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Immigration News - September and October of 2007

10/26/2007: Immigration status and FEMA disaster aid for victims of CA wildfires

Six days of devastating wild fires have burned down almost 1,800 homes in Southern California. In San Diego alone, half a million people were evacuated to escape the raging blazes. On Friday, thousands were allowed to return to their neighborhoods for the first time, and found nothing but blackened rubble. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this heartbreaking tragedy.

Since many immigrants are among the fire victims and are in desperate need of assistance, we would like to provide some guidance regarding immigration status and receiving disaster aid from the federal government, including emergency aid and long-term FEMA cash assistance.

10/25/2007: Huge H1B fee hike

The European Union just sent a clear message that they want skilled professionals to come to Europe, a lot of them, by offering the Blue Card program. Almost at the same time, the U.S. Senate sent a message also: they want to increase the H-1B fee from $1500 to over $5000 per visa!

10/24/2007: Dream Act failed once again to pass the Senate

The Dream Act that would have given the children of illegal immigrants a chance to earn legal status received only 52 votes today, 8 short of the 60 votes needed in the 100-member senate in order to advance. 36 Republicans and 8 Democrats blocked the bill.

10/23/2007: European Union Unveiled Blue Card to Attract High-Tech Workers

Facing an estimated shortfall of 20-million workers in the next 20 years, the European Union has unveiled an ambitious plan to lure millions of skilled professionals to its Member States. A rival of the Green Card may have arrived.

10/22/2007: Customers affected by SoCal wild fires may reschedule appointments

There are currently massive wild fires across Southern California. In San Diego County alone, more than 200,000 people have been evacuated by Monday evening and the number is likely to grow if the Santa Ana condition continues over night. USCIS Field Offices in the Los Angeles, CA area (Los Angeles field office, San Bernardino field office and Santa Ana field office) and San Diego, CA (San Diego field office and Chula Vista field office) will automatically reschedule applicants who miss naturalization (N-400) or adjustment of status (I-485) interviews today due to the fires.

Anyone who misses an INFOPASS appointment should/may reschedule the appointment on their own, or the customer may go to the office where the appointment was originally scheduled, with the appointment notice for today.

It is unknown how long this procedure will be in place, but this alert will be updated daily until the situation changes.

10/21/2007: Indian immigrants' son new Louisiana governor

Bobby Jindal, the son of Indian immigrants, has easily defeated 11 opponents and will become the governor of Louisiana next January. At age 36, he will be the youngest chief executive of any state. Congratulations to Mr. Jindal and his family!

10/19/2007: Bills introduced to reduce FBI Name Check backlog

Over the past few days two important bills were introduced in the House and Senate, which, if enacted, should reduce the substantial backlog in FBI name checks. The House bill H.R. 3828, Citizenship and Immigration Backlog Reduction Act, mandates an elimination of the entire name check backlog (cases pending more than six months) within 180 days after the date of the enactment of the act. On October 16, Senator Carl Levin's amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Fiscal Year 2008 Appropriations Bill was approved to improve oversight of the FBI name check program.

We urge our readers to contact their Representatives and Senators to support these two bills which can have significant impacts on tens of thousands of legal immigrants whose lives have been on hold. See this page to find your congressional representatives.

10/18/2007: DOS released DV-2009 Diversity Visa Instructions

10/17/2007: Immigration Reform For Skilled Workers

Legal immigration reform has finally gained some attention thanks to a series of high profile events. IEEE and SIA's recent letter to Congress calling for a drastic change of immigration policies also created quite a buzz in the high-tech industry. With Congress getting ready to tackle all the proposals for skilled workers, We at immigrationroad.com would like to bring up this White House report on immigration that may be of interest to our visitors:

From The White House Council of Economic Advisers, June 20, 2007:

  • On average, US natives benefit from immigration. Immigrants tend to complement (not substitute for) natives, raising natives' productivity and income.
  • Skilled immigrants are likely to be especially beneficial to natives. In addition to contributions to innovation, they have a significant positive fiscal impact.
  • Immigrants are a critical part of the U.S. workforce and contribute to productivity growth and technological advancement...Approximately 40% of Ph.D. scientists working in the United States were born abroad.
  • Many immigrants are entrepreneurs. The Kauffman Foundation's index of entrepreneurial activity is nearly 40% higher for immigrants than for natives.
  • Immigrants have lower crime rates than natives. Among men aged 18 to 40, immigrants are much less likely to be incarcerated than natives.

Chairman Edward Lazear summarized the report: "Our review of economic research finds immigrants not only help fuel the Nation's economic growth, but also have an overall positive effect on the income of native-born workers."

10/16/2007: USCIS Issues Travel Advisory For The Holiday Season

USCIS reminds applicants needing a travel document (Reentry Permit, Refugee Travel Document or Advance Parole) to apply before the end of October, in order to travel abroad during the month of December. See details here.

10/12/2007: USCIS Service Center Processing Dates as of 10/12/2007

Nebraska Service Center

I-131 AP 8/14/2007
I-140 8/14/2007
I-485 Employment Based 8/14/2007
I-765 EAD (c9 - AOS) 8/14/2007

Texas Service Center

I-131 8/13/2007
I-140 (Concurrent Filing) 8/13/2007
I-485 Employment Based 8/13/2007
I-765 EAD (c9 - AOS) 8/13/2007

09/19/2007: Legal and Skilled Professionals Rally to Protest Immigration Backlog

Immigration Rally

On September 18, 2007, about 1000 scientists, engineers, doctors and other highly skilled workers held a peaceful rally in Washington DC. The event, organized by Immigration Voice, drew national attention. Traditionally, legal immigrants have chosen to wait and always hoped for the best. But the end result is a hugh backlog and several years of waiting for a green card. For some people, the journey to permanent residence can mean a decade of frustration.

Most participants probably already experienced the ridiculous process of labor certification operated by the so-called backlog elimination centers. After spending 2 - 5 years in that stage alone, they are now facing severe Visa Retrogression which may take a few more years to complete. If they are stuck in the USCIS security checks, like 100,000 people already are, it is yet another few years of waiting.

One demonstrator carried a sign showing more than $385,000 taxes he paid for the last seven years. Many others have paid significant amount of taxes as well, working in the high-tech industry or medical fields. They also entered the country legally, obeyed the laws, and played by the rules. But their problem - unreasonable delay in the processing of their pursuit of permanent residency - have been largely ignored by law makers for all these years.

There was a glimpse of hope, actually several times in the past two years, but the Comprehensive Immigration Reform proposals that would have offered some sort of relief to legal immigrants have all failed due to strong opposition to provisions involving illegal immigrants.

The group and many immigrant advocates now want Congress to split the issues, and change the decade-old laws that set annual quota for both employment-based green cards and temporary worker H1B visas. On September 11, governors from California, Texas and other states also sent a letter to urge Congress to act on legal immigration reform in order to protect skilled workforce in those states. Since many Senators and Congressmen have publicly stated that they actually support immigration - it is just illegal immigration they are opposing - it would be interesting to see how they would react to such proposals.

(Image from Immigration Voice, Used with Permission)

09/18/2007: USCIS Service Center Processing Dates as of 9/15/07

Nebraska Service Center

I-131 AP June 14, 2007
I-140 EB-2 January 01, 2007
I-140 EB-3 November 15, 2006
I-485 Employment Based December 21, 2006
I-765 EAD (c9 - AOS) June 14, 2007

Texas Service Center

I-131 3 months
I-140 Missing
I-485 Employment Based December 19, 2006
I-765 EAD (c9 - AOS) 11 Weeks

09/14/2007: September 17 is Constitution Day and Citizenship Day

On September 17, the Citizenship Day, and during the entire Constitution Week, USCIS will be hosting 125 naturalization ceremonies around the country. More than 23000 people will complete their journey to U.S. citizenship during the ceremonies.

09/14/2007: USCIS Updates on Front Log Delays

As of September 14, 2007, USCIS has completed data entry and issued receipt notices for applications and petitions received on or before the dates indicated:

Nebraska Service Center

Form: Date Received:
I-131 7/29/2007
I-140 7/29/2007
I-485 Employment Based 7/29/2007
I-765 7/29/2007
N-400 7/26/2007
All Other 8/05/2007

Texas Service Center

Form: Date Received:
I-131 7/19/2007
I-140 8/13/2007
I-140 Concurrent Filing 7/19/2007
I-485 Employment Based 7/19/2007
I-765 7/19/2007
N-400 7/16/2007
All Other 9/11/2007

09/11/2007: Governor Schwarzenegger Leads Multi-State Push for Immigration Reform to Protect Skilled Workforce

09/11/2007: October 2007 Visa Bulletin

Similar to pre-July bulletin, except that EB3 moved backwards by about 2 - 3 years:

Employment
-Based
All
Charge-ability
Areas
Except
Those
Listed
CHINA-
mainland born
INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
1st C C C C C
2nd C 01JAN06 01APR04 C C
3rd 01AUG02 01SEP01 22APR01 22APR01 01AUG02
Other
Workers
01OCT01 01OCT01 01OCT01 01OCT01 01OCT01

09/10/2007: USCIS Updates on Front Log Delays

As of September 7, 2007, USCIS has completed data entry and issued receipt notices for applications and petitions received on or before the dates indicated:

California Service Center

Form: Date Received:
I-130 8/07/2007
N-400 7/24/2007
All Other 8/28/2007

Nebraska Service Center

Form: Date Received:
I-131 7/29/2007
I-140 7/29/2007
I-485 Employment Based 7/29/2007
I-765 7/29/2007
N-400 7/25/2007
All Other 8/05/2007

Texas Service Center

Form: Date Received:
I-131 7/02/2007
I-140 7/02/2007
I-485 Employment Based 7/02/2007
I-765 7/02/2007
N-400 7/16/2007
All Other 8/19/2007

Vermont Service Center

Form: Date Received:
I-130 7/26/2007
N-400 7/22/2007
All Other 8/30/2007

USCIS Lockbox

Form: Date Received:
I-485 Family Based 8/15/2007

09/08/2007: GAO Releases Assessments of USCIS Performance: Not Very Good

On September 6, GAO (Government Accountability Office) released a progress report to assess the performance and achievements of the Department of Homeland Security. The report gave USCIS a "Modest" score, citing 9 out of 14 performance expectations not achieved (see table below). One particular item, Eliminate the benefit application backlog and reduce application completion times to 6 months, received a "Generally Not Achieved" assessment from GAO.

DHS promptly responded to disagree with many negative reviews from GAO. Regarding immigration backlogs, USCIS believes that it has made substantial progress and is well on its way to eliminating the application backlog. USCIS further emphasizes that some case delays are due to other government agencies (we all know they meant FBI) and visa availability, both of which are beyond USCIS' control, and why it is justified to exclude those cases from calculating the backlog.

Table 4: Summary of GAO Assessments for DHS’s Immigration Services Performance Expectations (Source: GAO Analysis)
Generally achieved (5 total)
Institute process and staffing reforms to improve application processes
Establish online access to status information about benefit applications
Establish revised immigration application fees based on a comprehensive fee study
Communicate immigration-related information to other relevant agencies
Create an office to reduce immigration benefit fraud
Generally not achieved (9 total)
Eliminate the benefit application backlog and reduce application completion times to 6 months
Establish a timetable for reviewing the program rules, business processes, and procedures for immigration benefit applications
Institute a case management system to manage applications and provide management information
Develop new programs to prevent future backlogs from developing
Establish online filing for benefit applications
Capture biometric information on all benefits applicants
Implement an automated background check system to track and store all requests for applications
Establish training programs to reduce fraud in the benefits process
Implement a fraud assessment program to reduce benefit fraud


09/05/2007: USCIS Publishes New Rule for U Visa - Victims of Criminal Activities

A new interim final rule has been published to set aside "U" nonimmigrant status for victims of crimes. To be eligible for U status, an individual must have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse, has information about the crime, and is willing to help the government in the investigation of the crime. There is an annual limit of 10,000 U visas, valid for up to four years. The major benefit of the U visa is that victims may apply from either inside or outside the U.S.

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