Immigration News - May and June of 2009

06/30/2009: DV-2010 Entrant Status Check Now Available

The DOS website to check the results of DV-2010 diversity lottery is now open. If you submitted an entry for the 2010 diversity visa lottery, you may use your Confirmation Number, Last Name/Family Name, and Year of Birth to check your status. Good luck!

06/30/2009: CIS Ombudsman 2009 Annual Report

Richard E. Flowers, Acting CIS Ombudsman, published his 2009 annual report to the Congress. In this 117-page report, Mr. Flowers summarized his findings, including reduced case backlog, serious problems encountered by individuals and employers, formal recommendations he made to USCIS over the past year, and a wide range of other topics. The Ombudsman's report, although not legally binding, does carry certain weight on USCIS policy making and process improvement. It also provides insider information which is not readily available to immigration applicants. One good example was the 2007 report that revealed useful details about the FBI name check delays.

06/29/2009: USCIS Response to Ombudsman on Electronic Payment Methods

USCIS plans to have an online "shopping cart" approach to filing immigration applications and petitions included in the USCIS Transformation Initiative that is currently underway. Although not described as a "shopping cart" under the IBM Solution contract, customers will get immediate feedback to resolve shortfalls in their benefit requests and find alternative benefits for which they may be eligible. This functionality is described by IBM as a filing "wizard." The solution will also support e-payments and e-filing of applications and supporting documentation. USCIS anticipates these options becoming available to customers in later 2012 as apart of the transformation initiative. - Aytes Memo

06/28/2009: Alleged Fraud Puts Immigrants in Limbo

"Now, eight years later, the US government has begun rejecting dozens of Dvorak's clients, saying it found fraud, such as fake employment letters, in a significant number of cases, according to a copy of a rejection letter that lawyers say clients are receiving. The unexpected action is wreaking havoc from Maine to Cape Cod. Immigrants who plunked down hard-earned cash with high hopes of staying in America are now racing to other lawyers for help." - The Boston Globe

06/27/2009: USCIS Guidance on Employment Eligibility Verification Form

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that the Employment Eligibility Verification form I-9 (Rev. 02/02/09) currently on the USCIS Web site will continue to be valid for use beyond June 30, 2009. USCIS will update Form I-9 when OMB approves its extension request. Employers will be able to use either the Form I-9 with the new revision date or the Form I-9 with the 02/02/09 revision date at the bottom of the form.

06/27/2009: A Way Forward on Immigration

The [Senator Schumer] speech was notably tough-sounding, but the principles were solid. Illegal immigration is wrong. The borders and workplace need tighter enforcement. Illegal immigrants must be required to register, learn English and pay taxes - or face deportation. But they should also be allowed to seek citizenship. The path back to a lawful system is through legalization and an improved, well-managed immigration flow.

Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans accept these principles, and it's possible to imagine Congress uniting around them, too. - New York Times

06/27/2009: Know Your Rights as a Temporary Visitor

We Are Confident That You Will Have An Interesting And Rewarding Stay. However, If You Should Encounter Any Problems, You Have Rights And You Can Get Help! - DOS (PDF)

06/27/2009: Ruiz-Diaz v. United States

Petitioners who filed or will file a Petition for Special Immigrant Religious Worker Visa (Form I-360) with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") on behalf of individual beneficiaries are hereby notified that you or your beneficiary may now file an Application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) and, if your beneficiary seeks employment status as an adjustment applicant, an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) even if USCIS has not yet issued a final administrative decision regarding the I- 360 petition. Because USCIS is unable to search its records according to the beneficiary, we are asking for your assistance in sharing this notice with individuals who are or may be the beneficiary of an I-360 visa petition. - Notice and Court Order

06/25/2009: Obama Committed to Immigration Reform

Launching a fresh effort toward a comprehensive immigration overhaul, President Barack Obama said Thursday that a bipartisan bill on the "sensitive and volatile political issue" will be difficult but must get under way this year.

Several lawmakers -- Democrats and Republicans -- said after the meeting that this year is the last chance to try again, perhaps for decades. - Yahoo News

06/22/2009: USCIS to Resume Premium Processing Service for Form I-140

USCIS announced today that effective June 29, 2009, it will resume Premium Processing Service for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. For a $1000 fee, USCIS will guarantee the processing (not necessarily approving) of a case within 15 calendar days. The following petitions are eligible for premium processing:

  • EB-1 Aliens with Extraordinary Ability
  • EB-1 Outstanding Professors and Researchers
  • EB-2 Members of Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability not seeking a National Interest Waiver
  • EB-3 Professionals
  • EB-3 Skilled Workers
  • EB-3 Other Workers

I-140 Premium Processing Service is still not available for:

  • EB-1 Multinational Executives and Managers
  • EB-2 Members of Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability seeking a National Interest Waiver

Although severe visa number retrogression makes I-140 premium processing less attractive for some (especially for 1000 dollars), an approved I-140 is still critical in certain situations such as using AC21 to change employers or to extend H-1B status.

06/22/2009: USCIS, FBI Announce Elimination of Name Check Backlog

"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced that, in partnership with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it has met all milestones set forth in a joint business plan announced April 2, 2008, resulting in the elimination of the FBI National Name Check Program (NNCP) backlog.

As a result, USCIS has been able to resume normal processing of most cases which most often ends in a final determination of eligibility. Next steps in the adjudication of cases that were previously delayed as a result a pending FBI name check request may now include updating fingerprint results, scheduling interviews, requesting additional evidence and other reviews to determine whether the applicant is eligible for the requested immigration benefit."

06/20/2009: Obama Asks Men to be Better Fathers than his Own

Barack Obama got a basketball, his first name and ambition from his father. Little else. The son gave back more than he received: a lifetime of ruminations about the man who abandoned the family, a memoir named "Dreams from My Father," and endless reflections on his own successes and shortcomings as a parent of Sasha, 8, and Malia, 10. - AP Story

06/20/2009: Nothing Funny About this Bureaucracy

The Proposal, a movie starring Sandra Bullock (Miss Congeniality, Speed), opened this weekend and centers on a hard-nosed businesswoman who needs a fake marriage to stay in the country. The tired Hollywood plot is supposed to deliver some laughs, but for my wife and I, it's hard to find the humor in anything that reminds us of our nation's immigration bureaucracy. - The Dallas Morning News

06/19/2009: Obama on Immigration and CIR

"The American people -- the American people believe in immigration, but they also believe that we can't tolerate a situation where people come to the United States in violation of the law, nor can we tolerate employers who exploit undocumented workers in order to drive down wages. That's why we're taking steps to strengthen border security, and we must build on those efforts. We must also clarify the status of millions who are here illegally, many who have put down roots. For those who wish to become citizens, we should require them to pay a penalty and pay taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line behind those who played by the rules. That is the fair, practical, and promising way forward, and that's what I'm committed to passing as President of the United States." - President Obama at the Esperanza National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast (full text)

06/19/2009: USCIS Memo on I-140 and Alien Physicians

"this memo provides guidance to Immigration Services Officers (ISOs), formerly known as Information Immigration Officers (IIOs) or Adjudications Officers (AOs), on how to determine if a foreign Medical Degree (MD) is the equivalent of a U.S. MD degree, and thus an advanced degree, for EB2 purposes. This memorandum also addresses how to determine whether an alien physician has met the education, training and experience requirements of the labor certification and licensure in the area of intended employment, and it clarifies that all EB2 and EB3 alien physicians must overcome the "unqualified physician" inadmissible alien provisions of INA 212(a)(5)(B) at the time of the permanent job offer."

06/19/2009: USCIS Memo on EB-5 Job Creation and Full-Time Positions

"The AFM update clarifies that each petitioner must submit a business plan, along with their Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, which provides an accounting of the required number of qualifying jobs that will be created within the two-year period of conditional residency. This AFM update also clarifies that there may be some flexibility with respect to the timing of job creation at the Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions, stage. Finally, this AFM update clarifies the meaning of full-time position as it relates to job creation." - Neufeld Memo 20090617

06/19/2009: USCIS Response to Ombudsman's Recommendation on EB-5 Program

Michael Aytes, USCIS Acting Deputy Director, sent a response to CIS Ombudsman's recommendation regarding EB-5 investor visa program.

06/18/2009: Fee-Free Weekends at U.S. National Parks

No matter how ugly the visa bulletin looks, the summer is here and it is time to relax and have some fun. A great way to spend a weekend is to take the family to a national park. And there will be three weekends this summer during which park entrance fees will be waived:

  • June 20-21, 2009 (Father's Day weekend)
  • July 18-19, 2009
  • August 15-16, 2009

This page at NPS.gov lists all the fee-free weekend parks by state.

06/17/2009: 3 Teens Returned to US on Humanitarian Parole

Three teenagers, who were on their way to school but were detained at a transit center, and promptly deported to Tijuana last month, are now back in San Diego with their parents. They plan to hire an attorney and present their cases to an immigration judge - probably something immigration officials should have done in the first place. - San Diego Union Tribune Story

06/12/2009: USCIS Memo on H-2A and H-2B

This memo elaborates on the adjudicator's responsibility to thoroughly consider the evidence submitted in support of a request that a national from a country not eligible to participate in the H-2A or H-2B programs be accorded H-2A or H-2B status. This memo further provides some of the factors to be taken into consideration when making the discretionary decision whether to grant H-2A or H-2B status to such aliens.

06/09/2009: EOIR Provides Public Access to "Immigration Judge Benchbook"

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) announced today that it has posted the "Immigration Judge Benchbook" online, as part of ongoing efforts to better meet the information needs of the people it serves. The general public can now view the many reference materials that the nation's immigration judges use daily to conduct immigration proceedings and carry out crucial decision-making responsibilities. Moreover, providing public access to the Benchbook is in line with EOIR's efforts to promote greater accountability and transparency of agency operations.

06/09/2009: Interim Relief for Widows of U.S. Citizens

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today granted deferred action for two years to widows and widowers of U.S. citizens-as well as their unmarried children under 18 years old-who reside in the United States and who were married for less than two years prior to their spouse's death.

06/09/2009: July 2009 Visa Bulletin

EB2-China visa cutoff date moved back to January 1, 2000, the same as India EB2. All EB3 categories remain "Unavailable." The situation is unlikely to improve for the remainder of FY2009. Hopefully after October 1, the beginning of FY2010, a large number of I-485 cases with early priority dates will start receiving approvals in batches.

06/07/2009: Touchy Subject: Dealing with Undocumented Workers Who are Seriously Ill

What should the United States do with illegal immigrants who become seriously ill? Should the country offer health insurance to cover their treatment? Should it arrest and deport them? Or should it let local doctors and hospitals decide what to do in each case and bear most of the cost? - Des Moines Register

06/04/2009: Interim Rule to Remove References to Filing Locations

The rule is intended to eliminate confusion and certain obsolete references to the INS organizational structure from USCIS regulations, help the public determine where to file forms with USCIS, create a more efficient and streamlined process for future changes to filing instructions, and allow the component to better manage its workload through, among other things, affording greater flexibility to accept and process applications and petitions in an electronic environment.

Effective date: 30 days from June 5, 2009.

06/04/2009: The Reuniting Families Act to be Reintroduced

Silicon Valley Congressman Mike Honda today will introduce a bill that would give green-card holders the same rights as citizens to bring their spouses and children to the U.S. It will be a key component of the upcoming Comprehensive Immigration Reform. According to his website, the bill would:

  • classify lawful permanent resident spouses and children as "immediate relatives" and exempting them from numerical caps on family immigration;
  • recapture family and work visas that have gone unused and unclaimed due to bureaucratic delay;
  • increase per country limits from 7% to 10% so that nations with a higher demand for workers can better equip the American economy with talent; and,
  • allow family members to reunite despite bars to reentry.

06/03/2009: USCIS Begins Transfer of Historical A-Files to National Archives

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the National Archives and Records Administration took a major step today for personal, historical and genealogical research with a formal schedule to begin the transfer of alien registration files (A-files) for permanent retention at the National Archives. Previously, the A-file was considered a 'temporary record' and could possibly have been disposed of 75 years from the date the file was retired to a Federal Records Center or 75 years from the date of last action. Now, the A-file becomes a permanent record which will transfer to National Archives custody 100 years from the individual's date of birth.

06/02/2009: OPT Final Rule Correction

With this amendment, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) corrects one typographical error and corrects two inadvertent omissions from the Optional Practical Training (OPT) interim final rule (IFR) published in the Federal Register on April 8, 2008.

06/02/2009: FY2010 H-1B Filing Update

As of May 29, 2009, approximately 45,800 H-1B cap-subject petitions and approximately 20,000 petitions qualifying for the advanced degree cap exemption had been filed. USCIS will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H-1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account the fact that some of these petitions may be denied, revoked, or withdrawn.

05/31/2009: Paying Taxes Comes Back to Bite Illegal Immigrants

Immigrant advocates say they've seen nothing like it before or since: A prosecutor looking for illegal immigrants seized thousands of confidential tax records from an income tax preparer popular with Hispanics in this northern Colorado city.

But the American Civil Liberties Union said the documents of as many as 4,900 people were seized, many of them legal residents, and that the probe was the "equivalent of a house-by-house search of innocent homeowners in order to find a suspect believed to be somewhere in the neighborhood." - AP Story

05/30/2009: DHS Begins Test of Biometric Exit Procedures at Two U.S. Airports

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today began collecting biometrics - digital fingerprints - from non U.S. citizens including permanent residents departing the United States. This is part of a pilot program at Atlanta International Airport and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

Non-U.S. citizens leaving the United States from Detroit and Atlanta airports should expect to have their biometrics collected before boarding their flights. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will collect biometrics at the boarding gate from non-U.S. citizens departing from Detroit; U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers will collect biometrics at security checkpoints from non-U.S. citizens departing from Atlanta. These pilots are expected to continue through early July.

Note that this procedure is in addition to the entry biometric collection process currently in place.

05/30/2009: Advance Parole and Traveling Abroad

USCIS reminds individuals who have plans to travel abroad the importance of proper travel documents. More specifically, applicants must obtain Advance Parole before traveling if they have:

  • a pending application for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident (I-485);
  • been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS);
  • a pending application for relief under NACARA 203;
  • a pending asylum application; or
  • a pending application for legalization.

Special note: people who are subject to the 3- or 10-year bar may still be denied entry even if they have obtained Advance Parole. People who are unlawfully present, then depart the United States and subsequently reenter under a grant of parole, may still be ineligible to adjust their status.

05/29/2009: Permanent Resident Card Production Delays

USCIS announced that applicants may experience up to an eight week delay in the delivery of their permanent resident card, due to an upgrade of the card production equipment. However, USCIS will issue passport stamps as temporary evidence of permanent residence. If you plan to travel overseas during the summer, you can make an infopass appointment to get an I-551 stamp just in case your green card will not arrive in time.

05/28/2009: USCIS Memo on H-1B in a Health Care Occupation

This memorandum clarifies the standards for adjudicating H-1B petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries seeking employment in a health care specialty occupation.

05/21/2009: New Border-Crossing Document Requirements

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reminds United States and Canadian citizens that new document requirements go into effect on June 1 for entry into United States at land or sea ports. Travelers should apply for approved travel documents now, as it can take several weeks to receive a document that will comply with new requirements under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. - CBP News Release

05/19/2009: USCIS Opens International Adjudications Support Branch

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), through its International Operations Division, recently opened a new support branch in Anaheim, Calif. to assist in processing select paper-based applications and petitions received from its international offices. Initially, the branch will focus its efforts on adjudicating non-health related applications to waive grounds of inadmissibility, (Form I-601) from USCIS' office in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

05/19/2009: USCIS Officers Travel to Afghanistan

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials traveled to Afghanistan this week to process applications and interview 125 members of the military who have applied to become U.S. citizens. These USCIS officials are on site to ensure that every eligible servicemember can participate in a special Memorial Day naturalization ceremony at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

05/18/2009: FY2010 H-1B Filings Update

USCIS has received approximately 45,500 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. - USCIS Announcement

05/14/2009: USCIS National Stakeholder Meeting Q&A

Questions and Answers from the USCIS National Stakeholder Meeting on May 5, 2009. Read question #6 if your case is still stuck in security checks after six months or more, because USCIS has indicated that FBI name check backlog has been cleared:

6. Question: Are security checks, background checks and FBI checks the same thing? Service centers are still indicating that applications are pending beyond processing times due to security and background checks. If these aren't the FBI checks, which are no longer backlogged, then what are they and what is the average time that these should be taking?

Response: ......FBI and USCIS have worked together to end the FBI name check backlog. This means that there are no delays from the FBI in giving us results for the caseload we submit to them for a security check. Cases previously delayed as a result of the FBI name check process have resumed processing through regular work flow. This includes fingerprint updates, scheduling of interviews, requests for evidence, and other reviews to determine an individual's eligibility for the requested immigration benefit.

As is the case with all security checks undertaken by USCIS, if information is provided through these checks that may impact eligibility then this information would need further evaluation, and may need additional interaction with agencies outside USCIS to get updated or additional information. This could result in additional delays in processing.

05/14/2009: Consolidation of Guidance Concerning Unlawful Presence

USCIS released an internal memo to consolidate prior guidance on unlawful presence, which could lead to 3- or 10-year bars to admissibility. The memo also revises Chapter 40.9 of the Adjudicator's Field Manual (AFM) to reflect the new policy.

05/13/2009: Judge Wood a Strong Candidate for Supreme Court Seat

"Judge Wood, 58, now ranks high on the lists of many lawyers, politicians and scholars who are speculating as to President Obama's choice to succeed Justice David H. Souter on the Supreme Court...In a 1999 case, Judge Wood wrote the majority opinion for a three-judge panel overturning a deportation order for Natalia Nazarova. An immigration judge had issued the order after Ms. Nazarova was two hours late to a hearing because her interpreter could not be found." - NY Times

05/11/2009: Extension of the J-1 Entry Date for International Medical Graduates

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reminds customers that Public Law 111-9, signed by President Obama on March 20, 2009, extends the date until Sept. 30, 2009 by which international medical graduates have to have been granted J-1 nonimmigrant status in order to later qualify for the "Conrad 30" program. Before this latest extension was granted, the most recent sunset date for qualifying J-1 admission was March 6, 2009. - USCIS Update

05/11/2009: Price of First-Class Mail Goes Up Today

Starting today, the price of a first-class stamp will rise 2 cents to 44 cents. If you plan to send a letter to USCIS, make sure you attach enough postage to avoid a returned mail. If you are sending time sensitive or important documents, consider using a courier service, USPS express mail, certified mail, etc., and keep all records as evidence that you actually mailed them.

05/09/2009: Statue of Liberty's Crown to Reopen on July 4th

The Statue of Liberty's crown, with its exhilarating view of New York's skyscrapers, bridges and seaport, is reopening on Independence Day for the first time since terrorists leveled the World Trade Center just across the harbor. - Washington Post

05/08/2009: June 2009 Visa Bulletin

India EB2 visa cut-off dates shockingly will move backward by four years to January 1, 2000. China EB2 remains at 02/15/05. All EB3 categories continue to be "Unavailable" in the June 2009 Visa Bulletin. All other employment-based categories are still "Current."

05/07/2009: Updated List of SEVP Approved Schools

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently updated the list of SEVP approved schools. SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) uses the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to track schools, students, exchange visitors and their dependents.

05/04/2009: FY2010 H-1B Filings Update

As of today, "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." See the announcement. Since the total count is the same as last update, announced on April 27, USCIS pointed out that total receipts remained relatively unchanged.

05/04/2009: USCIS Update on Applications and Petitions

Applications and petitions for immigration benefits in March 2009 increased 7 percent, approvals increased by 49 percent, denials increased by 105 percent, and pending decreased less than 11% compared to March 2008.

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

  • 1,352,926 I-130 immediate/all other petitions;
  • 575,417 I-485 applications to adjust status;
  • 173,798 I-765 employment authorizations;
  • 164,243 I-90 green card renewals/replacements;
  • 135,622 I-751 remove conditions spouse jointly/waiver;
  • 52,992 I-821 temporary protected status;
  • 299,109 N-400 naturalization.

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