According to a CRS update, there were roughly 5.8 million nonimmigrant visas issued during fiscal year 2006. Among them:
However, the vast majority of visitors entering the U.S. are Mexican nationals with Border Crossing Cards and Canadian nationals traveling for business or tourist purposes, which accounted for approximately 141 million admissions out of a total of 174.7 in FY 2006. Note that this is a tally of admissions, not individuals.
The remaining 33 million admissions are:
Philip Browne, a former USCIS district adjudication officer, was sentenced last week to two and half years in prison for an immigration fraud scheme that netted the conspirators more than one million dollars.
Browne's sister owned and operated Help Preparers Professional Services ("HPPS") that fraudulently obtained permanent resident documents, or "green cards," from USCIS, in exchange for fees ranging from $8,000 to $16,000 per customer.
To execute this scheme, various coconspirators arranged sham marriages between HPPS's customers and American citizens, who were paid for their participation. HPPS would then file green card applications with CIS on behalf of their customers.
During the period of the conspiracy, PHILLIP BROWNE worked as a District Adjudication Officer for CIS in New York. BROWNE's responsibilities included interviewing green card applicants and approving green card applications. One of the purposes of the immigration interviews that BROWNE was responsible for conducting was to identify and deny applications that were predicated on sham marriages. BROWNE assisted MOZER-BROWNE in the scheme by corruptly approving applications submitted by HPPS's customers without requiring those applicants to appear for their scheduled interviews.
In addition to BROWNE and MOZER-BROWNE, twenty-eight other defendants have been charged in this case, and twenty-six of them have pleaded guilty.
On another case, also from New York, JIMMIE ORTEGA, a former Supervisory District Adjudications Officer with the naturalization unit of CIS, pleaded guilty to taking tens of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for granting United States citizenship to ineligible aliens. Co-defendant OSCAR FABREGAS, another NY District Adjudications Officer, pleaded guilty of making false statement when two aliens never appeared in front him but he claimed to have interviewed them. They will be sentenced in January and March, 2008, respectively.
President Bush signed the massive spending bill into law today, after a months-long battle with Congress. The bill, H.R. 2764, will fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as government operations through 2008. He is not entirely happy though:
"...the Congress dropped into the bill nearly 9,800 earmarks that total more than $10 billion. These projects are not funded through a merit-based process and provide a vehicle for wasteful Government spending."
All USCIS Field Offices, District Offices, Service Centers and Application Support Centers will be closed on December 25, 2007 and January 1, 2008 for Federal holidays.
All USCIS Field Offices, District Offices, Service Centers and Application Support Centers located in the same offices as USCIS Field Offices will be closed on December 24, 2007 in accordance with an Executive Order signed by President George W. Bush.
Anti-immigration lawmaker Tom Tancredo decided Thursday to end his presidential campaign for 2008, after consistently polling in the very low single digits. Tancredo's campaign has largely focused on the single issue of illegal immigrants with harsh words and persuasive ads, but apparently failed to impress voters. The Colorado Representative will now support Mitt Romney, another Republican candidate that stands strongly against illegal immigration. Realizing that he has no chance of winning, Tancredo claimed that he didn't want to help Huckabee or John McCain by remaining in the race. Huckabee supported the Dream Act and McCain backed the comprehensive immigration reform - both failed to pass this year.
Did you know that today is International Migrants Day designated by the United Nationals? On December 18, 1990, the General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (resolution 45/158). On December 4, 2000, the Assembly proclaimed December 18 International Migrants Day (resolution 55/93).
DOL today released what could be the final round of Frequently Asked Questions about BEC's and remaining LC cases. Both DBEC and PBEC will be officially closed on December 21, 2007. The Chicago National Processing Center will handle any remaining cases, inquiries or appeals. Although the BEC processing could've been better, we want to thank all BEC employees and contractors for their dedication and hard work. They did an unbelievable job by clearing the LC backlog, which just two years ago appeared almost impossible.
The newly published 2007 annual report by The Department of Labor may bring back painful memories to many people who have waited for years in the labor certification process. Although we applaud the department's efforts in eliminating the backlog by September 30, 2007, we simply cannot agree with the much claimed success of the two backlog elimination centers. Why? Nearly two years were wasted during the transitional period. The so called 45-day letters created a perfect example of chaos. Numerous cases were erroneously closed and reopened. There was no First In First Out, or any human-understanable order, whatsoever. And the list goes on and on.
Immigrants who were lucky enough to have received LC just before the creation of BEC's may be eligible for U.S. citizenship by now. For people who missed the boat, it was one backlog after another. BEC, FBI name check, and now visa retrogression. If you are one of them and are still waiting, we sincerely hope 2008 will be the year for your much awaited good news.
Below is what DOL has to say about the BEC's. Although every word appears to be true, somehow it just has a bitter taste for people who actually experienced it. You can find the full report and the LC portion here.
"In FY 2007, DOL eliminated the backlog of permanent foreign labor certification applications, with nearly 99 percent of cases completed and the remainder awaiting responses from employers. In three years, processing centers reviewed approximately 363,000 pending labor applications. Statutory changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1997 and 2000 led to a dramatic increase in applications to this employment-based program. As a result, processing times rose, and applications sometimes languished for several years. In 2004, the Department opened temporary facilities in Dallas and Philadelphia dedicated solely to eliminating the backlog. From the outset, the department pledged that the backlog would be eliminated by September 30, 2007, when both of the Backlog Elimination Centers began shutting down. "Clearing up the Permanent Labor Certification backlog has been a Presidential Management Agenda priority and the job was completed on time, as promised," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. 'Thousands of people are no longer left waiting and wondering, and the Department is moving ahead with reforms to streamline existing foreign worker certification programs.' "
Effective January 1, 2008, the application fee for a U.S. non-immigrant visa will increase from $100 to $131. Citing new security-related costs and inflation, DOS has announced this fee increase, the third time since 2001, in an attempt to recover visa processing costs.
This one is labeled as "Year in Review Special Edition," so you might have guessed what it is talking about.
A long-awaited agreement was signed Tuesday by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in Beijing, to make it easier for Chinese citizens to tour the United States in groups. It also permits U.S. destinations to start advertising directly to the Chinese public. The travel industry has lobbied heavily for this agreement for years, aiming for the billions of dollars Chinese visitors would bring to the US. On average, Chinese visitors spend more per trip than residents of any other country.
In theory, Chinese citizens have been able to apply for B-2 visas and tour the US for years. However, the fact that it is almost impossible to secure a visa has dissuaded many people from even thinking about it. Applications for visiting families are often denied, so average citizens rarely plan for just tourism, even if they can easily afford it.
Although this agreement does not alter the visa requirement in any way, it may be able to design special programs that would truly open the door for Chinese tourists. Stay tuned for more development.
Two students were found shot to death late Thursday at a Louisiana State University apartment, and officials are still searching for three killers. The victims, Chandrasekhar Reddy Komma and Kiran Kumar Allam, are both Ph.D. students from India. The LSU apartment building is for married and graduate students only, and is close to one of Baton Rouge's highest-crime areas. AP reports.
India EB2 visa cut-off date will move further back to 01/01/2000 starting next month, after severe retrogression in December. DOS estimates that the annual limit for EB2 India could be reached within a few months, at which time the category would become "unavailable" until September 30, 2008. It is a long road ahead!
Other categories had little movement, including all EB1 being current. China EB2 stays at 01JAN03; Mexico, Philippines and ROW EB2 are current. EB3 still heavily retrogressed across the board.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will give special consideration to fee waiver requests from Southern California wildfire victims. Three applications are covered by this announcement: Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card (Form I-90); Application for Replacement Naturalization Citizenship Document (Form N-565); and, Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765). In addition, USCIS is aware of the fact that customers who lost their homes/employment may be unable to submit all required documents. We thank USCIS for being considerate and flexible.
25-year-old Yuliya Kalinina from Russia posted an ad on Craig's List: "Green Card Marriage -- Will pay $300/month. Total $15,000." Four months later, she "married" a U.S. citizen. In addition to men, however, the ad also attracted immigration agents. Read the bizarre story at LA Times.
U.S. Rep. Rául Grijlava submitted a private bill late Thursday asking for a green card for the illegal immigrant who might have saved the life of a U.S. boy on Thanksgiving night. Grijlava hopes that the bill, "H.R. 4339, for the relief of Jesus Manuel Córdova Soberanes," will be heard before next week. If approved, although difficult, it would grant 26-year-old Córdova a green card to legally live and work in the United States. Córdova was sent back to Mexico after he stayed with Christopher overnight in the Arizona desert until authorities showed up. (Reported by Arizona Daily Star)
Just when Republican candidate Mitt Romney was getting close to out-tough everyone on illegal immigration, he had to fire a landscape company who hired undocumented workers to maintain his backyard. The thing is, he used the same company last year, who then was using illegal immigrants, and was reported by the Globe. This shouldn't be that hot of a story, if Romney weren't hammering the illegal immigration issue the way he did during his campaigns. Aside from being a perfect candidate for late nigh show jabs, he might want to think about how to respond, in case it slips out of the mouth of his rivals during the next debate.
Over the past few days a rumor has been spreading like a wild fire predicting the end of FBI name check delays. The rumored solution is that USCIS will start approving immigration cases without name check clearance, if they have been pending for a non-disclosed period of time.
The rumor turned out to be false, unfortunately.
USCIS Office of Communications has responded to several postings on immigration websites by reiterating its current policy that no case will be approved without clearing name check first. However, the office also emphasized the ongoing efforts by USCIS and the FBI to improve the existing process. In addition to spending $15.5 million to address the backlog of FBI name checks, the agencies plan to focus more on "cases of concern."
It is still a possibility that USCIS may take more drastic actions in the future to reduce the ever mounting backlog, but it may have to stem from new legislation, rather than pure regulatory changes.
President hopeful Tom Tancredo said he's opposed to not only illegal immigration, but also to "massive legal immigration." His Republican competitors Duncan Hunter, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani all rushed to criticize each other for, basically, being nice to illegals. John McCain offered a different opinion, but did he look lonely on that stand! Check out the highlights of the Republican Debate and stay tuned for more.
A new census survey is bound to add fuel to the already heated debate over whether Canada accepts too many immigrants, or not yet enough. With two-thirds of the country's population growth coming from immigration, there is a strong desire for the government to re-evaluate its immigration policy. Read more here.
The entry registration period for DV-2009, Green Card Lottery, has officially ended by noon today and DOS is no longer accepting submissions at their website. Winners will receive notification and visa application instructions by mail from the Kentucky Consular Center. You will NOT receive any emails from the authority about your DV application! Be very careful with phishing and scam websites that send emails asking for money and/or personal information in order to proceed with your case - they are fake.
USCIS revised the filing instructions for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, effective tomorrow, December 3, 2007. Stand-alone I-130 should be sent to the Chicago Lockbox instead of service centers. Your petition, however, will later be re-routed to the service center based on your residence in the U.S.
USCIS Case Status Online system, field office locators and civil surgeon locators will be unavailable due to system maintenance on Friday November 30, 2007 for about 3 hours beginning at 9:00 PM Eastern Time.
The Fiscal Policy Institute and The New York Immigration Coalition jointly released a report today to provide an overall profile of immigrants in the state of New York. The report, named "Working for a Better Life," provided lots of immigration data and statistics. Without differentiating legal immigrants and undocumented workers, the report highlighted:
See the full report here.
USCIS published a notice in the Federal Register today to officially introduce the newly amended Form I-9, "Employment Eligibility Verification." Employers are required to start using the form (Rev. 06/05/07) today, to verify employment authorization of new hires or when an existing employee needs to be re-verified. Using a previous version of Form I-9 after December 26, 2007 is subject to DHS penalties.
If you are required to complete a Form I-9 and your employer's HR or Legal department gives you an outdated version, please inform them of this notice.
AP article, SYDNEY, Australia -- "Conservative Prime Minister John Howard, one of the Bush administration's staunchest allies, suffered a humiliating election defeat Saturday at the hands of an opposition leader who has vowed to pull troops out of Iraq. Labor leader Kevin Rudd, a Chinese-speaking former diplomat, has also promised to sign the Kyoto Protocol on capping greenhouse gas emissions, leaving the U.S. as the only industrialized country not to have joined it."
An illegal immigrant was arrested by Border Patrol agents shortly after he rescued a 9-year-old boy, stayed with him overnight and waited until authorities showed up. The boy's mother died after her van crashed into an Arizona desert.
USCIS has finally cleared the frontlog of issuing receipts to the massive applications and petitions filed since July. With the only exception of N-400 and I-130, all forms are showing current.
N-400 (Naturalization): CSC - 10/15/2007, NSC - 11/07/2007, TSC - 7/29/2007, VSC - 7/31/2007
USCIS published an advisory on processing times today. It confirmed the fear of many immigrants that the July Visa Fiasco, as well as the rush to beat the fee increase, would eventually take its toll on an already heavily-backlogged system. We are just glad that USCIS is taking actions to address this issue:
"USCIS has received a significant increase in the number of applications filed. In July and August, nearly 2.5 million applications and petitions of all types were received. This compares to 1.2 million applications and petitions received in the same time period last year. This fiscal year, we received 1.4 million applications for naturalization; nearly double the volume we received the year before. The agency is working to improve processes and focus increased resources, including hiring approximately 1,500 new employees, to address this workload."
With less than two weeks left for entering the DV-2009 green card lottery, we urge qualified applicants to submit their applications as soon as possible. Do not wait until the last minute as there will be a rush of filings coming December 2nd. Note that you can download the entry form and submit it online at the State Department's website, at no charge. There are many scam websites that charge a fee for this service, or promise a higher chance of winning the lottery. It is completely false. If you don't have internet access, check with your local library or community service organizations.
The answer is apparently yes, if you are going to New Zealand. "The immigration department can't afford to import people who are going to be a significant drain on our health resources." Said Robyn Toomath, a spokesman for New Zealand's Fight the Obesity Epidemic. As a result, Rowan Trezise, a 33-year-old british citizen, may have to stay in the UK because of her BMI. Read on...
TSC current on I-140, I-131 and I-765, 11/12/2007 for I-485, 7/26/2007 for N-400.
NSC 11/04/2007 for I-140, I-131, I-765 and I-485, 9/9/2007 for N-400.
A video was made public today showing the last moments of a Polish immigrant, who died after police shot him with a stun gun at Vancouver Airport. According to CNN, Dziekanski, who didn't speak English and had never flown before, became agitated after 10 hours of waiting at the airport because nobody showed up to pick him up. Police confronted him, and shot him with a Taser. The police then kept the tape until the bystander who captured the video on October 14 threatened legal action. The incident is being investigated by Canada authorities. What a sad story.
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer today withdrew his plan to offer driver's licenses to illegals in his state, citing heavy opposition from the public. According to a Siena College poll of 625 registered voters, about 70 percent opposed the plan. Spitzer criticized the federal government for failing to control the borders, leaving millions of undocumented immigrants to state and local governments to deal with.
After only two months in the current fiscal year, employment-based visa cut-off dates already moved back significantly for certain categories:
Orange County Register: Minuteman co-founder Gilchrist was invited to California State University, Long Beach, to debate immigration with Enrique Morones, an immigrant rights advocate and founder of the San Diego-based Border Angels. However, the majority of the audience quickly left the room, after Morones objected to the format of the debate, which had a friend of Gilchrist's as moderator. About 300 students and faculty gathered outside carrying signs reading "Racists go home!" and the names of the countries their parents and grandparents came from.
Gilchrist, wearing a bullet-proof vest, still gave his speech to about three dozen students left in the auditorium. This is the latest of several campus protests against Gilchrist. In 2006, Columbia University students rushed the stage to stop him from speaking in a heated debate, and Gilchrist had to be escorted by police to leave the stage. Read the full story.
Starting December 10, 2007, USCIS will accept H-2A filings only at its California Service Center (CSC). Any H-2A petition submitted to other centers, including VSC, on or after 12/10/07 will be rejected. Please see the announcement for correct mailing addresses.
As we speculated earlier today, TSC is catching up with clearing the frontlog for Summer filings. As of 11/09, TSC is current on I-131, I-765 and I-140, and is issuing receipts for I-485 cases received on or before 11/04/2007. NSC is showing 10/18/2007 for all EB 485, 140, AP and EAD applications.
Senators Joe Lieberman, Patrick Leahy, Chuck Hagel and 16 of their colleagues sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to call for an extension of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program from 12 to 29 months. The letter, dated November 8, 2007, expressed concerns over the shortage of H-1B visas and urged the department to seek administrative reforms in order to keep those highly qualified international students in the U.S.
We have noticed increasing approvals of i-485 cases coming from TSC since late October. It is certainly a welcoming trend, and we hope to see it continue this way. However, it may also be that TSC has finally had a handle on the massive new filings during the Summer, and started to pick up the older cases that were almost ready to be approved before July, 2007. Another potential reason is that FBI has completed name checks on many applicants during the past few months, and USCIS just re-gained the necessary resources to process those cases. Either way, the surge of green card approvals is encouraging and we, along with many immigrants still waiting, hope the USCIS can keep the momentum going.
Updated 11/09/07: USCIS has issued a Revised Fact Sheet on the new Form I-9, approved on June 5, 2007, and require employers to start using the new form after November 7. There will be a 30-day grace period after the notice is published in the Federal Registrar. After the transition period, however, employers who fail to use the 2007 edition of the I-9 Form will be subject to penalties.
Five documents have been removed from List A of Acceptable Documents:
Employers only need to complete the new form for NEW employees, however, when existing employees require re-verification, the 2007 edition of Form I-9 must be used.
Hillary Clinton's long answer to a short question drew another round of criticism today. During an interview with CNN, She answered the question regarding whether she believes illegal immigrants should be given driver's licenses with a lengthy but inconclusive speech, similar to what she did during last week's debate. Her husband, Bill Clinton, obviously tried to help by comparing the criticism to the TV commercials attacking John Kerry in 2004, but received strong reaction from Obama and other rival campaigns claiming his remarks too "stretchy."
A DHS employee wearing a prison outfit and darkened skin makeup attended a halloween party, and was put on administrative leave after some coworkers complained about the costume being offensive. The fund raising party was hosted by Julie Myers, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who later apologized for the incident. But wait, this is not the end of it. The story was immediately escalated to not only DHS secretary, but the Congress! In addition to several briefings, press releases, Q and A sections, there will also be a DHS inquiry "into the facts surrounding the incident." What an expensive costume!
According to Bloomberg, AgJobs that could legalize about 1.5 million undocumented immigrant farm workers will not be included in this year's farm bill. Senator Feinstein, sponsor of the bill, said earlier today that she would not bring the plan to the floor.
A bizarre story took another turn on Sunday: the 13-year-old boy who fled to Mexico along with his 25-year-old teacher turned out to be an illegal immigrant residing in the U.S., and thus was not allowed to immediately return to his parents in Nebraska. Now the media is not only focusing on the all too often teacher-student romance story, but some more. Will the government let the boy back into the country, at least to testify against Ms. Kelsey Peterson? Will they take actions against his parents now that they're aware of their immigration status? We shall see.
USCIS appears to be catching up with issuing receipts for immigration cases filed during the Summer. As of November 1st, Nebraska Service Center has completed data entry for EB I-485 and I-140 applications received on or before 10/09/2007. No updates on i-485 for TSC this week.
USCIS published a new rule, effective today, that removes the requirement that H and L nonimmigrants returning to the United States following a trip abroad must present a receipt notice for their adjustment of status applications to avoid having such applications deemed abandoned. Indeed welcoming news for thousands of AOS beneficiaries who filed i-485 cases during July and August of 2007, but have not been able to receive I-797 receipts due to severe USCIS processing delays. Note that this rule change only applies to people in lawful H and L status, who are not under exclusion, deportation, or removal proceeding.
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