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Immigration News - March and April of 2009

04/30/2009: Foreign-Born Scientists Chosen as Obama's Advisors

President Obama selected three foreign-born scholars this week to serve on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology: Mario Molina (born in Mexico) from UC San Diego, Barbara Schaal (born in Germany) from Washington Univ. and Ahmed Zewail (born in Egypt) from Caltech. - CompeteAmerica

04/30/2009: Nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas as USCIS Director

Statement by Secretary Napolitano on President Obama's Intent to Nominate Alejandro Mayorkas as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director

04/30/2009: DHS Worksite Enforcement Strategy

"This week, updated worksite enforcement guidance was distributed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which reflects a renewed Department-wide focus targeting criminal aliens and employers who cultivate illegal workplaces by breaking the country's laws and knowingly hiring illegal workers.

Effective immediately, ICE will focus its resources in the worksite enforcement program on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers in order to target the root cause of illegal immigration." - Fact Sheet

04/30/2009: Revised Exchange Visitor Skills List

The Exchange Visitor Skills List is a list of specialized knowledge and skills that are deemed necessary for the development of an exchange visitor's home country. It is used by Consular Officers to determine whether an exchange visitor applying for a J-visa is subject to Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended. The Exchange Visitor Skills List is effective on June 28, 2009. - Federal Register Notice

04/30/2009: H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2009

Full text of Bill S.887, introduced by Durbin and Grassley, to "amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to reform and reduce fraud and abuse in certain visa programs for aliens working temporarily in the United States, and for other purposes."

04/28/2009: Foreign IT Pros Working In U.S. Earning More Than Americans

While opponents of H-1B and L-1 visas have long argued that the temporary work programs encourage employers to hire cheap foreign labor, a new study says noncitizen IT professionals earn pay that's on average 5% to 9% higher than American workers with similar education levels and IT experience. - Information Week

04/28/2009: Form I-90 Revised Filing Instructions Q&A

U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) published a Federal Register notice on April 28, 2009 that changes the filing location and filing instructions for the Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Form I-90). The revised filing instructions require applicants to submit supporting documentation with their applications. Prior to this change, applicants were instructed to bring their supporting documentation to their biometrics appointments. The notice also revises the Direct Mail address for the Form I-90. Applicants must now file their Form I-90 and supporting documentation with the USCIS Lockbox facility in Phoenix. - Q&A and Federal Register Notice

04/28/2009: US Embassy in Mexico City Cancels NIV Appointments

In accordance with measures announced by the City of Mexico to limit the congregation of large crowds, the Embassy in Mexico City has decided to suspend processing of the approximately 5100 non-immigrant visa appointments scheduled Monday, April 27 through Wednesday, April 29. - Embassy Announcement

04/28/2009: USCIS National Stakeholder Meeting Q&A

USCIS National Stakeholder Meeting Q&A. The next stakeholder meeting will be held on May 5, 2009 at 2:00 pm.

04/27/2009: FY2010 H-1B Update

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced an updated number of filings for H-1B petitions for the fiscal year 2010 program. USCIS has received approximately 45,000 H-1B petitions counting toward the Congressionally-mandated 65,000 cap. The agency continues to accept petitions subject to the general cap.

04/27/2009: Revised Filing Instructions for Form I-90

U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) will publish a Federal Register notice tomorrow that will change filing location and filing instructions for the Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Form I-90). The revised filing instructions require applicants to submit supporting documentation with their applications. Prior to this change, applicants were instructed to bring their supporting documentation to their biometrics appointments. The notice also revises the Direct Mail address for the Form I-90. Applicants must now file their Form I-90 and supporting documentation with the USCIS Lockbox facility in Phoenix. - USCIS Announcement

04/26/2009: U.S. Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu

Responding to what some health officials feared could be the leading edge of a global pandemic emerging from Mexico, American health officials declared a public health emergency on Sunday as 20 cases of swine flu were confirmed in this country, including eight in New York City.

Other nations imposed travel bans or made plans to quarantine air travelers as confirmed cases also appeared in Mexico and Canada and suspect cases emerged elsewhere. - NY Times Story

04/22/2009: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students

The current political debate over undocumented immigrants in the United States has largely ignored the plight of undocumented children. Yet children account for 1.8 million, or 15 percent, of the undocumented immigrants now living in this country. Although not born in the United States, these children have, for the most part, grown up in the United States and received much of their primary and secondary school education here. But without a means to legalize their status, they are seldom able to go on to college and cannot work legally in this country. Moreover, at any time they can be deported to countries they barely know. This wasted talent imposes economic and emotional costs on undocumented students themselves and on the U.S. society as a whole. - College Board

04/22/2009: College Board Supports Dream Act

The College Board is supporting legislation that would offer some undocumented youths a path to citizenship through college or the military. The association best known for the SAT and AP tests it administers is stepping into the contentious issue for the first time, just as President Obama is signaling that he may encourage lawmakers to overhaul immigration laws this year. The board's trustees have voted unanimously to support the legislation, known as the Dream Act. - LA Times

04/22/2009: Widow Penalty Victims Win Court Victory

A federal judge tentatively ordered the Department of Homeland Security to reopen the cases of 22 people who were denied green cards because their American spouses died during the application process. U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled the so-called widow penalty doesn't necessarily require that immigrants' permanent residency applications be denied when their American spouses die. - AP Story

04/20/2009: FY2010 H-1B Count

USCIS has received approximately 44,000 H-1B petitions counting toward the Congressionally-mandated 65,000 cap. The agency continues to accept petitions subject to the general cap. Additionally, the agency has received approximately 20,000 petitions for aliens with advanced degrees; however, we continue to accept advanced degree petitions since experience has shown that not all petitions received are approvable. Congress mandated that the first 20,000 of these types of petitions are exempt from any fiscal year cap on available H-1B visas.

04/17/2009: Middle-Class Immigrant Households in the United States

"Analysis of immigrants' income in the United States typically focuses on the extremes: low-wage immigrants who often work in low-skilled jobs, and high-wage immigrants who also tend to be very highly skilled. This Spotlight provides an initial look at immigrant households in the middle of the income distribution, or middle-class immigrants." - Migration Information Source

04/17/2009: USCIS Update on Applications and Petitions

Applications and petitions for immigration benefits in February 2009 increased 2 percent, approvals increased by 52 percent, denials increase by 26 percent, and pending cases decreased less than 6 percent, compared to February 2008.

Major volumes of pending applications at the end of February 2009 include:

  • 1,382,277 I-130 immediate/all other petitions;
  • 593,937 I-485 applications to adjust status;
  • 204,995 I-765 employment authorizations;
  • 182,717 I-90 green card renewals/replacements;
  • 143,363 I-751 remove conditions spouse jointly/waiver;
  • 87,438 I-821 temporary protected status;
  • ? N-400 naturalization (USCIS website apparently linked to the wrong file, so data is not yet available).

04/15/2009: Ford Foundation to Commit $30 million to Immigration

The Ford Foundation, the nation's second-largest philanthropic institution, has begun unveiling the results of a two-year overhaul undertaken by its new leader, Luis A. Ubiñas...For instance, Ford will commit "upwards of $30 million" to immigration over the next 18 months, a spokeswoman said. - NY Times Story

04/15/2009: iCERT System Goes Live Today

The Department plans to initially activate the iCERT system for purposes of establishing user accounts and filing the new LCA form (9035E). The system will be located at http://icert.doleta.gov. On and after April 15, 2009, the iCERT portal will be available for the submission of ETA 9035E (electronic LCA H-1B application). The current electronic LCA system will continue to be available through May 14, 2009. However, effective May 15, 2009, the LCA for the H-1B program will be available for submission only through the iCERT portal system.

The PERM application, Form ETA 9089, will become available for application submission on September 1, 2009. To allow for an appropriate transition, both systems will be active during the month of September. However, beginning October 1, 2009, PERM applications will be submitted electronically only through iCERT system accounts.

04/15/2009: Have You Filed Your Taxes Yet?

04/13/2009: Tech Recruiting Clashes With Immigration Rules

"Immigrants like Mr. Mavinkurve are the lifeblood of Google and Silicon Valley, where half the engineers were born overseas, up from 10 percent in 1970. Google and other big companies say the Chinese, Indian, Russian and other immigrant technologists have transformed the industry, creating wealth and jobs." - NY Times

See also:

NYT Debate: Do We Need Foreign Technology Workers? and

NYT Blog: Google's 'Immigration Fixer'

04/13/2009: Immigration Can Speed Economic Recovery

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor: "It's welcome news that President Obama will turn his attention to immigration reform this year, as was announced on Wednesday by Deputy Assistant to the President Cecilia Muñoz. Economic recovery will happen more quickly if both high- and low-skill immigrants are permitted to enter the United States and work legally." - Reuters

04/12/2009: U.S. Citizens Detained or Deported as Illegal Immigrants

AP published a list of profiles of some U.S. citizens who have been detained or deported.

04/10/2009: iCERT Coming April 15

DOL Office of Foreign Labor Certification announced that the "new and improved" iCERT system will be available on April 15, 2009.

04/09/2009: Latest Count of FY2010 H-1B Petition Filings

USCIS announced today that approximately 42,000 H-1B petitions have been received that count toward the 65,000 cap. The agency continues to accept petitions subject to the general cap. Additionally, USCIS has received approximately 20,000 petitions for aliens with advanced degrees; however, they continue to accept advanced degree petitions since not all petitions received are approvable, based on prior experience. Congress mandated that the first 20,000 of these types of petitions are exempt from any fiscal year cap on available H-1B visas.

For cases filed for premium processing during the initial five-day filing window, the 15-day premium processing period began April 7. For cases filed for premium processing after the filing window, the premium processing period begins on the date USCIS takes physical possession of the petition.

04/09/2009: May 2009 Visa Bulletin

All EB3 categories become "Unavailable" in the May 2009 Visa Bulletin, and will remain so until October. EB2 China and EB2 India once again remain standstill: 02/15/05 and 02/15/04, respectively. All other employment-based categories are "Current."

04/09/2009: Obama Eyes Immigration Reform in 2009

While acknowledging that the recession makes the political battle more difficult, President Obama plans to begin addressing the country's immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday. - NY Times Story

04/06/2009: ICE Agent Sues ICE

"A Customs and Border Protection officer says the Department of Homeland Security violated his constitutional rights. Jim Slaughter and his wife Sheila were doing laundry last July when, they say, a group of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showed up on their doorstep looking for a fugitive."

"I said do you realize i'm a U.S. Customs K-9 officer at San Luis, Arizona and they all just froze. The lead agent, his eyes got real big, and he's like what? You are?" In fact Jim has worked for CBP for seven years. He says the agents immediately retreated. - KSWT News

04/03/2009: Shooting Rampage at Immigration Center

Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and the entire community in Binghamton, New York.

04/03/2009: Revised Form I-9 Effective Today

USCIS issued a reminder that the revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (Rev. 02/02/09), goes into effect today for all U.S. employers.

04/03/2009: Priorities Enforcing Immigration Law

Michael Aytes, Acting Deputy Director of USCIS, testified before Congress to discuss employment eligibility verification.

"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) believes E-Verify is an essential tool for employers committed to maintaining a legal workforce. E-verify works by addressing illegal immigration from the demand side. Any participating company in the United States can access E-Verify through a user-friendly government website that compares employee information taken from the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) with more than 449 million records in the Social Security Administration's (SSA) database, our partner in the program, and more than 80 million records in DHS immigration databases."

04/01/2009: Improving the Process for Payment of USCIS Filing Fees

Paper-based payments containing mistakes that commonly occur when completing a check or money order are not accepted by USCIS, and often result in the rejection of the correspondin application or petition. At the Chicago Lockbox, USCIS rejects an estimated 350 filings each day due to these mistakes, and similar rejections regularly occur at other USCIS receipting facilities. Such rejections cause customers potential denial or loss of immigration benefits, and waste USCIS resources. Additionally, USCIS' limited payment options hinder its potential to serve customers. Current options do not include modernized, user-friendly electronic payment methods, such as batch filing and shopping cart options, used by many web-based retailers and other U.S. fee-for-service government agencies. Such interfaces would help customers submit correct payments and minimize the complexity of paying USCIS fees. - CIS Ombudsman Report

03/31/2009: Good Luck to Everyone in the FY2010 H-1B Race!

03/31/2009: Census Officials Launch Bid to Win Trust of Immigrants

With a year to go until Census Day, earning the trust of historically undercounted communities remains a key challenge for decennial headcounters, census officials and lawmakers said on Monday....Recent immigrants, low-income urban workers and others may confuse a census worker with a police officer or tax collector, they warned. - Gov. Exec. Article

03/31/2009: OPT "Cap-Gap" Fact Sheet from ICE

On April 8, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security published an Interim Final Rule (IFR) titled, Extending Period of Optional Practical Training by 17 Months for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students With STEM Degrees and Expanding Cap-Gap Relief for All F-1 Students With Pending H-1B Petitions. The changes made by this rule became effective upon publication of the rule. - OPT "Cap-Gap" Fact Sheet

03/31/2009: OPT Application Checklist from ICE

This checklist is intended to serve as general guidance on the OPT application process. Your school may have special requirements that are not covered on this checklist. You should always speak with an international advisor at your school regarding OPT or any other benefit associated with your F-1 status.

03/29/2009: Delay in Immigration Raids May Signal Policy Change

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids....A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in whom agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement choose to prosecute -- increasing the focus on businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers. - Washington Post

03/26/2009: FY2009 PERM LC Highlights

  • During the first quarter of FY 2009 (October 1 to December 31, 2008), approximately 3074 PERM cases were certified; 74% of foreign workers on H-1B visas.
  • Beneficiaries representing 122 different countries were certified for permanent employment in the U.S. The top 5 countries are India (1,219), China (254), Canada (174), South Korea (120) and Philippines (113)
  • 1,328 cases were denied during Q1 of FY2009, representing 29% of total cases processed. This was a sharp increase from the approximate 21% denial rate since March, 2005.
  • DOL statistics

03/25/2009: Extension of Validity of Medical Certifications

USCIS has recently released a memo dated 12/08/2008 to extend the validity of civil surgeon endorsements on Form I-693 until the adjustment of status application could be adjudicated. This policy will be in effect until January 1, 2010. Form I-693 is generally valid for one year. Due to the continuing backlog of AOS (I-485) cases, however, USCIS has been extending its validity as long as no Class A or Class B medical condition is certified by the civil surgeon.

03/25/2009: Unaccompanied Children Seeking Asylum

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced it is now responsible for initial adjudication of applications for asylum from Unaccompanied Alien Children. Some of these children previously would have been required to file for asylum in immigration court with the Executive Office for Immigration Review in the Department of Justice. See Questions and Answers for more details.

03/23/2009: Immigrant Delivers Free Meals to Homeless

Every day, unemployed men gather under the elevated 7 train in Jackson Heights, Queens. Many of them are homeless. All of them are hungry. At around 9:30 each night, relief comes in the form of Jorge Munoz's white pickup truck, filled with hot food, coffee and hot chocolate. For many, this is their only hot meal of the day; for some, it's the first food they've eaten since last night. - CNN Story

03/23/2009: Former DOS Employee Sentenced for Illegally Accessing Passport Files

A former State Department employee was sentenced today to 12 months of probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service for illegally accessing more than 150 confidential passport application files. In pleading guilty, Cross admitted that between January 2002 and August 2007, he logged onto the PIERS database and viewed the passport applications of more than 150 celebrities, actors, musicians, comedians, models, politicians, athletes, members of the media, family members, friends, associates and other individuals. Cross admitted that he had no official government reason to access and view these passport applications, but that his sole purpose in accessing and viewing these passport applications was idle curiosity. - DOJ

03/21/2009: I-9 Handbook for Employers

USCIS published a handbook with instructions for completing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Although the handbook (Rev 04/09/2009) is designed to assist employers, it is very useful for employees as well in terms of which document(s) they need to provide for the verification process.

03/21/2009: Q&A from USCIS-AILA Meeting

Questions and Answers from a USCIS-AILA meeting held on March 19, 2009 in Washington, D.C.

03/20/2009: TARP Related Requirements Apply to New H-1B Petitions Only

USCIS clarified that the new "Employ American Workers Act (EAWA)," which requires that any company that has received TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) or covered funding is considered an "H-1B dependent employer," only applies to new LCA and/or H1B petitions.

"EAWA applies to any Labor Condition Application (LCA) and/or H-1B petition filed on or after February. 17, 2009, involving any employment by a new employer, including concurrent employment and regardless of whether the beneficiary is already in H-1B status. The EAWA also applies to new hires based on a petition approved before Feb. 17, 2009, if the H-1B employee had not actually commenced employment before that date."

"EAWA does not apply to H-1B petitions seeking to change the status of a beneficiary already working for the employer in another work-authorized category. It also does not apply to H-1B petitions seeking an extension of stay for a current employee with the same employer."

03/20/2009: USCIS to Accept FY2010 H-1B Petitions on April 1, 2009

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced that it will begin accepting H-1B petitions for the fiscal year 2010 on April 1, 2009. If granted, these H-1B beneficiaries can start working for their sponsoring employers on October 1, 2009.

03/14/2009: Immigration Reform Needed, for Undocumented Workers or Google Co-founder

Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State, said Friday that one of her deepest regrets was the failure of the Bush administration to achieve real reform of immigration laws.

"We need immigration reform. I don't care if it's for the person who crawls across the desert to earn $5 an hour, or for Sergey Brin, who came here from Russia and founded Google," she said at an economic summit at Stanford University. "As a country, we can't have people living in the shadows. It's just wrong. It's not only ineffective, it's wrong." - Mercury News

03/12/2009: "Crossing Over" - New Immigration Movie

A new movie featuring Harrison Ford (ICE agent), Ray Liotta (corrupted USCIS official), and Denise Frankel (immigration lawyer) will open in theaters tomorrow, March 13. Although the reviews have been mixed, the fact that it is addressing the fate and struggles of so many immigrants - legal or illegal - sure makes it interesting. Let us know what you think if you have seen it.

03/12/2009: EB-5 Immigrant Investor Pilot Program Extended

USCIS announced today the extension of Immigrant Investor Pilot Program to September 30, 2009. As a result of the extension of the Pilot Program, USCIS will continue to receive, process, and adjudicate all Regional Center Proposals and Forms I-526, Immigrant Petitions by Alien Entrepreneur, and Forms I-485, Applications to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, affiliated with Regional Centers relying on "indirect" job creation analysis.

03/12/2009: $1.2 Million Citizenship Grant Program

USCIS announced today a $1.2 million grant program to support citizenship preparation programs for legal permanent residents. Community-based organizations (CBOs) serving one or more priority immigrant groups may apply for the funding through Grants.gov by April 15, 2009.

03/10/2009: April 2009 Visa Bulletin

EB2 China and India remain standstill in the April 2009 visa bulletin, at 02/15/05 and 02/15/04, respectively. EB3 further retrogressed across the board, with EB Worldwide category moving backward by more than two years.

"Despite the established cut-off date having been held for the past five months in an effort to keep demand within the average monthly usage targets, the amount of demand being received from Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Offices for adjustment of status cases remains extremely high. Therefore, it has been necessary to retrogress the April cut-off dates in an attempt to hold demand within the FY-2009 annual limit. Since over 60 percent of the Worldwide and Philippines Employment Third preference CIS demand received this year has been for applicants with priority dates prior to January 1, 2004, the cut-off date has been retrogressed to 01MAR03 to help ensure that the amount of future demand is significantly reduced. As indicated in the last sentence of Item A, paragraph 1, of this bulletin, this cut-off date will be applied immediately. It should also be noted that further retrogression or "unavailability" at any time cannot be ruled out. " - DOS

03/07/2009: USCIS Update on Applications and Petitions

Applications and petitions for immigration benefits in January 2009 increased 46 percent, approvals increased by 12 percent, denials decreased by 2 percent, and pending decreased less than 1%, compared to January 2008.

Major volumes of pending applications at the end of January 2009 include:

  • 1,417,978 I-130 immediate/all other petitions;
  • 620,249 I-485 applications to adjust status;
  • 286,701 I-765 employment authorizations;
  • 190,238 I-90 green card renewals/replacements;
  • 163,015 I-821 temporary protected status;
  • 147,951 I-751 remove conditions spouse jointly/waiver;
  • 336,490 N-400 naturalization, a decrease of 68% from last year.

03/04/2009: USCIS Revises Policy Regarding FBI Name Checks

Since the backlog of FBI name check has been significantly reduced, USCIS has revised its policy that allows automatic approval of certain cases, including I-485, if FBI name checks have been pending for more than 180 days.

A memo from Donald Neufeld, dated February 9, 2009, now requires that adjudicators must contact USCIS Headquarters before approving I-485, I-601, I-687, or I-698 cases if FBI name check results have not been received. The Headquarters will then contact FBI to determine the reason for name check processing delay, and provide guidance to adjudicators on a case by case basis.

So an I-485 case may still be approved prior to the clearance of long-pending FBI name check, but it now requires USCIS Headquarter authorization.

Note that FBI fingerprint check and IBIS name check still must be cleared before a case can be approved. As discussed here, those two processes are different from FBI name checks.

03/04/2009: FBI Name Checks Pending Over Six Months Now Eliminated

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that the backlog for FBI name checks pending more than six months has been eliminated. This is the fourth milestone met by the agency as part of its joint plan with the FBI to completely eliminate the backlog of pending name checks.

Just 16 months ago, more than 349,000 name checks were pending with nearly 150,000 had been pending for more than six months. As of February 28, 2009, all USCIS requests pending for six months or more have been responded to by the FBI's National Name Check Program (NNCP).

03/04/2009: Passport Data Now in E-Verify

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has incorporated Department of State passport data into the E-Verify employment authorization program. This enhancement is already reducing the incidences of mismatches among foreign-born citizens.

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