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The Justice Department cautioned employers filing H-1B petitions not to discriminate against U.S. workers. The warning came as the federal government began accepting employers’ H-1B visa petitions for the next fiscal year. The H-1B visa program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations such as science and information technology. The antidiscrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) generally prohibits employers from discriminating against U.S. workers because of their citizenship or national origin in hiring, firing and recruiting. Employers violate the INA if they have a discriminatory hiring preference that favors H-1B visa holders over U.S. workers. “U.S. workers should not be placed in a disfavored status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division. Applicants or employees who believe they have been discriminated against based on their national origin, citizenship or immigration status can contact the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section. The IER can be reached via email at IER.usdoj.gov and via phone at 1-800-255-8155.

For further information: http://www.aila.org/infonet/doj-cautions-employers-seeking-h-1b-visas

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As of May 5, 2014, USCIS will accept only the revised version of Form N-400 (Rev. 9/13/13), Application for Naturalization. USCIS will reject and return previous versions of the Form received after this date. Issued on February 4, 2014, the new version does not change the eligibility requirements. According to USCIS, the revisions are designed to allow the Service to more efficiently make eligibility determinations.

The revised Form N-400 includes:

(1) Additional questions surrounding good moral character and issues relating to U.S. security. These questions were formulated for compliance with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (2004) and Child Soldier Prevention Act (2008).

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As of August 26, 2011, the USCIS has received approximately 32,200 Bachelor’s degree petitions and 16,700 U.S. Master’s degree petitions. The USCIS will continue to accept H-1B petitions for FY2012 until the quota of 65,000 Bachelor’s degree petitions and 20,000 U.S. Master’s degree petitions is met.

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The Department of State has announced that the visa numbers for employment based green card applications have been exhausted for Fiscal Year 2011. The INA allocates at least 140,000 visa numbers for employment-based preference categories (i.e. EB-1. EB-2, EB-3, etc.) Each month the Department of States publishes a visa bulletin that provides a summary of the immigrant visa numbers available per month. The October visa bulletin can be found here: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5560.html. For each category that is oversubscribed, the Department of States establishes a cut-off date that is determined by the priority date of the first applicant who could not be allocated a visa number. Applicants who have a priority date earlier than the cut-off date are eligible to receive an immigrant visa number for that month. Applicants with priority dates later than the cut-off dates must continue to wait until his or her priority date becomes current. Because visa numbers have been exhausted for Fiscal Year 2011, employment based applicants with priority dates that meet the cut-off dates under the September visa bulletin will need to wait until the visa numbers under Fiscal Year 2012 are available on October 1, 2011. Thus, the USCIS and Department of State will be holding employment based green card cases that meet the cut-off dates based on the September 2011 visa bulletin and will resume issuing green card approvals or immigrant visas on October 1, 2011 when the Fiscal Year 2012 visa numbers are available. Please note that the USCIS will continue to accept adjustment of status applications for those individuals who meet the cut-off dates in September.

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The new visa bulletin is out at this link: http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5092.html. Employment-based categories are as follows: EB-1 remains current; EB-2 remains current, except for India and China which are at 2006; EB-3 is at 2004 for all countries, except for India (2002), China (2003), and EB-3 Mexico is currently unavailable; EB-3 other workers are at 2002; 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 2009.

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has completed a report regarding unauthorized foreign nationals in the U.S. in 2009. In it, the DHS states that the unauthorized immigrant population decreased from 11.6 million (in January 2008) to 10.8 million (in January 2009). It also states that the unauthorized immigrant population grew 27% overall from 2000 to 2009. In addition, the DHS points out that of all unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in 2009, 63% entered before the year 2000 and 62% were from Mexico. To read the entire report, please see this link: http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/publications/ois_ill_pe_2009.pdf.

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On January 14, 2010, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo obtained a restraining order against The International Immigrants Foundation, preventing the organization from providing legal assistance on immigration matters. The organization’s President, Eduardo Juarez, is not an attorney, but has been advising on immigration matters for over 20 years. He routinely preyed on the immigration community with high fees and a monthly membership fee during pending immigration matters. Attorney General Cuomo is now working to find competent authorized representation for the ongoing immigration cases.

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The USCIS has announced changes to its organizational structure, including the creation of a Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate and a Customer Service Directorate. The USCIS has also divided the Domestic Operations Directorate into two directorates. These changes have been made by the USCIS in an attempt to deliver better service. An organizational chart showing these changes can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/News/Images/USCISOrgChart.JPG.

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On January 21, 2010, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) held that Immigration Judges (IJ’s) can decide if an I-140 immigrant petition, which is filed when seeking an employment-based green card, remains valid after the beneficiary changes jobs or employers. There is a law, known popularly as AC21, that allows a beneficiary of an immigrant petition to switch jobs during the employment-based green card process (provided certain criteria are met). Whether someone is eligible to port (transfer) to a new employer has typically been a decision reserved for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is not part of the court system. Today’s BIA decision places this authority in the hands of IJ’s for those in deportation/removal proceedings. This is a significant decision for employment-based green card beneficiaries in proceedings as it allows IJ’s the authority to determine that an individual’s employment-based immigrant petition is still valid and they are still eligible for permanent residence in the U.S.