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Immigration News - November and December of 2008

12/25/2008: Immigration Applications and Petitions in October 2008

Major receipt volumes in 10/2008 include:

  • 128,841 I-765 employment authorizations;
  • 54,304 I-130 immediate/all other petitions;
  • 44,120 I-485 applications to adjust status;
  • 39,677 I-131 reentry permit/advance parole;
  • 28,134 I-90 green card renewals/replacements;
  • 22,357 I-129 nonimmigrant worker.

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

  • 1,443,593 I-130 immediate/all other petitions;
  • 673,694 I-485 applications to adjust status;
  • 196,777 I-765 employment authorizations;
  • 175,214 I-90 green card renewals/replacements;
  • 150,025 I-751 remove conditions spouse jointly/waiver;
  • 100,048 I-140 immigrant worker.

12/23/2008: DHS Designates Malta as a Visa Waiver Program Country

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will designate Malta as a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) country on Dec. 30, 2008. Maltese nationals will be able to travel visa-free to the United States effective Dec. 30th, for 90 days or less for tourism or business purposes, provided they have an e-passport and an approved authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Beginning Jan. 12, 2009, all visitors from VWP countries must apply for and receive an approved travel authorization via ESTA to board a plane or vessel bound for the United States. Of the more than 732,000 ESTA applications filed so far, over 99.7 percent have been approved, the vast majority in less than one minute.

12/22/2008: Revision to Direct Mail Program for Submitting Form N-400

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is revising its Direct Mail Program so that certain filings of Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, will now be filed at a designated lockbox facility instead of a USCIS Service Center. During the first 30 days after this notice takes affect, USCIS will forward incorrectly addressed Form N-400s to the proper address, rather than reject it. See important details in the advanced copy of USCIS notice.

This notice becomes effective January 22, 2009.

12/20/2008: Final Rule: Enrollment of Additional Aliens in US-VISIT

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program (US-VISIT) in 2003 to verify the identities and travel documents of aliens. Aliens subject to US-VISIT may be required to provide fingerscans, photographs, or other biometric identifiers upon arrival at the United States. This final rule expands the population of aliens who will be subject to US-VISIT requirements to nearly all aliens, including lawful permanent residents.

This final rule is effective January 18, 2009.

12/20/2008: Changes for J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application

Department of State Public Notice 6460: This Public Notice pertains to J-1 Visa Waiver Recommendation Application form DS 3035, used by exchange visitors to start the J-1 visa waiver process and to pay the processing fee for the waiver application. Certain exchange visitors are subject to Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, and are required to return to their home country for a period of two years or receive a waiver of the requirement. Such exchange visitors are not eligible to receive H, K, or L nonimmigrant visas nor are they eligible for immigrant visas or permanent resident status until they have complied with or received a waiver of the foreign residence requirement.

Effective February 1, 2009, applicants will be required to type and complete the DS 3035 form online. We believe that online only completion of the DS 3035 form will further enhance the waiver process and maintain established processing timelines for waiver applications which ultimately benefit the applicants.

12/17/2008: Oregon DMV to Begin Verifying Immigration Status

AP - The Oregon Department of Transportation said its DMV offices will begin verifying immigration status for driver's license applications or identification cards on Jan. 1, 2009 at its offices around the state. The DMV will use a federal Department of Homeland Security program called SAVE, for Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements.

The state will not issue driving privileges or ID cards to applicants whose immigration documents cannot be verified with the SAVE system.

12/17/2008: DOS Withdrew Proposed Rule to Amend Exchange Visitor Program

On December 10, 2008, the State Department published in the Federal Register a proposed rule titled Exchange Visitor Program. The Department amended the General Provisions of the existing Exchange Visitor Program regulations set forth at 22 CFR Part 62. This proposed rule is being withdrawn because it was submitted prior to a formal significance designation being made by OMB. The proposed rule is withdrawn in its entirety.

DATES: The proposed rule published at 73 FR 75015, December 10, 2008, is withdrawn effective December 16, 2008.

12/17/2008: CIS Ombudsman Recommendations on Naturalization Oath Ceremonies

With U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) naturalizing more than 1,000,000 new citizens in FY 2008,2 the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman initiated a study of naturalization ceremonies in June 2008. The Ombudsman observed 19 large and small scale administrative and judicial ceremonies in six districts nationwide and interviewed customers, agencies and USCIS staff present.

12/17/2008: Interim Rule - Documents Acceptable for Employment Eligibility Verification

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending its regulations governing the types of acceptable identity and employment authorization documents and receipts that employees may present to their employers for completion of the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Under this interim rule, employers will no longer be able to accept expired documents to verify employment authorization on the Form I-9. This rule also adds a new document to the list of acceptable documents that evidence both identity and employment authorization and makes several technical corrections and updates.

This rule is effective February 2, 2009. Written comments must be submitted on or before February 2, 2009.

12/12/2008: January 2009 Visa Bulletin

  • EB2: China 08JUL04, India 01JUL03
  • EB3: China 01JUN02, India 15OCT01
  • All EB1, and EB2 (ROW, Mexico and Philippines) remain current.

12/08/2008: Interim Rule for Victims of Human Trafficking and Specified Criminal Activity

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today an interim final rule that will allow "T" and "U" nonimmigrants to adjust their status and apply for green cards. The interim final rule implements the provisions of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, and will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register. See the Fact Sheet.

T nonimmigrant status is available to aliens who are victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons and who are assisting law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the acts of trafficking. U nonimmigrant status is available to aliens who are victims of certain crimes and are being helpful to the investigation or prosecution of those crimes.

12/06/2008: Immigration Road

Every immigrant has a story. Here is one from a brave young lady: "Roseline Hester, 28, escaped violence in Haiti as a child. And then, she escaped an abusive husband, with her infant, and not much else. While homeless, she gained legal immigration status and studied to become a nurse. She now has an apartment, and a loving fiance. On Dec. 12, she graduates. And the following day, she will get married."

12/05/2008: Gloomy Economy and Massive Job Losses

The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported massive job losses (-533,000) in November, and the national unemployment rate rose from 6.5 to 6.7 percent. November's drop in payroll employment followed declines of 403,000 in September and 320,000 in October, as revised. Job losses were large and widespread across the major industry sectors in November.

U.S. Job Losses in 2008
January -76,000 July -67,000
February -83,000 August -127,000
March -88,000 September -403,000
April -67,000 October¹ -320,000
May -47,000 November¹ -533,000
June -100,000 December n/a

1: Preliminary. Data Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

12/03/2008: DC Area Offices Require ZIP code + 4

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today a new address format for offices within the National Capital Region (NCR), affecting all USCIS headquarters offices, the Arlington Asylum Office, and the Washington District Office. In order to ensure the timely delivery of USCIS mail, correspondence addressed to the affected offices should list a unique mailstop and corresponding ZIP code + 4 number. The mail will be delivered to each office according to the mailstop and ZIP code + 4 number provided. If the address does not list a mailstop and corresponding ZIP code + 4 number, the correspondence will still be delivered but may be subject to minor delays as a result of the new mail process.

See here for the official announcement and a list zip codes for affected USCIS offices.

11/26/2008: CDC Updates to Medical Examinations of Aliens

On October 6, 2008, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published an Interim Final Rule (IFR) amending 42 CFR Part 34 - Medical Examination of Aliens. The IFR changed the definition of a communicable disease of public health significance, the scope of the medical examination for aliens, and the evaluation criteria for tuberculosis. The definition of communicable disease of public health significance continues to include the previous list of eight specific diseases (including HIV infection) and adds two new disease categories: (1) quarantinable diseases designated by Presidential Executive Order; and (2) diseases that meet the criteria of a public health emergency of international concern, which require notification to the World Heath Organization (WHO) under the revised International Health Regulations (IHR) of 2005. The scope of the medical examination for aliens has been amended to incorporate a more flexible, risk- based approach based on medical and epidemiologic factors. - DOS Update

11/26/2008: Religious Worker Final Rule

This final rule amends U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations to improve the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS's) ability to detect and deter fraud and other abuses in the religious worker program. This rule addresses concerns about the integrity of the religious worker program by requiring religious organizations seeking the admission to the United States of nonimmigrant religious workers to file formal petitions with USCIS on behalf of such workers. This rule also implements the Special Immigrant Nonminister Religious Worker Program Act requiring DHS to issue this final rule to eliminate or reduce fraud in regard to the granting of special immigrant status to nonminister religious workers. This rule is effective November 26, 2008.

11/26/2008: USCIS National Stakeholder Meeting Minutes

Meeting minutes. The next stakeholder meeting will be held on January 27, 2009 at 2:00 pm.

11/21/2008: 103 Years Later, Einstein's Proven Right

Well, not entirely immigration news. But considering the fact that Einstein was an immigrant himself, and a good portion of our site visitors are physicists, mathematicians, or scientist, it is not a stretch to post it here:

"It's taken more than a century, but Einstein's celebrated formula e=mc2 has finally been corroborated, thanks to a heroic computational effort by French, German and Hungarian physicists." - Yahoo News

11/20/2008: Martin Named to Obama Transition Team

Law School Professor David A. Martin has been named members of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, serving on the Agency Review Team for the Department of Homeland Security.

Martin will bring a special focus on immigration issues to the Homeland Security Team. He is the co-author of a leading casebook on immigration and citizenship, and served as general counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1995 to 1998 under President Bill Clinton. - Virginia Law School Story

11/19/2008: Increase in Student and Exchange Visitor Visa Issuances

In fiscal year 2008, the U.S. Department of State issued a record high of 710,631 F, J, and M student and exchange visitor visas. This represented a 9.1 percent increase in F, J, and M student and exchange visas issued in fiscal year 2008 than in fiscal year 2007; and a more than 26 percent increase over fiscal year 2001.

The State Department issued almost 40 percent more student and exchange visitor visas to Chinese nationals than in fiscal year 2007, and that is after an increase of 40 percent from fiscal year 2006. The State Department is also continuing to see significant increases in student and exchange visitor visa issuances from the Middle East, where we issued 26.2 percent more student and exchange visitor visas in fiscal year 2008 than in fiscal year 2007.

11/19/2008: New Adoption Website from DOS

The Department of State has just launched a new website devoted exclusively to intercountry adoption. Last year alone, Americans adopted more than 17,000 children from abroad. Adoption.state.gov will provide adopting parents with the answers and information they need. The site includes step-by-step instructions for adopting a child from another country, and a new publication for adoptive parents, "Intercountry Adoption from A to Z."

11/17/2008: Seven Countries Added to Visa Waiver Program

Seven more countries are officially added to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) today. Citizens and eligible nationals of participating Visa Waiver Program countries may apply for admission to the United States at a U.S. port of entry as nonimmigrant aliens for a period of ninety days or less for business or pleasure without first obtaining a nonimmigrant visa, provided that they are otherwise eligible for admission under applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. This rule adds the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Republic of Korea, and the Slovak Republic to the list of countries authorized to participate in the Visa Waiver Program

VWP previously consisted 27 countries: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

11/13/2008: Contribution of Immigrant Business Owners

The Small Business Administration (SBA) published a report from Dr. Robert Fairlie: "Estimating the Contribution of Immigrant Business Owners to the U.S. Economy." Here are some of his findings:

  • Immigrants are nearly 30 percent more likely to start a business than are nonimmigrants, and they represent 16.7 percent of all new business owners in the United States
  • Immigrant business owners make significant contributions to business income, generating $67 billion of the $577 billion in U.S. business income, as estimated from 2000 U.S. Census data.
  • Immigrant business owners generate nearly one-quarter of all business income in California-nearly $20 billion- and nearly one-fifth of business income in New York, Florida, and New Jersey.
  • Immigrants own 11.2 percent of all businesses with $100,000 or more in sales and 10.8 percent of all businesses with employees.

11/10/2008: USCIS-AILA Meeting Q&A

The released document addresses several important issues such as denial of I-485 with RFE or NOID, combined EAD/AP, etc.

11/10/2008: Naturalization Processes for the Military

Service members and certain veterans of the United States armed forces may apply for citizenship through special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) employs an expedited application and naturalization process for qualifying members of the military and their surviving dependents. Here is a Fact Sheet.

11/10/2008: Naturalization Processing Times by USCIS Office

USCIS published processing times for citizenship applications at its field offices at end of fiscal year 2008 (September 30).

11/07/2008: December 2008 Visa Bulletin

DOS released December Visa Bulletin rather early this time but other than the Religious Worker category, everything else remains exactly the same as in the November bulletin.

11/07/2008: Tell Obama What You Think about Immigration

President-elect Obama has a plan for immigration, but he wants to hear from YOU. Submit your idea directly on his website.

11/07/2008: USCIS Plans Electronic Overhaul of Case-Management System

DHS officials announced a five-year, $500 million plan to convert U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' case-management system from paper-based to electronic. If successful, the effort could reduce backlogs and processing delays by at least 20 percent, and possibly more than 50 percent, people close to the project said. Those problems have long frustrated new Americans and other immigrants. - Washington Post story

11/06/2008: USCIS Major Achievements in 2008

"At U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), fiscal year 2008 brought unprecedented progress towards reducing naturalization processing times, improving refugee and asylum processing, increasing adjudications officer hiring and training, and reducing the backlog of FBI name checks." - USCIS Fact Sheet

11/05/2008: ICE Chief to Step Down

Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has announced that she will depart the department on Nov. 15. - News Release for DHS

11/05/2008: Third Country Nationals Apply for Visas in Mexico

Third Country Nationals residing in the United States who wish to apply for a visa in Mexico may make their interview appointment at any of the ten posts comprising Mission Mexico on-line at http://www.usvisa-mexico.com/ or by phone at 1-900-476-1212.

Who Can Apply in Mexico: Applicants seeking to renew their C1/D, D, F, H, I, J, L, M, O, P and R visas (note: no B1/B2 visas), if the initial visa was issued in the applicant's home country or at one of the border posts in the past few years.

Read more here and here

11/01/2008: Form N-400 Expiration Date Clarification

The current Form N-400 (October 15, 2007 edition, Application for Naturalization) shows an expiration date of October 31, 2008. This is the most current edition for citizenship applications. Until a new edition of the N-400 is available, applicants should not be concerned about the 10/31/2008 expiration date.

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