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Good News! CIS Reopens EB Adjustment Filings. July 17, 2007

Posted by dsheen88 in Employment-Based Immigration, Immigration Cases, Immigration Laws and Policies, Labor Cert, News and politics, Simply Immigration!, USCIS Press Release, Visa Bulletin.
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USCIS has announced that, beginning immediately, it will accept employment-based applications to adjust status (Form I-485) filed by aliens whose priority date are current under July Visa Bulletin, No. 107 (the one they retracted).  USCIS will accept applications until August 17, 2007.  Please pass on this announcement to all interested parties.

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H-1B Quota Exceeded On First Day of Filing!!!! April 3, 2007

Posted by dsheen88 in H-1B visa, Simply Immigration!, USCIS Press Release.
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WASHINGTON, DC, April 3 – Illustrating the inadequacy of the quota for specialized H-1B workers, USCIS announced today that it received more applications than the 65,000 limit on April 2. April 2 was the first day on which an employer could request a first-time visa for an H-1B worker for the period that begins on October 1, 2007. Agency rules state that if the limit is reached on the first day of filing, all applications received on the first two days are put into a lottery to determine who gets the relatively few visas that are available.

In the fiscal year now in effect, the supply of such visas lasted less than eight weeks after the filing period opened. For the fiscal year that starts October 1, 2007, the supply did not last through even the first day. “Every year, the application window becomes shorter and shorter, to the point that it is now practically non-existent,” said Carlina Tapia-Ruano, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “These high-skilled workers help to keep our system dynamic, and many sectors of the economy will suffer from this shortage.”

The H-1B visa program is utilized by U.S. businesses and other organizations to augment the existing labor force with foreign workers in specialty occupations that require expertise in a specialized field. Typical H-1B occupations include scientists, architects, engineers, computer programmers, teachers, accountants, and doctors. H-1B workers are admitted to the United States for an initial period of three years, which may be extended for an additional three years.

“This absurd situation illustrates the disconnect between current immigration policy and the needs of our economy,” concluded Tapia-Ruano. “The best way to resolve this crisis is for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform measure as soon as possible.”

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

-AILA

Passport Requirements for Air Travel Now Effective January 25, 2007

Posted by dsheen88 in Immigration Laws and Policies, News and politics, Simply Immigration!, Tips, Travel Alert, USCIS Press Release.
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In a January 23, 2007 Press Release, DHS reminded the public that citizens of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda are now required to present a valid passport at U.S. air ports-of-entry when entering from any part of the Western Hemisphere. The final rule on the travel document requirements of the first phase of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) was published in the Federal Register on November 24, 2006. 71 FR 68411.

CIS released new H-1B/H-4 timing and extension policies January 1, 2007

Posted by dsheen88 in Employment-Based Immigration, H-1B visa, Immigration Laws and Policies, Info for Doctors and Health Professionals, MyComments, Simply Immigration!, Tips, USCIS Press Release.
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Good news to H-1B holders!  CIS recently released their new policies that addresses several H-1B timing issues.  The following policies will be in effect January 2007:

1.  Time spent as an H-4 and L-2 dependent does not count against the maximum allowable periods of stay available to principals in H-1B or L-1 status.

2. Individuals do not need to be in H-1B status or in the U.S. in order to request additional H-1B time beyond six years under AC21.

3.  Individual who was in the U.S. in H-1B status for less than six years and then subsequently leaves the U.S. for more than one year, may elect to either be re-admitted for the remainder of the initial six-year admission period w/o being counted against the cap OR seek to be admitted as a new H-1B subject to the cap.

Separating of H-4 and L-2 Time from H-1B and L-1 Time

The first issue addressed in this CIS memo is how to count H-4 and L-2 time against maximum periods allowed under H-1B and L-2 time.  For example, would an individual present in the U.S. in L-2 status for the past 6 years be eligible for any H-1B time?  The answer is yes.

USCIS clarifies that any time spent in H-4 status will not count against the 6-year maximum period of admission applicable to H-1B individuals.  For example, an individual who was previously in H-4 dependent status and who subsequently becomes an H-1B principal is entitled to the maximum period of stay applicable under H-1B time.

Periods of Stay on H-1B Status Beyond 6 Years Pursuant to AC21 (H-1b portability law)

The second issue addressed in this CIS memo deals with requesting extensions beyond six years under AC21 even if the individual is no longer in H-1B status or no longer in the U.S.  For example, if someone previously maxed out H-1B time and changed to TN status, and s/he is now eligible for H-1B time beyond six years under AC21, can s/he request more H-1B time even though s/he is now in TN status?  The answer is yes.

The memo reads “Though both provisions of AC21 use the term “extension of stay,” eligibility for the exemptions is not restricted solely to requests for extensions of stay while in the United States.  Aliens who are eligible for the 7th year extension may be granted an extension of stay regardless of whether they are currently in the United States or abroad and regardless of whether they currently hold H-1B status.”

H-1B Remainder Option

The third issue in this CIS memo addressed the situation of an individual who did not max out his or her H-1B time but subsequently left the U.S. for more than one year.  For example, if an individual was previously in the U.S. in H-1B status for less than six years, and then subsequently leaves the U.S. for more than one year, may s/he be re-admittted for anytime remaining from their previous H-1B admission period or does s/he now need to admitted as a new H-1B with a new six years available, but subject to the cap?  The answer is actually either and up to the individual.

The memo futher provides…

“There have been instances where an alien who was previously admitted to the United States in H-1B status, but did not exhaust his or her entire period of admission, seeks readmission to the United States in H-1B status for the remainder of his or her initial six-year period of maximum admission, rather than seeking a new six -year period of admission,  pending AC21 regulations, USCIS for now will allow an alien in the situation described above to elect to either (1) to be re-admitted for the “remainder” of the initial six-year admission period without being subject to the H-1B cap if previously counted or (2) seek to be readmitted as a “new” H-1B alien subject to the H-1B cap.”

Under this new policy, if the H-1B cap is an issue, the option will be for the individual to come in now and take whatever H-1B time they have left, or wait and file under the cap and have six-years available again.

DHS Announces $12 Million for Operation Stonegarden to Support Local Border Security Efforts December 18, 2006

Posted by dsheen88 in Immigration Laws and Policies, News and politics, Simply Immigration!, USCIS Press Release.
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Release Date: December 15, 2006

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
DHS Press Office, (202) 282-8010

Washington – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today more than $12 million in grant awards to the four Southwest border states in support of ongoing local law enforcement efforts at the border. The funding, as part of Operation Stonegarden, assists local authorities with operational costs and equipment purchases that contribute to border security. The distribution of these funds is as follows: Arizona, $6,353,174; California, $1,000,000; New Mexico, $1,580,258; and Texas, $3,070,081.

“Local law enforcement plays an undeniable role in helping to combat crime and secure the border,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “Our ultimate success at the border is going to require close coordination with local authorities and sustained commitments to remedying a security challenge that has been decades in the making.”

Operation Stonegarden began as a successful pilot program in fiscal year 2005 that involved 14 border states. The initiative gave states the flexibility to use DHS grant funding to enhance coordination among state and federal law enforcement agencies at our borders. The pilot program resulted in an estimated 214 state, local and tribal agencies working 36,755 man-days on various public safety and border security operations.

Funding for Operation Stonegarden was made available through the fiscal year 2006 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror and Hurricane Recovery. The program requires states to identify and prioritize solutions to their border security needs.

Other resources for this initiative come from the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP). As part of the expansion of Operation Stonegarden in January 2006, the department announced that states had the ability to use up to 25 percent of unspent LETPP funds from fiscal years 2004 and 2005. In addition, states can now use up to of 25 percent of their fiscal year 2006 LETPP funds for border security-related activities.

The $12 million in funds released today by the department will supplement the states’ opportunity to utilize 25 percent of their fiscal year 2006 LETPP funds to further enhance critical border security operations. More than $384 million was awarded nationwide through the LETPP program in fiscal year 2006.

DOS Publishes Final Rule on Consular Interviews for NIV Applicants December 18, 2006

Posted by dsheen88 in Immigration Laws and Policies, Simply Immigration!, USCIS Press Release.
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[Federal Register: December 18, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 242)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Page 75662-75663]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr18de06-4]
—————————————

DEPARTMENT OF STATE

22 CFR Part 41

[Public Notice: 5646]

Visas: Documentation of Nonimmigrants Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, as Amended

AGENCY: State Department.

ACTION: Final rule.

—————————————

SUMMARY: This final rule amends guidance to consular offices for the waiver of personal appearance of applicants for nonimmigrant visas contained at 22 CFR 41.102, to conform to the requirements of Section 222(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as added by section 5301 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA). The final rule replaces the interim rule published in the Federal Register on July 7, 2003 and reflects legislation enacted subsequent to that rule.

DATES: This rule is effective on December 18, 2006.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Charles Robertson, Legislation and Regulations Division, Visa Services, Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-0106, (202) 663-1221, e-mail (robertsonce3@state.gov).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Why is the Department promulgating this rule?

Section 5301 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) added a new Section 222(h) to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Section 222(h) sets out detailed statutory requirements for personal interviews of non-immigrant visa applicants in the INA for the first time. Previously, INA Section 222(e) left the question of personal appearance of nonimmigrant visa applicants to be defined by regulation. The Department’s interim rule published on July 7, 2003 (68 FR 40168) defined the requirements for personal appearance. This final rule replaces the previous interim rule to reflect the requirements of IRTPA and the new INA Section 222(h). Most of new Section 222(h) can be implemented through the Department’s existing personal appearance regulations and current requirements for fingerprint collection, but a few changes in the regulations are needed to conform fully to the new interview requirements. The most significant change is that a consular officer must now interview persons in the same age ranges as persons covered by the biometric collection requirement. In addition to the existing list of situations in which an interview may not be waived, the personal interview requirement may not be waived for NIV applicants from third countries and applicants who have been previously refused visas or found ineligible for visas, where that ineligibility was not overcome.

Are there any exceptions to these new requirements?

Section 5301 of IRTPA provides for some exceptions from the new interview requirements. In addition, as the President noted in the signing statement for IRTPA, the interview requirement is viewed “as advisory” with respect to foreign diplomats or foreign officials, because it otherwise would impermissibly burden the President’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations. Therefore, the regulations continue to permit exemptions from the interview requirements of persons in A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3, G-1, G-2, G-3 G-4, NATO- 1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, or NATO 6 classifications, and applicants for diplomatic or officials visas as described in 22 CFR 41.26 and 41.27.

Regulatory Findings

Administrative Procedure Act

This regulation involves a foreign affairs function of the United States and, therefore, in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553 (a)(1), is not subject to the rule making procedures set forth at 5 U.S.C. 553.

[[Page 75663]]

Regulatory Flexibility Act/Executive Order 13272: Small Business

This rule is not subject to the notice-and-comment rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act or any other act, and, accordingly it does not require analysis under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601, et seq.) and Executive Order 13272, section 3(b).

The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995

Section 202 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UFMA), Pub. L. 104-4, 109 Stat. 48, 2 U.S.C. 1532, generally requires agencies to prepare a statement before proposing any rule that may result in an annual expenditure of $100 million or more by State, local, or tribal governments, or by the private sector. This rule will not result in any such expenditure, nor will it significantly or uniquely affect small governments.

The Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996

This rule is not a major rule as defined by 5 U.S.C. 804, for purposes of congressional review of agency rulemaking under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-121. This rule will not result in an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more; a major increase in costs or prices; or adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, or the ability of United States-based companies to compete with foreign based companies in domestic and import markets.

Executive Order 12866: Regulatory Review

The Department of State has reviewed this rule to ensure its consistency with the regulatory philosophy and principles set forth in Executive Order 12866 and has determined that the benefits of the proposed regulation justify its costs. The Department does not consider the rule to be an economically significant action within the scope of section 3(f)(1) of the Executive Order since it is not likely to have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or to adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or state, local, or tribal governments or communities.

Executive Orders 12372 and 13132: Federalism

This regulation will not have substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government. Nor will the rule have federalism implications warranting the application of Executive Orders No. 12372 and No. 13132.

Executive Order 12988: Civil Justice Reform

The Department has reviewed the proposed regulations in light of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order No. 12988 to eliminate ambiguity, minimize litigation, establish clear legal standards, and reduce burden.

Paperwork Reduction Act

This rule does not impose information collection requirements under the provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act, 44 U.S.C., Chapter 35.

List of Subjects in 22 CFR Part 41

Aliens, Foreign officials, Immigration, Nonimmigrants, Passports and visas, Students.

For the reasons stated in the preamble, the Department of State amends 22 CFR part 41 as follows:

PART 41–[AMENDED]

1. The authority citation for part 41 shall continue to read:

Authority: 8 U.S.C. 1104; Pub. L. 105-277, 112 Stat. 2681-795 through 2681-801. Additional authority is derived from Section 104 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) Pub. L. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3546.

2. Amend Sec. 41.102 as follows:

A. Revise paragraph (b),

B. Amend paragraph (c) by adding the phrase “Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section” to the beginning of the second sentence.

C. Redesignate paragraph (d) as (e) and add a new paragraph (d). The new and revised text reads as follows:

Sec. 41.102 Personal appearance of applicant

* * * * *

(b) Waivers of personal appearance by consular officers. Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section or as otherwise instructed by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services, a consular officer may waive the requirement of personal appearance in the case of any alien who the consular officer concludes presents no national security concerns requiring an interview and who:

(1) Is a child under 14 years of age;

(2) Is a person over 79 years of age;

(3) Is within a class of nonimmigrants classifiable under the visa symbols A-1, A-2, C-2, C-3 (except attendants, servants, or personal employees of accredited officials), G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, or NATO-6 and who is seeking a visa in such classification;

(4) Is an applicant for a diplomatic or official visa as described in Sec. Sec. 41.26 or 41.27 of this chapter, respectively;

(5) Is an applicant who within 12 months of the expiration of the applicant’s previously issued visa is seeking re-issuance of a nonimmigrant biometric visa in the same classification at the consular post of the applicant’s usual residence, and for whom the consular officer has no indication of visa ineligibility or of noncompliance with U.S. immigration laws and regulations; or

(6) Is an alien for whom a waiver of personal appearance is warranted in the national interest or because of unusual circumstances.

* * * * *

(d) Cases in which personal appearance may not be waived. A consular officer or the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State may not waive personal appearance for:

(1) Any NIV applicant who is not a national or resident of the country in which he or she is applying, unless the applicant is eligible for a waiver of the interview under paragraphs (b)(3) or (b)(4) of this section.

(2) Any NIV applicant who was previously refused a visa, is listed in CLASS, or who otherwise requires a Security Advisory Opinion, unless:

(i) The visa was refused temporarily and the refusal was subsequently overcome;

(ii) The alien was found inadmissible, but the inadmissibility was waived; or

(iii) The applicant is eligible for a waiver of the interview under paragraphs (b)(3) or (b)(4) of this section.

(3) Any NIV applicant who is from a country designated by the Secretary of State as a state sponsor of terrorism, regardless of age, or in a group designated by the Secretary of State under section 222(h)(2)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, unless the applicant is eligible for a waiver under paragraphs (b)(3) or (b)(4) of this section.

* * * * *

Dated: November 30, 2006.
Maura Harty,
Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, Department of State.
[FR Doc. E6-21492 Filed 12-15-06; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4710-06-P

Clarification of Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing Signature Policy December 15, 2006

Posted by dsheen88 in H-1B visa, Immigration Laws and Policies, USCIS Press Release.
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In the days leading up to December 13, 2006, AILA received reports that USCIS Service Centers were rejecting forms I-907 Request for Premium Processing signed by attorneys for petitioners, declaring that an attorney signature can be accepted only if a Power of Attorney is attached. USCIS Service Centers Operations (SCOPS) has now clarified that the Power of Attorney requirement is limited to those circumstances where an individual other than the petitioner or applicant is signing a form as the petitioner or applicant, and it is accompanied by an I-907 signed by the G-28 attorney. Clarification of Form I-907 Signature Policy is provided by AILA’s SCOPS Liaison.

Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) Arrests 1,300 Workers in Raids December 13, 2006

Posted by dsheen88 in News and politics, Simply Immigration!, USCIS Press Release.
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On 12/12/06, approximately one thousand Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents entered six Swift & Company meatpacking plants-in Greeley, Colorado; Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota-with warrants permitting the agents to search and apprehend undocumented immigrant workers. According to a new release issued by ICE on 12/13/06, agents arrested 1,282 undocumented immigrant workers on administrative immigration violations, including 65 who were also charged with criminal violations such as identity theft, re-entry after deportation, and other violations. ICE did not bring charges against Swift officials during the raids.**Toll-free number for families members of workers detained in Swift raids: 1-866-341-3858

For complete USCIS release visit:

http://www.ice.gov/pi/news/newsreleases/articles/061213dc.htm

Improvements to the Visa Waiver Program November 29, 2006

Posted by dsheen88 in Action, Employment-Based Immigration, Immigration Laws and Policies, MyComments, News and politics, Simply Immigration!, Tips, USCIS Press Release.
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Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff issued a statement on security improvements to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). It followed President Bush’s announced intention to work with Congress to reform the VWP to encourage some international allies to join the program.

Here is the complete press release–

Release Date: November 28, 2006

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Contact: (202) 282-8010

President Bush has announced his intention to work with Congress to reform the Visa Waiver Program by strengthening security measures to better facilitate the increased interest among some international allies in joining the program. Americans rightly expect this Department to fulfill its legal and moral obligation to secure our borders from those who would do us harm, while maintaining our great legacy as a welcoming country to legitimate foreign visitors. These reforms will accomplish both objectives, and encourage international allies that their goal of joining the Visa Waiver Program is a realistic one.

The Visa Waiver Program began in 1988 in the pre-9/11 world. In a post-9/11 environment, homeland security must be the priority. We can achieve greater security and greater efficiency in our Visa Waiver Program.

We envision a secure travel authorization system that will allow us to receive data about travelers from countries before they get on the plane. Countries that are willing to assist the United States in doing effective checks on travelers could be put on track to enter the program soon. For countries seeking admission to the Visa Waiver Program, this would be an opportunity to set a standard that will be applied to the program generally.

We want to welcome people who are interested in working or traveling in the United States provided they abide by the terms of their admission and, also importantly, provided they don’t furnish a security threat. I want to stress that the United States will equally accept the burden of new security measures and will not require citizens of visa waiver countries to adopt measures that we are unwilling to undertake ourselves. The Department looks forward to working with Congress and our foreign allies to improve the visa waiver eligibility requirements.

USCIS Annoucement re Changes to I-539 Student Reinstatement Processing October 27, 2006

Posted by dsheen88 in Immigration Laws and Policies, MyComments, Simply Immigration!, Tips, USCIS Press Release.
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USCIS announced that beginning October 30, 2006 local USCIS offices will forward new filings for Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, for F-1 and M-1 student reinstatement, to the California Service Center or the Vermont Service Center, depending on where the student is engaged in study.

For the complete notice go to: http://www.uscis.gov/graphics/publicaffairs/statements/FilingChange102506.pdf