The Department of State today released the May 2013 Visa Bulletin with some good news for EB-3 categories. ROW, China and Mexico have all moved forward by more than five months! The rest of EB-3 and China EB-2 made small progress, while India EB2 remained unchanged. See the table below:
|Chargeability||Preference||Cut-off Date Movement (Days)|
DOS offered an explanation for the EB3 advancing trend:
The Employment-based Third preference category cut-off date for most countries has advanced significantly. This has been done in an attempt to generate demand so that the annual numerical limits may be fully utilized, and such movements may continue for the next few months. The rapid movement of cut-off dates is often followed months later by a dramatic increase in demand for numbers. Once such demand begins to materialize the cut-off date movements will begin to slow or stop.
Our visa bulletin tracking graph demonstrated the trend for EB-3, which has been steadily improving (declining curve) since early 2012 for ROW, China and Mexico, but deteriorating for India and the Philippines:
Here is another way to look at how quickly the annual H-1B cap has been reached over the past four years. In 2010, the annual cap for FY-2011 was reached 302 days after the season started on April 1st. This year, it took all of 5 days to do the same.
According to USCIS, approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions were filed this year. 85,000 of them won the lottery and if approved, their beneficiaries will be able to work in H-1B status starting October 1, 2013. For people who didn’t win, or missed the boat altogether, the earliest time they may begin working in H-1B is October 1, 2014, assuming they win the lottery next year. Not a good situation for foreign tech workers seeking better opportunities in the U.S.
H-1B visa cap has been reached one week after the season opened. USCIS announced today (April 5, 2013) that it has received a sufficient number of petitions to reach both the regular H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption cap. As a result, USCIS will no longer accept H-1B petitions for the entire fiscal year 2014, which runs from October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014.
For all valid petitions received between April 1 and 5, USCIS will use a random selection process (“lottery”) to pick the winners, starting with the advanced degree petitions (20,000 total). Those not selected will become part of the regular cap (65,000) selection process. Keep in mind that USCIS will continue to accept and process H-1B petitions not subject to the annual cap, such as current H1B workers changing jobs or beneficiaries who will work at institutions of higher education.
H-1B visa consumption has been accelerating over the past four years, as shown in the graph below. In 2010, it took almost 10 months to reach the FY-2011 cap. The following year it was 7 months. But in 2012, all H-1B visas were allocated in 2 months, and this year: 1 week!
Update 4/8/2013: USCIS has completed the random selection process.
USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 7, 2013, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as a “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption limit. For cap-subject petitions not randomly selected, USCIS will reject and return the petition with filing fees, unless it is found to be a duplicate filing. – USCIS
Green card applicants filing for adjustment of status (Form I-485) are required to submit Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. The form must be completed, signed and sealed by a designated civil surgeon. Form I-693 is used by USCIS to determine whether an applicant is inadmissible to the United States on public health grounds.
Form I-693 includes a vaccination record. The civil surgeon will indicate whether the applicant has met the vaccination requirement and whether a waiver is requested. CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – is the government agency responsible for setting the specific requirements. Below is a table that lists current requirements for vaccination, based on the applicant’s age at time of medical examination. For more information, or for updated vaccination requirements, please go to the CDC page here.
|Birth-1 Month||2-11 Months||12 Months-6 Years||7-10 Years||11-17 Years||18-64 Years||≥65 Years|
|Td/Tdap||NO||YES, if 7 years and older (for Td); if 10 years through 64 years (for Tdap-see ACIP schedule); if 65 years and older (for Td)|
|MMR||NO||YES, if born in 1957 or later||NO, if born before 1957|
|Rotavirus||NO||YES, if 6 weeks to 8 months||NO|
|Hib||NO||YES, if 2 months through 59 months||NO|
|Hepatitis A||NO||YES, if 12 months through 23 months||NO|
|Hepatitis B||YES, birth through 18 years||NO|
|Meningococcal (MCV4)||NO||YES, if 11 years through 18 years||NO|
|Pneumococcal||NO||YES, if 2 months through 59 months (for PCV)||NO||YES (for PPV)|
|Influenza||NO||YES, 6 months and older (annually each flu season)|
Note that since 2010, the flu vaccine is required for all applicants 6 months of age and older, but only during the flu season. For immigration purposes, the flu season is Oct 1 – Mar 31 annually.
More fine prints can be found here:
DTP=diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and pertussis vaccine; DTaP=diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine; DT=pediatric formulation diphtheria and tetanus toxoids; Td=adult formulation tetanus and diphtheria toxoids; Tdap=adolescent and adult formulation tetanus and diphtheria toxoids and acellular pertussis vaccine (Boostrix for persons 10-64 years old; Adacel for persons 11-64 years old); IPV=inactivated poliovirus vaccine (killed); MMR=combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine; Hib=Haemophilus influenzae type b conjugate vaccine; MCV=meningococcal conjugate vaccine; PCV=pneumococcal conjugate vaccine; PPV=pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.
I received an email today from S.B. Woo, President of the 80-20 National Asian Am. Educational Foundation, with an open invitation to comment on a NY Times debate with regard to top colleges intentionally limiting the number of Asian students. Ivy League schools strongly deny it, which means that even they think the policy is wrong, if it exists. However, it is quite obvious that Asian students must do exceptionally well, compared to their peers, in order to attend the nation’s elite universities.
Below is a partial excerpt of the email from 80-20, and a link to the NY Times article where you can comment on the topic:
Subject: What Price for Limiting Asian Enrollment?
From the get-go I want to state that (1) there is irrefutable
evidence that top colleges are limiting the number of Asian
admissions, and (2) what’s at stake is not a few more admissions
for Asians, but the much larger interest of America.
First, look at the following 3 facts.
(a) Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade reported in his 2009
book: â€œTo receive equal consideration by elite colleges, Asian
Americans must outperform Whites by 140 points, Hispanics by 280
points, Blacks by 450 points in SAT (Total 1600),”
(b) Asian Americans are not just good test takers. For example, in
2006, they were 27% of Presidential Scholars, who were chosen
based on scholarship, service, leadership, and creativity, and
(c) See a powerful chart published by Ron Unz in The American
PLease go DIRECTLY to NY Times’ website to express your view.
Now is the time to speak out!!!
Please spread the word on Facebook, twitter, etc.
USCIS finally released the pending I-485 inventory today with employment-based data as of October 4, 2012. This has been a long wait: Five months after the last release on May 3rd, which is supposed to be on a quarterly basis. Anyway, better late than never.
The green card tracker has now been updated with the new inventory data.
I have been waiting for the oath ceremony since my citizenship interview on September 18, 2012. Today my USCIS online status finally changed:
On September 27, 2012, we placed your application in the oath scheduling que. We will send a notice when the ceremony is scheduled. If you move prior to the scheduled ceremony, please use our Change of Address online tool to update your case with your new address or call our customer service center at 1-800-375-5283.
Naturalization Applicants: you will receive your certificate at your oath ceremony. You can expect to be scheduled for an oath ceremony within 45 days of receiving your recommended approval. Many offices schedule approved applicants for the oath ceremony on the same day as the day of the interview. Please check the local office profile page on our website to determine if the office where you will be interviewed schedules same day oath ceremonies.
USCIS local office in San Diego usually (always?) schedules their monthly oath ceremony on a Wednesday, so I’m guessing it will be October 24th or 31st. However, with California’s voter registration deadline coming soon, I’m hoping that USCIS will take that into consideration and actually holds a ceremony earlier next month. We’ll see.
On October 3rd, I received the oath ceremony notification in the mail. Unfortunately, it is scheduled for October 24th, two days after the California voter registration deadline (15 days before general election). I don’t understand why USCIS couldn’t organize a ceremony one week earlier, so that hundreds of new citizens would be able to vote in this year’s election. Oh well…I’m still happy my journey will finally be over, but wish it were a couple days earlier.
While waiting for the oath ceremony, I sent an email to USCIS Public Engagement and expressed my disappointment over the timing. An officer replied on the 9th, and told me that new citizens are actually exempt from the 15-day registration deadline. She also said there would be representatives from the County Registrar of Voters at the oath ceremony to explain in more details. I was very glad when I saw the email because I sincerely wanted to vote.
The day is finally here! On October 24, I drove to the San Diego Civics Theater for my Oath Ceremony. My appointment was 8am, but I knew the actual ceremony wouldn’t start until 10. So I arrived just past 9am to avoid the long lines. The downside, however, is that I would also be one of the last to receive my certificate at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Inside the hall there was a row of tables stationed by USCIS staff. I handed over my green card and appointment notice. The officer simply put my green card in a waste bin, which already had a bunch of cards – some were already cut up. I almost asked if I could keep it as a souvernier The officer found my name in his log book, and assigned me to station 9 for receiving my certificate. I was then given a packet as well as my appointment notice with a big number 9 written on it.
I found a seat and started looking through the package: a certificate holder, some materials about voter registration, flyers regarding how to apply for a passport, and a letter from President Obama welcoming new citizens. I heard that sometimes there may be light performance on stage while people wait for the judge, but not today. I played Angry Birds for a while.
The Oath Ceremony started shortly after 10am. A person from the Department of State came on stage first to discuss U.S. passports and ways to apply for one. Then a lady from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters explained how to register and vote, and the importance of voting. Then the District Judge and a couple of USCIS officials arrived. After the National Anthem, the Judge delivered a short speech welcoming all of us. She mentioned that there was over a thousand people in the room to become new citizens on that day. She asked people to stand up to be recognized, and to receive a round of applause from the audience when their home country was called. It was actually amazing to see how many countries were represented in this one event. And people from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq received loud cheers from the crowd. Although most countries had only a couple people representing them, when Mexico was called nearly half the room stood up!
What followed was all of us taking the Oath of Allegiance together, by repeating after the Judge:
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
We then recited the Pledge of Allegiance together, led by an USCIS official:
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
This concluded our oath ceremony.
What happened next was a little embarrassing. We were supposed to remain seated until being called to the USCIS stations. One section apparently didn’t hear it, and started walking over to the tables freely. Then people sitting in other sections started to follow them, and an orderly gathering quickly turned into a free market. An organizer had to use a loud speaker and requested everyone to go back to their seats. This time it went smoothly and I got my certificate in about 25 minutes.
DOS and county officials were available afterwards to answer questions on passports and voting. I completed my voter registration on site. Since it was already too late to vote by mail or go to a poll station election day, I could bring my receipt and vote at the registrar’s office. I plan to do so within the next few days.
By now my journey to U.S. citizenship is officially over. I submitted my application on May 9, 2012, and received my Naturalization Certificate on October 24. Compared to my green card application, which took five years and many unexpected turns, this has been smooth sailing all the way. More importantly, it was done just in time so that I can finally cast my vote on the presidential election and California propositions.
Entire N-400 Citizenship Application Process:
XBMC is a fantastic media player that can handle most video and music formats. It also includes many add-ons to watch TV online. Being open source, XBMC is free and is compatible with Windows, Mac and other platforms. If you don’t have Dish Network or a dedicated set-top box for watching Chinese programming, using XBMC with CNTV can be a handy solution. CNTV (China Network Television) is provided by China’s official broadcasting company CCTV, and I’m sure there are other add-ons for different languages.
Quality-wise CNTV on XBMC is very good, although it highly depends on the speed of your Internet service. I’m using Time Warner standard 10MB down with Turbo Boost and can watch most stations without any problem. Obviously it still can’t compete with Dish’s Great Wall Package in terms of PQ and ease-of-use, but for occasional viewing, XBMC is hard to beat.
Below is a step-by-step tutorial for setting up XBMC with CNTV:
Today I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a citizenship interview notice in my mailbox (8/17/2012). I was surprised because my USCIS online status never changed. In fact it is still showing Initial Review right now. Normally it would’ve changed to “your N400, APPLICATION FOR NATURALIZATION was placed in line for interview scheduling. When scheduling is complete, you will receive a written notice with a time and place for your interview.” But for some reason, mine was never updated.
The I-797C notice was dated 8/14, and the interview is scheduled for mid September.
The time finally arrived. On September 18, I took my citizenship tests at the San Diego office.
I got to the USCIS office a little before 8am and my appointment was 8:15. There was a table at the font entrance and a big sign asking people to put their appointment letters in a box (except infopass notices). A worker later collected the letters and brought them inside.
The waiting room was about 10% full. I saw a couple people holding the “Learn About the United States” booklet, apparently waiting for their interviews. Two windows were open with immigration officers sitting behind them, who I assume were talking to people with infopass appointments. While I was waiting, someone (IO) would periodically come out to the waiting room and call people inside.
Then I noticed on the big sign by the front door that N-400 applicants are also required to complete a new form. It is a simply one-page form that asks if you want to change your legal name and if anything has changed since the N-400 was filed. I quickly filled it up and left it in the box (my original appointment letter was already picked up by then).
My name was called around 8:20. I followed an immigration officer to his cubicle where the interview and tests would take place. The IO looked rather young, and after a brief greeting, wasted no time and went straight to the interview.
I would say that it didn’t start very well. The conversation went like this:
IO: So you’re from China?
IO: Do you still have a house there?
Me: No, I don’t have a house.
IO: But you lived in China? Where is your birth certificate and resident record?
Me: Resident record?
IO: Yes, the one that shows your parents, siblings, home address, schools you went to, etc.
Me: I don’t have that, the only thing I have…(he cut me off here)
IO: Everyone I interviewed had a resident record! How do you prove you residence in China?
Me: We have a document called “hukou” back in China. But when I left for the U.S., the policy at that time was that I had to turn it in.
IO: So you can’t prove anything?
Me: I have a notarized document to…( show my birthdate and family members, but he cut me off again)
IO: Did you bring it?
Me: No, but I brought my passport (I was a bit concerned at this point and honestly a little upset too – the interview notice never mentioned to bring anything like that, and he apparently doesn’t believe me that I don’t have a “resident record” which I’d never heard of in China)
The conversion went on a bit longer but I can’t remember the exact words. I basically explained that I had to turn in my “hukou” and national ID card in order to apply for a passport, and my notarized documents, which I later found out were in my file right on his desk, are the only ones that confirm my birth date and also show my family members. He either believed me or gave up, and said:
IO: Show me your ID please.
Me: (Handing over my driver’s license and green card)
What followed was pretty routine. I was asked to stand up and raise my right hand, and answer yes or no when he asked if everything I say during the interview is true. Then he started to go over my N-400 application. He didn’t go though every entry on the form, but asked me to confirm some of them. So it went quickly with just one little hickup:
IO: Have you been fingerprinted outside the U.S.?
IO: No? You didn’t get fingerprinted the last time you got your passport?
Me: The last time I got it was in Los Angeles (I was trying to say it wasn’t out of the United States as in his original question)
IO: Did you understand my question? You didn’t have to submit fingerprints when you applied for a passport?
Me: I don’t recall being fingerprinted.
IO: You didn’t have to submit an application package and go through security checks in China?
Me: Yes, I did and it was a complicated process…
IO: So you do remember!
Me: Yes, but I don’t recall being fingerprinted during the process.
Ok, as you can see this episode came out of nowhere! He was just going through my N-400 application which doesn’t ask about fingerprinting at all. So I’m starting to think that maybe I did misunderstand his question, but he never tried to clarify and just started digging. Anyway, he moved on with the rest of the N-400 after that.
The next section was Civics test. He got a piece of paper with 10 questions on it and started from the top. The questions were easy: What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen? Who is the governor of California? Where is the Statue of Liberty? I don’t even remember the others but he stopped after six questions. So I passed the test.
The following section was reading and writing. I was asked to read one sentence “Who lives in the White House,” and write down “The President lives in the White House.” That was it.
At this point the interview was pretty much finished. I signed a few things including the two photographs I submitted along with the N-400 package. The IO’s mood was also much improved as the interview went on. He said he would recommend approval and I should expect a notice to appear for the Oath Ceremony soon. He also said he’d be at the ceremony so if I could stop by and say hello that’d be great.
Interestingly, he asked how I felt about the interview. I said it went well, and it was smooth (what else could I say?) He then said the only thing for him was that I didn’t have a resident record which he thought everyone was supposed to have. Anyway, no biggie. He gave me a sheet of paper indicating that his recommendation for approval and that was the end of my citizenship interview.
Entire N-400 Citizenship Application Process:
The final steps setting up a new laptop include connecting peripherals, such as a mouse, keyboard, printer and external monitor. My Logitech MK700 combo worked immediately after the unifying receiver was plugged in, and didn’t even require a pairing process. However, the mouse felt a bit sluggish. Installing Logitch software solved the problem. The rest, however, took a bit of effort and are explained below.
12. Print through router
My laptop only has three USB ports. Without using a USB hub, two of them were already occupied by the Logitech receiver and a laptop cooler. I wanted to reserve the third one for flash thumb drives, so my only option is to add the printer to my Asus RT-N16 router which has two USB ports available. This way other computers on my home network has access to the printer as well.
The process isn’t straightforward and goes like this:
Continue reading »
Continue reading »
With the SSD in place, it is time to start installing software and drivers, beginning with Windows 7.
8. Install Windows
Insert the laptop battery, connect the power cord and power on the computer. Since the BIOS was already set to boot from the CD/DVD drive in Step , Windows installation should start automatically. If you forgot to load the installation disk, you can do so now and restart the laptop.
The entire process of installing Windows 7 took me about half an hour (maybe less since I was doing something else at the same time). Near the end I was prompted to activate Windows and I chose the phone option. The automatic voice system guided me through the process: I provided the OEM Windows product key and in return received an activation code. The only problem was that the system couldn’t understand me saying “I’m finished,” and insisted transferring me to a live operator to restart the process. At that point my computer was already showing successful activation so I simply hung up.
Upgrading a laptop’s hardware isn’t as easy as for a desktop, simply because there isn’t much room to work around. But replacing the memory modules, hard disk or optical drive is fairly straightforward. Memory has been quite cheap for a while and is the most cost effective way to boost your PC’s performance. Solid state drives (SSD) offer numerous benefits compared to traditional disk-based drives, but at a significantly higher cost. However, over the past six months SSD prices have steadily drifted lower and are now at a very affordable level. Some of the highly rated 128GB SSD’s, such as Samsung 830 and Crucial M4, are often on sale for under $100. The one I got is a 240GB SanDisk Extreme, which also has great reviews on Amazon and other places. The optical drive, usually a DVD burner, may be upgraded to a Bluray burner or even replaced with a second hard drive. However, I’m not planning to replace the internal optical drive anytime soon and if a need arises later on, I’ll just use an external one.
5. Prepare SSD
SSD has been a hot topic in the tech world so there are plenty of guides on the internet on how to prepare and maintain solid state drives. Here is one, another one, and yet another one. They are very useful but can be over complicated for my case: I simply don’t need data migration, disk cloning or things like that. After reading through many informational articles and forum discussions, I only did a few things to my SSD:
- Update firmware. This is considered a necessary step even though it carries some risks (anytime you flash firmware something could go wrong, although unlikely). This is particularly important if your SSD has some known issues that have been reportedly fixed by new FW – all this information can be found online by searching for the specific model of your drive. To upgrade firmware, I downloaded and installed the SanDisk SSD toolkit. By putting my SSD in an external enclosure and connecting it to my old PC, I was able to examine the SSD using the toolkit. It turned out there was indeed a new version of firmware released just a few days after my specific SSD was built. So I went ahead and saved the new FW into a USB flash drive – the toolkit would then make it a bootable drive. Still on my old PC, I changed the BIOS boot priority to USB. Upon restart, the software found the SanDisk SSD and completed FW update in just a few minutes. For more information on this particular SSD, here is a very detailed benchmark report.
Continue reading »
There are basically two ways to migrate an old PC to a new one: Clone the entire hard drive and copy it to the new PC, or set up the new PC manually and then move old data over. Since my old desktop has too much junk and a 32-bit Vista, I won’t bother cloning its hard disk and will just start fresh with the new laptop.
1. Burn recovery disks
The first thing I did after firing up the laptop was to generate recovery disks. Most PC manufacturers don’t ship the disks anymore, and instead will happily sell them to you. But it is easy to burn the DVD’s on your own. These disks will restore your computer to its factory state after a hard drive crash or corrupted operating system.
Lenovo’s pre-installed ThinkVantage software has an option to create system recovery disks. The program will instruct you to load blank media and guide you through the process. The first disk is a bootable repair disk, and can be either a CD or DVD. The second and third must be DVD’s to restore your system to factory condition. After installing new operating system and other programs, you can choose to create another set of disks that contain an image of your entire hard drive. This way you don’t have to re-install everything again if you later have to replace the hard drive.
Continue reading »
Continue reading »
I recently bought a laptop to replace my aging desktop computer and the migration process has been quite fun. It wasn’t difficult by any means, but was so tedious that I had Google running all the time to look for solutions. I’m going to post some of the work I did, to either help you or bore you to tears if you’re not interested.
The notebook I got is a Lenovo Thinkpad L412. With an Intel Core i5 processor, 14″ anti-glare screen and excellent build quality, it fits my needs perfectly for Word/Excel, Internet, Python, some CAD, and Web development (no gaming, though). It will be used mostly as a desktop replacement, but its 5.1lb weight isn’t too bad for mobility either. It did, however, come pre-installed with a 32-bit Windows 7 Professional. So the first thing I’ll do is to clean install the 64-bit version. Some people would clean install the OS anyway just to remove the bloatware loaded by PC manufacturers. I don’t feel Lenovo installed too much junk, compared to HP and Dell computers I owned before, but it does have Norton which I’ll do everything in my power to get rid of.
While I’m at it, I might as well slap a Solid State Drive (SSD) in for its speed, reliability, quietness and free-falling prices in recent months. Here it goes:
1. Burn recovery disks
2. Backup data on old PC
3. Download 64-bit Windows 7
4. Burn a bootable Windows installation disk
5. Prepare SSD
6. Replace hard drive with SSD
7. Upgrade memory
8. Install Windows
9. Install drivers
10. Install software programs
11. Install Python and xlrd
12. Print through router
13. Use laptop cooler
14. Displayport to DVI
15. Attach a NAS