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Immigration News - November and December of 2015

12/31/2015: USCIS Seeking Public Comments on Proposed Rule to Amend EB Immigration Regulations

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing to amend its regulations related to certain employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs. The proposed amendments would provide various benefits to participants in those programs, including: Improved processes for U.S. employers seeking to sponsor and retain immigrant and nonimmigrant workers, greater stability and job flexibility for such workers, and increased transparency and consistency in the application of agency policy related to affected classifications. Many of these changes are primarily aimed at improving the ability of U.S. employers to hire and retain high-skilled workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs), while increasing the ability of such workers to seek promotions, accept lateral positions with current employers, change employers, or pursue other employment options. - Submit Your Comments

12/31/2015: From NYC to Harvard: the war on Asian success

Most Asian-American parents...tend to oversee their children’s homework, stress the importance of earning high grades and instill the belief that hard work is the ticket to a better life. And it pays off. Their children are soaring academically.

The outrage is that instead of embracing the example of these Asian families, school authorities and non-Asian parents want to rig the system to hold them back. It’s happening here in New York City, in suburban New Jersey and across the nation. - NY Post

12/30/2015: Retention of EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 Immigrant Workers and Program Improvements Affecting High-Skilled Nonimmigrant Workers

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proposing to amend its regulations related to certain employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs. The proposed amendments would provide various benefits to participants in those programs, including: improved processes for U.S. employers seeking to sponsor and retain immigrant and nonimmigrant workers, greater stability and job flexibility for such workers, and increased transparency and consistency in the application of agency policy related to affected classifications. Many of these changes are primarily aimed at improving the ability of U.S. employers to hire and retain high-skilled workers who are beneficiaries of approved employment-based immigrant visa petitions and are waiting to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs), while increasing the ability of such workers to seek promotions, accept lateral positions with current employers, change employers, or pursue other employment options. - Federal Register

12/29/2015: USCIS Workload Transfer from VSC to CSC and NSC

USCIS recently began transferring certain casework from the Vermont Service Center (VSC) to the California Service Center (CSC) and Nebraska Service Center (NSC) to balance workloads. The CSC will now process Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The NSC will process Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, filed by an asylum applicant with a pending asylum application filed on or after Jan. 4, 1995.

"If we transfer your case, we will send you a transfer notice. Your original receipt number will not change, and the transfer will not delay the processing of your case except for the additional time needed to transfer the file. The filing location and instructions for these forms will not change. Please continue to file the forms at the address on the form instructions and on the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov." - USCIS

12/24/2015: Immigration officials plan stepped-up deportations for new year

Immigration officials are preparing a nationwide push in January to find and deport Central American families who arrived in recent years and have been ordered by immigration judges to leave, according to officials familiar with the plan.‎ The new push is intended to send a signal to people thinking of making the treacherous journey to the U.S. from Central America that they won't be able to stay if caught, officials say. - LA Times

12/22/2015: ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Report - FY2015

This report summarizes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations’ (ERO) Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 removal activities. ICE shares responsibility for enforcing the Nation’s immigration laws with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In executing its enforcement duties, ICE focuses on two core missions: 1) the identification and apprehension of criminal aliens and other priority aliens located in the United States; and 2) the detention and removal of those individuals apprehended in the interior of the United States as well as those apprehended by CBP officers and agents patrolling our nation's borders. ICE is committed to smart immigration enforcement, preventing terrorism, and combatting the illegal movement of people and goods. - ICE

12/17/2015: EB-5 Regional Center Program Extended Until Sept. 30, 2016

On Dec. 15, 2015, one day prior to the expiration of the EB-5 program on Dec. 16, House and Senate leadership have recommended that the EB-5 program be extended until Sept. 30, 2016. The language for extension will be included as part of the larger omnibus appropriations bill that is anticipated to be passed on Friday. This “clean extension” will mean that nothing to the program will change, such as minimum investment amounts, definitions for Targeted Employment Areas, or other reforms. All I-924, I-526, and I-829 petitions will continue to be accepted, processed, and adjudicated as normal, until a new reform bill is passed or until the program’s sunset on Sept. 30, 2016. - National Law Review

12/16/2015: Visa-waiver changes part of government spending bill

Travelers would be scrutinized more carefully from the 38 countries, including most of Europe, where travelers don’t now need visas to visit the U.S., under provisions included Tuesday in a compromise spending bill pending in Congress. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks that killed 130 people on Nov. 13, the goal of the visa-waiver provisions is to thwart foreign fighters who recently visited Syria, Iraq or other "high-risk" countries. The changes enjoy broad support, with the House approving a version of the legislation Dec. 8 on a 407-19 vote. A White House spokesman said the changes would improve security. - USA Today

12/11/2015: USCIS I-485 Filing Visa Bulletin Juanuary 2016

  • For Family-Sponsored Filings:
    You may use the Dates for Filing Visa Applications chart for January 2016.
  • For Employment-Based Filings:
    You must use the Application Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for January 2016.

12/09/2015: The model minority is losing patience

"MICHAEL WANG, a young Californian, came second in his class of 1,002 students; his ACT score was 36, the maximum possible; he sang at Barack Obama’s inauguration; he got third place in a national piano contest; he was in the top 150 of a national maths competition; he was in several national debating-competition finals. But when it came to his university application he faced a serious disappointment for the first time in his glittering career. He was rejected by six of the seven Ivy League colleges to which he applied.

College admissions—and the lawsuit against Harvard—may provide a spark to fire Asian-Americans into becoming more assertively political. Many in California were infuriated last year by a bill to rescind the state’s ban on using race in university admissions promoted by a Hispanic state senator. A Change.org petition and 36 organisations, 26 of them Asian-American, opposed the bill, and it was dropped. “There’s a growing community angst,” says Mr Hahn of the belief among Asian-Americans that they are being discriminated against. “What’s next? Law school admissions? Employment?” He organises political fund-raisers, and says that the coffers have opened. “Hedge-fund money, private equity, lawyers. They’re giving huge sums …It took the Jews half a century to get where they are,” he adds. 'I hope it doesn't take us that long.'" - The Economist

12/09/2015: How Affirmative Action at Colleges Hurts Minority Students

"Though the Court has long accepted the practice of state-run schools factoring race and ethnicity into their decisions about whether to admit students, the justices should consider one of the unintended consequences of these affirmative action policies: Students admitted based on their skin color, rather than their merit, may end up “mismatched” with their school, which leads to low grades and high dropout rates.

Affirmative action-induced low grades are a serious problem—as demonstrated by research over the course of the last decade. For example, in one study of top law schools, more than 50 percent of African-American law students (many of whom had been admitted pursuant to affirmative action policies) were in the bottom 10 percent of their class. And the dropout rate among African-American students was more than twice that of their white peers (19.3 percent vs. 8.2 percent)." - The Daily Signal

12/09/2015: Affirmative action at universities in doubt as U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments

"The future of affirmative action at public universities appeared in some doubt Wednesday as the Supreme Court justices debated for a second time whether to strike down a race-based admissions policy at the University of Texas.

It was clear that the court's conservatives, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., believe that using affirmative action in admission decisions is unneeded and unconstitutional." - LA Times

12/09/2015: January 2016 Visa Bulletin Released

The Department of State has released the Visa Bulletin for January 2016. The table below shows "Final Action (Approval)" cut-off dates and movement from the previous month, for all major employment-based categories. For more information please refer to our Visa Bulletin Toolbox.

Chargeability Preference Cut-off Date (Y-M-D) Movement (Days)
China Second (EB2) 2012-02-01 0
India Second (EB2) 2008-02-01 245
ROW Third (EB3) 2015-10-01 30
China Third (EB3) 2012-07-01 77
India Third (EB3) 2004-05-15 23
Mexico Third (EB3) 2015-10-01 30
Philippines Third (EB3) 2007-11-01 92

The cut-off dates for Employment Fourth Preference Certain Religious Workers (SR) and Employment Fifth Preference Categories (I5 and R5) have been listed as "Unavailable" for January. Congress is currently considering an extension of the SR, I5 and R5 visa categories, but there is no certainty when such legislative action may occur. If there is legislative action extending one or both of these categories for FY-2016, those cut-off dates would immediately become "Current" for January for all countries except China-mainland born I5 and R5 categories which would be subject to a January 8, 2014 cut-off date.

12/08/2015: House passes visa waiver reform bill with strong bipartisan support

"As Republicans squabbled over Donald Trump’s controversial proposal to bar all Muslims from traveling to the United States, the House on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bill imposing new restrictions on a visa waiver program that currently permits roughly 20 million people to enter the country each year.

The bill, which was approved on a 407 to 19 vote, would increase information sharing between the United States and the 38 countries whose passport holders are allowed to visit the country without getting a visa, while also attempting to weed out travelers who have visited certain countries where they may have been radicalized." - Washington Post

12/08/2015: Affordable Care Act: An Overview for Eligible Immigrants, 12/14/2015

"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) invite you to participate in a national webinar on Monday, December 14, 2015 from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. (Eastern) regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The webinar will address questions from customers and stakeholders regarding the ACA and immigrant eligibility.

During this webinar, representatives from HHS will provide an overview of the ACA, clarify ACA eligibility based on immigration status, indicate where to find local resources, and address common immigration-related questions regarding ACA eligibility. Please note that case-specific inquiries will not be addressed during this webinar." - USCIS

12/04/2015: Democrats back Obama’s Supreme Court immigration action appeal

"House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, and 216 other congressional Democrats on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to take up a case that has delayed President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. 'We are confident that the Supreme Court will support President Obama’s decision to use the authority granted by Congress to set enforcement priorities and focus our limited resources on threats to national security and public safety, not hard-working families,” Pelosi and Reid said in a joint statement on Friday. “Instead of taking steps to permanently solve our immigration problems or voting on a good reform bill like the one passed by the Senate in 2013, Republicans have only sought to end birthright citizenship, defund the executive actions and deport DREAMers.'" - MSNBC

12/04/2015: Ex-Homeland Security official: San Bernardino case points to 'vulnerabilities' in immigration system

"Arnold: What it raises for me is concerns with the vulnerabilities of our immigration system. We only know about a person what we know. When someone is coming from another country, if we are not fortunate enough to have some sort of intelligence - through our own domestic intelligence or partnerships with other governments - that indicate they might be a threat, then we have no idea.

It's not an exact science. We are always taking a chance when we allow someone to come into our country that we know nothing about. For the vast majority of people, it's not a concern. They would not be terrorists. But it only takes one or two to who have that intent to get through the system to potentially do us harm." - KPCC

11/30/2015: U.S. Tightens Visa-Waiver Program in Bid to Deter Militants

"The White House announced changes Monday to the government’s visa-waiver program to try to stop those who have visited conflict zones from easily boarding American-bound commercial flights, a move intended to prevent an attack in the United States similar to the ones that struck Paris.

But the new measures — which include potentially higher fines for airlines that fail to verify their passengers’ identities and increased information-sharing between countries — are limited, and White House officials acknowledged that they would need Congress to pass legislation to further tighten controls." - NY Times

11/27/2015: USCIS Fact Sheet: Refugee Security Screening

"This fact sheet provides information about the security screening and background checks required by the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). The USRAP is an interagency effort involving a number of governmental and non-governmental partners both overseas and in the United States. Refugee applicants are subject to the highest degree of security screening and background checks for any category of traveler to the United States.

All refugee applicants and their family members included in the application must complete and clear biographic and biometric security checks. Through close coordination with the federal law enforcement and intelligence communities, these checks are continually reviewed and enhanced to address specific populations that may pose particular threats." - USCIS

11/23/2015: State Department Issues Worldwide Travel Alert

"The State Department alerts U.S. citizens to possible risks of travel due to increased terrorist threats. Current information suggests that ISIL (aka Da'esh), al-Qa'ida, Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, using conventional and non-conventional weapons and targeting both official and private interests. This Travel Alert expires on February 24, 2016." - DOS

11/20/2015: Obama plea to Supreme Court: Save my immigration plan

"The Obama administration appealed to the Supreme Court Friday to rescue its plans to shield from deportation millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally.

The appeal, filed exactly a year after Obama announced his executive actions on immigration, injects the Supreme Court into a dispute between 26 mainly Republican-led states and the Democratic administration, amid a presidential race in which immigration has been a flashpoint. So far, the federal courts have sided with the GOP-led states and effectively blocked the plan." - Yahoo News

11/19/2015: More Mexican Immigrants Leaving U.S. Than Entering, Report Finds

"More immigrants from Mexico are leaving the United States than coming into the country, according to a report published Thursday by the Pew Research Center, a finding that indicates the end of the largest wave of immigration from a single country in American history. The shift is the first time since immigration from Mexico began to rise in the 1970s that fewer Mexicans came into America than returned home, the Pew report found. The reversal is primarily the result of a steep drop in Mexicans coming into the country." - NY Times

11/19/2015: House votes to block Syrian refugees despite White House veto threat

Tapping heightened safety concerns after the Paris terror attacks, House Republicans -- joined overwhelmingly by Democrats -- approved legislation Thursday effectively halting the resettlement of refugees from Syria and Iraq to the U.S. The House bill would require the leaders of the nation's security apparatus -- the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence -- to certify that refugees who are admitted pose no security threat. - L.A. Times

11/16/2015: Syrian refugee policy takes focus in US 2016 politics

The bloody attacks in Paris are putting the Syrian refugee crisis at the center of U.S. politics as migrants from that war-torn country surge toward the West and security concerns rise.

"It's not that we don't want to, it's that we can't," Rubio said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." ''Because there's no way to background check someone that's coming from Syria. Who do you call and do a background check on them?" - Boston Herald

11/16/2015: Governors rush to slam door on Syrian refugees

Governors across the country are scrambling to close off their states to resettled Syrian refugees in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris that are linked to Islamic State extremists. The list of states climbed quickly to 13 by midday Monday, even as President Obama said that the U.S. would continue to accept refugees and denounced efforts to those fleeing violence from coming to the United States as "shameful." - Washington Post

11/10/2015: Grassley, Durbin Push for H-1B and L-1 Visa Reforms

Senators Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Dick Durbin, Assistant Democratic Leader, today are introducing bipartisan legislation that would reform the H-1B visa program, consistent with Congress's original intent, by ensuring that qualified American workers are given the first opportunity at high-skilled job opportunities. The legislation makes reforms to increase enforcement, modify wage requirements and ensure protection for American workers as well as visa holders. Grassley and Durbin first introduced this legislation in 2007 and have been long-time proponents of H-1B reform. - Announcement

11/10/2015: How Outsourcing Companies Are Gaming the Visa System

"H-1B visas are designed to bring foreign professionals with college degrees and specialized skills to fill jobs when qualified Americans cannot be found. But in recent years, global outsourcing companies have dominated the program, winning tens of thousands of visas and squeezing out many American companies, including smaller start-ups." - NY Times

  • 13 outsourcing companies took nearly one-third of all H-1B visas in 2014.
  • The outsourcing companies dominate the visa program by flooding the system with applications.
  • With more applications, the number of visas given to outsourcing companies has risen sharply.
  • Many H-1B workers earn salaries below market rates.
  • The vast majority of H-1B workers are from India.

11/09/2015: Appeals court deals crippling blow to President Obama's immigration plan

"A federal appeals court dealt a potentially fatal blow Monday to President Obama's immigration plan, leaving more than 4 million undocumented immigrants in legal limbo and setting up a possible Supreme Court battle at the sunset of his administration.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld a challenge to the deferred deportation program brought by Texas and 25 other states with Republican governors, who argued that Obama lacked the authority to protect about one-third of the nation's undocumented immigrants by executive fiat." - USA Today

11/09/2015: December 2015 Visa Bulletin Released

The Department of State has released the Visa Bulletin for December 2015. The table below shows "Final Action (Approval)" cut-off dates and movement from the previous month, for all major employment-based categories. For more information please refer to our Visa Bulletin Toolbox.

Chargeability Preference Cut-off Date (Y-M-D) Movement (Days)
China Second (EB2) 2012-02-01 0
India Second (EB2) 2007-6-1 304
ROW Third (EB3) 2015-9-1 17
China Third (EB3) 2012-4-15 105
India Third (EB3) 2004-4-22 21
Mexico Third (EB3) 2015-9-1 17
Philippines Third (EB3) 2007-8-1 47

The Department of State also published their predictions on monthly cutoff date movement for the next few months in the December 2015 Visa Bulletin.

11/09/2015: A decade into a project to digitize U.S. immigration forms, just 1 is online

"Heaving under mountains of paperwork, the government has spent more than $1 billion trying to replace its antiquated approach to managing immigration with a system of digitized records, online applications and a full suite of nearly 100 electronic forms.

A decade in, all that officials have to show for the effort is a single form that's now available for online applications and a single type of fee that immigrants pay electronically. The 94 other forms can be filed only with paper." - Washington Post

Also see our June 2015 blog post: USCIS Transformation Program: One Billion Over Budget, Four Years Behind Schedule

11/09/2015: USCIS Webinar on T and U visas and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

"USCIS invites you to a webinar on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. (Eastern) on T and U visas and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), immigration relief for victims for human trafficking, domestic violence and other serious crimes. This webinar is intended for community-based organizations, social service agencies and advocates. To register for this session, please follow these steps:"

  • Visit our registration page to confirm your participation
  • Enter your email address and select "Submit"
  • Select "Subscriber Preferences"
  • Select the "Event Registration" tab
  • Complete the questions and select "Submit"

11/05/2015: Rubio hardens opposition to Obama program for child immigrants

"Marco Rubio committed Wednesday to ending President Obama's controversial program for child immigrants even if Congress doesn't create an acceptable alternative, hardening his opposition in the wake of criticism by presidential rival Donald Trump.

Here in Manchester, Rubio went further than he has before in demonstrating his commitment to ending Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is loathed by many conservatives." - Washington Post

11/03/2015: Leaked DHS memo shows Obama might circumvent DAPA injunction

"A newly leaked internal DHS memorandum produced for an off-the-record agency conclave reveals that the Obama administration is actively planning to circumvent a federal court injunction that suspended part of last November's deferral-based amnesty initiative. The document, apparently prepared as follow-up from a DHS "Regulations Retreat" last summer, appears sure to re-ignite concerns in Congress as well as federal judges in the Fifth Circuit. The Administration has already been criticized from the bench for handing out work permits to hundreds of thousands of deferred action beneficiaries, in direct violation of a district court's order. With the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals deciding any day now whether to deny the Administration's request to reverse that injunction, this public leak has come at a critical juncture for U.S. enforcement policy.

The internal memo reveals four options of varying expansiveness, with option 1 providing EADs to "all individuals living in the United States", including illegal aliens, visa-overstayers, and H-1B guest-workers, while option 4 provides EADs only to those on certain unexpired non-immigrant visas." - The Hill

11/01/2015: Ryan rules out immigration reform before 2016 election

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Sunday he will not consider or negotiate an immigration reform bill during President Obama's tenure, ruling out calls to revive the issue in an effort to broaden GOP appeal to Latino voters before the 2016 election.

"I don't think we can trust the president on this issue," Ryan said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "The president has proven himself untrustworthy on this issue because he tried to unilaterally rewrite the law himself. Presidents don't write laws. Congress does." - LA Times

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