Jose Medeiros was 17 when he was involved in a fight in 1981. He hit another person with a beer bottle. As a result, he received a six-year sentence, of which six months were spent in jail and six months in a halfway house. He has live crime free since, gotten married, and raised two children. In 2001, when Jose (still a green card holder) and his wife (a U.S. citizen) returned to the U.S. from a Bermuda vacation, immigration officials uncovered his criminal conviction from 30 years ago. Their nightmare began at that moment and only got worse over time.
Now considered an aggravated felon, Jose is being deported to Portugal - the country he left at age four with his parents and has never returned. In the mean time, he is suffering from a rare disease (MJD) that is weakening his muscle over time. The couple is still fighting the six-year legal battle even today.
DOL announced on June 2, 2008 that it is auditing all PERM plications filed by the largest immigration law firm in the nation. Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP, a leading player in global immigration services, employs over 250 attorneys and over 1000 professional specialists. According to Mercury News, Fragomen lawyers filed more than 3,600 labor certifications in 2004 - more than twice as many as its largest competitor. Its corporate clients include IBM, GE, Cisco, Intel and many others.
Regardless of the outcome, this unprecedented inquiry will certainly cause delay in processing thousands of PERM applications. So in the end, it is still the high-tech immigrant workers who will suffer, as always. With severe visa number retrogression, I-140 backlog, and H1B visa shortage to begin with, the PERM process is actually a rare bright spot in this lengthy green card process. But even that spot is dimming now, at least for those whose cases are caught in this audit.
Fragomen, with strong support from AILA and the business community, is working with DOL for a quick solution: "We are actively working to reach an agreement that will enable us to move forward quickly to a resolution and have DOL release cases from audit in the near future, so cases will be back on track in the routine process."
DOL's Employment and Training Administration (ETA) today published a proposal to eliminate the "Fax Back" service from Labor Condition Application For H-1b, H-1b1, and E-3 Nonimmigrants. The modifications being proposed to ETA Form 9035, 9035CP, and 9035E are primarily due to the elimination of the ``Fax Back'' system and converting exclusively to the electronic submission system except in rare cases of physical disability that prevents use of a computer. All three forms needed to be updated to eliminate all reference to the "Fax Back" system. Note that LCA is completely different from LC (Labor Certification) which is the first step in most green card applications.
According to the Inspector General's audit report, the FBI has not collected name check fees from some customers for years, including the NFL and MLB. In addition, these customers often require priority designations and consume the immediate attention of analysts who were working on other name check submissions. As shown in the table below, special event submissions exceeded 260,000 cases between 2003 and 2007. The NNCP may have lost between $376,000 and $9,322,340 in potential name check service fees.
The IG's office questions whether the FBI and U.S. taxpayers should be required to absorb the full cost for these customers' service requests. As a sign of change, NNCP said that Major League Baseball has agreed to pay for "some" of its name check services beginning in FY 2008. As a comparison, here is what you, a potential immigrant, is expected to pay to have your name check done:
The Department of State has revised its regulations regarding College and University Students. The Final Rule creates a new subcategory of the College and University Student category - "Student Interns." Participation in this new sub-category is open to foreign students enrolled and pursuing a degree at post-secondary academic institutions outside the United States. Student interns may participate in a student internship program for up to 12 months at each degree level. This final rule is effective July 21, 2008.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the new "Technical Instructions for Vaccination" to civil surgeons. These instructions are to be followed for vaccination requirements for all persons applying for adjustment of status for permanent U.S. residence, effective July 1, 2008. There are several significant changes to the existing requirements.
For general instructions for medical examination of AOS applicants, please see here.
"You've asked many questions. But most of all, you want to know when USCIS will complete your case. Let me try to address some of your concerns." - Jonathan "Jock" Scharfen, USCIS Acting Director. Read on.
Looking for a solution to the sagging housing market and troubled economy? How about inviting foreign citizens to retire in the U.S.? At least many realtors think it would work, and they are pushing for a "silver card," instead of "green card," in order to make it work.
"Millions of dollars would get spent in this country. It would be a boon to the U.S. economy - to real estate, people buying properties, the automobile industry, the restaurant industry, retail, airline travel, furniture makers, there are so many dimensions," said Mike, chairman of the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches.
But just like anything in immigration, there would have to be a great deal of debate. And just like many things in immigration, it could end up in nowhere. Read on.
USCIS has officially announced that beginning June 30, 2008, it will issue Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) valid for two years. A fact sheet (FAQ) was also released at the same time.
The new two-year EAD is only available to individuals who have filed I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, but are unable to become an LPR because an immigrant visa number is not currently available.
EB3 for all countries become "unavailable" next month. EB2 China and India remain standstill at April 1, 2004. All other EB2 categories are "current," however. Below is what DOS has to say:
"Based on the information available, it was been determined that the demand from "All Other Countries" for Second preference numbers, plus the amount of numbers available under China and India Second preference per-country limit, would be insufficient to utilize all available numbers under the annual limit for this category. Therefore, pursuant to Section 202(a)(5) of the Act, the unused numbers have been made available to China and India Second preference applicants. Since Section 203(e)(1) of the Act requires that such unused numbers be made available strictly in priority date order, the China and India applicants have been subject to the identical cut-off date. As there are more Employment Second preference applicants from India and the Indian applicants may have earlier priority dates, it is likely that Indian applicants will receive a larger portion of the available numbers than Chinese applicants."
USCIS announced today that on June 16, 2008, it will begin accepting Premium Processing Service requests for Forms I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) filed on behalf of certain alien workers who are nearing the end of their sixth year in H-1B nonimmigrant status.
USCIS is limiting Premium Processing Service for Form I-140 petitions that are filed on behalf of aliens:
See also: I-140 Premium Processing Fact Sheet
DOJ's Office of the Inspector General released an audit report of the FBI's security check procedures for immigration purposes. It offers a lot of useful information for a better understanding of the name check and fingerprint check processes. But more importantly, it is mostly true and honest. Here are a couple paragraphs as an example:
"Our audit found that, faced with the increasing volume of name check requests, the FBI's name check processes are inefficient and untimely, rely on outdated technology, and provide little assurance that pertinent and derogatory information is being retrieved and transmitted to customer agencies."
"We found that as of March 2008 the FBI had over 327,000 pending USCIS name check requests, with 90 percent over 30 days old and some requests pending for over 3 years."
It is a long document but definitely worth reading.
Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security, revealed in a June 9th speech that USCIS will start issuing EADs valid for two years, starting later this month.
"I'm also pleased to announce that we will be extending the validity period of the employment authorization documents that we issue to individuals who are waiting adjustment of status to lawful permit residenture or in colloquial phrase, the green card."
"Currently, adjustment applications are granted employment authorization documents with only a one year maximum validity. Beginning later this month, we'll start issuing these documents with a two-year validity period for aliens who are waiting adjustment of status if their application is expected to be pending for more than a year."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is making changes to the Visa Waiver Program to implement the electronic system for travel authorization (ESTA). The interim final rule will be published tomorrow, June 9th, in the Federal Register with a 60-day comment period. Once ESTA is mandatory, all VWP travelers must either obtain travel authorization in advance of travel under ESTA or obtain a visa prior to traveling to the United States.
DHS anticipates that the Secretary of Homeland Security will issue the official notice in the Federal Register in November 2008, for implementation of the mandatory ESTA requirements on or before January 12, 2009.
DHS announced today the launch of three initiatives - the Global Entry pilot program, the Passenger Service Program, and an expanded Model Ports Initiative - intended to strengthen customer service at U.S. ports of entry.
"We're committed to a more welcoming environment for the roughly one million foreign travelers arriving at our ports each day. These initiatives will reduce much of the frustration and anxiety we encounter, and make it easier on our frontline personnel to focus even more on actual security and criminal risks," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
USCIS announced yesterday it has centralized initial processing of all applications for naturalization (Form-400) at its National Benefits Center in Missouri. This internal administrative change will not change where applicants file their naturalization applications. Applicants will continue to file their naturalization applications (N-400), including all supporting documents and fees with the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over their place of residence.
USCIS will send applicants a notice when the Service Center transfers their application to the National Benefits Center for initial processing.
While transferring Form I-751 from the Nebraska and Texas Service Centers to California and Vermont, respectively, USCIS issued notices that contain the following phrase: "CRI89 approved removal of conditions (I89)." That statement means that the biometric portion of the case has been successfully transferred; it does not, however, mean that the petition itself was approved.
While USCIS is in the process of changing the language in the transfer notice, a substantial number of notices have already been mailed containing the potentially confusing statement. Any petitioner who may have received such a notice should be aware that at the time the I-751 was transferred, USCIS had not yet adjudicated (approved or denied) the case
Tech giant Google submitted 300 H-1B visa applications for FY 2009, but 90 were rejected, according to their official blog. Nationally, about 163,000 applications were filed to compete for 85,000 visas, so the end result is that thousands of highly skilled foreign talents will have to go elsewhere. Here is what Google has to say:
"Although we're committed to hiring outstanding American candidates, Google hires employees based on skills and qualifications, not on nationality. Many times our strongest candidates are Americans; in fact, about nine out of ten of our U.S.-based employees are citizens or permanent residents. But if we're to remain an innovative company -- one that is creating jobs in the U.S. every day -- we also need to hire exceptional candidates who happen to have been born elsewhere."
"Simply put, restricting Google and other tech companies from employing the best and brightest minds is restrictive to our ability to grow and innovate."
"We continue to urge the U.S. government to raise the H-1B cap, to ensure that we and other American companies are able to attract, hire, and retain the world's top talent."
As the result of a class action settlement, Kaplan, et al. v. Chertoff, et al., CV 06-5304, USCIS will expedite I-485 (commonly referred to as 'green card' applications) and N-400 (Application for Naturalization) of current or former Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries if the application has been pending with USCIS for more than six months. Expedited processing includes USCIS requesting an accelerated FBI Name Check and prioritizing any USCIS internal actions, such as scheduling an interview. For more information, please visit the Q&A, or the settlement notice.
Speaking of irony, how about this one: "With 670 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border fence slated for completion by year's end, construction companies in Texas are questioning the feasibility of completing such a project without immigrant labor." "Is it possible to construct a wall without undocumented workers?" "It's probably borderline impossible to be honest with you." - Valley Morning Star
In just over two weeks, DHS officials published three blog entries in the Leadership Journal to defend their E-Verify program, which has been widely criticized. An interesting read.
The U.S. Department of Labor today announced that it has begun auditing all permanent labor certification applications filed by attorneys at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy LLP. The department has information indicating that in at least some cases the firm improperly instructed clients who filed permanent labor certification applications to contact their attorney before hiring apparently qualified U.S. workers.
According to Computerworld, a suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., by the Immigration Reform Law Institute, joined by a few other anti-H1B groups, to challenge USCIS' decision to extend the Optional Practical Training (OPT) for certain students from 12 to 29 months. They claimed that the administration did not have legal authority to make such policy change. Stay tuned.
Immigration has been, and will likely remain, a hot topic in the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Australia for a long time. But Japan might join the club soon, according to this Washington Post article:
"Now Japan faces a much more fundamental threat to its future -- demographic decline that experts say will delete 70 percent of its workforce by 2050....Inside the government, there is growing agreement that Japan can head off disastrous population decline by significantly increasing immigration....Yet among highly developed countries, Japan has always ranked near the bottom in the percentage of foreign-born residents. In the United States, about 12 percent are foreign-born; in Japan, just 1.6 percent."
Following Q&A #1 published on April 4, USCIS recently released a second round of questions and answers to provide essential guidance and more specific details on the extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT is now extended from 12 to 29 months for qualified F-1 students with a degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) who are employed by businesses enrolled in the E-Verify program.
Since many students may lose their status before they can start under the H-1B program, the interim final rule also addresses this "Cap Gap" issue by automatically extending the period of stay and work authorization for all F-1 students with pending H-1B petitions. In addition, the rule will implement certain programmatic changes, including allowing students to apply for OPT within 60 days of graduation.
USCIS announced today that it has revised the Application for Temporary Protected Status (Form I-821). It is used by individuals to apply for TPS for the first time, as well as by aliens applying to re-register for TPS. USCIS will accept previous editions of the form through June 26, 2008. Beginning on June 27, the agency will only accept the revised form (with the Oct. 17, 2007 revision date), and will reject all requests using previous editions of the form.
USCIS will soon be revising the filing instructions for the Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (Form I-751) to require filing at the California or Vermont Service Centers, where all Forms I-751 are currently adjudicated. Form I-751 is used by individuals who were granted conditional residential status through marriage to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident and who desire to petition USCIS to remove the conditions on their residence.
Washington Post story: Surrounded by high-tech entrepreneurs, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he would expand visas for immigrants at the same time he would propose legislation cracking down on illegal immigration.
Shellye Archambeau, CEO of the software company MetricStream, put it this way: "We should give them a diploma and staple a visa right at the same time, so they can stay," prompting applause from the audience, "The key point here is immigration has fueled the growth and innovation of this country since its founding."
Record crowds of immigrants - more than 18,000 in all - took citizenship oaths here Thursday, a showing credited to rising fees, a heated debate over illegal immigration and one of the brand-new Americans raising their hands. Read the
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered a speech after accepting an honorary doctor of laws degree from UPenn:
"Every year, Congress shuts the door to hundreds of thousands of doctors, scientists, engineers and artists from around the world who want to come here," he said. "This is the greatest case of national self-sabotage and attempted suicide that I can imagine."
U.S. Customs and Border Protection signed a joint agreement yesterday with the government of the Netherlands to develop a process to integrate CBP's Global Entry program with the Dutch "Privium" program to facilitate travel of U.S. and Dutch citizens between the two countries.
The Global Entry pilot will kick off for U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents on June 10 at the three initial airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, and Washington Dulles International Airport. CBP started taking online applications May 12. It is expected that citizens of the Netherlands will be invited to apply by the end of 2008 or early next year.
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A decade-long $2 million study has found that children of immigrants to the New York region are doing better than their parents in terms of education and earnings - even outperforming native-born Americans in many cases.
"Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age," was published this month by Harvard University Press and the Russell Sage Foundation. The study focused on five groups of immigrants, and found broad similarities among adult children of them: They were overwhelmingly fluent in English; were less occupationally segregated than their parents; lived longer with their parents than native-born Americans; and were firmly rooted in the United States. For example, the Russian and Chinese second-generation adults had higher high school and college graduation rates than, and earned as much as, native-born whites their age.
"One important reason why, according to the authors, is that even poor, uneducated immigrants have often 'shown that they have the drive, ambition, courage and strength to move from one nation to another,' and transmit their determination to their children." - New York Times article.
AILA reported that around early 2008, approximately one million I-94 Arrival-Departure cards were misprinted by missing one digit in the card number. A normal I-94 card should consist 11 digits. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that the defective I-94 cards have been recalled and replaced, but if yours is one of those defective cards, you should replace it ASAP with CBP or at a Port of Entry. Calgary Airport in Canada has reportedly issued some of the cards, but other POE's might have done so as well. However, we have not seen any official announcement from the CBP regarding this issue as of today.
According to Compete America, U.S. senate approved an amendment to the supplemental appropriation bill to offer short term relief to people stuck in the employment-based (EB) green card backlog. The provisions would recapture unused immigrant visa numbers from previous years, and also allow early filing of EB I-485's. Note that it has not become law yet, but it is a big step forward.
One month after Jeff Cafferty's "goons and thugs" comments, CNN president Jim Walton apologized in a letter to Chinese ambassador to the United States Zhou Wenzhong:
"CNN has the highest respect for Chinese people around the world and we have no doubt that there was genuine offense felt by them over the Jack Cafferty commentary ... On behalf of CNN I'd like to apologize to the Chinese people for that."
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) recently introduced H.R.6039, which would allow masters and Ph.D. level graduates from U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to obtain green cards without waiting in long lines, if they have job offers from U.S. employers.
"More than 50% of the graduates from U.S. universities in masters and Ph.D. programs in science and engineering are foreign born," noted Rep. Zoe Lofgren. "If we want our economy to continue competing in the global market, we have to retain these foreign students so they compete with us instead of against us in other countries. These men and women are the innovators of tomorrow, and we aren't the only ones looking to retain their talents.
USCIS Acting Director, Jonathan "Jock" Scharfen, posted a journal entry to discuss the fee increase and immigration backlog processing. This department journal is more like an official blog for DHS leaders to communicate to the general public. The good thing about it is that you can leave comments, anonymously, to voice your opinion.
There has been unofficial reports that USCIS is starting to reference the AACRAO EDGE database while evaluating the equivalence of an applicant's foreign degree to a U.S. degree. AACRAO stands for American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, which maintains the EDGE (Electronic Database for Global Education).
According to AACRAO, ultimately every educational system in the world will be included as an EDGE profile. The database currently has 126 country profiles, and is being expanded regularly.
EDGE is available to institutions and government agencies by annual subscription. Its website offers a preview - for Ghana - and the amount of information is indeed impressive. Each EDGE profile includes:
Please stay tuned for follow-up reports when more information becomes available.
Both China and India EB2 moved forward by 3 months to April 1, 2004. But all EB3 categories remain stand-still. See the latest visa bulletin and progress chart here.
The United States Geological Survey reported that an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.9 occurred 90 km (55 miles) WNW of Chengdu, Sichuan, China and 1545 km (960 miles) SW of BEIJING, Beijing, China at 12:28 AM MDT, May 12, 2008 (2:28 PM local time in China). The magnitude and location may be revised when additional data and further analysis results are available. There have been no reports of damage. The tremor was felt as far away as Beijing and Shanghai and the Thai capital Bangkok. (4:50 am EST)
Update 12:40pm: More than 8,500 people have been killed by the quake, including children and students still in classrooms. The death toll is likely to rise when rescuers dig through collapsed buildings.
The results of a months-long investigation will appear Sunday, May 11, in The Washington Post and on Sunday's 60 Minutes, 7 p.m. ET/PT. Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and Amy Goldstein, joined by 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, uncovers the neglectful conditions and inadequate medical treatment in a U.S. government-run prison system that has caused the deaths of some detainees.
TN nonimmigrants are Canadian and Mexican citizens who seek temporary entry as professionals to the United States. This rule proposes to increase the maximum allowable period of admission for TN nonimmigrants from one year to three years, and allow otherwise eligible TN nonimmigrants to be granted an extension of stay in increments of up to three years instead of the current maximum of one year. TD nonimmigrants (``NAFTA Dependent'') are the spouses and unmarried minor children of TN nonimmigrants. TD nonimmigrants who would otherwise be eligible for TD nonimmigrant status would be eligible to be admitted and seek extensions for the same period of time as the TN principal.
Written comments must be submitted on or before June 9, 2008.
USCIS is proposing to extend the maximum period of admission for TN workers from one year to three years, the same term that USCIS currently may grant to H-1B specialty occupation workers. TN status is available to Canadian and Mexican citizens with a minimum of a bachelor's degree, or appropriate professional credentials, who work in certain professions such as accountants, engineers, attorneys, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers.
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced a bill (H. R. 5921) to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the per country level for employment-based immigrants and to end the spill-over of unused immigrant visa numbers between employment-based and family-sponsored categories.
The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will take place from August 8-24, 2008, in Beijing and six other cities in China, including Hong Kong, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, Shenyang, and Tianjin. We provide here a list of useful websites for U.S. citizens, Chinese immigrants and other nationals who plan to travel to China during the games:
This argument is everywhere: illegal immigrants broke the law (thus the "illegal" part), so they should be arrested and deported. However, is it really a criminal offense for being in this country without authorization?
According to a Morristown Green Star-Ledger story, while entering the country illegally is considered a federal misdemeanor, simply lacking legal immigration status is a civil violation. The office of U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie issued a written statement addressing criticism of his recent remarks regarding illegal immigration by saying that:
"'Illegal presence' as the offense is called, is not a violation of the U.S. criminal code. A person cannot be sent to prison for being here without authorization from immigration authorities. It is, however, a violation of civil immigration laws, for which the federal government can impose civil penalties, namely deportation."
"People obtain legal visas to enter the U.S. for work, study or tourism and then simply remain in the country after the visa expires. Of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, studies show about 40 percent to 50 percent came here legally but are now illegal immigrants."
"'Improper entry by an alien' as it is called, is a violation of Title 8 of the U.S. criminal code punishable by a fine of between $50 and $250 and/or a maximum of six months in jail... It is considered difficult to prosecute because unless authorities catch someone in the act of crossing the border, it is easier to just deport them than spend the time and money needed to prove how they crossed the border."
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