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Immigration News - September and October of 2008

10/31/2008: Happy Halloween!

10/31/2008: Employer to Pay $1.7 Million in Back Wages to H-1B Workers

GlobalCynex Inc., a Sterling information technology company, has agreed to pay $1,683,584 to 343 non-immigrant workers after a U.S. Labor Department investigation found the company violated the H-1B visa provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

An investigation by the department's Wage and Hour Division found that employees hired under the H-1B program were not paid required wages from March 2005 through March 2007. Wage and Hour Division investigators also found that the company charged new H-1B workers training fees ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 that were in violation of the law. - DOL News Release

10/25/2008: U.S. Government Fire Safety Resources

FireSafety.gov is an information resource for residential fire safety. It includes educational information and tips on smoke alarms, fire escape plan, what to do after a fire and much more. If you have kids, make sure you take them to the coloring pages, puzzles and games that teach children how to stay safe from fire.

10/25/2008: USCIS October Newsletter

USCIS monthly newsletter for October, 2008

10/25/2008: Student Exchange Visitor Program

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) posted a reminder that new fees for students, exchange visitors and schools will go into effect on October 27, 2008.

Fee Schedule for Students, Exchange Visitors and Schools
Fee changes
Old Fee
New Fee
Nonimmigrant students $100 $200
Most exchange visitors $100 $180
Au Pair, Camp Counselors, Summer Work/Travel Program $35 $35
Government sponsored exchange visitors $0 $0
School Certification $230 $1,700
School site visit $350 $655
Recertification of SEVP certified schools $0 $0
Petitions for change in ownership of certified SEVP schools $230 $1,700
Additional campus site visit $350 $655

10/23/2008: Revised USCIS Stakeholder Meeting - September 2009

The Q&A was revised on October 21, 2008

10/23/2008: Air Passenger Screening Program to Launch in 2009

Misidentification of passengers has been one of the biggest inconveniences in post-Sept. 11 air travel, and widely known for putting Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., a few infants and thousands of innocent U.S. residents through extensive searching and questioning before they were allowed to fly.

A long-delayed government program designed to more accurately prescreen the names of airline passengers against terror watch lists is expected to launch early next year. - AP Story

10/22/2008: Upcoming Presidential Election

The 2008 Presidential Election is just around the corner, and we would like to put up a friendly reminder that if you are not a U.S. citizen, do not vote or register to vote. Non-immigrant visa holders and legal permanent residents are not allowed to vote a U.S. presidential election.

However, some green card holders have decided to, well, campaign for their favorite candidates, read on.

10/18/2008: USCIS Stakeholder Meeting - September 2009

USCIS Community Relations published the Q&A from the September National Stakeholder Meeting. It addressed several important questions, including:

  • 5. Question: We have a case where it has been confirmed by USCIS that the security checks have not been completed. The client received I-551 stamp on March 11, 2008 (after waiting for 3 ½ years for the I-485 to be approved b/c of name check delay), but has yet to receive his actual green card......is it USCIS policy only to issue the I-551 stamp, but not the actual residence card, until security checks are complete?
  • USCIS Response: No, this is not USCIS policy. Pursuant to the new policy dated February 4, 2008, USCIS will adjudicate the application based on all required evidence outlined in applicable law and regulation if the application is otherwise approvable, outside of normal processing times, and the FBI name check request has been pending for more than 180 days, and continue with card production. Since USCIS has improved the card production process and our applicants generally now receive their Permanent Resident Cards within 7-10 days of approval, automatically issuing an I-551 stamp is no longer necessary or common practice. However, each field office will entertain requests for the I-551 stamp for those applicants who have a specific need.
  • 7. Question: When there is a G-28 on file, are the notices/documents listed below sent to both the representative of record and the applicant/petitioner? If not, please indicate to which (representative or applicant) each notice/document is sent when there is a G-28 on file:
    • I-797 receipt notice,
    • I-797 approval notice
    • Denial notice
    • Transfer notice
    • Request for evidence
    • Notice of intent to deny
    • ASC appointment notice
    • EAD card
    • Advance parole document
  • USCIS Response: The EAD is sent to the applicant/petitioner. Each of the other notices listed is sent to both the applicant/petitioner and the representative of record.
  • 13. Question: In TSC and NSC, there is dramatic delay for last July/August concurrently filed I-140. At the same time, TSC quickly approved many non-concurrently filed I-140 with application mailing dates later than last August and even in 2008...Is that delay caused by the Plus Pilot program installed in TSC in Feb 2008, under which the entire I-140 and I-485 package is reviewed by one officer? If so, does that mean I-140s won't be processed and approved until the petitioner's Priority Date becomes Current?
  • USCIS Response: Visa availability has been the primary focus at the Texas Service Center and the Nebraska Service Center for concurrent filings and stand alone I-485s. In recent weeks, we have identified I-140 petitions that have been held up because of visas are not available. These filings are placed in the workflow by I-140 processing date within the range of those that were processed after having been filed independent of an adjustment application. The instance of delayed I-140 adjudication should decrease significantly. Petitions that are outside of the posted processing dates can be raised to our attention through the 1 800 customer service number.

10/15/2008: Final Rule on Three-Year TN Visa

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased the maximum period of time a Trade-NAFTA (TN) professional worker from Canada or Mexico may remain in the United States before seeking readmission or obtaining an extension of stay. This final rule changes the initial period of admission for TN workers from one to three years, making it equal to the initial period of admission given to H-1B professional workers. Eligible TN nonimmigrants may now be allowed to receive extensions of stay in increments of up to three years instead of the prior maximum period of stay of one year. For more information on the TN nonimmigrant visa program, check out USCIS' official Announcement and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

10/14/2008: November 2008 Visa Bulletin

Visa cut-off dates for November 2008 have just been released. Some highlights:

  • EB-1: All current
  • EB-2 China: 01JUN04; EB-3 China: 01FEB02
  • EB-2 India: 01JUN03; EB-3 India: 01OCT01
  • EB-2 ROW, Mexico, Philippines: Current
  • See more details including family-based visa bulletin and retrogression chart here.

EMPLOYMENT VISA AVAILABILITY: The level of demand being received from Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Offices indicates that they have a significant amount of cases with priority dates that are earlier than the established cut-offs. This is likely to result in slow forward movement of the cut-off dates for most Employment categories during the next few months. Sudden changes in the CIS demand patterns could result in fluctuations in the monthly cut-off dates, and retrogressions cannot be ruled during FY-2009.

10/12/2008: Interview with an Immigration Judge

View of the U.S. immigration system from the eyes of an immigration judge - TwinCities Story

10/10/2008: USCIS Delays Direct Mail Program For N-400

The Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS)drafted this report, in collaboration with the other USCIS Directorates and the USCIS Office of Chief Counsel. All USCIS components reviewed the cases involving fraud or technical violations and the proposed enhancements to the H-1B program and concurred on the report. Key Findings:

  • There were a total of 51 cases within the sample of 246 H-1B petitions that were confirmed as representing fraud, a technical violation, and/or multiple technical violations.
  • USCIS had already approved 217 cases (88% of the sampled petitions); 19% of the approved cases were associated with some type of fraud or technical violation(s).
  • USCIS had already denied 5 cases (2% of the sampled cases); 2 of the denied cases (40%) were associated with some type of fraud or technical violation(s).
  • USCIS provided Premium Processing Service to 70 cases (28% of the sampled cases); 17% of these cases were associated with some type of fraud or technical violation(s).
  • USCIS provided Premium Processing Service to 70 cases (28% of the sampled cases); 17% of these cases were associated with some type of fraud or technical violation(s).
  • These figures indicate that H-1B petitions filed for accounting, human resources, business analysts, sales, and advertising occupations are more likely than other occupational categories to exhibit fraud or technical violation(s).

10/10/2008: USCIS Delays Direct Mail Program For N-400

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will delay implementation of the Direct Mail Program for the N-400, Application for Naturalization. Last month, USCIS published a notice in the Federal Register, which would have changed the filing address for N-400s from USCIS Service Centers to two lockbox facilities in Arizona and Texas. USCIS is delaying implementation of this new filing procedure to conduct additional tests of the technology involved. Accordingly, the Sept. 12 notice will be withdrawn Oct. 10, 2008.

Applicants for naturalization should continue to submit their Form N-400 according to the instructions on the form until further notice. In almost all cases, this means applicants will submit their N-400s to a USCIS Service Center.

10/05/2008: Pending 2008 Immigration Bills

Given that exhausted Washington politicians are now happily at home, the chance of passing any immigration related bills this year is virtually zero. Unless there is a lame duck session right after the election, the immigration community will have to wait for next year to ride the roller coaster again.

Even if your representatives do come back before Christmas, and somehow do put the immigration bills on the floor, it is no guarantee that anything will be accomplished.

Why? Let's take one example, the visa recapture bill sponsored by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). The bill doesn't even ask Congress for additional visas. All it does is to make use of those green cards that were already authorized by law but were lost due to bureaucratic delays of the U.S. government. And there were 550,000 of them! Each one could have been used to help a doctor, a nurse, an engineer, or a researcher who has been waiting - legally - for many years.

It didn't pass. Even after lawmakers added ridiculous amendments, it still didn't pass.

So next time when you hear anti-immigration politicians claim that they love immigrants, as long as they play by the rules, you can go ahead and laugh.

10/03/2008: Bush Signs Historic Bailout Bill

With the economy on the brink of meltdown and elections looming, a reluctant Congress abruptly reversed course and approved a historic $700 billion government bailout of the battered financial industry on Friday. President Bush swiftly signed it. - AP Story

10/03/2008: CBP Launches Interactive WHTI Travel Widget

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced today a traveler-centric desktop widget as part of the integrated "Let's Get You Home" advertising and outreach campaign.

10/03/2008: Visa and Admission for Nonimmigrant Aliens Infected with HIV

Advanced copy of CBP Final Rule to amend its regulations to provide, on a limited and categorical basis, a more streamlined process for nonimmigrant aliens infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to enter the United States as visitors on temporary visas (for business or pleasure) for up to 30 days. Nonimmigrant aliens who do not meet the specific requirements of the rule or who do not wish to consent to the conditions imposed by this rule may elect to seek admission under current procedures and obtain a case-by-case determination of their eligibility for a waiver of the nonimmigrant visa requirements concerning inadmissibility for aliens who are infected with HIV.

09/30/2008: Check DV-2010 Status Online

For the first time, people who submitted lottery entries may check their status online. You will need your confirmation page information to do that. Because this information will be provided only once - at the time of your entry - it is extremely important that you print or write down your confirmation information for later use. If you lose this information, you will still receive a letter from the Kentucky Consular Center by mail notifying you of your selection, if you win the lottery.

Individuals NOT selected will NOT receive any notification. But for DV-2010, people don't have to keep on waiting, and can simply check their case status starting July 1, 2009.

09/29/2008: DV-2010 Instructions Released

DOS just released the instructions for the 2010 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program - DV-2010 (Green Card Lottery).

09/29/2008: $700B Bailout Plan Rejected by House

In a vote that shook the government, Wall Street and markets around the world, the House on Monday defeated a $700 billion emergency rescue for the nation's financial system, leaving both parties' lawmakers and the Bush administration scrambling to pick up the pieces. Dismayed investors sent the Dow Jones industrials plunging 777 points, the most ever for a single day. - AP Story

09/29/2008: Agreement Reached on $700B Bailout Plan

Technically, this is not immigration news. But we feel that the rapidly deteriorating U.S. economy is probably on every immigrant's mind right now, so we want to bring you this breaking news, and a a section-by-section breakdown. If you think about it, it is not just the stock market, but employment, housing, business, and even future immigration policies may be tied to the fate of this massive rescue plan. So even though we don't think taxpayers' money should be used to help out financial firms who made huge terrible bets, we would like to see how it works and whether it will function as designed. The bill goes to the House for a vote today.

09/26/2008: Final Rule - Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of DHS published the final rule today to adjusts the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) school certification petition fees and the application fees for nonimmigrants seeking to become academic (F visa) or vocational (M visa) students, or exchange visitors (J visa).

The rule sets the following fees: $1,700 for a school certification petition and $655 for each site visit for certification; and $200 for each F or M student. This rule also sets a $180 fee for most J exchange visitors; however, the $35 fee for each J exchange visitor seeking admission as an au pair, camp counselor, or summer work/travel program participant will remain the same. All fee payments addressed in this final rule must be made in the amounts established by this rule beginning October 27, 2008.

09/26/2008: Cleanup After Hurricane, by Whom?

Hurricane Ike's destruction is sparking one of the largest rebuilding efforts the state (Texas)has seen in decades, but at the same time is highlighting a thorny facet of the region's labor force: A lot of the recovery work will be done by illegal immigrants.

But this tug and pull of the labor force highlights an uneasy dilemma: The region needs the muscle of undocumented immigrants, but simultaneously is a cog in a broader crackdown of illegal immigrants at worksites. - Houston Chron Story

09/24/2008: USCIS Program Flexibility

We (USCIS) realize that unexpected events in a person's home country can sometimes affect travel or other plans. Given recent severe weather in the Caribbean, USCIS would like to remind customers of available services: Extension and/or Change of Status, Off-Campus Employment for Students, and Expedited Processing. See the USCIS Update.

09/24/2008: CIS Ombudsman Offers Help for EAD Delays

The CIS Ombudsman has been receiving numerous inquiries from customers about EAD applications pending more than 90 days. He suggested calling USCIS customer service and visiting a local office through INFOPASS. If both approaches fail, people are encourage to email his office to seek assistance.

09/24/2008: 5000 J-1 Visas for Korean Students and New Graduates

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan of the Republic of Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the WEST (Work, English Study, Travel) Program and expansion of other reciprocal exchange opportunities on September 22 in New York. The WEST program is an innovative exchange program that will allow up to 5,000 qualifying university students and recent university graduates from the Republic of Korea to enter the United States for a period of 18 months on J-1 exchange visitor visas that will allow them to study English, participate in internships, and travel independently. The program will be coordinated by the private sector under the auspices of the United States Department of State's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. This program will be launched in 2009.

09/24/2008: Applicants Told Note to Fear New Citizenship Test

A week before the American government plans to start a redesigned civics test as part of the naturalization process, a senior immigration official sought on Tuesday to calm nervous immigrants and critics who say the new exam will be more challenging than the current one. "It's not harder than the current exam, in fact, for some it may be easier." Mr. Aguilar, chief of the citizenship office at USCIS, said that in a pilot study of the new questions, 92 percent of participants passed the test on their first attempt, while an average of 85 percent of all applicants pass the current test on their first attempt. - NY Time Story

09/18/2008: DV-2010 Lottery Starts Soon

The DV-2010 Green Card Lottery will begin at Noon EDT on October 2, 2008, and end at Noon EST on December 1, 2008. Information and instructions for the DV-2010 lottery will appear on the Travel.State.Gov website as soon as available.

09/17/2008: Great News on PERM Audits

The Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) of the Department of Labor just posted the following statement on their website:

"The Department has been presented with evidence indicating that prior to its recent audits, many immigration attorneys believed that the Department's rule regarding consideration of U.S. workers did not apply to them unless they represented not only the employer seeking the labor certification, but also the alien for whom the certification was being sought. That interpretation is incorrect, as the Department's recently issued PERM program clarifying guidance makes clear. Nevertheless, the Department will apply the requirements of the consideration rule as interpreted by its recent guidance only to labor certification applications the recruitment for which was begun after August 29, 2008, the date on which the Department's final guidance was issued. All pending audits triggered exclusively by consideration rule concerns are therefore being released and will be processed in accordance with their original filing date."

09/17/2008: Canada Recruiting Frustrated U.S. Immigrants

At a time when the immigration debate in the U.S. is tied to national security and tightening borders, Alberta is urging immigrants to cross over and come north. Skilled immigrants in the USA are attractive because they have North American work experience, know the culture, speak English and assimilate quickly. - USA Today

09/17/2008: USCIS VSC Workers Get First Union Contract

"The employees at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Vermont Service Center had gone four years without a raise." Under the (new) agreement, unionized immigration workers will receive a 9 percent wage increase during its three-year contract. - Burlington Free Press

09/12/2008: Revision to Filing Citizenship Applications

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. These changes become effective October 14, 2008.

For the first 30 days after this notice takes effect, USCIS will forward any improperly addressed Form N-400s covered by this notice to the proper lockbox address. Any applications forwarded within this time period will be considered properly filed when receipted at the Lockbox.

After this 30-day transition period, any Form N-400 covered by this notice that is received at a location other than the appropriate lockbox address will be returned to you with an explanation directing you to mail it to the appropriate lockbox address.

09/12/2008: Ombudsman Conference Call on EB5 Investors

EB-5 Investor Visas: Opportunities and Challenges, Friday, September 26, 2-3 pm EST. If interested, please RSVP to cisombudsman.publicaffairs@dhs.gov specifying which call you would like to join. Participants will receive a return email with the call-in information.

09/11/2008: USCIS' Houston Office Closed Due to Hurricane Ike

USCIS' Houston, Texas office will close for business on Friday, September 12 due to the approach of Hurricane Ike. All three local Application Support Centers have already closed. Interview appointments for naturalization and permanent residency have been automatically rescheduled.

09/11/2008: October 2008 Visa Bulletin

EB2 China cutoff dates moved back to April 1, 2004. EB2 India retreated even more to April 1, 2003. All EB3 and "Other Workers" categories finally moved out of "Unavailable" stage," but are still heavily backlogged.

But the more disappointing news is that visa numbers are actually unavailable in September for EB2 applicants from China and India, despite what the visa bulletin indicated. Here is DOS' explanation:

"Item E of the May 2008 Visa Bulletin (number 118, volume VIII) indicated that many Employment cut-off dates had been advancing very rapidly, based on indications that the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) would need to review a significantly larger pool of applicants than there were numbers available in order to maximize number use under the FY-2008 annual limits. That item also indicated that if the CIS projections proved to be incorrect, it would be necessary to adjust the cut-off dates during the final quarter of FY-2008. The CIS estimates have proven to be very high resulting in: 1) the "unavailability" of all Employment Third preference categories beginning in July, 2) the "unavailability" of numbers for China and India Employment Second preference adjustment of status cases during September, and 3) the establishment of many October Employment cut-off dates which are earlier than those which applied during FY-2008."

"Little if any forward movement of the cut-off dates in most Employment categories is likely until the extent of the CIS backlog of old priority dates can be determined. It is estimated that the FY-2009 Employment-based annual limit will be very close to the 140,000 minimum."

09/10/2008: U.S. Government Sued in Baby's Death

A woman from American Samoa is suing the U.S. government for the death of her 2-week-old son at Honolulu Airport earlier this year. Luaipou Futi claims her son, Michael Tony Futi, died because U.S. Customs officials held her, her son and an attending nurse in lockup over a paperwork dispute. - Star Bulletin Story

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has filed a response to a lawsuit by Fragomen, the nation's largest immigration law firm.

09/10/2008: DOL Responds to PERM Lawsuit

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has filed a response to a lawsuit by Fragomen, the nation's largest immigration law firm.

"As DOL now admits, legal advice can be given at any time throughout the PERM process," Williamson said in the statement, referring to the DOL's permanent labor certification program, which is required to sponsor foreign workers for residency. "However, DOL continues to unlawfully restrict attorney-client consultation regarding the prescreening of resumes, which involves giving legal advice on a candidate's qualifications under the complicated DOL rules."

09/10/2008: Business and Academia Leaders Call for "Visa Recapture"

More than 80 leaders of business and academia signed a letter to Members of Congress to urge support for a modest green card recapture measure. H.R. 5882 would "recapture" both employment-based (EB) and family-based green cards that Congress authorized in the past, but that went unused due to government processing delays. A similar provision is included in S. 3414.

"America's future is at stake. Congress should quickly pass this modest measure that keeps highly talented individuals working to benefit the American economy. We urge your support for a recapture provision this year."

Executives from many high-tech powerhouses have signed the letter, including Microsoft, Google, Intel, TI, Exxon Mobil, Cisco, and many more.

09/10/2008: October 2008 Visa Bulletin According to U.S. Consulate Website

U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai, India, has published new visa cut-off dates for October, 2008. India EB2 will be April 1, 2003. EB3 is July 1, 2001. The official visa bulletin has not been released, but is expected in a few days.

09/09/2008: Significant Decline in Pending FBI Name Checks

CIS Ombudsman today announced a significant decline in the number of pending FBI name checks for individuals seeking immigration benefits in the United States.

  • There were 269,943 name checks pending on May 6, 2008. There are 95,449 pending as of August 12, 2008.
  • There were 185,162 name checks pending for more than six months on May 6, 2008. There are 61,817 pending more than six months as of August 12, 2008.
  • USCIS met its April 2, 2008 goal to process all name checks pending more than two years by July 2008.

09/04/2008: DHS Used Wikipedia to Reject Asylum Seeker

The Department of Homeland Security should not use the user-generated Wikipedia to decide whether an asylum seeker can enter the United States, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

That judicial statement from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which said DHS committed no big foul in using a site editable by anyone with a computer to decide the fate of a woman named Lamilem Badasa. - Wired Story

The judges said: "We conclude that the case must be remanded for further proceedings, because the BIA failed adequately to explain its conclusion that Badasa did not establish her identity. The BIA did not adopt the entirety of the IJ's reasoning for rejecting Badasa's claim. Rather, the BIA acknowledged that it was improper for the IJ to consider information from Wikipedia in evaluating Badasa's submission on remand, and the government does not dispute that conclusion here."

09/04/2008: Professor Guilty of Passing Military Data to Foreign Students

A federal jury convicted a retired University of Tennessee professor Wednesday of passing sensitive information from a U.S. Air Force contract to two foreign research assistants from China and Iran.

Jurors deliberated about six hours before finding plasma physics expert J. Reece Roth guilty Wednesday on 18 counts of conspiracy, fraud and violating the Arms Export Control Act.

He faces up to 160 years in prison and more than $1.5 million in fines. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 7. - AP Story

09/04/2008: Naturalization Test Rollout Stakeholder Meeting

USCIS Community Relations held a meeting Tuesday in Washington, DC, to discuss the rollout of new naturalization test. The new test will apply to all applicants who file their Application for Naturalization, Form N-400 on or after October 1, 2008.

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