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
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.
USCIS monthly newsletter for October, 2008
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.
|Most exchange visitors||$100||$180|
|Au Pair, Camp Counselors, Summer Work/Travel Program||$35||$35|
|Government sponsored exchange visitors||$0||$0|
|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|
The Q&A was revised on October 21, 2008
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
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.
USCIS Community Relations published the Q&A from the September National Stakeholder Meeting. It addressed several important questions, including:
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).
Visa cut-off dates for November 2008 have just been released. Some highlights:
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.
View of the U.S. immigration system from the eyes of an immigration judge - TwinCities Story
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
DOS just released the instructions for the 2010 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program - DV-2010 (Green Card Lottery).
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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
"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
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.
EB-5 Investor Visas: Opportunities and Challenges, Friday, September 26, 2-3 pm EST. If interested, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org specifying which call you would like to join. Participants will receive a return email with the call-in information.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
CIS Ombudsman today announced a significant decline in the number of pending FBI name checks for individuals seeking immigration benefits in the United States.
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."
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
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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