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Immigration News - January and February of 2012

02/29/2012: CIS Ombudsman Comprehensive Recommendation Review

This report presents the results of a comprehensive review of all formal recommendations the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (Ombudsman's Office) has submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) since the creation of the Ombudsman's Office in 2002. Periodic reviews of this type are a necessary part of the Ombudsman's Office mission in order to account for legislative and regulatory changes; alterations to USCIS programs, policies, and operational priorities and approaches; and ensure that the Ombudsman's Office has the opportunity to bring renewed focus to recommendations and issues that continue to need attention and resolution. Over time, some recommendations will cease to serve as a useful measure of USCIS' success in the delivery of immigration services. Conversely, other recommendations may gain importance with the passage of time, and must, periodically, be re-visited in order to ensure that USCIS continues to devote adequate resources to resolving the particular systemic issue identified by the Ombudsman's Office.

02/26/2012: Legal Immigrants Face Deportation for Filing False Tax Return

Akio and Fukado Kawashima came to Southern California in 1984 as lawful Japanese immigrants determined to succeed in business. They operated popular sushi restaurants in Thousand Oaks and Tarzana and recently opened a new eatery in Encino. But after they underreported their business income in 1991, they paid a hefty price. The Internal Revenue Service hit them with $245,000 in taxes and penalties. The couple pleaded guilty and paid in full. A decade later, the Immigration and Naturalization Service decided to deport them. - LA Times

02/23/2012: Owner, Managers of Sedalia Firm Indicted for Defrauding Customers by Selling Immigration Forms Available for Free from the Government

The indictment alleges that, from March 2009 to April 2011, Strawbridge, Laurence and Meredith participated in a conspiracy to defraud consumers who were seeking assistance with immigration-related matters by inducing them to purchase government immigration forms that were available from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at no charge. They allegedly gave consumers the false impression that the company was affiliated with the federal government and that sales representatives were government agents. - DOJ

02/22/2012: USCIS Alert: I-601 Provisional Waiver Is Not in Effect

USCIS is considering changes that would allow certain immediate relatives (the spouse, children or parents of a U.S. citizen) who can demonstrate extreme hardship to a U.S. citizen spouse or parent to receive a provisional waiver of the unlawful presence bars before leaving the United States.

These procedures are not in effect and will not be available to potential applicants until USCIS publishes a final rule in the Federal Register specifying the effective date. USCIS plans to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the coming months and will consider all comments received as part of that process before publishing a final rule.

Do not send an application requesting a provisional waiver at this time. USCIS cannot accept applications until a final rule is issued and the process change becomes effective.

02/21/2012: ICE Delivers Hefty Fines for Paperwork Errors

An analysis of nearly 800 audit cases ICE completed since October 2010 shows that roughly half of the 117 companies fined were not specifically penalized for hiring illegal immigrants, but for problems with the employment verification paperwork they are required to fill out for new hires. A third of the total $1.8 million in fines issued by the agency in those closed cases involved companies that auditors found had zero workers with "suspect documents," the records show. "They're not looking for illegals. They're looking for clerical errors," Weir said. "It's a money grab." - Houston Chronicle

02/21/2012: EOIR Releases FY 2011 Statistical Year Book

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) today announced that it has released its Fiscal Year 2011 Statistical Year Book. The book is a representation of data that EOIR tracked and compiled during the previous fiscal year. The figures and tables contained within the book examine respondents' cases by nationality, language, and disposition, and provide detailed information surrounding asylum cases. In addition to the standard information, this year's book includes pending caseload numbers broken down by immigration court. - EOIR

02/21/2012: Certification by Translator: Templates and FAQ

When submitting an immigration related application, you must have all foreign language documents translated into English. You don't have to hire a professional translator to do the job, however. In fact, the translation can be provided by anyone who is fluent in both English and the foreign language. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not judge or determine the translator's qualifications, but does require a Certification of Translation attached to the document being translated. - IR Blog

02/17/2012: Shootout between ICE Federal Agents Kills 1, Wounds 1

The shooting in the Glenn M. Anderson Federal Building in Long Beach reportedly involved a dispute between an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and his supervisor. The agent shot his boss and then was killed by another agent. - NY Times

02/16/2012: USCIS Jiaoliu Presentation - Chinese-Language Public Engagement

This engagement is the first in a series called "Jiao Liu" — meaning "engagement" in Chinese. It will be modeled after the agency's successful quarterly Spanish-language "Enlaces," and expand our ongoing efforts to engage directly with our customers to provide information and answer questions about our benefits and services. - Presentation

02/14/2012: DOS Final Rule: Issuance of Full Validity L Visas to Qualified Applicants

This rule permits the issuance of L visas with validity periods based on the visa reciprocity schedule; whereas the current rule limits L visas to the petition validity period, which is determined by the Department of Homeland Security. This rule is effective February 14, 2012. - Federal Register

02/13/2012: Visa Bulletins by Preference with Movement and Wait Time Calculations

If you go to our Visa Bulletin home page and select a visa bulletin just for your category, you will see not only your cutoff dates for the past several years, but also month-to-month movement and wait time for each visa bulletin release.

02/13/2012: Interview Waiver Pilot Program in China

On February 13, Mission China will launch a pilot program to streamline visa processing by permitting consular officers to waive interviews for some qualified nonimmigrant applicants worldwide who are renewing their visa within 48 months (four years) of the expiration of their previously held visa, and within the same classification as the previous visa. In China, previous holders of B (temporary visitors for business/pleasure), C1 (transit), D (crewmembers), F (students), J (exchange visitors), M (nonacademic students), and O (visitors with extraordinary ability) visas can renew their visas if they have been expired less than 48 months (four years). - U.S. Embassy Beijing

02/09/2012: E-Verify Self Check now Available Nationwide

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced that Self Check, a free online service of E-Verify that allows workers to check their own employment eligibility status, is now available in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands....Self Check was developed through a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide individuals a tool to check their own employment eligibility status, as well as guidance on how to correct their DHS and SSA records. It is the first online E-Verify service offered directly to workers. Available in English and Spanish, Self Check enables individuals to enter the same information into Self Check that employers enter into E-Verify. - USCIS

02/09/2012: Immigrant Founders and Key Personnel in Top 50 Venture-Funded Companies

Immigrants are increasingly important in driving growth and innovation in America, as evidenced by the role played by foreign-born founders and key personnel in the nation's breakthrough companies. Immigrants have started nearly half of America's 50 top venture-funded companies and are key members of management or product development teams in more than 75 percent of our country's leading cutting-edge companies. The research finds that among the top venture-backed companies, immigrant founders have created an average of approximately 150 jobs per company in the United States. - nfap

02/08/2012: March 2012 Visa Bulletin Released

China/India EB2 advanced four more months to 2010/5/1.

China EB3 moved forward by one month, while India EB3 advanced just one week.

02/07/2012: USCIS Presentation on Consular Notification

When a petition is approved [by USCIS] and the beneficiary elects consular processing the Service Center will forward the approved petition to the Department of State.

  • Non-immigrants process through the Kentucky Consular Center
  • Immigrants process through the National Visa Center

Overview:

  • Vermont Service Center: Slide presentation on how the Service Centers notify the Department of State when a nonimmigrant petition is approved
  • California Service Center: Slide presentation on how the Service Centers notify the Department of State when an immigrant petition is approved

02/07/2012: Nonimmigrant Visa Interview Waiver Pilot Program

Commencing January 19, 2012, the Department and DHS will be conducting a two-year visa interview waiver pilot program (concluding on January 19, 2014). This program permits consular officers to waive interviews for certain qualified nonimmigrant applicants worldwide who are renewing their visas within 48 months of the expiration of the previous visa, and within the same classification as the previous visa. Specifically, the pilot program includes renewal applicants whose visas have expired more than 12 months but less than 48 months after the expiration of the previous visa (in the same class, not including excepted visa classes). - DOS

02/03/2012: USCIS Pending I-485 Inventory Released

The Green Card Tracker has now been updated with the new inventory, released today, with data as of January, 2012.

This is the first I-485 inventory that contains EB2 new filings after the July 2007 visa bulletin fiasco. So for later priority dates, you may see an increase of total number of pending I-485 applications ahead of you.

02/01/2012: The Economic Potential of DREAM Act Beneficiarie

The DREAM Act's primary goal is to legalize the more than 2 million undocumented youths who have resided in the U.S. and attended schools in this country, but the bill's education requirements have an underlying economic stimulus potential that has largely gone unnoticed by members of Congress. The legislation requires undocumented youths to attain at least an associate-level college degree to be eligible for legalization. If implemented, the DREAM Act would produce thousands of college graduates, contributing to the pool of higher-income earners needed by the nation at large. This study aims to measure the economic impact of integrating these youths into the national economy, through the DREAM Act, by calculating their income over a 40-year period. - UCLA

01/31/2012: DHS Reforms To Attract And Retain Highly Skilled Immigrants

The President is deeply committed to fixing our broken immigration system so that it meets our 21st century national security and economic needs. As a part of comprehensive immigration reform, the President supports legislative measures that would attract and retain immigrants who create jobs and boost competitiveness here in the U.S., including creating a "Startup Visa," strengthening the H-1B program, and "stapling" green cards to the diplomas of certain foreign-born graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Together these actions would help attract new businesses and new investment to the U.S. and ensure that the U.S. has the most skilled workforce in the world. In the meantime, the Obama Administration is working to make improvements in the areas where we can make a difference.

  • Expand eligibility for 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 international students to include students with a prior degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
  • Allow for additional part-time study for spouses of F-1 students and expand the number of Designated School Officials (DSOs) at schools certified by DHS to enroll international students.
  • Provide work authorization for spouses of certain H-1B holders.
  • Allow outstanding professors and researchers to present a broader scope of evidence of academic achievement.
  • Harmonize rules to allow E-3 visa holders from Australia and H-1B1 visa holders from Singapore and Chile to continue working with their current employer for up to 240 days while their petitions for extension of status are pending.
  • Launch Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative

01/31/2012: President Obama's Startup America Legislative Agenda

Today, on the one-year anniversary of both the White House Startup America Initiative and the private-sector Startup America Partnership, President Obama sent a Startup America Legislative Agenda to Congress which will expand tax relief and unlock capital for startups and small businesses that are creating jobs. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will take steps to attract and retain foreign-born entrepreneurs and highly-skilled immigrants so they can start up the next generation of small businesses and great American companies. The Administration also unveiled several new agency actions to accelerate the growth of young, job-creating companies, at the same time that new entrepreneur-led regional coalitions are launching throughout the nation.

  • Cutting taxes for small businesse
  • Getting capital to growing companie
  • Relieving the backlog of employment-based immigrant visas: As put forward in his Blueprint for Building a 21st Century Immigration System, the President is proposing to eliminate country specific caps for certain immigrant visa categories to attract more high skilled foreign workers including entrepreneurs

01/26/2012: Immigrant Entrepreneurs Creating Jobs and Strengthening the Economy

This report makes the following policy and action recommendations:

  • Create an entrepreneur-friendly culture for employment-based benefit adjudications at the Department of Homeland Security ensuring that the staff charged with adjudicating such visa petitions has the proper training concerning how businesses operate in the 21st century, including expertise with business models for start-ups.
  • Cut red tape by eliminating the bureaucratic procedures that restrict entrepreneurs trying to emigrate to the United States to start businesses and hire American workers.
  • Create a visa category specifically targeted for immigrant entrepreneurs who want to establish a U.S. enterprise and create jobs. Current law typically only permits foreign nationals to remain in the United States if they are employed by an existing company or can invest $500,000 or more.
  • Remove hurdles for foreign students with desirable skills to remain in the United States, focusing on those who complete graduate degrees in the United States and are offered employment by U.S. companies.
  • Recognize that immigrant entrepreneurship occurs across the spectrum of businesses and that immigrant entrepreneurs come from all backgrounds.

01/25/2012: New Streamlined Process for Submitting Information Used in USCIS VIBE

The information displayed in iUpdate for U.S. government customers contains essentially the same data that is shared with USCIS via the VIBE system, and will allow petitioners to know how their business or organization will be presented in VIBE before they file a petition with USCIS. To maintain accuracy of significant business information, D&B requires that certain change requests be verified by a third party prior to official entry into the D&B system. If verification cannot be confirmed, the change request will be denied. This policy exists to protect companies and organizations from possible identity theft and fraud. - USCIS

01/24/2012: VIBE and Adjudication of Certain Employment-Based Petitions

The Web-based Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE) is a tool designed to enhance USCIS's adjudications of certain employment-based immigration petitions. VIBE uses commercially available data from an independent information provider (IIP) to validate basic information about companies or organizations petitioning to employ certain alien workers. Currently, the independent information provider for the VIBE program is Dun and Bradstreet (D&B). - USCIS

01/23/2012: U.S. Passport Card Online Application Now Available

On January 24, the Department of State's Office of Passport Services will launch a 90-day pilot program allowing adult U.S. citizens living in the United States and Canada to apply for a passport card online. By applying online, customers will not be required to mail in their current passport book and necessary forms, saving them time and money. To participate in this program, applicants must currently possess a valid 10-year U.S. passport book, upload an acceptable digital photograph and make an online payment in U.S. dollars via Pay.gov. Applications accepted through the program will be subject to the same strict adjudication standards as in-person or mail-in applications. - DOS

01/23/2012: Taiwan May Soon Join the Visa Waiver Program

Currently, more than 60% of international tourists do not require a U.S. visa, in most cases because they travel under the Visa Waiver Program. The Secretary of State has formally requested that the Secretary of Homeland Security consider Taiwan for the Visa Waiver Program. Over the past year, Taiwan has undertaken significant efforts to improve its law enforcement and document security standards to meet the strict requirements for Visa Waiver Program eligibility. Under the Visa Waiver Program, participating nationals can travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. - The White House

01/20/2012: Tips on Getting Your Driver's License or Social Security Number

One of the first things a new F, M or J nonimmigrant typically wants to do after entering the United States is get a driver's license or, where appropriate, an SSN. Like many things, however, correct timing is everything. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program wants all F, M or J nonimmigrants eligible for a driver's license or an SSN to have the easiest experience possible. Following these six simple tips makes the process go much smoother and saves a lot of time in the end. - ICE

01/19/2012: State Department to Start New Visa Pilot Program

The pilot program will streamline visa processing for certain low-risk applicants, such as individuals renewing expired visas, or some categories of younger or older first-time applicants. We expect that this will benefit tens of thousands of applicants in Brazil and China; saving them time and money, and encouraging them to choose to visit the United States again. However, given that national security remains this Administration's highest priority, individuals identified as higher-risk will remain subject to interviews – in addition to the full screening and review all visa applicants receive. - DOS

01/19/2012: Executive Order -- Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals

(i) increase nonimmigrant visa processing capacity in China and Brazil by 40 percent over the coming year; (ii) ensure that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants are interviewed within 3 weeks of receipt of application, recognizing that resource and security considerations and the need to ensure provision of consular services to U.S. citizens may dictate specific exceptions. - The White House

01/19/2012: USCIS Chinese-Language Public Engagement

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invites you to attend the first national Chinese-language public engagement at the San Francisco Field Office on Thursday, February. 16, 2012 at 10:30AM - 12:00PM (Pacific Standard Time), hosted by the Office of Public Engagment. This engagement is the first in a series called "Jiao Liu" — meaning "engagement" in Chinese. It will be modeled after the agency's successful quarterly Spanish-language "Enlaces," and expand our ongoing efforts to engage directly with our customers to provide information and answer questions about our benefits and services. - USCIS

01/17/2012: Press Conference Transcript: USCIS to Propose Changing the Process for Certain Waivers on Unlawful Presence

We have convened this call to provide you with the opportunity to learn more about the Notice of Intent that we posted in the Federal Register this morning regarding a proposed regulatory change in the processing of Waivers of Inadmissibility. This proposed regulatory change will significantly reduce the time that U.S. citizens are separated from their spouses and children under certain circumstances while those family members are going through the process of obtaining visas to become legal immigrants to the United States. - USCIS

01/16/2012: Retired Subway Worker Pays College Tuition for Undocumented Student

A retired subway conductor was so touched by a Daily News story on a struggling immigrant college student that he decided to donate to her tuition fund-raiser. But Luis Hernandez pledged a lot more than the $5 a person that Angy Rivera hoped for — he paid off the whole $2,500 bill. - NY Daily News

01/13/2012: Extension of Validity of Medical Certifications on Form I-693

USCIS has been extending the validity of Form I-693 one year at a time for a few years now. Below is the latest memo that does the same for another year:

"Due to continuing delays associated with some I-485 and I-687 applications, the validity of the civil surgeon endorsement on Form I-693, when submitted in support of an I-485 or I-687 application, is extended until the time of adjudication if no Class 'A' or Class 'B' medical condition is certified by the civil surgeon on Form I-693, other than a Class B condition in the Other Medical Conditions section of Form I-693. This policy will be in effect until January 1, 2013."

01/11/2012: Senator Grassley: The Puppetmaster?

Let's face it. It is far more accurate to call this "The Grassley Report" than it is to call it the OIG Report. No one else asked for this report, and the conclusions are clearly colored by Grassley's well-known jaundiced view of the immigration system, and his unsupported fear that fraud lurks around the corner of every petition. That the report is an elaborate set up to engineer Congressional hearings is nowhere more evident than in the Report's final conclusion calling for Congress to change the evidentiary standard of review from "preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing evidence." The sad truth is that in reality, many adjudicators are already applying this standard de facto. Grassley would like to see the law changed to support what many adjudicators are already doing, rather than requiring the adjudicators to follow the law as it stands now. And this from a Senator who thinks there is a lack of integrity in USCIS decision-making. - AILA

01/11/2012: Revised Draft Policy Memorandum Guiding EB-5 Adjudication

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) thanks stakeholders for providing comments to the draft policy memorandum we posted to address certain foundational issues in the EB-5 Program. In anticipation of tomorrow's "Conversation With The Director" regarding the EB-5 Program, we have attached the revised draft policy memorandum that incorporates some of your comments. In tomorrow's Conversation, we will discuss the revised draft policy memorandum and seek to focus on certain important policy issues that we wish to further explore with you, including the issue of material change and how to most fairly and effectively address it in our EB-5 adjudications. - USCIS Memo

01/09/2012: The Efects of USCIS Adjudication Procedures and Policies on Fraud Detection

This report addresses the strengths and weaknesses of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services effort to detect fraud in immigration benefit adjudications. It is based on interviews with employees and officials of relevant agencies and institutions, direct observations, and a review of applicable documents. - OIG

01/06/2012: February 2012 Visa Bulletin Released

China/India EB2 advanced one full year to 2010/1/1!

DOS predictions for EB2 in the comming months: Reports from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicate that the rate of new filings for adjustment of status in recent months has been extremely low. This fact has required the continued rapid forward movement of the cut-off date, in an attempt to generate demand and maximize number use under the annual limit. Once the level of new filings or USCIS processing increases significantly, it will be necessary to slow or stop the movement of the cut-off. Readers are once again advised that an eventual need to retrogress the cut-off date is also a distinct possibility.

01/06/2012: "Unlawful Presence Waiver" Proposed Rule Change

The bars to admission under section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I) and (II) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(i)(I) and (II), based on accrual of unlawful presence in the United States, comprise one such ground. Typically, under current processes, aliens who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens applying for immigrant visas at Department of State consular posts must apply for waivers of unlawful presence while outside the United States after a finding of inadmissibility is made by a Department of State consular officer in conjunction with their immigrant visa applications. As a result, U.S citizen petitioners are often separated for long periods of time from their immediate relatives who are applying for immigrant visas and have accrued a certain period of unlawful presence in the United States. This revised process, which eliminates the time-consuming interchange between the Department of State and USCIS, would significantly reduce the amount of time that American families will be separated from their immediate relatives. USCIS also believes that efficiencies can be gained through this revised process for both the U.S. Government and most applicants. - USCIS

01/05/2012: DOJ Settles with University of California San Diego Medical Center

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the [UCSD] medical center agrees to implement new employment eligibility verification policies and procedures that treat all employees equally regardless of citizenship status. In addition, the medical center has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $115,000, conduct supplemental training of its human resources personnel on their responsibilities to avoid discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process and work with the department to ensure compliance with proper employment eligibility verification processes across all University of California campuses, medical centers and facilities. - DOJ

01/05/2012: USCIS Seeks Comments on L-1 RFE Templates

USCIS is currently seeking feedback on I-129 L-1 Intracompany Transferees: L-1A Manager or Executive, I-129 L-1 Intracompany Transferees: L-1A New Office (First Year), and I-129 L-1 Intracompany Transferees: Blanket Petition. The draft templates are attached for your convenience. Please note that the deadline to submit comments for these templates is February 3, 2012. You may find additional information about the comment process and the draft templates by doing the following:

  • Go to www.uscis.gov
  • Select the "Outreach" tab at the top of the page
  • Select "feedback opportunities" on the left side of the page

01/05/2012: USCIS Meeting Invitation - Asylum Operations

The USCIS Asylum Division will host their quarterly stakeholder meeting on January 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm (EST) in the White Oak Conference Room at 20 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC. The purpose of this engagement is for individual participants to ask questions and raise issues regarding asylum operations.

01/04/2012: L.A. Arson Suspect, Mother on Immigration Hold

Immigration officials have issued a detainer on a German man suspected of setting a string of about 50 fires throughout Los Angeles during the New Year's holiday after he grew upset about his mother's immigration and legal troubles, according to news reports. - Orange County Register

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