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Immigration News - January and February of 2009

02/27/2009: Immigrants in California

California's unemployment rate marched into double digits (10.1%) in January, the highest since 1983. With the economy seemingly getting worse by the day, the job market is likely to remain gloomy for a while.

Immigrants, more than one quarter of all Californians, will be "a key ingredient to California's economic rebound," according to a study released by the Immigration Policy Center. Here are some highlights:

  • Immigrants in California pay roughly $30 billion in federal taxes, $5.2 billion in state income taxes, and $4.6 billion in sales taxes each year. In California, "the average immigrant-headed household contributes a net $2,679 annually to Social Security, which is $539 more than the average US-born household."
  • Latino and Asian entrepreneurs own more than one-quarter of all businesses in the state.
  • Immigrants comprise more than one-third of the California labor force.

02/25/2009: USCIS National Stakeholder Meeting in January

Meeting minutes

02/24/2009: I-140 Premium Processing for Certain H-1B Workers

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will expand Premium Processing Service for I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, to include beneficiaries who have reached or are reaching their limitation of stay in H-1B nonimmigrant status. Starting March 2, 2009, H-1B workers may submit Form I-907 to request premium processing for I-140 petitions if they:

  • Are the beneficiary of a form I-140 petition filed in a preference category that has been designated for premium processing service;
  • Have reached the 6th year statutory limitation of their H-1B stay, or will reach the end of their 6th year of H-1B stay within 60 days of filing;
  • Are only eligible for a further H-1B extension upon approval of their Form I-140 petition as prescribed by AC21 provisions 104(c) (three-year H1B extension with approved I-140) ; and
  • Are ineligible to extend their H-1B status under AC21 ยง106(a) (one-year H1B extension)

02/21/2009: H1B and Deepening Recession

U.S. technology companies, which are laying off thousands of employees, will likely have to water down their long-running campaign for permission to hire more foreign workers to avoid a political backlash this year. - Reuters

02/21/2009: Employment Authorization and Verification of Aliens Enlisting in the Armed Forces

Advanced Copy of Final Rule: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending its regulations governing the employment authorization of aliens and the employment eligibility verification process. This rule provides for employer-specific employment authorization for certain aliens lawfully enlisted into the U.S. Armed Forces (Armed Forces), and those whose enlistment the Secretary with jurisdiction over such Armed Force has determined would be vital to the national interest. This rule also adds the military identification card to the list of documents acceptable for establishing employment eligibility and identity for the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (Form I-9), but only for use by the Armed Forces to verify employment eligibility of aliens lawfully enlisted in the Armed Forces.

02/20/2009: Angry Words Fly Between Texas Legislator, Lawyer

In a heated exchange over immigration Wednesday, Rep. Leo Berman shouted "go home!" to a Dallas lawyer of Chinese-American descent who had called the lawmaker "despicable" and "evil."

Berman has helped author eight bills aimed at illegal immigrants, including provisions to challenge birthright citizenship, bar illegal immigrants from public universities and tax money orders sent between Texas and Mexico. - Dallas Morning News

02/20/2009: USCIS Update on Applications and Petitions

Applications and petitions for immigration benefits in December 2008 increased 65%, approvals decreased by 8%, denials increased by 18%, and pending decreased by 4%, compared to November 2007.

Major volumes of pending applications at the end of December 2008 include:

  • 1,445,336 I-130 immediate/all other petitions;
  • 648,592 I-485 applications to adjust status;
  • 262,130 I-765 employment authorizations;
  • 188,711 I-90 green card renewals/replacements;
  • 150,986 I-751 remove conditions spouse jointly/waiver;
  • 379,211 N-400 naturalization.
  • Pending I-140 cases were not disclosed, likely because it is no longer in the top six types of applications;

02/15/2009: U.S. Military Will Offer Path to Citizenship

"Stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American military will begin recruiting skilled immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas, offering them the chance to become United States citizens in as little as six months.

The program will begin small - limited to 1,000 enlistees nationwide in its first year, most for the Army and some for other branches. If the pilot program succeeds as Pentagon officials anticipate, it will expand for all branches of the military. For the Army, it could eventually provide as many as 14,000 volunteers a year, or about one in six recruits." - NY Times

02/13/2009: 11 Arrested in H-1B Fraud Investigation

"This investigation involves companies that sponsor primarily H-1B non-immigrants, or temporary workers in specialty occupations that require particular expertise. The companies that are the subject of this investigation have asserted that the foreign workers have been brought to the U.S. to fill existing vacancies. However, the companies allegedly have not always had jobs available for these workers, thereby placing them in non-pay status after they arrive in the United States....The companies and foreign workers have allegedly submitted false statements and documents in support of their visa petitions....The companies are suspected of visa fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy." - DOJ News

If convicted, the maximum sentences for those charges are a $250,000 fine and:

  • Conspiracy: 5 Years in Prison
  • Mail Fraud: 20 Years in Prison
  • Wire Fraud: 20 Years in Prison
  • False Statement in Immigration Matter: 10 Years in Prison

02/11/2009: Sick Girl's Mother on Brink of Being Deported Gets Stay

A Haitian woman, less than an hour away from turning herself in for a deportation that would have separated her from her chronically ill child, received a last-minute reprieve Monday. - Palm Beach Post

02/10/2009: March 2009 Visa Bulletin

EB2 China and India both moved forward by 1.5 months, while EB3 barely changed (EB3-China from 10/01 to 10/22/2002).

02/07/2009: USCIS Response to Ombudsman Regarding EAD Delays

Michael Aytes, USCIS Acting Director, issued a memo in response to CIS Ombudsman's recommendations on EAD processing delays. In addition to claiming a 98.7% compliance rate for FY08 (thus not a systemic problem), Mr. Aytes did offer some suggestions:

"Applicants who have not received a decision on their Form I-765 application after 90 days can call the NCSC to request expedited processing or go to their local office via an InfoPass appointment. Because interim cards are produced by the appropriate Service Center or the NBC and field offices no longer produce EADs on-site as of August 2006, we recommend that EAD applicants may prefer to call the NCSC rather than visit the local Field Office. The NCSC has created a new service request category specific to EAD-related inquiries: Outside Regulatory Processing Time. These requests will be forwarded to the appropriate Service Center or NBC. For all requests that are forwarded from either the NCSC or the Field Offices, Service Centers and the NBC will either adjudicate the application or issue an interim card within 10 days of receiving the request."

01/31/2009: Civics Questions for the Redesigned Naturalization Test

The 100 civics (history and government) questions and answers for the redesigned (new) naturalization test have recently been updated. Applicants who filed the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400, on or after October 1, 2008, should study this list.

01/31/2009: USCIS Postpones New I-9 Rule

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is extending the effective date of its interim final rule "Documents Acceptable for Employment Eligibility Verification," for 60 days, from February 2, 2009 to April 3, 2009. This temporary extension will provide DHS with an opportunity for further consideration of this rule. USCIS also is extending the comment period for this rule for 30 days.

01/31/2009: Improving the Process for T and U Visa

The Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman has studied the visa process for victims of trafficking (T visa) and victims of certain criminal activity (U visa). These non-immigrant visas were established by Congress to provide temporary legal status to victims of trafficking and enumerated crimes who assist with the investigations or prosecutions of the criminal activity. The Ombudsman has developed recommendations for USCIS to improve the immigration process for T and U visa applicants.

01/31/2009: USCIS Update on Applications and Petitions

Applications and petitions for immigration benefits in November 2008 increased 28%, approvals decreased by 38%, denials decreased by 14%, and pending decreased by 10%, compared to November 2007.

Major volumes of pending applications at the end of November 2008 include:

  • 1,444,453 I-130 immediate/all other petitions;
  • 658,680 I-485 applications to adjust status;
  • 235,406 I-765 employment authorizations;
  • 183,975 I-90 green card renewals/replacements;
  • 153,302 I-751 remove conditions spouse jointly/waiver;
  • 95,601 I-140 immigrant worker;
  • 419,148 N-400 naturalization.

01/25/2009: GAO Review of USCIS Fee Increase in 2007

"In 2007, USCIS completed a fee review in which USCIS estimated the costs of its immigration application processing and adjudication services and, in accordance with management's objective, set the fees at a level to recover those costs. The methodology USCIS used in its review, however, did not consistently adhere to federal accounting standards and principles and other guidance." - GAO Summary

01/25/2009: Obama Memo on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

"The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears." - Memo from President Obama.

01/24/2009: Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines (2009)

This notice provides an update of the HHS poverty guidelines to account for last calendar year's increase in prices as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Effective Date: Date of publication, unless an office administering a program using the guidelines specifies a different effective date for that particular program. For family-based immigration purposes, refer to USCIS Form I-864P for official figures which should be updated shortly.

01/24/2009: New Form I-9

New Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, is now available and has a revision date of 02/02/2009. All employees, citizens or non-citizens, must complete Form I-9 to document that they are authorized to work in the United States. An employer is responsible for ensuring that Form I-9 is properly and timely completed. This form is not filed with USCIS or any government agency, rather, it should be retained by the employer and made available for inspection by government officials.

Update 01/31/2009: The rule is now being delayed until April 3, 2009.

01/16/2009: Upgraded Biometric Technology Facilitates Visitors' Entry to the United States

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced today that upgraded biometric technology is in place at major U.S. ports of entry, which will collect 10 fingerprints instead of two for most international visitors going through DHS's US-VISIT program.

Note that effective January 18, 2009, the following additional non-U.S. citizens will be required to provide biometrics when entering or re-entering the United States:

  • Lawful permanent residents of the United States (LPRs);
  • Persons entering the United States who seek admission on immigrant visas;
  • Persons entering the United States who seek admission as refugees and asylees;
  • Canadian citizens who are currently required to obtain a Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) upon entry or who require a waiver of inadmissibility to enter the United States (this excludes most Canadian citizens entering the United States for purposes of shopping, visiting friends and family, vacation or short business trips);
  • Persons paroled into the United States; and
  • Persons applying for admission under the Guam VWP.

01/15/2009: USCIS Denial of I-485 Related to AC21 Without Issuing NOID

The CIS Ombudsman has received inquiries noting that USCIS is not issuing Notices of Intent to Deny following a change of jobs, as required by the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) and USCIS policy guidance, but instead is immediately denying pending Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) applications. If this applies to you, the Ombudsman recommends that you submit a case problem using DHS Form 7001 with the subject line "AC21 Evidence of Immediate Denial." Include a copy of your denial notice and other detailed information.

01/13/2009: February 2009 Visa Bulletin

EB2 China and India both moved forward by about six months.

01/08/2009: EB-5 Filing Address Change

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that petitions and applications related to the Alien Entrepreneur (EB-5) immigrant classifications and Regional Center Proposals under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program must be filed at the California Service Center (CSC). A Federal Register notice announcing the change was published on Jan. 9, 2009.

Filing changes are effective Jan. 26, 2009. For a 30-day period that began on Jan. 9 and ends Feb. 9, 2009, EB-5 related petitions and applications mailed to USCIS headquarters or the Texas Service Center will be forwarded to the California Service Center. After February 9, EB-5 petitions and applications received at an incorrect filing location will be rejected and returned with instructions to re-file at the correct address.

01/08/2009: Visa Waiver Program ESTA Requirements Effective Today

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today reminded travelers from all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries that they are now required to obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States. This requirement, effective today, applies to all eligible citizens or nationals traveling under the VWP.

01/08/2009: 100,000 Employers Use E-Verify Program

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that more than 100,000 employers have signed up to participate in E-Verify, a free, easy to use online system that equips participating employers with the tools to quickly and effectively verify the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees. See also: E-Verify Fact Sheet

01/08/2009: USCIS Reaches H-2B Cap for Second Half of Fiscal Year 2009

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the congressionally mandated H-2B cap for the second half of Fiscal Year 2009 (FY2009). USCIS is hereby notifying the public that Jan. 7, 2009 was the "final receipt date" for new H-2B worker petitions requesting employment start dates prior to October 1, 2009. The "final receipt date" is the date on which USCIS determines that it has received enough cap-subject petitions to reach the limit of 33,000 H-2B workers for the second half of FY2009.

01/08/2009: CIS Ombudsman Updates on EAD Delays

The CIS Ombudsman has been receiving numerous inquiries from customers about EAD applications pending more than 90 days. Do you have this concern? Then, see our suggestions below:

Step1: Call USCIS Customer Service Center at 1-(800) 375-5283 and ask for a "service request" or an interim EAD.

Step2: Schedule an INFOPASS and request an interim EAD.

Step 3: If you have tried both Step 1 and Step 2 and have still not received your EAD or an interim card, please email our office at cisombudsman.publicaffairs@dhs.gov with the details of your efforts.

01/08/2009: Green Card Holder Gets $240,000 Settlement in T-Shirt Incident

An Iraqi-born resident of the United States who was ordered to cover a T-shirt with Arabic script before boarding a plane in New York has received $240,000 in a settlement with two officials of the Transportation Safety Administration and JetBlue Airways. - NY Times

01/08/2009: Restaurant Owner Sentenced to 8 Months for Employing Illegal Aliens

Tang had pleaded guilty to knowingly employing at least 10 illegal aliens at his restaurant between November 2006 and November 2007 for commercial advantage and financial gain. He was arrested Nov. 14, 2007, when ICE agents executed a search warrant at his restaurant. During the search warrant ICE agents seized about $59,000 from the restaurant, which will be forfeited to the United States, and detained six illegal aliens found working at the restaurant, who have since been deported. - ICE News

01/03/2009: The Mouse Turns 40

On Dec. 9, 1968, Stanford Research Institute scientist Douglas Engelbart demonstrated his unique invention -- the computer mouse -- for the first time in public. It took a decade and a half for it to catch on, but once it did, computing was never the same. - MSN Story

01/03/2009: Foreign Workers Face Stress As Unemployment Rises

For foreign professionals, the rising unemployment rate is especially daunting. Laid-off foreign workers are scrambling for temporary visas and seeking advice from immigration attorneys about how long they can legally stay in the country while hunting for jobs.

Even some foreigners here on visas or work permits are switching employers, fearing that an unstable job during a recession could ultimately lead to a one-way ticket home or kill their chance of getting a green card. - AP Story

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