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Immigration News - March and April of 2016

04/25/2016: Immigration Relief for Those Affected by Severe Earthquakes

USCIS offers immigration relief measures for people affected by natural disasters, such as the severe earthquakes that recently occurred in Ecuador, Japan and Burma. If you are seeking relief because of the natural disaster, you must still file any USCIS forms regularly required for the benefit or relief you are requesting. When filing the appropriate form(s) for your specific request, please explain how the natural disaster created a need for the requested relief. For more information, visit

04/18/2016: Transcript of oral argument before the Supreme Court of the United States on DACA/DAPA

Does the president have the power to select which laws to enforce and which ones to ignore? The SCOTUS decision on this matter will have significant, long-lasting impact on the United States, and it all begins today. - Transcript

04/16/2016: Battle over Obama immigration actions lands before Supreme Court

"The impassioned election-year debate over President Obama’s immigration executive actions lands Monday before a short-handed Supreme Court, where justices will consider a fundamental question: how much power does the president truly have?

At issue Monday is whether as many as 5 million illegal immigrants can be spared deportation -- including those who entered the U.S. as children, and the parents of citizens or legal residents. The programs -- known as Deferred Action for Parents of American Citizens and Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- effectively went around the Republican-led Congress" - Fox

04/12/2016: USCIS Completes the H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for FY 2017

USCIS received over 236,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 9, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees, unless the petition is found to be a duplicate filing.

The agency conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All unselected advanced degree petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.

04/12/2016: Visa Bulletin Predictions

In the May 2016 Visa Bulletin, the Department of State issued the following statement:

  • Family-Sponsored:
    • CHINA F4: The level of applicant demand being received has begun to increase. Should this pattern continue, it will be necessary to either hold or retrogress this final action date in late summer. That action would be necessary to hold number use within the overall China Family-sponsored annual limit.
    • INDIA F4: The amount of demand being reported for applicants with priority dates which are significantly earlier than the established cut-off date has increased dramatically in recent months. As a result, it is likely that this final action date will be retrogressed, possibly as early as June. This action would be necessary to hold number use within the overall India Family-sponsored annual limit.
  • Employment-Based:
    • CHINA E3: There has been an extremely large increase in Employment Third preference applicant demand in recent weeks. This is likely due to the “downgrading” of status by applicants who had originally filed in the Employment Second preference. This has resulted in the Third preference final action date being held for the month of May. Continued heavy demand for numbers will require a retrogression of this date for June to hold number use within the FY-2016 annual limit.
    • During the past month, there have been extremely high levels of Employment-based demand in most categories for cases filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for adjustment of status. If this sudden and unanticipated change in the demand pattern continues, it could impact final action dates in the coming months and possibly require corrective action in some.

04/12/2016: May 2016 Visa Bulletin Released

The Department of State has released the Visa Bulletin for May 2016. The table below shows "Final Action (Approval)" cut-off dates and movement from the previous month, for all major employment-based categories. To see filing cut-off dates or family-sponsored categories please go to the Visa Bulletin page linked above. For historical data, predictions and more information please refer to our Visa Bulletin Toolbox.

Chargeability Preference Cut-off Date (Y-M-D) Movement (Days)
China Second (EB2) 2012-09-01 0
India Second (EB2) 2008-11-08 14
ROW Third (EB3) 2016-02-15 0
China Third (EB3) 2013-08-15 0
India Third (EB3) 2004-08-08 24
Mexico Third (EB3) 2016-02-15 0
Philippines Third (EB3) 2008-05-01 99

Special Note on E4 and SR categories from the Department of State:

"There is currently extremely high demand in the E4 and SR categories for applicants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This demand is primarily for Juvenile Court Dependent cases filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for adjustment of status. Pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act, this requires implementing E4 and SR Application Final Action Dates for these countries, which will allow the Department to hold worldwide number use within the maximum allowed under the FY-2016 annual limits. Any forward movement during the remainder of FY-2016 is unlikely although no specific prediction is possible.

A determination as to whether these countries will remain subject to E4 and SR final application dates under the FY-2017 annual numerical limitation will be made in early September. Future visa availability will depend on a combination of demand for numbers being reported each month, and the extent to which otherwise unused numbers become available.

It is extremely likely that the India and Mexico Employment Fourth Preference categories will also become oversubscribed at some point during the summer months."

04/07/2016: USCIS Reaches FY 2017 H-1B Cap

"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reached the congressionally mandated H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2017. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption. USCIS will use a computer-generated process, also known as the lottery, to randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption." - USCIS

03/29/2016: CBP Los Angeles I-94 Correction Pilot Program

CBP Los Angeles is launching a pilot program to accept I-94 correction requests via email. From April 1, 2016 to Sept 30, 2016, you may send your I-94 correction request by email at: [email protected]. Attach a copy of your passport bio-page, visa, SEVIS form, I-797 (Work Visas), I-129S (L-1), and/or Advanced Parole Document. - CBP

03/29/2016: Updated List of Deferred Inspection Sites

CBP has published an updated list of Deferred Inspection Sites. These sites provide assistance to people who were scheduled for a deferred inspection at the time of entry (due to missing documentation, for example), and they can also correct errors on I-94.

03/28/2016: USCIS Message: Beware of Immigration Scams

"Scammers pretend to be a government official and call immigrants saying there is a problem with their immigration record. Sometimes they know personal information about the immigrant. They ask for personal and sensitive details, and demand immediate payment to fix the problem. They get angry and threaten people with deportation if payment is not made immediately with electronic money transfers. Sometimes, scammers use special software to make it look like our 800 number is calling. Other times they leave a message to call a number that sounds exactly like our 800 number.

Remember, USCIS officials rarely call customers on the phone, and WE WILL NEVER ASK FOR PAYMENT OVER THE PHONE. If we need payment, we will send a letter on official stationery requesting payment. If you receive a call like this, hang up and report it to the Federal Trade Commission at" - USCIS


03/28/2016: STEM Designated Degree Program List Effective May 10, 2016

The STEM Designated Degree Program list is a complete list of fields of study that DHS considers to be science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields of study for purposes of the 24-month STEM optional practical training extension described at 8 CFR 214.2(f). Under 8 CFR 214.2(f)(10)(ii)(C)(2), a STEM field of study is a field of study “included in the Department of Education’s Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomy within the two-digit series containing engineering, biological sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences, or a related field. In general, related fields will include fields involving research, innovation, or development of new technologies using engineering, mathematics, computer science, or natural sciences (including physical, biological, and agricultural sciences).” - ICE

03/24/2016: Reminder for H-4 Applicants When Traveling Abroad

"USCIS would like to remind individuals applying for a change of status to H-4 that if you travel abroad before we approve your Form I-539, Change of Status (COS) application, we will consider your application to be abandoned. This means we will deny your COS application. If you filed your Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and travel abroad before your COS is approved, it will be considered abandoned, along with your I-539 application. This will result in a denial of your Form I-765 even if you are re-admitted as an H-4 nonimmigrant. If re-admitted as an H-4 nonimmigrant, you would need to file a new Form I-765, with fee, in order to apply for employment authorization." - USCIS

03/22/2016: Brussels Attacks Fuel Debate Over Migrants in a Fractured Europe

"It did not take long. Almost as soon as the bombs went off in Brussels on Tuesday morning, the new act of terrorism in the heart of Europe was employed in the bitter debate about the influx of migrants from the Middle East and North Africa.

Even before the identities and nationalities of the attackers were known, there was an immediate association in popular discourse between the attacks on the airport and subway station in Brussels and the migrant crisis. Right-wing politicians and average citizens alike raised concerns that groups like the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for the attacks, are slipping radicalized recruits, including European jihadists, through the vast migrant stream and into an unprepared Europe." - NYT

03/21/2016: USCIS I-485 Processing Statistics from 10/1 to 12/31/2015

It is worth noting that USCIS issues far more family-based green cards than employment-based (about 3X). Humanitarian-based I-485 approvals are also higher than EB petitions including entrepreneur and investor visas.

Number of I-485 Applications October 1 - December 31, 2015
  Received Approved Denied Pending
Family-based 81,147 71,601 7,153 199,422
Employment-based 33,828 24,836 1,422 125,161
Humanitarian-based 37,343 34,316 1,190 87,951
Others 7,956 5,924 868 23,803
Total 160,274 136,677 10,633 436,337

03/21/2016: USCIS I-526 Processing Statistics 2008 to 2016Q1

Number of I-526 Immigrant Petitions by Alien Entrepreneurs 2008-2016 
Fiscal Year Received Approved Denied Pending
2008 1,258 642 120 853
2009 1,031 1,265 208 514
2010 1,953 1,369 165 1,125
2011 3,805 1,571 372 3,347
2012 6,041 3,677 957 5,018
2013 6,346 3,699 943 7,131
2014 10,923 4,925 1,169 12,453
2015 14,373 8,756 1,051 17,367
2016 Q1 (Oct - Dec) 6,277 1,257 372 21,988

03/18/2016: European Union Reaches Deal With Turkey to Return New Asylum Seekers

The European Union and Turkey reached a deal on Friday to return new asylum seekers who arrive in Greece from Turkey, a significant step in the bloc’s effort to deal with the migrant crisis that has roiled the Continent. The effectiveness of the plan, which will begin on Sunday, was also unclear given that there are many alternative routes into Europe.

The deal calls for Turkey to receive about $6.6 billion in aid to help organizations look after the nearly three million migrants already in Turkey, promises of visa-free travel for its citizens in most of Europe, and the eventual resumption of negotiations with Turkey on membership in the European Union. The European Union also will resettle one Syrian from a camp in Turkey in exchange for each Syrian who used an irregular route to reach Greece. - NYT

03/16/2016: USCIS Will Accept H-1B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2017 Beginning April 1, 2016

On April 1, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year (FY) 2017 cap. U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming. The congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas for FY 2017 is 65,000. The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed for individuals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the 65,000 cap.

USCIS expects to receive more than 65,000 petitions during the first five business days of this year’s program. The agency will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public when the H-1B cap has been met. - USCIS

03/11/2016: DHS Launches STEM OPT Hub for International Students

Today SEVP launched a STEM OPT Hub on DHS’ Study in the States. The Hub will include resources for students, designated school officials, and employers. SEVP monitors approximately one million international students pursuing academic or vocational studies (F and M visa holders) in the United States and their dependents. It also certifies schools and programs that enroll these students. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) monitors exchange visitors (J visa holders) and their dependents, and oversees exchange visitor programs.

03/10/2016: Wall Street's Frustrated Chinese Bankers Are Heading Back Home

"All three are among the many Chinese who came to the U.S. to study business, find work and make salaries beyond reach at home and are now headed in the opposite direction. As U.S. firms have cut bonuses and positions, and China’s sector explodes in sophistication and pay, some are migrating back. And while this may seem like an odd moment to repatriate, given the mounting financial jitters back home, two forces are driving the move: the fact that many feel they’re hitting a bamboo ceiling in the U.S. and the belief that Chinese growth, while slowing, is shifting into areas that will benefit bankers." - Bloomberg

03/09/2016: April 2016 Visa Bulletin Released

The Department of State has released the Visa Bulletin for April 2016. The table below shows "Final Action (Approval)" cut-off dates and movement from the previous month, for all major employment-based categories. To see filing cut-off dates or family-sponsored categories please go to the Visa Bulletin page linked above. For historical data, predictions and more information please refer to our Visa Bulletin Toolbox.

Chargeability Preference Cut-off Date (Y-M-D) Movement (Days)
China Second (EB2) 2012-09-01 31
India Second (EB2) 2008-11-08 24
ROW Third (EB3) 2016-02-15 45
China Third (EB3) 2013-08-15 75
India Third (EB3) 2004-08-08 24
Mexico Third (EB3) 2016-02-15 45
Philippines Third (EB3) 2008-05-01 47

03/09/2016: DOS Annouces EB-5 Investor Assistance Desk

"Those with questions related to an approved I-526 petition can now correspond with the National Visa Center (NVC) using a dedicated e-mail address: [email protected]. The newly created EB-5 Investor Assistance Desk is part of NVC's continuing efforts to improve customer service.

Upon receipt of an approved petition from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, NVC's Investor Assistant Desk will oversee the addition of potential derivative applicants and creation of fee bills. Customers will e-mail their derivative's relationship documents to [email protected], which can also be used for inquiries on derivatives, the Child Status Protection Act, and general case status.

The Investor Assistance Desk does not change NVC's process for documentarily qualifying an immigrant visa case and scheduling an interview overseas. All visa applicants, including those in the EB-5 category, should submit their financial, civil, and supporting documents to NVC in one package following the instructions available at: The goal of NVC's Investor Assistance Desk is to provide more transparent and effective customer service through a team specially trained in the I-526 petition." - National Visa Center (NVC)

03/09/2016: Advanced Copy of STEM OPT Final Rule

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is amending its F-1 nonimmigrant student visa regulations on optional practical training (OPT) for certain students with degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) from U.S. institutions of higher education. Specifically, the final rule allows such F-1 STEM students who have elected to pursue 12 months of OPT in the United States to extend the OPT period by 24 months (STEM OPT extension). This 24-month extension effectively replaces the 17-month STEM OPT extension previously available to certain STEM students. The rule also improves and increases oversight over STEM OPT extensions by, among other things, requiring the implementation of formal training plans by employers, adding wage and other protections for STEM OPT students and U.S. workers, and allowing extensions only to students with degrees from accredited schools. As with the prior 17-month STEM OPT extension, the rule authorizes STEM OPT extensions only for students employed by employers who participate in E-Verify. The rule also includes the “Cap-Gap” relief first introduced in a 2008 DHS regulation for any F-1 student with a timely filed H-1B petition and request for change of status.

DATES: This rule is effective May 10, 2016, except the addition of 8 CFR 214.16, which is effective from May 10, 2016, through May 10, 2019. - DHS

03/07/2016: Americans Really Don't Like Immigration, New Survey Finds

Sixty-one percent of Americans agree that "continued immigration into the country jeopardizes the United States," according to a new poll commissioned by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney that revealed pessimism across a wide range of issues. The degree of concern is remarkable considering that the question was about all immigration, including the legal kind. Even Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said he supports legal immigration into the U.S. - Bloomberg

03/04/2016: CBP Introduces Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS)

EVUS is the online system used by nationals of China holding a 10-year B1/B2, B1 or B2 (visitor) visa periodically to update basic biographic information to facilitate their travel to the United States. In addition to a valid visa, such travelers will be required to complete an EVUS enrollment to be admitted into the United States. Beginning in November 2016, Chinese travelers will need to go online and update their information in order to comply with EVUS requirements. As the system is developed and the launch date gets closer, the U.S. Government will ensure that information about the EVUS process is readily available. - CBP

03/03/2016: OPT STEM Extension Final Rule Approved by OMB

Last hurdle of OPT Extension has been cleared and DHS is expected to publish the final rule shortly.

RIN: 1653-AA72 Received Date: 02/05/2016 
Title: Improving and Expanding Training Opportunities for F-1 Nonimmigrant Students with STEM Degrees and Cap-Gap Relief for All Eligible F-1 Students 
Agency/Subagency: DHS / USICE   Stage: Final Rule 
Concluded Action: Consistent with Change  Concluded Date: 03/02/2016 

03/03/2016: E.U. Leader Sends Economic Migrants a Blunt Warning: Don’t Come

As Europe’s migrant crisis spiraled toward yet another humanitarian catastrophe, a European Union leader issued a stark warning Thursday to millions in search of economic opportunity: Stay away. "Do not come to Europe," said Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, which represents the bloc’s 28 leaders. "Do not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing. Greece or any other European country will no longer be a transit country." - NYT

03/03/2016: DHS Launches Known Employer Pilot Program

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has created the Known Employer pilot to assess a way to streamline the process for employers seeking to hire certain workers through employment-based visa categories. By modifying the process by which USCIS reviews an employer’s eligibility to sponsor individuals under certain immigrant and nonimmigrant visa classifications, the Known Employer pilot is expected to reduce paperwork, costs and delays in processing these benefit requests. - USCIS

03/03/2016: Flight School Student from Egypt May be Deported after Trump Threat

"A flight student from Egypt is facing deportation from the United States after being investigated by federal agents for posting on his Facebook page that he was willing to serve a life sentence for killing Donald Trump and that the world would thank him. While U.S. prosecutors have not charged 23-year-old Emadeldin Elsayed with a crime, immigration authorities arrested him last month at the Los Angeles-area flight school he attended and now are trying to deport him, attorney Hani Bushra said Wednesday." - ABC

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