We looked back on 2011 and picked the top five stories in the legal immigration community.
From the outside, Ayded Reyes seems like she's living the American dream. The 20-year-old, who attends Southwestern College in Chula Vista near San Diego, is California's top-ranked women's junior college cross country athlete. She carries a 3.50 GPA and her goal is to become an obstetrician. She is also a community volunteer who has worked extensively with children and the elderly. She is a young woman many describe as sweet, effusive and energetic, the "All-American" type.
There's just one catch: She's in the United States illegally. - ESPN
The new measures include a new detainer form and the launch of a toll-free hotline – (855) 448-6903 – that detained individuals can call if they believe they may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime. The hotline will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by ICE personnel at the Law Enforcement Support Center. Translation services will be available in several languages from 7 a.m. until midnight (Eastern) seven days a week. ICE personnel will collect information from the individual and refer it to the relevant ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Field Office for immediate action. - ICE
In a rare case of prosecutors going after a business for employing undocumented immigrants, a judge slapped the owner of a popular San Diego restaurant with a $400,000 fine for illegal hiring. Michel Malecot, 59, was spared prison time and his fines and penalties were below the $650,000 sought by federal prosecutors. Malecot, a naturalized U.S. citizen from France and a major donor to local charities, appeared to hire undocumented immigrants at The French Gourmet out of compassion rather than to take advantage of them, said U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan, who also ordered five years of probation. - Fox News
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will change the filing locations for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Effective Jan. 1, 2012, domestic petitioners will mail their stand-alone I-130 applications to either the Chicago Lockbox or the Phoenix Lockbox, depending on where they reside in the United States. The new filing locations will be updated with the corresponding addresses on Jan. 1 on the Form I-130 Direct Filing Locations page. This effort will balance workloads between the two locations and provide more efficient and effective processing of Form I-130.
There will be no change in filing locations when submitting Form I-130 along with Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Individuals filing these forms together will continue to mail them to the Chicago Lockbox facility. - USCIS
USCIS' Beijing Office responded to our inquiry today with regard to the new EAD/AP combo card being rejected as valid travel document by Beijing Entry/Exit Inspection. The email explained that the United States Embassy has officially notified Chinese authorities of the validity of the new card. So hopefully the issue will be resolved soon and Chinese travelers will be allowed to use it to board their U.S.-bound flights. - IR Blog
...in order to release his hold on H.R. 3012, Senator Grassley offered an amendment that would make dramatic changes to the bill including elimination of the family per county limit increase and reducing the employment based per country limit to 15%. Furthermore, his amendment would eliminate the diversity visa program and adds in provisions that would increase enforcement and U.S. worker protections to the H-1B and L-1 visa programs. Senator Grassley's amendment was objected to, therefore his hold on the bill remains. While other senators may try to negotiate a compromise amendment with Senator Grassley, at this time it appears unlikely that such an agreement is likely. - AILA
Recently we were alerted to some travelers' experience at the Beijing International Airport: They were denied boarding on their way back to the U.S. because their EAD and AP combo cards were not yet officially recognized by the Beijing Station of Exit and Entry Inspection. - Blog
Mary Ann Smith, 42, was charged with operating a business in Virginia that purported to assist individuals in obtaining student visas for an ongoing series of fees. Two of Smith's thirty-four identified victims are residents of Memphis. Smith had contacted the Memphis area victims in February 2009 via email describing a nonexistent student visa program in which the U.S. government supposedly exchanged students with foreign countries on a one-for-one basis. Smith charged her victims an initial fee of approximately $6,500 per student, and later, after assuring her victims that the visas were being processed, sought fees to cover the students' airline tickets. - ICE
It's no secret that immigrant entrepreneurs make a major contribution to American economic growth and job creation. It's also no secret that we can do more to attract and retain the best and brightest seeking to come here and start new companies. That's why President Obama supports legislation to create a visa designed for startup founders, as part of a 21st century immigration system. - The White House
The Department State has released this year's immigrant visa waiting list, which we often refer to as the Consular Processing Inventory that compliments the USCIS Pending I-485 Inventory.
China and India EB2 leaped forward nearly 10 months to January 1, 2009! According to the State Department: "The China and India Employment Second preference cut-off date has been advanced at a rapid rate in recent months. As previously noted, this action was intended to generate significant levels of new filings for adjustment of status at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices. USCIS has reported that the rate of new filings is currently far below that which they had anticipated, prompting an even more aggressive movement of the cut-off date for January and possibly beyond. While this action greatly increases the potential for an eventual retrogression of the cut-off at some point during the year, it also provides the best opportunity to utilize all numbers available under the annual limit."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has ordered an "extensive and thorough review" of a foreign exchange program that has been used by U.S. businesses as a source of cheap labor and exploited by criminals to import women to work in the sex industry.
The U.S. House Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee also has been gathering information on the J-1 visa, which was created in 1963 to allow college students from other countries to spend their summer breaks living, working and traveling in the U.S. - ABC News
The department's independent investigation revealed that the [University of California, San Diego] medical center engaged in a pattern or practice of subjecting newly hired non-U.S. citizens to excessive demands for documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security in order to verify and re-verify their employment eligibility, but did not require U.S. citizens to show any specific documentation. The Immigration and Nationality Act's (INA) anti-discrimination provision prohibits employers from placing additional documentary burdens on work-authorized employees during the hiring and employment eligibility verification process based on their citizenship status or national origin. - DOJ
USCIS's transformation to ELIS will be accomplished in periodic releases, with each release covering different immigration benefits or adding enhanced functionality. The first release, covering one benefit type (the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status), provides the foundational architecture for the remaining releases. The post-development testing phase now underway is time consuming and challenging, as is characteristic of projects of this scale, complexity, and ambition. While we sought to roll-out the first release this month, our testing is not complete. We will inform you of our recalibrated timeframe for our first release after more testing is completed in the next few weeks. - USCIS Blog
Although a touch battle was expected in the Senate, the promising H.R. 3012 took a sharp turn: "I rise to inform my colleagues that I am placing a hold on H.R. 3012, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. This bill would eliminate the per-country numerical limitations for employment and family-based immigrants. I have concerns about the impact of this bill on future immigration flows, and am concerned that it does nothing to better protect Americans at home who seek high-skilled jobs during this time of record high unemployment." - Sen. Grassley
389 to 15. Now all eyes are on the Senate.
This report presents employment-based immigration program data drawn from applications submitted to the Department by employers across the country. Labor certification is often the first step in the process for many of the visa programs that enable employers to hire foreign workers.
It's commonly believed that marriage to a U.S. citizen is an immigration cure-all, as is having U.S.-born children. Not so. In fact, for people who entered illegally, current laws make it next to impossible to obtain legal status. Legal expert David Wolfe Leopold, an immigration attorney and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, explains why. - Multi-American
USCIS will conduct system maintenance from Friday, December 2nd at 7pm (EST) until Monday, December 5th at 9am (EST). During this time, the on-line case status tools will be unavailable. - USCIS
On Tuesday, November 29, the House will meet at 2pm and voting will begin at 6:30pm. H.R. 3012, the bill to eliminate "per-country" limitation, will be covered in this session.
USCIS Change of Address and Mailing Procedures: How Are They Working for You? Tuesday, November 29, 2011 ( 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. EDT) This teleconference is an opportunity to learn how applicants and their representatives report changes of address to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). The Ombudsman's Office will interview stakeholders from Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services of DC and Pisgah Legal Services of Asheville, NC to learn about their experiences with these processes. A USPS representative will also share information about the requirements for proper mailing addresses and the processing of changes of address with USPS. There will be an opportunity for listeners to ask questions and/or share comments.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 for fiscal year (FY) 2012. USCIS is notifying the public that yesterday, Nov. 22, 2011, was the final receipt date for new H-1B specialty occupation petitions requesting an employment start date in FY 2012. - USCIS
SEVP and DOS have resolved the interface difficulties between their respective systems as of close of business, November 18, 2011. DOS has instructed embassies and consulate to resume issuing F, M, and J visas immediately.
"The Department of State (DoS) has recently identified difficulties with its Consolidated Consular Database (CCD) communicating with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program's (SEVP) Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). DoS discovered this issue on November 14, 2011. SEVP and DOS are investigating this issue between CCD and SEVIS to bring about a resolution as quickly as possible. Effective immediately, in order to ensure maximum data integrity and consistency, DoS has temporarily halted the issuance of ALL F, M and J visas at all U.S. Embassies and Consulates."
DHS will promptly review that data and other implementation outcomes and, where appropriate, consult with DOJ to determine, on an expedited basis, the best methods to implement these processes on an ongoing basis nationwide. During the entire period of these initiatives, ICE attorneys, officers, and agents will be applying, on a case-by-case basis, the full range of factors set forth in the June 17, 2011 Prosecutorial Discretion memorandum in the course of their regular duties. - ICE
Latest Cap Count: 56,300 out of 65,000.
All U.S. embassies and consulates expedite visa processing for foreign students to ensure qualified students are able to begin their academic program on time. Worldwide, the maximum wait for a student visa appointment is fewer than 15 days. Foreign students can apply for their visas up to 120 days before their academic programs begin. We always encourage all visa applicants to apply early. - DOS
Only eight million people tried to win a green card in the latest U.S. diversity-visa lottery, the State Department said, compared with a record 15 million last year. That figure could slide further in coming years, because the Senate recently passed a measure to charge a fee for entering the electronic draw, starting with next year's drawing.
A State Department spokeswoman attributed the drop in entries this year to the fact that Bangladeshis—for many years the most numerous applicants—weren't eligible to participate. The South Asian nation is no longer classified as a low-immigration country to the U.S. - WSJ
As Ed said, our goal is to expand our capacity to adjudicate more than 2.2 million visas by 2013. We also want to issue longer validity visas for Chinese tourists and business travelers, but U.S. law requires reciprocal treatment for U.S. citizens. Right now, U.S. citizens receive Chinese visas valid for just 12 months. Our ambassador to China, Gary Locke, recently addressed this issue at senior levels to the Chinese Government. Longer validity visas would benefit both countries. - DOS
The Department of State has just released the December 2011 Visa Bulletin. Both China and India EB2 will jump to March 15, 2008! This is a significant advance considering the amount of I-485 cases after July 2007.
Importantly, USCIS also has reviewed its various EB-5 policy memoranda and determined that they should be consolidated into a single overarching agency policy memorandum. This memorandum will incorporate constructive stakeholder input and reflect the lessons learned since the various memoranda were initially promulgated. Given the number and complexity of issues involved, USCIS will develop this single EB-5 policy memorandum in iterative fashion, seeking public comment as the draft policy memorandum progresses. - USCIS
Sheryl Sandberg: So it's an education problem. We do not train — we don't graduate enough kids from high school. We don't graduate enough kids from college in this country. And having these kind of skills, we're just absolutely far off. And also, the immigration policy you talked about is very real. So, you know, someone made a joke. We give a huge percentage of the spots in our engineering undergrad and grad program to people from other countries, and then we kick them out. It's like a company. We'd have Facebook training, and we train everyone, and then we'd say, but you can't work here. Go work for our competitor. That's what we're doing as a country. People have talked about stapling. - All Things D
The number of L-1 visas issued at U.S. posts in India declined by 28 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to data obtained from the U.S. Department of State by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). The official data from the State Department show that L-1 visa approvals went from 35,896 in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 to 25,898 in FY 2011, a drop of approximately 10,000 visas. At the same time that L-1 visas issued in India declined by 28 percent, L-1 visas issued in the rest of the world rose by 15 percent, according to State Department data. - NFAP
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Honduras or Nicaragua have been extended for an additional 18 months, beginning Jan. 6, 2012, and ending July 5, 2013. Current beneficiaries seeking to extend their TPS status must re-register during the 60-day re-registration period that runs from Nov. 4, 2001, through Jan. 5, 2012. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to register as soon as possible when the 60-day re-registration period begins. Applications will not be accepted before Nov. 4, 2011.
The company hired nine Americans in just one year. But Aharoni hit rough waters after he received a letter on Oct. 4 from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denying his request for a visa and notifying him that he needed to leave the country immediately. Aharoni moved to Canada, where he was forced to run his company via Skype from a friend's living room. - ABC
On Nov. 1, 2011, USCIS will introduce a new, more user-friendly version of the form used to report results of medical examinations for those seeking certain immigration benefits, Report of a Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, Form I-693. Civil surgeons completing medical examinations between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011, should use the new form dated 10/11/11. However, USCIS will continue to accept the previous version, dated 7/20/10, for examinations completed between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, civil surgeons must use the new version of the form.
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