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Immigration News - January and February of 2008

02/28/2008: USCIS Background Check FAQ

USCIS republished the FAQ on its new policy regarding FBI name check and other background checks.

02/28/2008: FBI Name Check New Policy Update

According to AILA and other sources, the USCIS is still planning to adjudicate eligible I-485 cases under the new policy in the near future, but the total number is now being estimated at about 25,000, smaller than what was originally published in its FAQ (now withdrawn). These cases are "approvable," and are waiting only for FBI name check clearance. We will post the updated USCIS FAQ as soon as it becomes available.

02/27/2008: Immigration and Crime Rate

If you listen to talk radio, you might have heard numerous times about how immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, are filling up our jails. They make you believe that a higher immigration rate automatically means a higher crime rate. But is it true? According to a Mercury News story, which cited a report by the Public Policy Institute of California:

  • U.S.-born men are jailed in state prisons at a rate more than three times higher than foreign-born men, and they are 10 times more likely to land behind bars.
  • Foreign-born men make up about 35 percent of the state's adult male population, but they make up roughly 17 percent of the state's overall prison inmates.
  • Male Mexican nationals ages 18 to 40 -- those more likely to have entered the country illegally -- are more than eight times less likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to be imprisoned.

02/22/2008: Immigrants Sue to Speed Citizenship Applications

USA Today published a short article today about immigrants filing law suits to speed up FBI name check and citizenship applications. According to the article:

"In 2005, about 270 lawsuits filed against USCIS were over delayed name checks, says USCIS spokesman Chris Bentley. Last year, there were more than 4,400 such suits." (We believe this number includes WOM cases for both citizenship and green card cases.

(FBI spokesman Bill) Carter says the FBI will use the (additional) money to automate paper files and add 111 workers to the 150 already checking names.

(U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson) said "Plaintiffs have experienced delays of many months to several years, incurred substantial expenses and lived with the resulting uncertainty in their personal and professional lives, and immeasurable impact on their families," and "ordered USCIS to draft regulations for its name-check process or stop using it, and gave the agency 30 days to tell the immigrants why their cases have been delayed."

02/21/2008: USCIS Published, then Withdrew, FBI Name Check FAQ

Yesterday USCIS published the Frequently Asked Questions about its new policy on FBI name checks, but quickly withdrew it today. According to AILA, USCIS will revise the FAQ and republish it in the next few days. Please stay tuned.

02/19/2008: I-130 Filing Instructions Revised

USCIS has revised the filing instructions for the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130). Effective immediately, all stand-alone Form I-130s must be filed with the Chicago Lockbox instead of a USCIS Service Center. See the announcement here.

02/16/2008: USCIS Consolidates Biometrics Collection

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin consolidating biometrics collection when employment-based adjustment of status applications and employment authorization requests are filed concurrently.

02/16/2008: USCIS Ombudsman Resigns

DHS announced that Prakash Khatri, the department's first USCIS Ombudsman, has decided to resign from his job and return to the private sector. Mr. Khatri's annual reports have offered valuable insights into USCIS processing issues (most notably, FBI name checks) that are otherwise unavailable to the immigration community. He has made numerous recommendations to improve UCSIC operations. He also held teleconferences on a regular basis to answer questions from the community. We will certainly miss his services, and would like to wish him all the best in the future.

02/14/2008: 120-Day Rule for EAD Renewal

USCIS recently announced that starting January 29, 2008, renewal of an Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) cannot be filed more than 120 days prior to its expiration date. All EAD renewals filed too early will be rejected. For people who rely solely on EAD for work authorization, it is thus very important to start counting the number of days before submitting an application.

Since many people applied for EAD during last summer, there will be a rush of EAD renewals in the next few months. You will want to file your case immediately after the 120-day mark to avoid a potential gap between the two EAD's. Remember that you are not allowed to work if your current EAD expired, and your renewal has not been approved.

02/12/2008: March Visa Bulletin Released

India EB2 remains "unavailable." China EB2 moved forward by 11 months to December 1, 2003. ROW EB3 jumped more than 3 years to January 1, 2005.

DOL also made the following statement:

"The cut-off date movement for March in several Employment categories has been greater than those experienced in recent months. Advancement of the cut-off dates at this time should prevent a situation later in the fiscal year where there are large amounts of numbers available but not enough time to use them. If the expected increase in CIS number use materializes, future cut-off date movements could slow or stop."

02/10/2008: USCIS New Policy on FBI Name Check

A UCSIC memo (02/04/2008) indicated that USCIS may start approving cases without FBI name check clearance. According to the memo, if an application (I-485, I-601, I-687 or I-698) is "approvable" and the FBI name check has been pending for more than 180 days, it shall be approved while background investigation continues. USCIS will then evaluate the FBI reports when they become available, and may reverse their original decisions including revoking approved green cards.

Without a doubt this memo brings exiting news to the immigrant community. For people who have spent years waiting for name check clearance, this could mean approval letters in the near future if their visa numbers are also current. However, we want to caution our readers that it is still unclear how and when USCIS will implement this change of policy. For a change of this magnitude, it may very well take a few months for the dust to settle. Stay tuned.

02/09/2008: USCIS FY2009 Budget - Funded Almost Entirely by Fees

President Bush has requested a $2.7 billion budget for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Fiscal Year 2009, and over $2.5 billion will be funded through immigration fees. A large portion of the budget will be spent on enhancing national security, including special programs such as "E-Verify" and "REAL ID," as well as improving immigration services.

02/07/2008: USCIS Tips for Filing 2009 H-1B Petitions

Anticipating mass filings of H1B cases on April 1, 2008, USCIS has offered helpful tips and published frequently asked questions to help streamline the process. The most important ones are:

  • Submit correct fees including base filing fee, ACWIA fee depending on employer size, fraud fee, and premium processing fee if applicable.
  • Clearly label all H-1B cap cases in red ink on top margin of Form I-129 petition, using special codes such as Reg. Cap, U.S. Master, Exempt and C/S Masters.
  • Fill out Form I-129 and all supplements correctly.
  • One petition per envelope, multiple envelopes in one package.

02/07/2008: Tax Rebates Almost an Reality

Congress today sent the much anticipated economic aid plan to President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law shortly. The plan would rush tax rebates - $600 for individuals, $1,200 for couples - to qualifying taxpayers, starting as early as May. People making more than $75,000/year ($150,000 for couples) would see reduced amounts (5% per $1,000 with caps). Calculations will be based on 2007 tax returns which are due April 15, 2008.

01/30/2008: New Centralized Filing Location for H1 Cap Exempt Petitions

Effective today, USCIS will employ a special unit dedicated to processing H-1B cap exempt petitions at the USCIS California Service Center (CSC). H-1B petitioners are now encouraged to use a special mailing address for qualifying H-1B cases. See the announcement here.

01/29/2008: Sundance Honors Immigration Drama

"Frozen River," a film about a struggling single mother and a Mohawk girl smuggling immigrants into the U.S., has won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature at Sundance.

01/29/2008: REAL ID Final Rule Published

The Department of Homeland Security has published REAL ID final rule, establishing minimum standards for state issued driver's licenses. The final rule specifies proof of U.S. citizenship or legal status of an applicant, among others. Here is a Q&A page with more information.

01/28/2008: USCIS January Newsletter

01/27/2008: Tax Rebate on the Way

If all goes well, you might actually see a nice little check from the IRS this time! The president and House leaders have agreed on a stimulus package to hopefully steer the economy away from recession. The package, as it stands now, would offer a $600 rebate to each qualifying individual, or $1200 for married couples filing jointly. Families with children would receive an additional $300 per child. However, rebates would start to phase out if your adjusted gross income (AGI) reaches $75K, or $150K for a married couple.

Although the details may change, and it may take a few months before you see the money, it appears quite likely that such a legislation will be enacted into law.

01/27/2008: Immigration Myths or Facts

AILA published a list of immigration myths during this campaign season. Among them:

MYTH #2: Immigrant workers suppress the wages of American workers.

FACTS: The overwhelming majority of economists agree that immigrants increase the economic productivity and thus the wages of natives.

MYTH #3: The nation spends billions of dollars on welfare for undocumented immigrants.

FACTS: To the contrary, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive any "welfare" benefits and even legal immigrants are severely restricted in the benefits they can receive.

MYTH #4: Undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.

FACTS: This is a frequently repeated claim, but the exact opposite is true: both undocumented and legal immigrants are significantly less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens.

01/25/2008: Crossing U.S. Borders

Starting January 31, 2008, there will be changes on document requirement while entering the U.S. For foreign visitors traveling by land/sea, the CBP will no longer accept oral declaration of citizenship at the border:

  • Canadian citizens ages 19 and older must present documentation that proves both identity and citizenship. Mexican citizens, including children, must present a passport with a nonimmigrant visa or a laser visa border crossing card. Bermudian citizens must present a passport issued by the Government of Bermuda or the United Kingdom, or government-issued photo identification along with proof of citizenship.
  • International travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program now need to present an e-Passport if their passport was issued on or after October 26, 2006.
  • Visitors requiring a visa must go through US-VISIT, and have biometrics such as digital fingerscans and digital photographs collected at the border. Currently 10-fingerprint scanners are being rolled into international airports across the country.

All international visitors regardless of country of origin must present a passport or secure document when entering the United States by air.

Lawful permanent residents (green card holders) must present a passport or secure travel document when entering the United States by air, or Form I-551 (Green Card) when entering by land or sea.

01/22/2008: USCIS Receipting Delay - How Does It Affect You?

CIS Ombudsman has posted an updated version of the Q&A sessions during his conference calls regarding USCIS receipting delays.

01/19/2008: Duncan Hunter Drops Out of Presidential Race

Republican Duncan Hunter has decided to end his presidential campaign after failing miserably in Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire and other caucuses. With sometimes only 1 to 3 percent of the vote (his best success was from Wyoming where he received 8 percent), he was even dropped by TV networks in candidate debates. A California Congressman from San Diego, he is known for his strong stance against illegal immigration and has been a favorite among conservative talk show hosts.

01/17/2008: Congressional Testimony from USCIS Director on Processing Delays

USCIS released a written testimony from Emilio Gonzalez, Director of USCIS, for a hearing on "Naturalization Delays: Causes, Consequences and Solutions" before the Judiciary Committee and Immigration Subcommittee. Although the testimony is focused on Naturalization, it offered additional information on the surge of applications (more than 3 million) during the summer of 2007. More importantly, Gonzalez revealed the progress of hiring additional employees to address significant delays in processing cases.

USCIS has apparently started hiring 1,500 new employees, of which 723 will be adjudicators. They received more than 10,000 job applications in six days, and so far have hired 580 permanent staff, including 274 adjudicators.

USCIS also received approval to rehire USCIS retirees, which could significantly cut down on training time required for new employees.

USCIS also plans to expand its Systems Qualified Adjudication process on cases where applicants are already qualified, such as replacement of USCIS approved documents. USCIS will tweak certain administrative procedures to improve productivity and efficiency.

01/16/2008: USCIS Revised FAQ on Receipt and Processing Delays

01/09/2008: February Visa Bulletin Released

DOS just published February 2008 Visa Bulletin and it was bad news for all India EB-2 applicants, as visa numbers for the category have become "unavailable!" Considering that it is only the fifth month into the current fiscal year, it will be a long wait for Indian Nationals who have applied for 2nd preference employment-based green cards.

India EB3 moved forward by one week. Both China and Philippines EB3 improved by two weeks. China EB2 cut-off date remained at January 1, 2003.

01/09/2008: Indian Auto Maker to Unveil a $2500 Car!

India's Tata Motors plans to introduce a 100,000 rupee car (about $2500), less than half of the current cheapest car in the market. Photos and technical details will be released during the launching event on Thursday.

01/07/2008: What NOT to Do After Receiving Green Card?

How about not robbing a restaurant?

01/04/2008: Arizona State Univ. Poll on Immigration Issues

ASU yesterday released results from an interesting poll among Southwesterners in Texas, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico:

  • Looking at immigration policy at the national level, there is a clear preference for immigrants with education, job skills and work experience. Fully 48 percent of respondents say that priority should be given to such immigrants, while only 22 percent say that immigrants with family members already in the United States should be given priority;
  • These "highly-skilled" immigrants are seen as having an overall positive impact on the U.S. economy with 71 percent of the respondents agreeing that such immigrants "bring much-needed skills and expertise, and help fill labor shortages in knowledge industries;"
  • 64 percent of the respondents agree that highly-skilled immigrants help maintain U.S. leadership in science and technology.
  • 35 percent of the respondents agree with the statement that highly-skilled immigrants take jobs away from American high-tech and professional workers;
  • 58 percent of respondents say that undocumented immigration in the Southwest is a "very serious problem."
  • 79 percent agree that children of undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school and are not involved in crime should become eligible for legal residency;
  • 54 percent think that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at roughly the same rate as legal residents;
  • Less than half of the respondents say that they would be willing to pay more for goods and services such as groceries, housekeeping, childcare and entertainment to keep out undocumented immigrants

01/03/2008: Obama, Huckabee won Iowa caucuses

Senator Barack Obama celebrated his victory over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards today as the winner of Iowa caucuses, the first battle for Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential race. On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee easily beat Romney despite being outspent by millions of dollars and heavy TV commercials criticizing his positions on immigration.

Huckabee supported the DREAM Act to help children of illegal immigrants. He responded to attacks from his rivals during the Nov. 28 debate by saying "We're a better country than to punish children for what their parents did." He later released a plan for tougher immigration enforcement and border security, and offered no pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers unless they return to their home first.

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