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Immigration News - March and April of 2012

04/30/2012: H-1B Visa Petitions Surging Quickly

FY-2013 H-1B visa petitions appear to be coming in at a much faster rate, compared to last year. Less than one month into the cap season, regular cap count is already apporaching 30,000, a milestone that took more than four months to reach in last year's H-1B filings. See our H-1B Cap Count Log for more information.

04/29/2012: Lofgren Says 'Toxic Environment' Stalls Visa Reform

U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) isn't giving up on a bill to give green cards to college graduates with advanced degrees in technical fields, but she has been unable to find any Republican backing for it. Nonetheless, Lofgren intends to continue pushing for her bill, the Immigration Driving Entrepreneurship in America Act of 2011 or the IDEA Act (HR 2161), which would make green cards available to students who earn advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at research universities. - ComputerWorld

04/29/2012: German 'Blue Card' to Simplify Immigration

Germany is introducing "Blue Cards" designed to make the immigration process easier for skilled workers. Among other measures, the program rewards immigrants who learn German. The United States has its green card, and now Europe is trying its hand at a "Blue Card." An EU directive created in 2009 aims to attract highly qualified non-EU nationals by simplifying entry procedures and residence rights. - DW

04/23/2012: Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero — and Perhaps Less

The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill. After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—more than half of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped—and may have reversed, according to a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of multiple government data sets from both countries. - Pew Hispanic Center

04/22/2012: Immigrant Groups Push for Naturalization ahead of November Election

A coalition of groups supporting immigrants has recruited teams of volunteers to help push programs they hope will add thousands of new U.S. citizens to the voter rolls in several states in time for the November presidential election. The national push comes after Democratic President Barack Obama has failed to deliver on promised immigration reforms in his first years in office and his likely opponent, Mitt Romney, adopted harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration to win support from conservatives while campaigning for the GOP nomination. - Washington Post

04/20/2012: Ellis Island Building Gets Turned into a Museum of Immigration

Nearly half of all Americans have a family tie to at least one immigrant who passed through Ellis Island, officials say. Now, 120 years since a 15-year-old Irish girl became the first to go through its doors, the private foundation that renovated the red brick main building in the 1980s is turning it into a museum to teach visitors about immigration on a wider scale. - NY Daily News

04/17/2012: FY-2013 H-1B Cap Count

As of April 13: 20,600 for regular cap and 9,700 for advanced degree exemption.

04/15/2012: Making Visas-for-Dollars Work

AMONG the most popular tools for attracting foreign investment to the United States is the EB-5 program. It seems like the perfect win-win: any foreigner who invests between $500,000 and $1 million here, and creates at least 10 domestic jobs from that investment within two years, gets a green card.

Unfortunately, the program is so rife with fraud and corruption that it could actually have the opposite impact and deter investment. To regain its credibility, the program must make a number of changes to enable more transparency and demand more competence from its operators. - NY Times

04/12/2012: Two USC Graduate Students From China Fatally Shot Near Campus

It started as a typical evening for Ming Qu and Ying Wu, two graduate students from China studying electrical engineering at USC. After a night at the library, Qu drove Wu to the house where she was renting a room less than a mile from campus. He double parked in front of the home early Wednesday morning to continue talking. At around 1 a.m., a gunman approach Qu's BMW and opened fire, killing both students in an attack that shocked USC and rekindled long-held concerns about safety around the university. - LA Times

The Los Angeles Police Department announced Thursday that USC will offer a $125,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of those found guilty of the murder of two USC graduate students. - Daily Trojan

All of us at ImmigrationRoad are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our hearts go out to the victims, their families and friends.

04/09/2012: Immigration Program Might Help Fund Rays Stadium

If the Tampa Bay Rays ever get a new stadium, it might come with an assist from an unlikely source — wealthy Chinese immigrants. Chamber of commerce leaders from Tampa and St. Petersburg who have been studying how to pay for a new Rays stadium landed on an obscure federal immigration program called EB-5 that might help with the half-billion-dollar tab. Under the program, foreigners willing to invest at least $500,000 each to create jobs in the United States can qualify for a green card for themselves and their families. Essentially, affluent foreigners can buy their way into a life in America — and the majority are coming from China. - Tampa Bay Online

04/09/2012: USCIS Vermont Service Center to Add 150 New Jobs

More than 150 new federal jobs are coming to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration and Service (USCIS) Service Center. Dan Renaud, head of the Vermont Service Center, which has offices in St. Albans and Essex, said the additional full-time positions are part of a regular re-evaluation of staffing needs. - St. Albans Messenger

04/09/2012: FY-2013 H-1B Cap Count

Regular cap count: 17,400. Masters Degree Exemption Count: 8,200.

04/06/2012: May 2012 Visa Bulletin Released

The State Department has released the Visa Bulletin for May 2012. As mentioned several times before, both India and China EB-2 retrogressed to August 15, 2007. Below is DOS' explanation:

"Due to the rapid forward movement of the cut-off date, demand for China and India Employment Second preference numbers has increased dramatically during recent months, and at a much faster rate than had been expected. Therefore, it has been necessary to retrogress that cut-off date to August 15, 2007 in an attempt to hold number use within the annual limit while maintaining availability for those countries that have not yet reached their per-country limit. Notices were included in the November, January, and February Visa Bulletins alerting readers to the possibility of such a retrogression. While corrective action has become necessary earlier than was anticipated based on the information available at the time cut-off dates were determined, it is hoped that readers are not caught off guard by this retrogression.

Should additional information regarding potential demand become available, it may be necessary to take additional corrective action at any time.

Every effort will be made to return the China and India Employment Second preference cut-off date to the previously announced April date of May 1, 2010. This will be done as quickly as possible under the FY-2013 annual limits, which take effect October 1, 2012. It will not be possible to speculate on the cut-off date which may apply at that time until late summer."

The Department also provided Visa Bulletin Predictions for the remainder of FY-2012.

04/05/2012: USCIS to Expedite Review for Certain Cases Affected by Specific Administrative Errors

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has established an expedited process for reviewing and correcting decisions resulting from certain administrative errors. This process enables customers to request an expedited review of their case and correction of the decision where data entry and/or an administrative error resulted in a denial or rejection of their petition or application. - USCIS

04/04/2012: EB2 China/India Cutoff Date of August 15, 2007 Already in Effect

Several law firms have posted "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12040447" confirming Mr. Oppenheim's prediction that EB2 India and China would retrogress to August 15, 2007. What is surprising is that the cutoff has already been in effect for two weeks now. Only I-485 applications with priority dates earlier than 08/15/2007 will now be eligible for approval; cases after that date can only be pre-adjudicated but not approved. Throughout the month of April, however, the current cutoff date (May 1, 2010) is still valid for people from China and India to submit their EB2 I-485 applications. The May 2012 Visa Bulletin is expected to provide more details with regard to the EB2 situation.

"Charlie Oppenheim, Chief of Visa Control at the State Department, has confirmed that, effective March 23, 2012, no further EB-2 visas will be authorized for China-mainland born and India applicants with priority dates of August 15, 2007, or later. Visa applicants processing in April at consulates abroad will still receive visas, as those numbers were allocated before the cut-off date was established. Mr. Oppenheim understands that USCIS will continue to receive and process applications for adjustment of status for aliens with priority dates prior to the date established in the April 2012 Visa Bulletin, and those cases with priority dates of August 15, 2007, or later, will be forwarded to and held by Visa Control at DOS in a "pending" file until new visas are available beginning with FY2013 on October 1, 2012. Mr. Oppenheim advises that an item in the May Visa Bulletin will address the EB-2 movement."

04/03/2012: Ringleader of Massive Immigration Fraud Mill Pleads Guilty

From 1996 until early 2009, DAVID operated a Manhattan-based immigration law firm that made millions of dollars purportedly procuring legal immigration status for its clients. However, the firm, which charged up to $30,000 per client, applied for and obtained thousands of DOL certifications based upon phony claims that U.S. employers had "sponsored" the aliens for employment. As part of the scheme, DAVID's firm used fabricated documents, including fake pay stubs, fake tax returns, and fake "experience letters," purporting to show that the sponsorships were real and that the aliens possessed special employment skill sets justifying labor-based certification by DOL. In reality, the sponsors had no intention of hiring the aliens, and the sponsor companies often did not even exist other than as shell companies for use in the fraudulent scheme. - DOJ

04/02/2012: List of E-Verify Employers and Federal Contractors

USCIS has recently published the list of employers and federal contractors who registered for E-Verify as of March 15, 2012. The list includes business name, contractor identifier, employer city, state and zipcode, as well as workforce size. The data are published in Excel spreadsheets. - USCIS

04/01/2012: New Travel Related Resources in Chinese

03/30/2012: New Look and Feel of Form I-797

On April 2, 2012, USCIS will issue Form I-797C, Notice of Action, with a new look and feel. We will print the Form I-797C on plain bond paper. This change is estimated to save the agency about $1.1 million per year. This form change will help reduce public perception that the Form I-797C demonstrates evidence of an immigration benefit or status. The top of the new Form I-797C will clearly display: "THIS NOTICE DOES NOT GRANT ANY IMMIGRATION STATUS OR BENEFIT." - USCIS

03/27/2012: USCIS to Accept H-1B Petitions for FY-2013 Beginning April 2, 2012

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 cap on Monday April 2, 2012. Cases will be considered accepted on the date that USCIS takes possession of a properly filed petition with the correct fee. USCIS will not rely upon the date that the petition is postmarked.

The congressionally mandated numerical limitation on H-1B petitions for FY 2013 is 65,000. Additionally, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals who have earned a U.S. master's degree or higher are exempt from the fiscal year cap. - USCIS

03/27/2012: USCIS Seeks Public Comment on Revised Form I-9

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today published a notice in the Federal Register inviting public comment on a revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Employers must complete Form I-9 for all newly-hired employees to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States. The public is invited to comment on the revisions until May 29, 2012.

    Key revisions to the form include:
  • Expanded Form I-9 instructions and a revised layout.
  • New, optionaldata fields to collect the employee's email address and telephone number.
  • New data fields to collect the foreign passport number and country of issuance. Only aliens authorized to work in the U.S. who have also recorded their I-94 admission number on Form I-9 will need to provide the foreign passport number and country of issuance.

03/26/2012: IT Companies Asking Obama to Support L-1 Visa

For over forty years, a cornerstone of business operations for those that do business both in the United States and abroad has been the ability to transfer managers, executives and specialized knowledge personnel across national boundaries in order to harmonize operations, expand markets, service clients, and share knowledge. In the United States, intracompany transfers are generally facilitated through the L-1 visa category. However, it has become increasingly difficult for companies to procure visas to transfer their existing employees to the United States to continue work on products, services, and projects. We are writing to urge the Administration to take action to correct this situation. - AILA

03/23/2012: Coming to America Costs $500,000 With Job Plan Prone to Failures

The pair solicited $500,000 from a South Korean eager to win a resident visa through a federal program designed to stimulate job creation. The developers' company went bust, the investor doesn't have a green card and Transit Village didn't produce any jobs in El Monte, a city of about 120,000 east of Los Angeles. Leung and Lang said they did nothing wrong. City officials said federal authorities didn't do enough.

The 22-year-old [EB5] program gives foreigners a shot at U.S. residency if they invest in businesses putting Americans to work. While it's grown in the past four years, its success as an economic engine and a safe investment is being challenged. - Bloomberg

03/23/2012: Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population in 2011

In summary, an estimated 11.5 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States in January 2011 compared to a revised 2010 estimate of 11.6 million. These results suggest little to no change in the unauthorized immigrant population from 2010 to 2011. It is unlikely that the unauthorized immigrant population increased after 2007 given relatively high U.S. unemployment, improved economic conditions in Mexico, record low numbers of apprehensions of unauthorized immigrants at U.S. borders, and greater levels of border enforcement. Of all unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2011, 55 percent entered between 1995 and 2004. Entrants since 2005 accounted for only 14 percent of the total. Fifty-nine percent of unauthorized immigrants in 2011 were from Mexico. - DHS

03/22/2012: EB2 India/China Will Retrogress to 08/15/2007 in May Visa Bulletin

"Charlie Oppenheim of DOS informed AILA that EB-2 priority dates for China-mainland and India will retrogress for the remainder of FY2012 to August 15, 2007, as of the May Visa Bulletin." - AILA

Note that several law firms have posted the entire AILA Practice Alert (InfoNet Doc. No. 12032365) including the following:

"As for projections for the remainder of the year, it is too early to predict movement. USCIS has informed Mr. Oppenheim that they will continue to "preadjudicate" adjustment applications received through April."

03/21/2012: Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States

Immigration has a profound impact on the United States, which throughout its history has been a destination for migrants from across the globe. Immigration touches on myriad facets of American life – ranging from the economic and political to the cultural. As such, it is important that facts about immigrants and contemporary immigration flows to the United States are made easily available to the public. This Spotlight seeks to do so, providing some of the most frequently used current and historical facts and figures in easily accessible fashion. - MPI

03/20/2012: Potential Visa Retrogression Stirs Protest Against EB-1C

A prediction from Charles Oppenheim about EB-2 retrogression has sent a shock wave among I-485 applicants, likely prompting a protest against the much easier venue classified as EB1-C for international managers. - IR Blog

03/20/2012: 5 Southern Miss Band Members Disciplined for 'Green Card' Chant

Mississippi has revoked the scholarships of five members of its pep band who took part in the heckling of a Kansas State basketball player at last Thursday's NCAA men's basketball tournament game. The school announced Tuesday that the five students also were removed from the band and will be required to complete a two-hour cultural sensitivity training course this week. - Fox News

03/20/2012: USCIS Announces Citizenship and Integration Grant Opportunity

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today the availability of a competitive grant opportunity designed to promote immigrant civic integration and prepare permanent residents for citizenship. This year's program will offer approximately $5 million in funding for citizenship preparation programs in communities across the country. - USCIS

03/20/2012: In Vitro Babies Denied U.S. Citizenship

The incident points out what critics say is a glaring inequity in U.S. citizenship regulations. A child adopted overseas by a U.S. citizen is eligible to become an American, and a baby born in the USA is American even if the parents are not...But a child born to a U.S. citizen overseas through the increasingly common practice of in vitro fertilization with embryos from donor eggs and sperm is not American, unless an American is one of the donors. - USA Today

03/19/2012: Chinese Hoping Ticket out of China is French Class

Thousands of people in China are trying to write their own ticket out of the country -- in French.

Many Chinese have in the past sought to leverage their way into Canada with job skills, as family members of Chinese already there or with the country's emigrant-investor program. But a backlog of cases has prompted the federal government to halt some kinds of family sponsorship applications for two years, and cap investor applicants at 700 per year. - Boston

03/17/2012: Massachusetts Senator Pushes Bill for Irish Work Visas

Brown's standalone Senate bill on E3 visas for the Irish, S.2005, followed in December with no provision for undocumented immigrants. Brown's bill was added to Schumer's broader proposal, which eliminated the provision for undocumented immigrants. But Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, placed a hold on this bill when it came over to the Senate.

Beth Levine, communications director for Grassley, said he has now extended an offer to move the Brown bill forward.

"An up or down vote on Sen. Brown's Irish visa bill would be acceptable to Sen. Grassley with some modifications dealing with the skill level of those receiving an E3 visa, the current visa program the visas would be allotted from, and the inclusion of a sunset on the program," Levine wrote in an e-mail. "Sen. Grassley's staff is still discussing modifications with the sponsors of the bill." - CNN

03/16/2012: Updated Social Security Number Application Process (SSNAP)

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is making systematic changes to fully automate the paper Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record). As a result, the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program introduced a new method of verifying the I-94 in an effort to ensure successful verification responses. In order to continue successful SAVE verification, we updated the Social Security Number Application Process (SSNAP) to accommodate a new document type, "I-94 w/Unexpired Foreign Passport," that you must now use when an applicant submits both an I-94 and an unexpired foreign passport. Failure to enter the unexpired foreign passport when available may significantly delay SAVE verification. - SSA

03/16/2012: Visa Bulletin Alert: China and India EB2 May Retrogress to July 2007

Charlie Oppenheim from DOS announced at the AILA Midwest Regional Conference that EB-2 priority dates for India and China-mainland will likely retrogress to August 2007 in either the May or June 2012 Visa Bulletin. - AILA

03/15/2012: The Story of a Start-up and the Fading H.R. 3012

Chaudhary and Don are not American citizens; and, despite the urgent need to create jobs and foster innovation, the United States does not hand out visas to entrepreneurs, even ones with sound ideas, financial backing, and a willingness to hire. If the two do not obtain long-term work visas by April, their plans—not to mention their investors' money and the jobs they're creating—will be in jeopardy. "So few start-ups succeed for a host of business-related reasons," said Chaudhary, who has pleaded their case to anyone who will listen, including the Obama administration. "It seems ludicrous that what would kill a start-up would be immigration problems."

But beyond that, this is a story about how the government can't solve problems, even ones with popular solutions. And if it can't fix the simple ones, how can it be expected to tackle the nation's more intractable woes?

  • Grassley says he is willing to lift his hold on H.R. 3012 if Schumer backs off his Irish-visa proposal.
  • Schumer says that Democrats aren't the holdup; it's actually a Republican, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who shot his mouth off to a bunch of Irish constituents back home, saying that the Irish-visa bill was "about to pop." Massachusetts—where Brown expects a tough reelection fight—is the hub of the Ireland lobby.
  • Brown says he has not placed a hold on the Chaffetz proposal and supports it in principle. But he also wants the Irish-visa bill to pass, and he won't say whether he would block the Chaffetz bill if the Irish measure doesn't move with it.
  • Grassley, meanwhile, has offered Schumer a chance for an up-or-down vote on the Irish-visa bill, provided the required skill levels get tweaked and the special-visa program has an end date. There's no word yet on whether Schumer will accept the offer.

And so, H.R. 3012 sits. - National Journal

03/15/2012: Immigration Officer Gets Brain Surgery, Neurosurgeon Gets Citizenship

A normally routine naturalization ceremony in Florida had an extra special touch as an immigration officer presented a naturalization certificate to a doctor from Peru who saved her life with an emergency brain surgery. In front of 450 people from 75 countries gathered in the Tampa Convention Center, immigration services officer Melissa Wingerd presented Dr. Gabriel Gonzales-Portillo his naturalization certificate. The new citizens clapped, cheered and waved U.S. flags. - Fox News

03/14/2012: Revised Q&A: "Employee-Employer Relationship" in H-1B Petitions

The memorandum is titled, "Determining Employer-Employee Relationship for Adjudication of H-1B Petitions, Including Third-Party Site Placements: Additions to Officer's Field Manual (AFM) Chapter 31.3(g)(15)(AFM Update AD 10-24)." In addition to clarifying the requirements for a valid employer-employee relationship, the memorandum also discusses the types of evidence petitioners may provide to establish that an employer-employee relationship exists and will continue to exist with the beneficiary throughout the duration of the requested H-1B validity period. Last revised: 03/12/2012. - USCIS

03/12/2012: Court Blocks Two More Sections of Alabama Immigration Law

A federal appeals court on Thursday blocked two more sections of Alabama's tough new law targeting illegal immigration pending the outcome of lawsuits that seek to overturn the law entirely. The 11th US circuit court of appeals issued an order temporarily halting a section that says courts can't enforce contracts involving illegal immigrants and another that makes it a felony for an illegal immigrant to do business with the state. - The Guardian

03/09/2012: April 2012 Visa Bulletin Released

The State Department has released the Visa Bulletin for April 2012. Both India and China EB-2 remained at 2010-05-01. China EB3 advanced two months to 2005-03-01, while India EB3 moved forward by 10 days to 2002-09-01.

Note that as of Friday night, DOS hasn't updated their Website to show the new April 2012 Visa Bulletin. However, thd PDF version has already been published and the voice recording at (202) 663-1541 was also updated with the new cutoff dates. - IR Blog

03/08/2012: April 2012 Visa Bulletin Demand Data

Demand data is now released. Official visa bulletin is likely to be released later today or tomorrow.

03/06/2012: New Tool - USCIS Case Status Checker

Updated 03/07/2012: Oops! USCIS apparently didn't like our new tool so we have to take it down. Sorry.

Here is a new tool which, when you check the status of your application online, will automatically check the status of 10 - 20 cases next to yours. For now we set a limit to 20 cases at a time, to avoid unnecessary load on the USCIS case status system. Keep in mind that adjacent cases may be different types, and application processing may not follow "First-In-First-Out" order.

03/05/2012: USCIS Returns to Original I-797 Receipt and Approval Mailing Process

USCIS has resumed sending the original I-797 receipt and approval notices to the attorney or accredited representative listed on the Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, and copies to the applicant or petitioner. All Forms I-129 currently being filed should list the petitioner's address as the mailing address. This change should prevent any future delays in VIBE and will allow premium processing customers to submit petitions without enclosing a postage pre-paid envelope. - USCIS

03/04/2012: USCIS Pending Applications at the End of January, 2012

  • 568,877 I-130 immediate/all other petitions;
  • 361,529 I-90 green card renewals/replacements;
  • 360,162 I-485 applications to adjust status;
  • 219,951 I-765 employment authorizations;
  • 121,078 I-751 remove conditions spouse jointly/waive;
  • 108,741 I-821 temporary protected status;
  • 66,727 I-129 forms filed; and
  • 308,51 N-400 naturalization.

03/01/2012: USCIS Meeting Invitation: National Priorities Stakeholder Engagement

Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), cordially invites you to attend a national stakeholder engagement to discuss the agency's 2012 priorities on Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 3:30 p.m. (EST). Call-in Number: 1-888-769-8923. Passcode: Priorities.

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