The notice does not address what the CIS will do about change of status requests that have already been denied. AILA is seeking further guidance from the CIS on that point.
The notice is fairly limited. For example, the H-1B petition must be received by the CIS (not filed) by July 30. Since it can take a CIS service center several days to receipt in a case, this means that there is only a short window of time to file an H-1B petition if one has not been filed already. For that reason the notice really only benefits H-1B petitions that have already been filed and are currently pending.
DOS to End Revalidations in U.S., Except for Certain Diplomatic and Official Visas
The U.S. DOS issued a public notice concerning the discontinuation of the domestic visa reissuance service for certain nonimmigrant visas in the United States. Nonimmigrant visas issued under section 101(a)(15) C, E, H, I, L, O and P of the Immigration and Nationality Act will be affected by this suspension. DOS will will not accept new applications from applicants seeking to renew C, E, H, I, L, O or P visas after July 16, 2004. To be processed, applications must be received by our application acceptance facility in St. Louis by July 16, 2004. Any application received after this date will be returned, using the sender’s required self-addressed, stamped envelope or pre-paid courier airbill. Please note that we ceased processing applications for reissuance of A-3, G-5 and NATO-7 visas in the United States in September 2002. DOS will continue to receive applications for reissuance of qualifying diplomatic and official visas in Washington, DC in (classifications A-1, A-2, G-1, G- 2, G-3, G-4, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5 and NATO-6).
22 CFR 41.111(b) authorizes the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Visa Services or any other person he or she designates to reissue nonimmigrant visas, in their discretion. The original purpose of this authority was to provide nonimmigrant services to foreign government officials and to international organization employees. Over time, the authority was extended to include reissuances in the C, E, H, I, L, O and P visa classifications. DOS states that it recognizes that the domestic reissuance of business-related visas to applicants in the United States has been a convenience to the international business community. However, DOS is discontinuing the reissuance of visas in these categories because of increased interview requirements and the requirement of Section 303 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act (Pub. L. 107- 173, 116 Stat. 543) that U.S. visas issued after October 26, 2004, include biometric identifiers. According to the Department, it is not feasible to collect the biometric identifiers in the United States.
In order to mitigate the inconvenience to applicants, DOS will direct all visa adjudicating posts to accommodate on a priority basis applicants who would have benefited from their visa reissuance services. Visa interview appointments may be made for some posts through Internet sites or by telephone.
DOS encourages all applicants to apply in their home countries. Their visa adjudicating posts in Mexico and Canada have some capacity to accept nonimmigrant visa applications from stateside applicants. In all cases, applicants should obtain an interview appointment before traveling.
CRS Reports on Foreign Physicians and the J Visa Waiver Program (via AILA)
The Congressional Research Service reviews the current state of the J visa Interested Government Agency (IGA) waiver program for foreign physicians. Included are summaries of various IGA waiver programs, legislative history, and proposed legislation for extension of the Conrad 30 program.
Text of “Save American Jobs Through L Visa Reform Act of 2004” (via AILA)
Text of H.R. 4415, “Save American Jobs Through L Visa Reform Act of 2004” introduced by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL). The bill would eliminate the L-1B program, impose a cap on L-1A visas, remove the dual intent provision for L visas and would include a sense of Congress that employers should pay L-1s the higher of the prevailing or the actual wage.
DHS Announces US-VISIT Prime Contractor Award to Accenture LLP
DHS announces the US-VISIT Prime Contractor award to Accenture LLP for services including strategic support, design and integration activities, technical solutions, deployment activities, training, and organizational change management. The value of the award is for a minimum of $10 million and a maximum of $10 billion.
Text of Safe, Orderly Legal Visas and Enforcement (SOLVE) Act of 2004
Text of the Safe, Orderly Legal Visas Enhancement (SOLVE) Act (190K .PDF file) of 2004 introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Representatives Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). The Senate bill is S. 2381 and the House bill is H.R. 4262.
New CIS Filing Fee Schedule as of April 30, 2004
A final regulation increases USCIS filing fees as proposed, and will take effect with respect to applications and petitions filed on or after April 30, 2004.
Click here for an overview of the new USCIS fee schedule.
This rule adjusts the fee schedule of the Immigration Examinations Fee Account (IEFA) for immigration benefit applications and petitions, as well as the fee for capturing biometric information of applicants or petitioners who apply for certain immigration benefits. Fees collected from persons filing immigration benefit applications are deposited into the IEFA and used to fund the full cost of providing immigration benefits; the full cost of providing similar benefits to asylum and refugee applicants; and the full cost of similar benefits provided to other immigrants, as specified in the regulation, at no charge. This rule adjusts the immigration benefit application fees by approximately $55 per application, and increases the biometric fee by $20, in order to ensure sufficient funding to process incoming applications. In addition, on January 24, 2003, and February 27, 2003, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) published two interim rules that first adjusted fees lower based on section 457 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, and then readjusted the fees to preexisting levels, based upon the repeal of section 457. Accordingly, this final rule will adopt the two interim rules as final without change, and will adopt the fee structure that was proposed on February 3, 2004.
DATES: This final rule is effective April 30, 2004. Applications or petitions mailed, postmarked, or otherwise filed, on or after this date require the new fee.
Members of Congress Ask for H-2B Processing to Resume for FY2004
An April 6 letter from 15 members of Congress asks the President to direct USCIS to resume H-2B visa processing for FY2004 while Congress works to enact a legislative solution. Although the H-2B bills are currently in flux in the Senate, the letter underscores the need for haste by both Congress and the Administration in order to Save Summer.
New Service Center Processing Times
DOS Cable Encourages Issuance of H-1B and H-2B Visas with Deferred Validity Dates (via AILA)
The Department of State cable encourages posts to issue visas with deferred validity dates in order to manage a “possible flood of applicants” for H-1B and H-2B visas for approved FY 2005 employment. Those posts which anticipate a rush of H-1B or H-2B applicants in the lead-up to FY 2005 may issue visas to I-129H beneficiaries prior to September 20, 2004 provided they are annotated as “not valid until ten days prior to petition validity date.” Posts are encouraged to stress to applicants and airline representatives that Department of Homeland Security still prohibits the entry of an alien on an H-1B or H-2B visa more than 10 days prior to employment start-date. The cable also provides a reminder that posts may continue to issue H-1B and H-2B visas for FY 2004 employment against approved I-129 petitions.
USCIS Experiments with Two Pilot Programs for Concurrent Adjudication and Expedited I-551 Production (via AILA)
CSC Director Don Neufeld announced at a March 31, 2004 AILA liaison meeting that the USCIS will be embarking on two new pilot programs to experiment with different approaches to processing.
Starting shortly, CSC will attempt to adjuducate all new concurrently filed EB-2, non- National Interest Waiver, I-140s and I-485s on a truly concurrent basis. Instead of a prima facie review, the I-140 will be adjudicated within 90 days, together with the I-485, provided fingerprints and name checks are cleared in time. The CSC also will be targeting previously-filed, non-NIW EB-2s, in order to bring their processing times down to match the pilot program processing. Additionally, the CSC will concurrently adjudicate pending adjustment/I-140 applications in all categories, in order to bring processing times to below one year; however, AILA was told to expect little movement on lone-filed I-140s during this push. This pilot project will be at only the CSC at this time.
The second pilot program, which already has started, involves I-90s filed electronically for the Los Angeles district only. When the applicant goes to the ASC for biometrics, the ASC will “push the button” to cause the I-551 card to be manufactured and mailed immediately. The cards will not be made at the ASCs, but the ASCs will be linked to the card facility. Again, this is for only electronically filed I-90s, and only for the Los Angeles district. Note that I-90s for children turning 14 cannot be filed electronically.
Senators Urge DHS to Delay Implementation of Visa Screen Regulations
A March 25, 2004 letter from leading members of the Senate Judiciary Committee urges the Secretary of Homeland Security to delay implementation of regulations under INA Section 343 to allow time for foreign nurses to complete the certification process and to give Congress and opportunity to address the issue.
Dallas District to Launch I-485 Filing Pilot Program (via AILA)
The Dallas District of USCIS will launch, on May 3, 2004, a pilot project whereby adjustment of status applications can be filed with an immediate interview and adjudication planned to be completed within 90 days. The appointment system that will underlie this project is expected to be implemented approximately April 13, 2004.
USCIS ANNOUNCES H-2B PROCEDURES – REACHES CAP
Washington, D.C.- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received enough H-2B petitions to meet this year’s congressionally mandated cap of 66,000 new workers. After March 9, 2004, USCIS will not accept any new H-2B petitions subject to the FY 2004 annual cap.
USCIS will use the following procedure for the remainder of FY 2004:
– USCIS will process all petitions received by the end of business on March 9, 2004.
– USCIS will return all petitions subject to the annual cap (along with the filing fee and, if applicable, the premium processing fee) that are filed after the end of business on March 9, 2004.
– Petitioners may re-submit or file new petitions when they have received labor certification approval for work to start on or after October 1, 2004.
– Petitions for current H-2B workers do not count towards the congressionally mandated H-2B cap. Accordingly, USCIS will continue to process petitions filed to:
– Extend the stay of a current H-2B worker in the United States.
– Change the terms of employment for current H-2B workers.
– Allow current H-2B workers to change or add employers.
USCIS Reaches H-1B Cap on February 17, 2004
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
February 17, 2004
USCIS ANNOUNCES NEW H-1B PROCEDURES – REACHES CAP
Washington, D.C.– U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received enough H-1B petitions to meet this year’s congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 new workers. After today, USCIS will not accept any new H-1B petitions for first-time employment subject to the FY 2004 annual cap.
USCIS has implemented the following procedure for the remainder of FY 2004:
– USCIS will process all petitions filed for first-time employment received by the end of business today;
– USCIS will return all petitions for first-time employment subject to the annual cap received after the end of business today;
– Returned petitions will be accompanied by the filing fee;
– Petitioners may re-submit their petitions when H-1B visas become available for FY 2005; and
– The earliest date a petitioner may file a petition requesting FY 2005 H-1B employment with an employment start date of October 1, 2004, would be April 1, 2004. Petitions for current H-1B workers do not count towards the congressionally mandated H-1B cap. Accordingly, USCIS will continue to process petitions filed to:
– Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
– Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
– Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
– Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.
USCIS also notes that petitions for new H-1B employment are not subject to the annual cap if the alien will be employed at an institution of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, or at a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization. USCIS will also continue to process H-1B petitions for workers from Singapore and Chile consistent with Public Laws 108-77 and 108-78.
USCIS Fact Sheet on Numbers of H-1B Petitions Approved
March, 2004 Visa Bulletin Released by U.S. Department of State
The March, 2004 Visa Bulletin is now available on-line from the U.S. DOS. Click here to read the bulletin.
USCIS Proposes Adjustment of the Immigration Benefit Application Fee Schedule
The USCIS has proposed an adjustment of its fee schedule. Affected filings would include applications and petitions, as well as the fee for capturing biometric information of applicants/petitioners who apply for certain immigration benefit applications and petitions. Filing fees collected from persons filing immigration benefit applications are used to fund the full cost of providing immigration benefits; the full cost of providing similar benefits to asylum and refugee applicants; and the full cost of similar benefits provided to other immigrants. This rule proposes to adjust the immigration benefit application fees by approximately $55 per application, and increases the biometric fee by $20, in order to ensure sufficient funding to process incoming applications.
Nearly 67 Percent of Available H-1B Visas Used During First Quarter of FY 2004 (via AILA)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced in a January 21, 2004 press release that, based upon its tabulations for the first quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2004, 43,500 H-1B cases that could count against the 65,000 cap have either been approved or are in the queue for adjudication. This figure is about 67 percent of the total number of H-1B visas available this fiscal year. The cap, which had been elevated to 195,000 for three years as a result of the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act, reverted back to 65,000 at the beginning of FY 2004, on October 1, 2003.
February, 2004 Visa Bulletin Released by U.S. Department of State
The February, 2004 Visa Bulletin is now available on-line from the U.S. DOS. Click here to read the bulletin.
January 7 – President Bush Introduces Immigration Reform
President Bush on Wednesday outlined his immigration reform proposal that would allow workers who are in the United States illegally to come forward and join a new temporary worker program.
Those now-illegal immigrants could then apply for permanent residence in the United States, although those in the temporary worker program would get no preference over other “Green Card” applicants from foreign countries, officials said.
“Out of common sense and fairness, our laws should allow willing workers to enter our country and fill jobs that Americans are not filling,” Bush said Wednesday.
Here are some highlights of the president’s initiative, according to several senior administration officials.
• The new temporary worker program. It would include a temporary visa for three years, and Bush will call for Congress to allow one renewal — so a six-year total for a temporary visa. Officials said they were open to allowing additional terms, subject to congressional debate and negotiation.
• This program would be open to prospective immigrants, but also to illegal immigrants in the United States, so long as these undocumented individuals could prove they were working in the United States as of the date the new policy becomes law. Officials say that requirement — having a job at the date of the new policy — would discourage a flood of new illegal immigration.
• Those who qualify as new “legal temporary workers” can apply for permanent residency, or Green Cards, under existing laws but would not receive any favorable treatment. The administration will, however, urge Congress to increase the current annual limit of issuing 140,000 Green Cards a year. The officials said how much of an expansion will be determined based on negotiations with Congress.
Officials reject the notion that the new program amounts to amnesty for illegal immigrants because they say there is no guarantee those who join the new temporary worker program would qualify for Green Cards, they would have no advantages if they do apply, and they would be expected to return to their country of birth when their temporary visa expired.
The new program, like other temporary visa programs, would be administered by the Department of Homeland Security in coordination with the Department of Labor and other government departments and agencies.
Fact sheet and Q&A from the White House regarding the President’s proposal for a temporary worker program.
US-VISIT Program to Begin Operations on Monday, January 5, 2003.
Starting today, most visitors arriving at U.S. airports and seaports will be fingerprinted and will have their pictures taken as part of the US-VISIT program to tighten border security. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge will be at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Monday morning to meet with some of the first people to go through the new system.
HHS Reinstates its J-Waiver Program
As of December 10, 2003, The Department of Health and Human Services is accepting applications for the waiver of the two-year foreign residence requirement of the Exchange Visitor Program based on clinical care practice in shortage areas for FY 2004. Please review new guidelines for submission of application, as there are additional requirements for employers.
DHS Suspends Re-Registration Requirements under NSEERS (via AILA)
Advance copy of Federal Register notice that will suspend the 30-day and 1-year re-registration requirements of Special Registration, provide for a waiver process for certain of NSEERS’ requirements, and remove the requirement for notification of certain changes for people subject to SEVIS.
CIS Reinstates VisaScreen Policy
On July 25, 2003, we reported that The Department of Homeland Security had released its final VisaScreen regulatory amendment for health care workers. The new regulations would have taken effect September 23, 2003. – Federal Register Vol. 68, No. 143 Friday, July 25, 2003
Then on July 29, 2003, we further reported that the DHS would exercise its discretion to waive the certification requirement for non-immigrants for a period of one year after the date of publication of the final rule on certifications.
Today, we have learned that the CIS has reinstated its former policy of requiring the completion of VisaScreen to be presented at the time of the Adjustment-of-Status decision (interview date), rather than the proposed rule of requiring evidence of the Visascreen at the time the Adjustment-of Status is filed. This is indeed good news for registered nurses and other allied health care providers.
Office of Immigration Statistics Releases Statistical Report for September 2003
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics has released its monthly statistical report for the month of September 2003, covering topics such as: inspections, immigration benefits, naturalization benefits, removals, investigations, border apprehensions, and asylum. Click on the above link to view the report.
December, 2003 Visa Bulletin Released by U.S. Department of State
The December, 2003 Visa Bulletin is now available on-line from the U.S. DOS. Click here to read the bulletin.
USCIS NCSC (800#) Planning to Restore Some Live Assistance Back to the Service Centers
The USCIS is planning to restore some direct contact to the Service Centers. The extent of the restoration has not yet been determined and is not expected until January. We will post additional information on BCIS Newsbreak as it becomes available.
Department of Homeland Security Unveils US-VISIT Program
On October 28, 2003, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security unveiled the capability it will have in place at airports and seaports on December 31, 2003, to process visitors holding visas as they enter the United States.
US-VISIT uses scanning equipment to collect “biometric identifiers,” such as fingerprints, in an inkless process, along with a digital photograph of the visitor. Together with the standard information gathered from a visitor about their identity and travel, the new program will verify the visitor’s identity and compliance with visa and immigration policies. The new procedures are expected to add just seconds to the entry and exit process.
The law requires that an automated entry/exit system be implemented at air and seaports by December 31, 2003; the 50 most highly trafficked land ports of entry by December 31, 2004; and all ports of entry by December 31, 2005.
DREAM Act is Approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
On Thursday, October 23, 2003, the U.S. Senate approved the DREAM Act. Among the provisions of the DREAM Act, it includes cancellation of removal and Adjustment of Status for certain students.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM), now moves to the full Senate for a vote. The House has yet to act on a similar bill. Under the Senate bill, undocumented immigrants who complete two years of military service or two years of college within six years of graduating from high school could become legal residents. They also would have to prove that they had lived in the United States for at least five years and that they entered the country before age 16.
The bill would repeal a federal law that bars states from charging in-state tuition rates to undocumented immigrants and would reduce their college costs. If approved by Congress, President Bush has indicated he will sign the legislation into law.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, insists the measure is necessary to help children whose parents put them in “a Catch-22 situation.” “They did not make the initial decision to enter the United States illegally,” said Hatch, who is co-sponsoring the measure with Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
We will provide updated information on the Act’s further progress as it becomes available.
CIS Reports on Total H-1B Usage for FY 2003
An October 22, 2003 CIS Fact Sheet reports on total H-1B usage for FY 2003, including the number of petitions filed, as well as the number of petitions approved for both continuing and initial employment.
Click here to read the H-1B fact sheet in its entirety.