.com before the day of the seminar.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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/.

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.

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.

June 8, 2011

USCIS Updates I-9 Handbook and I-9 Q&A Section

On June 1, 2011, USCIS issued an updated version of the "Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (M-274 Manuel)." The revised version features updated and expanded guidance on I-9 compliance, including how to fill out the form, examples of acceptable documents, and information about employment-authorized aliens. The new electronic version of the I-9 Handbook is available now at http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-274.pdf. Also see http://www.uscis.gov/I-9Central for newly updated I-9 Questions and Answers from USCIS’ I-9 Central Q&A Section.

May 31, 2011

New J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program Website

Beginning June 1st, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (“ECA”) will introduce a new J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program website at http://j1visa.state.gov. The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is an educational and cultural exchange program whose objective is to foster mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and people from other countries around the world. Exchange visitor categories include secondary and college students, au pairs, camp counselors, government and international visitors, interns, physicians, professors, research scholars, teachers, trainees, specialists, and summer work travel participants. The new state-of-the-art website seeks to provide information on everything a prospective J-1 visitor will need to know, including program sponsor ship and participation information. Specifically, the site will feature the following:

• Instructions on how to participate in the Exchange Visitor Program
• Descriptions of each Exchange Visitor program category
• Testimonials from exchange participants
• Instructions on how to apply
• Videos and interactive content

For more information on the new J-1 website, see http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/05/164289.htm.

May 19, 2011

Error in 2012 Diversity Lottery Results

The Department of State (DOS) has announced that the results of the 2012 Diversity Lottery that were previously posted on its website have been voided as a result of a computer programming problem. By law, the selection process must be executed in a fair and random matter and the results failed to meet the selection standards. Applicants who checked the DOS website during the first week in May should disregard the results that were posted as they are no longer valid. DOS will conduct a new selection process based on the original entries for the 2012 Diversity Lottery program. Therefore, applicants who submitted a qualified entry from October 5, 2010 to November 3, 2010 will continue to have a valid entry and the confirmation number to check results on the DOS website will also remain valid. DOS anticipates results from the new selection process to be posted on their website on or about July 15, 2011. For more information, see http://www.dvlottery.state.gov/.

May 18, 2011

New On-Line Resource on Form I-9

On May 13, 2011, USCIS launched I-9 Central, a new online resource that provides helpful information on Form I-9, Employee Eligibility Verification. U.S. employers are required to verify the identity and employment authorization on Form I-9 for all employees regardless of their immigration status. The new online resource will guide employers and employees on how to properly complete Form I-9, including information about employer and employee rights and responsibilities, step-by-step guidance in completing the form, and valid forms of identity and employment authorization documents. I-9 Central will also address common mistakes and how to correct them, as well as troubleshoot employers’ questions. Other additional resources include USCIS’ recently updated “Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (M-274),” free webinars on completing Form I-9, and E-Verify Self Check, an on-line service that allows workers to check their own employment eligibility status. For more information on I-9 Central, see www.uscis.gov/I-9central.

April 28, 2011

End to NSEERS Country Listings

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will depopulate the country listings from its National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). NSEERS required all temporary immigrants from 25 predominantly-Muslim countries to special registration requirements where they had to register their presence, fingerprints, and photographs with the immigration service upon entry. The special registration requirements targeting individuals from predominately-Muslim countries were implemented largely in response to the events of 9/11, but the program has been criticized for being poorly administered and fueling racial profiling. While depopulating the country listings from NSEERS is viewed as a positive step towards ending special registration, civil rights groups and groups such as American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) continue to call for the termination of the program as a whole.

April 26, 2011

Immigration Bills Similar to Arizona's Controversial Immigration Law

A year has passed since the signing of SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law that required police officers to check the immigration status of individuals during any routine stop. Since then, many states around the country have proposed similar copycat immigration bills. Some have been ultimately rejected after being met with much protest, legal challenges, and economic boycotts from businesses and the tourism industry. But other states, like Georgia and Alabama recently passed Arizona copycat bills. Likewise, Florida’s immigration measures would subject unauthorized immigrants to jail and a fine. Indiana, on the other hand, stripped its immigration bill of such controversial enforcement measures after opposition from state businesses, and instead revised the bill to focus on tax penalties for employers who knowingly hire unauthorized immigrant workers. For more information on the various state immigration bills, see http://immigrationimpact.com/2011/04/22/one-year-after-sb1070-states-are-still-grappling-with-cost-of-immigration-measures-2/.

April 18, 2011

Social Security Administration Resumes “No Match” Letters to Employers

Effective April 6, 2011, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has resumed sending “no-match” letters to employers informing them when an employee is using a social security number that does not match up with SSA’s records. SSA advises that receipt of a no-match letter does not necessarily mean that the employee has intentionally provided fraudulent information and that adverse action should be taken against the employee. Rather, the no-match letter may be a result of typographical errors, name changes, and incomplete information. Therefore, employers are advised to complete the requested information as failure to do so may prevent SSA from crediting the employee with the correct wages and SSA may forward the no-match information onto the IRS or Department of Justice for investigation. Upon receipt of the letter, employers should review their files to see if their record matches the information submitted to SSA, as well as ask the employee to check their records for accuracy. If the employer and employee are unable to resolve the issue, the employer should provide the employee with a reasonable amount of time to contact SSA to resolve the mismatch. If the employee is no longer employed with the company, the employer should document its efforts to resolve the mismatch and hold onto the record for 4 years in the event of an audit.

March 30, 2011

Advanced Movement in EB-2 Category for India

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.

March 22, 2011

E-Verify Self Check Program for Workers

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.

March 15, 2011

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.

March 9, 2011

REAL ID Act Compliance Date Extended

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.

March 7, 2011

Beware of Diversity Visa Program Scams

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.

March 4, 2011

U.S. Embassy in Cairo Suspends Visa Operations

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.

March 4, 2011

Mumbai U.S. Consulate Reduces Visa Operations

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.

December 6, 2010

New Certification Requirements for H-1B, L-1, and O-1 Petitions

An employer who seeks to file a petition on behalf of a nonimmigrant worker in H-1B, L-1, or O-1A classification must now certify that it has reviewed the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) with respect to the controlled technology or technical data that the petitioner will release to a foreign beneficiary. Pursuant to the EAR and the ITAR, an employer’s release of this information to foreign persons is deemed to be an export to that person’s country or countries of nationality. As such, the U.S. company must obtain a license from the U.S. government before it can release controlled technology or technical data to its nonimmigrant workers.

The petitioner is now required to certify on Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, that it has reviewed the EAR or ITAR and determined whether it will require a U.S. government export license to release controlled technology or technical data to the beneficiary. If the petitioner determines a license is required, the company must further certify that it will not release or allow access to the controlled technology or technical data until it has received the necessary license or authorization.

Few petitioners will be affected by the above licensing requirements as most types of technology are not controlled for export or release to foreign persons and are not related to defense articles and defense services. However, the petitioner must review the EAR and ITAR to ensure compliance with the U.S. export control regulations. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

November 23, 2010

“No Matches” for Names and Social Security Numbers

The Department of Justice has issued a summary addressing “no match” situations for name and social security numbers. For instance, employers are instructed to not assume that a “no-match” is an indicator of a person’s immigration status or work authorization, but should instead advise the employee to contact the Social Security Administration to correct or update the record. For the full summary of “do’s” and “don’ts” for both employers and employees, see http://www.justice.gov/crt/osc/pdf/publications/SSA/Employers.pdf and http://www.justice.gov/crt/osc/pdf/publications/SSA/Employees.pdf.

November 23, 2010

Visa Processing Made More Convenient for Indian Nationals

The Department of State has announced that Indian nationals are now eligible for visa processing at all visa facilities across India regardless of the applicant’s home address or city of residence. Therefore, Indian nationals can now enjoy the convenience of applying for an U.S. visa at any one of the U.S. consular posts in India, including the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates General in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. Also, the consular districts will be reorganized as follows:
• Embassy Delhi: Bihar, Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bhutan.
• Consulate Mumbai: Goa, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Diu and Daman, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
• Consulate Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh, Orissa.
• Consulate Chennai: Karnataka, Kerala, Puducherry, Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu, Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
• Consulate Kolkata: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, West Bengal.
For more information, see http://newdelhi.usembassy.gov/pr111810.html.

November 17, 2010

Department of Labor Issues Foreign Labor Certification Report

The Department of Labor issued its Foreign Labor Certification Report, showing employment-based immigration data compiled in the 12 months ending September 30, 2009. The data reveals that DOL received approximately 800,000 labor certification requests which is a decrease in numbers as compared to the previous year. For the full report, including data, trends, and highlights across programs and states, see http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/2009_Annual_Report.pdf

October 27, 2010

USCIS Fee Increase Effective 11/23/2010

USCIS will increase its immigration fees effective November 23, 2010. See chart below for a sample list of fees. To view the new fee schedule in full, see http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=5be73dc5cb93b210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=5b33aca797e63110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD.

Form No.

Application/Petition Description

Existing Fees (effective through Nov. 22, 2010

Adjusted Fees (effective beginning Nov. 23, 2010)

I-129/129CW

Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker

$320

$325

I-130

Petition for Alien Relative

$355

$420

I-131

Application for Travel Document

$305

$360

I-140

Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker

$475

$580

I-485

Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

$930

$985

I-539

Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status

$300

$290 (Reduction)

I-751

Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence

$465

$505

I-765

Application for Employment Authorization

$340

$380

I-907

Request for Premium Processing Service

$1,000

$1,225

N-400

Application for Naturalization

$595

$595

Biometrics

Capturing, Processing, and Storing Biometric Information

$80

$85

October 15, 2010

Immigration Law Fundamentals Course

Charina Garcia with Cornerstone Law Group will be speaking at LawReviewCle's Immigration Law Fundamentals course on November 9, 2010 in Oakland, CA. The course will introduce the basic concepts of U.S. immigration law and procedure, including family and employment based immigrant visas. For more information call: (866) 342-9264 or go to: www.lawreviewcle.com

October 11, 2010

Record-Breaking Removal of Illegal Aliens

During the 2010 fiscal year, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE) removed the largest number of illegal aliens in U.S. history. ICE removed a record breaking 392,000 illegal aliens, more than 195,000 on criminal grounds. The increase in removals is largely due to the implementation of an ICE program, Secure Communities, whereby ICE works with state and local law enforcement agencies to use biometric technology to identify criminal aliens for removal. Currently more than 660 state and local partners participate in Secure Communities, and ICE has plans to increase its presence in more jurisdictions nationwide.

September 24, 2010

Diversity Visa Application Begins October 5, 2010

The Department of State has issued instructions for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program for fiscal year 2012. The diversity visa program is an annual lottery open to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. If selected, the individual is permitted to seek lawful permanent residence (green card status). For fiscal year 2012, 50,000 diversity visas will be made available and entries must be submitted electronically between October 5, 2010 at noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) to November 3, 2010 at noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). See http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1318.html for detailed information about the diversity lottery program and online application. Please contact our office for assistance.

September 24, 2010

USCIS Increases Immigration Fees Effective November 23, 2010

Effective November 23, 2010, USCIS will increase immigration fees by an average of 10%. For example, the I-130 filing fee will be increased from $355 to $420 and the I-140 filing fee will be increased from $475 to $580. Any filings postmarked on or after November 23, 2010 will need to submit the new fees. To view the new fee schedule, see http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=5be73dc5cb93b210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=5b33aca797e63110VgnVCM1000004718190aRCRD.

August 13, 2010

USCIS Enhances Online Customer Service Features

USCIS has added new online customer service options, including online inquiry and improved case status information features. The electronic inquiry is currently only available for case status information on Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Form I-90) and Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) cases that are outside normal processing times. Another added feature is online case status notification and change of address now available in Spanish. For more information on the new customer service features, visit http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=1bb8d3e85433a210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD

August 11, 2010

USCIS Changes Filing Locations to Lockbox Facilities

USCIS has announced revised filing instructions for numerous petitions, including its Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker), Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), and Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Non-Immigrant Status). The new forms instruct petitioners to file their applications at USCIS Lockbox facilities rather than at USCIS Service Centers.

August 2, 2010

USCIS Changes Payment Options at Domestic Offices

USCIS has announced that beginning October 1, 2010, domestic offices and U.S. territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, will no longer be accepting cash payments. Other payment options will include money orders, credit cards, and checks (including personal checks).

August 1, 2010

DHS Increases Aviation Security

In an effort to increase aviation security, DHS has announced its "If You See Something, Say Something” campaign which seeks the public’s support in reporting any suspicious aviation activity. Also, DHS will streamline the pre-screening process for passengers and crews traveling to and from the U.S. by allowing the carrier to submit a single manifest to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's on-line data system.

July 29, 2010

Temporary Injunction on Arizona’s Controversial Immigration Law

On 7/28/10, the federal district court issued an injunction, preventing certain provisions of Arizona’s controversial immigration legislation, SB 1070, from taking effect. The injunction has temporarily invalidated portions of the law that required police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop and that required immigrants to carry proof of their status at all times.

July 8, 2010

Increase in U.S. Passport Fees

The Department of State announced that it will raise fees for U.S. passports effective July 13th. For details on the fee increase for the U.S. passport book and card, as well as other service fees, see http://travel.state.gov/passport/fees/fees_5079.html

June 10, 2010

USCIS Proposes Increase of Immigration Fees

On June 9, 2010, USCIS announced its proposal to increase immigration fees by an average of 10% in order to meet budgetary requirements. It is proposed that the I-130 filing fee be increased from $355 to $420 and the I-140 filing fee be increased from $475 to $580. To view the proposed rule and make public comment, see http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2010-13991_PI.pdf

May 27, 2010

USCIS Issues Revised Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

The USCIS announced today that it has revised the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), or Form I-766, as part of its ongoing efforts to enhance security and deter immigration fraud. The revised EAD cards feature the addition of a machine-readable zone with an informational box of text beneath the magnetic stripe and removal of the previous two-dimensional bar code on the back of the card. The USCIS began issuing the revised EAD cards on May 11, 2010.

May 12, 2010

USCIS Redesigns New State-of-the Art Green Card

USCIS announced that it has redesigned the Permanent Resident Card, i.e. commonly known as the Green Card which serves as proof of authorization to live and work in the United States as a permanent resident. The new Green Card offers enhanced security features aimed at facilitating authentication and preventing counterfeiting and tampering. The redesigned security features include holographic images, laser engraved fingerprints, high resolution micro-images, Radio Frequency Identification, and a preprinted return address for the return of lost cards to USCIS. The Green Card will also now be colored green. Beginning May 11, 2010, USCIS will issue all Green Cards in this new format. Newly issued Green Cards for lawful permanent residents have a ten year validity period and two years for conditional residents. Existing Green Cards will remain valid until their expiration dates and holders of those cards will receive the redesigned card when applying for a renewal or replacement. Other existing Green Cards with no expiration date will also remain valid, however, USCIS recommends that such cards be replaced with the newly redesigned versions for added security. Please note the current USCIS filing fee for a Green Card renewal or replacement application is $370.

April 29, 2010

Greece is Now a Visa Waiver Country

Effective April 5, 2010, Greece may now participate in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This means Greek citizens may apply for admission to the U.S. at the port of entry without first obtaining a visa. The VWP exists for individuals wishing to visit the U.S. for business or pleasure for a period not to exceed 90 days (3 months).

April 26, 2010

Department of State "Six-Month Passport List"

The Department of State (DOS) has a six-month passport list, which includes countries that extend passport validity for an additional six months after expiration. This is relevant to the U.S. requirement upon entry or application that a passport be valid for six months beyond the expiration of the person's authorized stay or authorized admission. Certain countries have entered into agreement with the U.S. to allow the U.S. to add six months validity to the expiration date on a foreign national's passport so that the person may meet this U.S. requirement. The countries on this list include:

Algeris; Andorra; Angola; Antigua and Barbuda; Antilles; Argentina; Armenia; Aruba; Australia; Austria; The Bahamas; Barbados; Belgium; Belize; Bermuda; Bolivia; Bosnia/Herzegovina; Brazil; Bulgaria; Bunna; Canada; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cote D'Ivoire; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Egypt; El Salvador; Estonia; Ethiopia; Fiji; Finland; France; Gabon; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Grenada; Guatemala; Guinea; Guyana; Hong Kong; Hungary; Iceland; India; Indonesia; Ireland; Israel; Jamaica; Japan; Latvia; Lebanon; Libya; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macau; Macedonia; Madagascar; Malaysia; Maldives; Malta; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mexico; Monaco; Mongolia; Montenegro; Mozambique; Nepal; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Norway; Pakistan; Palau; Panama; Papua New Guinea; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; San Marino; Serbia; Seychelles; Singapore; Slovakia; Slovenia; South Africa; South Korea; Spain; Sri Lanka; St. Kitts and Nevis; St. Lucia; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; Sweden; Switzerland; Taiwan; Thailand; Trinidad and Tobago; Tunisia; Turkey; Tuvalu; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; Uruguay; Uzbekistan; Venezuela; Vietnam; and Zimbabwe.

April 14, 2010

Department of Labor Hot-line Now Live for Workers

The Department of Labor (DOL) has implemented a program called We Can Help for low wage workers. It includes a hot-line [866-4US-WAGE (487-9243)] that workers can call to obtain information about workplace rights or to file a complaint.

March 23, 2010

April 2010 Department of State Visa Bulletin

The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_4747.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China (China is 08/22/2005 and India is 02/01/2005); EB-3 is at 2001 (India), 2002 (Mexico) or 2003 (all other countries); EB-3 other workers are at 2001; 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 2006.

March 11, 2010

ICE Enforcement Now in Southeast U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced that ICE enforcement activities have expanded to the southeastern U.S., including in Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. ICE will be issuing 180 Notices of Inspection to businesses in this region to examine Form I-9 records, employee records, financial records and other business records. These inspections are to determine whether these businesses are complying with Federal employment eligibility verification laws and regulations. ICE's movement into the southeast is a reminder to all businesses to make sure their Form I-9 policies produce accurate results and to develop plans and procedures that ensure compliance with applicable Federal statutes and regulations. Please contact our office if you'd like to discuss these issues with respect to your company or employer.

March 4, 2010

California Service Center Offers Tour to HR Personnel

The California Service Center (CSC) will hold a tour of its facility in Laguna Niguel, California, for HR personnel involved with filing immigration cases for their workers. The tour is on March 11, 2010. It will begin at 12:15PM and end at 1:00PM. From 1:00PM to 2:30PM, CSC officers will meet with the visitors and answer questions. The topics will include best practices for filing and advice HR professionals should give their foreign workers. Please let us know by March 5, 2010 if you'd like to attend and we can arrange your visit.

February 12, 2010

Immigration Policy Center Releases Report Regarding U.S. Earnings Being Sent Abroad

The Immigration Policy Center (IPC) has released a report titled "Many Happy Returns: Remittances and Their Impact" by Kristin Johnson, Ph.D., which discusses remittances (i.e. the transfer of money by foreign nationals back to home countries). In it, Dr. Johnson concludes that remittances can constitute one of the top financial inflows to developing countries. Dr. Johnson states that in some cases these remittances exceed the amount of international aid being given to these countries. Of the countries worldwide, Mexico and the Philippines are the top receiving countries from the U.S., however, these countries are also the largest consumers of U.S. products and other goods. While some individuals argue that remittances damage the U.S. economy, Dr. Johnson states that the latest IPC report shows that these remittances are used to purchase U.S. goods, benefitting both the receiving country and the U.S. With respect to the recent earthquake devastation in Haiti, Dr. Johnson explains that remittances are (or will be) a critical resource for rebuilding the country. To view the entire IPC report, please see this link: http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/special-reports/many-happy-returns-remittances-and-their-impact.