Recent U.S. Immigration News Headlines

January, 2014 Visa Bulletin Released by U.S. Department of State (12/11/2013)

The January, 2014 Visa Bulletin is now available on-line from the U.S. DOS. This bulletin summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers for the month of January, 2014.

New USCIS Service Center Processing Times (11/01/2013)

The California, Missouri/NBC, Nebraska, Texas and Vermont Service Centers have released their revised service center processing times. Current as of November 1, 2013:

Current Vermont SC Processing Dates

Current California SC Processing Dates

Current Missouri/NBC Processing Dates

Current Nebraska SC Processing Dates

Current Texas SC Processing Dates

DHS Announces Expanded List of STEM Degree Programs (05/11/2012)

The Department of Homeland Security has announced an expanded list of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programs that will qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension

FY 2013 Current H-1B Cap Count. (05/11/2012)

USCIS updated its count of FY2013 cap-subject H-1B petitions & advanced degree cap-exempt petitions receipted. As of 5/11/2012, nearly 36,700 H-1B cap-subject petitions were receipted. Additionally, USCIS has receipted 14,800 H-1B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees. Current as of May 11, 2012.

FY 2012 Current H-2B Cap Count. (04/27/2012)

As of 4/27/2012, USCIS receipted 24,378 petitions toward the 33,000 H-2B cap amount for the second half of FY2012. This count includes 20,915 approved & 2,516 pending petitions. (04/27/2012)

District Court Blocks Implementation of H-2B Rules (04/27/2012)

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division, has blocked implementation  of U.S. DOL’s new H-2B Rules. (04/27/2012).

AAO Processing Time Report (5/1/2012)

The Administrative Office of Appeals (AAO) has released their processing report for May, 2012.

New Visa Fees In Effect (04/24/2012)

The U.S. State department has released its schedule of revised U.S.Visa Fees that became effective on April 13, 2012.

USCIS Announces E-Verify Self Test. (02/08/2012)

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced that Self Check Self Check, a free online service of E-Verify that allows workers to check their own employment eligibility status, is now available in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. Launched in March 2011 by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas, today’s announcement delivers on the goal of expanding Self Check nationally within one year.

DV 2012 Open until November 3, 2010. (10/05/2010)

The online registration for DV-2012 DV Lottery begins noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT -4), Tuesday, October 5, 2010, and ends noon, Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (GMT -4), Wednesday, November 3, 2010. All entries must be submitted electronically during the registration period, when applicants may access the Electronic DV Entry Form DS-5501 at Paper entries will not be accepted.

FY09 H-1B Petitioner List 

List of petitioners who received an approval in FY09 of Form I-129, requesting initial H-1B status for the beneficiary. Approximately 3,000 initial H-1B petitions are not accounted for on this list due to missing petitioner tax ID numbers. (04/20/2010).

BALCA Affirms Denial BALCA Affirms Denial for Failure to Prove Business Necessity

BALCA affirmed denial, finding employer failed to show business necessity where the requirement of a B.A. and 3 years experience in job offered for a Senior Software Engineer position exceeded assigned Job Zone SVP. Matter of Wissen, Inc., 2009-PER-00405 (04/15/2010).

H1B Announcement Healthcare USCIS Listening Session on the Impact of the Healthcare H-1B Memo

USCIS issued an executive summary of the 04/15/2010 listening session on the January 8, 2010 H-1B Memo’s impact on the healthcare industry. Principal themes included the structure of physician employment, staffing model, and individual professions. (04/19/2010)

DHS E-Verify Handbook for Clients of Designated Agents

DHS issued a handbook on using E-Verify as the client of designated agents. Designated agents use E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of another company’s employees. (04/15/2010).

HHS Maintains 2009 Poverty Guidelines at least through March 31, 2020 (03/23/2010)

On December 19, 2009, the President signed the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 (Pub. L. 111-118), which included a provision affecting the poverty guidelines. Section 1012 of the law states that:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall not publish updated poverty guidelines for 2010 under section 673(2) of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (42 U.S.C. 9902(2)) before March 1, 2010, and the poverty guidelines published under such section on January 23, 2009, shall remain in effect until updated poverty guidelines are published.

The Congressional Record (House) (December 16, 2009, p. H15370) provides the following explanation of Congressional action:

Section 1012 includes a provision to freeze the Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines at 2009 levels in order to prevent a reduction in eligibility for certain means-tested programs, including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and child nutrition, through March 1, 2010.

USCIS Announces FY 2010 H1B Cap Reached (12/22/2009)

As of December 21, 2009, USCIS has received sufficient petitions to reach the statutory cap for FY2010. USCIS has also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will reject cap-subject petitions for new H-1B specialty occupation workers seeking an employment start date in FY2010 that are received after December 21, 2009 USCIS will apply a computer-generated random selection process to all petitions that are subject to the cap and were received on December 21, 2009.

USCIS Releases Updated I-9 Manual for Employers (03/19/2009)

USCIS released an updated Handbook  for Employers with instructions for completing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification Form. The handbook’s revision date is 4/3/09.

USCIS releases New I-9 Form for Employers (11/14/2007)

On November 7, 2007, USCIS announced that a revised Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9) is available for use.

US State Department releases DV-2009 Diversity Lottery Instructions On-Line (08/27/2007)

See the U.S. State Department’s link for additional DV-2009 filing information.

USCIS Update on back-log Receipt Times (08/27/2007)

USCIS recently made available an 8/24/07 update on current receipting times at CSC, NSC, TSC, VSC and the USCIS Lockbox. USCIS acknowledges slow receipting of recently-filed petitions and applications. This USCIS memorandum explains their target dates for receipts.

USCIS Announces Revised Processing Procedures for I-485s 

On 7/17/07 USCIS announced revised processing procedures for I-485s filed by applicants whose priority dates are current under the July 2007 Visa Bulletin.

“The public reaction to the July 2 announcement made it clear that the federal government’s management of this process needs further review,” said Emilio Gonzalez, USCIS Director. “I am committed to working with Congress and the State Department to implement a more efficient system in line with public expectations.”

USCIS’s announcement today allows anyone who was eligible to apply under Visa Bulletin No. 107 a full month’s time to do so. Applications already properly filed with USCIS will also be accepted. The current fee schedule will apply to all applications filed under Visa Bulletin No. 107 through August 17, 2007. (The new fee schedule that becomes effective on July 30, 2007, will apply to all other applications filed on or after July 30, 2007).

Congresswoman Lofgren on Visa Bulletin Debacle (7/12/2007)

Rep. Lofgren Requests Written Response to Questions on Updated Visa Bulletin

Washington, D.C. – Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) today sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff requesting “all correspondence, e-mails, memoranda, notes, field guidance or other documentation relating to the issuance” of the “Update to July Visa Availability” on July 2, 2007. The letter contains thirteen separate questions and requests for information relevant to the issuance of the updated Visa Bulletin.

“The Department’s unprecedented decision to reject adjustment of status applications has caused needless hardship and disruption to countless immigrants,” noted Rep. Zoe Lofgren. “It has also come to my attention that USCIS began returning visa numbers to the State Department as early as Thursday, July 5, 2007, due to their inability to review applications effectively. The Department of Homeland Security has once again demonstrated its inability to complete even its core missions. This debacle demonstrates the need for more transparency and oversight of the department’s operations and procedures.”

Update on AILF’s Legal Action Center Visa Bulletin Litigation (via AILA – Updated 7/10/07)

AILF’s Legal Action Center has received unprecedented and enthusiastic response to their plaintiff identification effort. The potential plaintiff questionnaires and material are rolling in from all over the country. They are continuing to review the material from interested applicants.

The response has been so strong that currently AILF does not need any more potential plaintiffs who submitted an adjustment application for receipt in July, unless the individuals have an unusual situation or especially compelling facts, such as an aging-out child. At this time, AILF also would like to hear from the “non-filers” — people who did not and do not plan to submit an adjustment application for receipt in July but would have done so “but for” the DOS and USCIS actions. These individuals will represent a separate class of plaintiffs. And they would like to hear from more “other worker” adjustment applicants who applied in June, even if they have not yet received a rejection notice. These individuals will represent a separate class as well.

If the lawsuit is successful, the court will certify classes, and all people who meet the class descriptions will receive the relief the court orders. The class members will not need to “sign up” with AILF to enjoy those rights.

Regarding “non-filers” – AILF will include a class of people who would have submitted their adjustment applications for receipt in July, “but for” the government’s actions. The government may try to, or the court may want to treat this class differently from the class of people who submitted applications for receipt in July. Our aim is to do the best possible for both groups.

How soon will AILF file the law suit? Very soon. It is not easy or quick to prepare class action litigation involving numerous people and numerous claims, but they are working quickly because of the urgency of these events for so many people.

Injunction? AILF knows many people want a quick resolution, as do all of us. A temporary or ill-conceived order might create more chaos and confusion than evidenced in late June/early July. And the government presumably would immediately appeal, creating even more confusion about whether applications were being accepted. By contrast, AILF intends to seek an injunction that will be forward-looking and will not create another crisis situation applicants or the government.

June filers – If you had a priority date that would not have been current until July but sent in your adjustment application to arrive in June: Reports are that some people tried to get a jump on things by sending in their application to arrive in June for a July filing. Our understanding is that USCIS will reject these applications because they were filed too early. AILF may not be able to protect such filers in this lawsuit. Consideration should be given to re-filing these applications, even if a rejection notice has not been received.

DOS Announces that EB Visa Numbers are Unavailable (07/02/2007)

In an unprecedented move, the U.S. Department of State, in conjunction with USCIS announced that effective Monday, 7/2/07, there will be no further authorizations in response to requests for EB preference cases. Numbers will once again be available to these chargeability areas beginning 10/1/07. See the DOS Update on July visa availability. A USCIS Update announced that effective 7/2/07 the Service is rejecting I-485s for applicants whose priority date is not current under the DOS update on July visa availability.

Cloture Vote Fails; Reid Pulls Bill From Senate Consideration(6/07/2007)

On 6/7/07, following two unsuccessful motions (38K .PDF File) to invoke cloture and end debate, Majority Leader Reid withdrew the comprehensive immigration reform bill from consideration on the Senate floor.

New USCIS Fees to Take Effect July 30, 2007 (5/29/2007)

USCIS announces that its new, dramatically increased, fee schedule will take effect 7/30/07. The notice, which should be published in the Federal Register shortly, will include some changes from the proposed fee structure, but the huge increase will go forward.

White House Release: 10 Key Myths About the Senate “Grand Bargain.” (4/21/2007)

On May 18, 2007, the White House issued a Press Release enumerating what it called the “Ten Key Myths” about the Senate “Grand Bargain.”

Immigration Breakthrough in Congress Could Lead to U.S. Citizenship (05/17/2007)

  • Speaker Pelosi wants Bush to guarantee 70 votes in the House
  • Bipartisan group crafts bill that gives immigrants a path to citizenship
  • Immediate work authorization for those who arrived before January 1, 2007
  • Border Patrol agents would be doubled; fencing would be strengthened

The estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States could be put on the path to citizenship under a new immigration bill agreed upon Thursday by a bipartisan group of senators.

“The agreement we just reached is the best possible chance we will have to secure our borders, bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America,” Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said. President Bush expressed gratitude to the senators for their work.

The bill is going to the Senate next week and if it passes, will then proceed to the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has told the White House that she’s not going to bring the issue to the floor unless the president can deliver at least 70 votes.

But Republican Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said the bill is not a done deal.

He said he has “concerns with the principles outlined in today’s announcement.”

The 380-page bill, which comes after nearly three months of negotiations, would give immediate work authorization to undocumented workers who arrived in the United States before January 1, 2007.

Heads of household would have to return to their home country within eight years, and they would be guaranteed the right to return.

Applicants would also have to pay a $5,000 penalty.

Additionally, the number of Border Patrol agents would be doubled, border fencing would be strengthened and employers who hire undocumented workers would face fines.

The process of enforcing those provisions would take about 18 months, according to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

After the provisions are in place, a guest-worker program would be initiated, under which 400,000 temporary workers per year would be granted a “Y” visa.

The two-year visas would require they return home for a year, then allow them to re-enter for an additional two-years. The process could be repeated twice more.

Each year, they would be able to bring their families on 30-day visitor visas, and each year, they would earn points toward a merit-based green card.

H-1B Master’s Cap Reaches Exhaustion (05/03/2007)

USCIS’ H-1B bulletin indicates that, as of 4/30/07, 20,000 petitions for the U.S. master’s degree exemption had been received, thereby exhausing all available master’s-cap H-1B visas.

USCIS Update On H-1B Lottery And Receipting (04/13/2007)

In this Update, the USCIS reports that the random selection lottery was conducted on April 12, 2007. The Update states that those selected will receive receipts. Members report receiving receipts prior to the running of the random selection process. The USCIS has advised AILA that receipts dated on or before April 12, 2007, are not to be considered evidence that the case was selected in the random selection process.

USCIS Updates H-1B Cap Information (04/06/2007)

The USCIS has partially completed a physical count of the pieces of mail containing H-1B petitions and has begun to identify H-1B petitions which are subject to the cap.

FY 2008 H-1B Cap Reached on First Day of Filing Window (04/04/2007)

Illustrating the inadequacy of the quota for specialized H-1B workers, USCIS announced today that it received more applications than the 65,000 limit on April 2. April 2 was the first day on which an employer could request a first-time visa for an H-1B worker for the period that begins on October 1, 2007. Agency rules state that if the limit is reached on the first day of filing, all applications received on the first two days are put into a lottery to determine who gets the relatively few visas that are available.

In the fiscal year now in effect, the supply of such visas lasted less than eight weeks after the filing period opened. For the fiscal year that starts October 1, 2007, the supply did not last through even the first day. “Every year, the application window becomes shorter and shorter, to the point that it is now practically non-existent,” said Carlina Tapia-Ruano, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “These high-skilled workers help to keep our system dynamic, and many sectors of the economy will suffer from this shortage.”

The H-1B visa program is utilized by U.S. businesses and other organizations to augment the existing labor force with foreign workers in specialty occupations that require expertise in a specialized field. Typical H-1B occupations include scientists, architects, engineers, computer programmers, teachers, accountants, and doctors. H-1B workers are admitted to the United States for an initial period of three years, which may be extended for an additional three years.

“This absurd situation illustrates the disconnect between current immigration policy and the needs of our economy,” concluded Tapia-Ruano. “The best way to resolve this crisis is for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform measure as soon as possible.”

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

NCSBN has selected Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, as a new site for the administration of the NCLEX® examinations. (02/11/2007)

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN®) has selected Manila, the capital city of the Philippines, as a new site for the administration of the NCLEX® examinations. NCSBN’s Board of Directors made the decision to expand the number of sites at its Feb. 8, 2007, meeting.

Offered abroad since January 2005, the current international sites for NCLEX examinations are in London, England; Seoul, South Korea; Hong Kong; Sydney, Australia; Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, Canada; Frankfurt, Germany; Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Chennai, India; Mexico City, Mexico; Taipei, Taiwan; and Chiyoda-ku and Yokohama, Japan.

Intended for the purposes of domestic nurse licensure in U.S. states and territories, all security policies and procedures currently used to administer the NCLEX examination domestically will be fully implemented at this new site. At this time, no schedule of implementation has been set.

USCIS Issues Important Clarification Of Periods Of Admission For Individuals In H And L Status That Will Benefit Employers (01/11/2007)

January 17, 2007 – In an internal memorandum issued on December 5, 2006 the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) clarified and liberalized its interpretation of how periods of admission in H or L visa status are to be determined. The memo addresses three specific issues concerning periods of admission, providing an expansive and favorable reading of current USCIS regulations which should directly benefit H and L visa holders and their US employers. Below is a summary of the clarifications issued by the USCIS:

  1. Time Spent in H-4 and L-2 Status does not count toward H-1B and L-1 Time – Under the issued guidance, time spent by an individual in a dependent visa status (e.g. H-4 or L-2) will not count against the maximum period of time allowed under H-1B or L-1 visa classification. Thus, an individual who was previously an H-4 dependent and subsequently becomes an H-1B principal will be entitled to the maximum six-year period allowed for H-1B classification. Similarly, an L-2 dependent who becomes an L-1 principal will be entitled to the maximum period allowed for L-1 classification.
  2. Maintaining Current H-1B Status is Not Required for H-1B Extensions Beyond the Six Year Maximum – Sections of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (commonly referred to as “AC21”) permit the filing of an H-1B extension for an additional period beyond the maximum six-year limit for certain H-1B visa holders. The current guidance clarifies the AC21 provisions by stating that a 7th year H-1B extension may be granted to an individual regardless of whether they are currently in the United States or abroad.
  3. Individuals who previously held a cap-subject H status, have been outside the US for one year or more, and did not exhaust their six years of H eligibility are eligible for readmission in H status for the remainder of their unused H-1B time – The memorandum also addresses the situation of an individual who previously held H-1B status for less than six years and now seeks to be readmitted to the United States after an absence of one year. Current regulations allow the individual to be granted a new six-year period of H-1B status if they previously reached their maximum limit and have remained outside the United States for one year. However, this also subjects the individual to the annual cap on H-1B visas and may present significant timing issues if the cap is exhausted for the given fiscal year when the individual seeks to be readmitted. Until further guidance is issued, the USCIS will permit an individual to elect either to be readmitted for the remainder of their unused H-1B time or to be admitted for a new six-year period subject to the H-1B cap (unless an exemption is applicable).

USCIS Launches Online Change of Address Service (01/17/2007)

On January 12, 2007, USCIS launched a web-based service that allows applicants to change their address. As a service to our clients and guests, we have added a link to USCIS’ change of address page. It is located on the blue-colored menu bar on the left side of every page on our web site.

USCIS Starts Premium Processing on EB1 Extraordinary Ability Petitions (11/13/2006)

USCIS Announces that the H-2B Cap for the First Half of FY 2007 Has Been Reached (12/05/2006)

On December 5, 2006, USCIS announced that it had received sufficient petitions to reach the H-2B cap for the first six months of Fiscal Year 2007. November 28, 2006 was the final receipt date for new H-2B worker petitions requesting employment start dates prior to April 1, 2007.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued an announcement that it will begin to accept premium processing for Extraordinary Ability (EA) petitions as of Monday, November 13, 2006. This is the most recent expansion of the I-140 premium processing program that began with EB3 cases on August 28, 2006 and extended to most EB2 cases since September 25, 2006.

2008 Diversity Visa Program Announced (10/11/2006)

The application submission period for DV-2008 is from 12:00PM EDT (GMT -5) on October 4, 2006 to 12:00PM EST (GMT -5) on December 3, 2006. The application form will only be available for submission during this period and this period only. Applications will not be accepted through the U.S. Postal Service. Please see the following link for additional details:

2008 Diversity Lottery Instructions

The Schedule A Workers category (i.e., Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists) has become oversubscribed for November and a cut-off date established to hold number use within the 50,000 numerical limit. It is expected that demand will bring allocations up to the program limit during November. Once the limit is reached no further allocations will be possible, and the category listing will be removed from future cut-off date tables.

USCIS to Expand Premium Processing Service (9/25/2006)

The USCIS has announced that starting September 25 it will begin accepting premium processing requests for the following Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker categories:

– EB-1, outstanding professors and researchers
– EB-2, members of professions with advanced degrees or exceptional ability (does not include National Interest Waiver petitions)
– EB-3, workers other than skilled workers and professionals (i.e. unskilled labor requiring less than two years of training or experience)
These additions follow an August 28th USCIS announcement opening up premium processing to EB-3 I-140 petitions filed in the EB-3 Professionals (i.e. immigrant workers with bachelor degrees who are members of the professions), and EB-3 Skilled Workers (i.e. immigrant workers capable of performing skilled labor requiring at least two years of education, training or experience) categories.

FY 2007 Advanced Degree Cap Is Reached (07/31/2006)

USCIS announced that it has received enough H-1B petitions requesting “foreign workers who have earned a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education” to meet the exemption limit of 20,000 established by Congress for fiscal year (FY) 2007.

We link to the most current H-1B statistics for FY-07.

USCIS Reaches H-1B Cap (06/01/2006)

Washington, D.C. ­- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally mandated cap for fiscal year 2007 (FY 2007). The “final receipt date” for H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2007 annual cap was May 26, 2006. Affected H-1B petitions received on that date will be subject to the random selection process described below. H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2007 annual cap that are received by USCIS after the “final receipt date” will be rejected. Additional information regarding the specific number of H-1B petitions processed is available at: .

Cap and Set Asides : Congress has established an annual fiscal year limitation of 65,000 on the number of available H-1B visas, commonly referred to as the “H-1B cap.” Under the terms of the legislation implementing the United States-Chile and United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreements, 6,800 of the 65,000 available H-1B visas are annually set aside for the Chile/Singapore H-1B1 program. As a result of reserving 6,800 H-1B1 visas for FY 2007, the H-1B cap for that fiscal year is 58,200. However, USCIS has added back to the H-1B cap 6,100 unused FY 2006 H-1B1 visas, for a total of 64,300, as described below.

Unused Chile/Singapore visa numbers for a particular fiscal year are to be used within the first 45 days of the next fiscal year. As FY 2007 H-1B petitions are approved for start dates beginning no earlier than the first day of fiscal year 2007 and reasonable anticipated usage of approved H-1B petitions for any 45-day period exceeds 8,000, USCIS has incorporated its reasonable projection based on H-1B1 usage to date that 700 H-1B1 visa numbers will be used in FY 2006 into the FY 2007 H-1B cap count by adding the remaining 6,100 unused H-1B1 visas back into that count, resulting in a total cap of 64,300 FY 2007 H-1B visas approvable. Because unused H-1B1 visas for FY 2006 have been already allocated in this manner, there will be no additional later H-1B filing season to use these visas. The 6,800 visas reserved from the FY 2007 H-1B count for FY 2007 H-1B1 purposes are anticipated to be handled in a similar manner with respect to the FY 2008 H-1B cap count during calendar year 2007. This allocation of FY 2006 H-1B1 visas based upon reasonable projections of usage to the end of the fiscal year will not affect the availability of H-1B1 visas in any way; they will continue to be fully available, with any year-end difference between actual and projected usage expected to be minimal.

Cap-Exempt Petitions : As directed by the H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of aliens with U.S.-earned masters’ or higher degrees will be exempt from any fiscal year cap on available H-1B visas. For FY 2007, USCIS has received approximately 5,830 exempt petitions.

USCIS also notes that petitions for new H-1B employment are exempt from the annual cap if the aliens will be employed at institutions of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entities, or at nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations. Thus, petitions for these exempt H-1B categories may be filed for work dates starting in FY 2006 or 2007.

Senate Passes Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, S. 2611 (05/25/2006)

On Thursday afternoon, the Senate voted 62-36 to pass S. 2611, the “Hagel-Martinez compromise” immigration bill, paving the way for conference negotiations with the House, which enacted the highly damaging “Sensenbrenner Bill”, HR 4437, last December. Despite attempts by a handful of Senators to fundamentally alter the bill that was reported out of the Judiciary Committee in March, the basic architecture of comprehensive immigration reform survived intact after nearly four weeks of Senate Floor debate on the measure and votes on more than 40 amendments.

The Senate bill includes a path to permanent legal status for most of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, a new temporary worker program, significant increases in family- and employment-based permanent visas, important reforms to the agricultural worker program, significant reforms to the high-skilled immigration programs, and relief for undocumented high school graduates (DREAM Act). The bill also includes some very harsh enforcement provisions and erosion of due process protections that will need to be addressed and corrected as negotiations move forward.

The H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004, which took effect on May 5, 2005, changed the H-1B filing procedures for FY 2005 and for future fiscal years. The Act also makes available 20,000 new H-1B visas for foreign workers with a master’s or higher level degree from a U.S. academic institution.

Hundreds of thousands march for immigrant rights (5/02/2006)

Kids skipped school. Men and women walked off their jobs. Others didn’t bother going to work. Businesses shut down for lack of patrons or employees.

Throngs of immigrants and advocates took to the streets of many U.S. cities Monday to protest proposed immigration laws, and the sites represented a veritable where’s where of American metropolises.

It is unclear what impact the walkouts and demonstrations will have on the U.S. economy. The turnout was lower than predicted. Participants were likely to buy extra food and supplies before or after Monday. And absent employees will return to their jobs with extra work awaiting them.

Reform bills have stalled in Congress, primarily because Republicans and Democrats cannot agree — even among themselves at times — what should be done about the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

The provision making illegal immigration a felony has been a real bone of contention, to the point that GOP leaders who once supported it have now indicated they are likely to drop the proposal when House and Senate negotiators meet to hash out final details of the bill.

President Bush has said he would like negotiators to include in the bill a guest-worker program that will allow immigrants into the country to fill jobs that Americans can’t or won’t do.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will bring a stalled immigration bill back to the Senate floor by Memorial Day, a Republican leadership aide said Friday. (4/21/2006)

In what the aide called a “bow” to right-wing critics of the bill, the Tennessee Republican also will propose increasing funding for border security by $2 billion.

Frist said he would revive the bill after it stalled in the Senate earlier this month, but he gave no timetable.

Supporters say the compromise bill has the support of 65 to 70 senators, enough, if necessary, to overcome a filibuster by conservatives who object to the “earned citizenship” or “amnesty” clauses.

If the measure were to pass the Senate, it would have to be reconciled with an immigration plan passed by the House in December. The House version includes neither a guest-worker program nor a legalization process.

Text of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, as Modified in Bipartisan Negotiations During Senate Floor Consideration (04/13/2006)

S. 2611 and S. 2612 reflect the Hagel-Martinez compromise modifying the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration reform bill plus a variety of new provisions (including some of the amendments that were pending when the bill was pulled from the Floor by Senator Frist). Though the bills are identical in content except for the order of the sponsors, S. 2611 and S. 2612 would be subject to different procedural paths.

The bill with Specter as the lead sponsor could be treated as a new bill that could be marked up in the Judiciary Committee once again. The bill with Hagel and Martinez as the lead sponsors could be brought straight to the Senate Floor under Rule 14.

Bickering Stalls Immigration Bill Breakthrough (04/07/2006)

Bipartisan compromise in jeopardy…

A Senate breakthrough on an immigration bill praised by leaders in both parties appears endangered by partisan bickering over amendments from opponents. Republicans appeared united in blocking a final vote on a compromise proposal worked out among immigration leaders in the two parties until Democrats allow votes on amendments by opponents.

A test vote was scheduled Friday on the compromise, as well as a bill by Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Democrats said the amendments would undermine the immigration compromise that offered hope for American citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

President Bush to Sign Patriot Act Renewal (03/08/2006)

Law enforcement officials get to keep their anti-terror tools, but with some new curbs, under the USA Patriot Act renewal passed by the House in a cliffhanger vote. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law on Thursday.

The 280-138 vote Tuesday evening was just two votes more than needed under House rules requiring a two-thirds majority to pass legislation handled on an expedited basis.

The vote ended a monthslong battle over how to balance privacy rights against the need to defeat potential terrorists a political struggle in which President Bush was forced to accept new restraints on law enforcement investigations.

The President was expected to sign the legislation before 16 major provisions of the law, which was passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, expire Friday.

Major Provisions in the TALENT BILL (via AILA) (02/22/2006)

Summary of the TALENT Bill (25 Kb .PDF), a new, stand-alone, business immigration bill developed by Compete America, a coalition comprised of AILA and various corporations, universities, research institutions and trade associations.

2006 HHS Poverty Income Guidelines Now Posted (02/22/2006)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released their income poverty guidelines which will be incorporated by USCIS into I-864P.

Nearly 800 American Businesses and Universities Call for a Reasonable Solution to the H-1B Blackout and Lengthy “Green Card” Backlogs (02/08/2006)

Nearly 800 U.S. businesses and universities signed a letter (56K .PDF File) supporting the Senate proposal, initially included in the budget reconciliation bill, to recapture unused H-1B and employment-based visa numbers. This letter was delivered to both the Senate and the House in November and December 2005.

President Calls on Congress to Raise H-1B Cap (02/08/2006)

President Bush outlined his American Competitiveness Initiative at the 3M Corporate Headquarters on February 2, 2006. In his speech, he called on Congress to raise the H-1B visa cap.

From the President’s address:

“Now, in the meantime, there’s another issue that I want to discuss right quick. . .

…There are more high-tech jobs in America today than people available to fill them. And so one way to deal with this problem, and probably the most effective way, is to recognize that there’s a lot of bright engineers and chemists and physicists from other lands that are either educated here, or received an education elsewhere but want to work here. And they come here under a program called H1B visas. And the problem is, is that Congress has limited the number of H1B visas that can come and apply for a job — a H1B visa holder can apply for a job at 3M. I think it’s a mistake not to encourage more really bright folks who can fill the jobs that are having trouble being filled here in America — to limit their number. And so I call upon Congress to be realistic and reasonable and raise that cap.”

Immigration Lawyer – Immigration Attorney – Immigration Law Firm

Congress Extends Patriot Act 5 Weeks (02/02/2006)

Congress sent President Bush a second five-week extension of the Patriot Act as Senate negotiators worked to close a deal with the White House on renewing the antiterrorism law with some new civil liberties protections.

Sixteen provisions of the 2001 law were to have expired last December 31, but Congress extended them until Friday after Democrats and a handful of Senate Republicans insisted on an avenue of appeals when the FBI makes demands for people’s financial and other private records.

The Senate voted 95-1 Thursday night to extend the current law unchanged through March 10 and give negotiators more time to reach a deal. Sen. Russell Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat and a longtime opponent of the Patriot Act, cast the sole vote against the extension. The House passed it Wednesday.

Senate rejects reauthorization of Patriot Act (12/16/2005)

The U.S. Senate on Friday (12/16/05) rejected attempts to reauthorize several provisions of the nation’s top anti-terror law as infringing too much on Americans’ privacy, dealing a major defeat to President George W. Bush and Republican leaders.

In a crucial vote Friday morning as Congress raced toward adjournment, the bill’s Senate supporters were not able to garner the 60 votes necessary to overcome a threatened filibuster, a technique used to delay debate. The final vote was 52-47.

President Says Guest-Worker Plan Isn’t ‘Amnesty’ (11/28/2004)

Through a White House communication, President Bush launched a new push to crack down on illegal immigration from Mexico, promising to “harden” the southern U.S. border while reviving his proposal for a guest-worker program critics say is a form of amnesty.

Bush endorses building more jail cells to hold those caught inside the United States illegally, speeding up deportations, cracking down on fraudulent papers and “hardening” the border with additional officers, fences and monitoring devices.

Bush also urged Congress to back his proposal for a temporary-worker program, a long-standing idea he said would match legal immigrants with employers “to fill jobs that Americans will not do.”

But he said the program would not provide a path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally, saying that doing so would encourage other would-be migrants to cross the border.

Text of the Bipartisan Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2005 (11/28/2004)

Text of the Bipartisan Development  Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act of 2005 (S. 2075), introduced on 11/18/05 by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), and Richard Lugar (R-IN). The bill is very similar to the measure that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 108th Congress.

Less than 2,200 Advance degree H-1B Visas Available for FY-06 (11/28/2005 Updated 12/12/2005)

We link to the most current H-1B statistics for FY-05 and FY-06 where USCIS recently reported that under 2,200 H-1b visas remain in the quota pool.

Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Proposal to Provide H-1B Visa and Employment-Based Immigration Relief (via AILA) (10/21/2005)

On October 20, as part of the budget reconciliation process, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a markup of a proposal to provide temporary relief from the H-1B visa blackout and the employment-based immigrant visa backlogs, in exchange for increased fees on some petitions. Although it was vehemently opposed by some Members of the Committee, the proposal ultimately passed out of Committee by a strong 14-2 vote. A number of amendments were defeated, including one by Senator Sessions (R-AL) to adopt the House Judiciary Committee’s approach of levying a $1,500 tax on L visas, and one by Senator Hatch (R-UT) to impose a 5% increase on all immigration fees. An amendment offered by Senator Feinstein (D-CA) to reduce the number of recaptured H-1B visas available annually (from the original proposal of 60,000 to 30,000) did pass by a 10-5 vote. The final package would:

1. Impose a new $500 fee on immigrant visa petitions for the EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 categories.

2. Recapture unused employment-based visas from prior years for immediate allocation of up to 90,000/year. (Estimates indicate there are only 90,000-100,000 unused numbers to be tapped.)

3. Exempt spouses and minor children from counting against the annual cap on employment-based immigrant visas. (Estimates are that this would lead to an annual increase of 80,000-90,000 employment-based immigrant visas.)

4. Allow individuals to apply for adjustment of status before an immigrant visa is deemed currently available. (Of course, approval could not occur until the visa number is available.)

5. Recapture approximately 300,000 unused H-1B numbers dating back to FY 1991. As a result of Senator Feinstein’s amendment, 30,000 rather than 60,000 would be available annually. (In other words, effectively raising the cap from 65,000 to 95,000 for at least 10 years.)

6. Impose a new fee on the recaptured H-1B visas so that the fees on the original 65,000 H-1B allotment remain unchanged but the additional 30,000 available annually carry an additional $500 fee.

7. Impose a new $750 fee on L-1 visas. (This was part of Senator Feinstein’s amendment and was necessary to offset the reduction in revenue resulting from the limitation on recaptured H-1B numbers from 60,000 to 30,000.)

This proposal still must be reconciled in conference with the House’s alternative budget reconciliation bill, which imposes a $1,500 fee increase on L visas.

House Judiciary Committee Votes to Increase Fees on L-1 Program (via AILA) (9/29/2005)

The House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 3648 by a vote of 20-6. The bill, introduced by Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), would impose a $1,500 fee on the following: L-1 applications filed pursuant to a blanket L; initial L-1 petitions filed with DHS; and first-time L-1 extensions. The money collected through the proposed fee would not be used to support the L program but, instead, would be deposited for general use into the U.S. Treasury.

The House Judiciary Committee has been asked as part of the budget reconciliation process to cut $60 million dollars in spending or raise an additional $60 million dollars in revenue. H.R. 3648 attempts to raise that money by setting the dangerous precedent of adding fees to visa programs in order to help offset governmental expenditures. It is not known when the bill will go to the House Floor for a vote.

USCIS Announces Fee Adjustment (9/24/2005)

USCIS press release on its revised fee structure for immigration benefits. The new fee structure becomes effective 10/26/05. Note: though it is not reflected in the chart attached , today’s Federal Register notice indicates that the I-485 filing fee for children under 14 will go up from $215 to $225.

USCIS Releases Numbers on Remaining H-1B Masters Numbers (via AILA) (9/24/2005)

USCIS has Updated its website with the current count for usage of the H-1B numbers for graduates of U.S. masters or above programs for fiscal years 2005 and 2006. It appears that there will be sufficient numbers to get to the end of fiscal 2005, but usage of 2006 numbers is heavy.

Senators Urge USCIS To Follow the Law on Recapturing Chile/Singapore H-1Bs (via AILA) (9/24/2005)

A letter from a bipartisan group of Senators to DHS urges that USCIS follow the law and recapture unused Chile/Singapore H-1B numbers from fiscal 2005 at the beginning of fiscal 2006. Note, as the letter reflects, that the statute requires that these numbers be allocated to H-1B petitions filed during fiscal 2005. While it is not known whether USCIS will follow the urgings of these lawmakers, if it does it will have been necessary that the application have been made during fiscal 2005, which ends on September 30, 2005. Thus, it will be important to retain any evidence of attempts to file, for previously-filed but rejected applications. If the petition had not been filed, due to the earlier-announced cut-off, each attorney should carefully weigh the risks and potential rewards of filing now, before 9/30, knowing that the petition likely will be rejected.

DV 2007 Diversity Lottery Information Posted (9/20/2004)

Foreign nationals interested in applying for the FY 2007 Diversity Lottery Program may file their applications beginning on October 5, 2005. For more information on filing details, please click on the hilighted link.

U.S. Department of State Implements New E-3 Visa (09/06/2005)

Specifics concerning the Department of State’s recent implementation of the E-3 Visa program is now posted.

Hot Immigration Bills Facing the 109th Congress (08/24/2005)

Through AILA, we list featured immigration-related bills (155K .PDF File) introduced in the 109th Congress. (The list is organized by topic, with Senate bills listed first.) All bills not signed into law during the 108th Congress died automatically at the end of that Congress and must be reintroduced in the 109th Congress.

H-1B Numbers for U.S. Masters Graduates Remain (08/24/2005)

USCIS HQ has confirmed that, despite rumors to the contrary, H-1B numbers remain for both fiscal 2005 and 2006 for graduates of U.S. masters or above programs.

Status of E-3 Implementation (08/22/2005)

The State Department’s regulation implementing the new E-3 visa category for Australians was sent to OMB for clearance on July 19, 2005, and is pending there. DOS hopes to have the rule published in September. There is no word yet on where USCIS stands with respect to guidance or a regulation on this subject.

FY 2006 H-1B Cap Reached (08/12/2005)

USCIS has issued a press release indicating that there are now sufficient cap-subject H-1Bs in the pipeline to fill the fiscal year 2006 quota–a fiscal year that does not even start until October 1, 2005. Petitions filed after August 10, 2005, will be rejected. Those received on that date will be subject to a “random selection process.” (via AILA)

Side-by-Side Comparison of the McCain/Kennedy & Cornyn/Kyl Immigration Reform Proposals (08/10/2005)

A major immigration reform bill  may be headed to Congress soon. The long-awaited comprehensive immigration reform bill will be an event as large as IRCA and larger than IMMACT 90′ and IIRIRA. It signals a new chapter in the history of US immigration. (via AILA)

USCIS Says 8,069 H-1B Petitions Counted Against FY 2005 Cap (7/12/2005)

On July 12, 2005, USCIS announced  that it has received 8,069 H-1B petitions that will count against the Congressionally-mandated exemption cap for FY 2005.

(FY 06)
H-1B Advance Degree Exemption (FY 05)H-1B Advance Degree Exemption
(FY 06)
(FY 05)*
H-2B 1st Half
(FY 06)
2nd Half
(FY 06)
Cap 58,200**20,00020,00035,00033,00033,000
Cases Approved22,3839,5574,21212,814382
Cases Pending29,5568224,0003,8707
Date of Last Count8/4/20058/3/20058/4/20057/25/2005

*The 35K is an add-on to the normal FY’05 cap of 65K, which was reached before the end of FY’05. **6,800 are set aside for the H-1B1 program under terms of the U.S.-Chile and U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreements and to the extent unused can first be made available for general use on October 1, 2006, the start of FY 2007.

Business Immigration News: CONNECT! Volume 6, Number 3, April/May 2005 (via AILA)

In This Issue: Pro-business Immigration Laws Enacted; Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill Introduced; Employment Verification Programs Proposed; DHS Implements New H-1B Exemption; Important Changes to Visa Waiver Program; US-VISIT Expands Exit Facilities; Temporary H-2B Relief Goes Into Effect.

(287K .PDF file) Connect!, Volume 6, Number 3, April/May 2005

DHS Issues New I-9 Form

USCIS and ICE announce the issuance of a “rebranded” I-9 form to eliminate references to INS and DOJ. The announcement states that the form is otherwise the same as the 11/21/91 edition, which continues to be acceptable.

Labor Certification Update: PERM and Backlog Reduction Centers


Department of Labor is still working on the decision logic that has been resulting in erroneous denials, and hopes to have the system fixed soon. It will then run the prior denials through the system again. Those that should not have been denied will, it is hoped, instead go into the full processing system. Notices will be issued on those cases for which a denial still stands. Estimates currently are that the new notices may go out in early July.


Tens of thousands of cases still need to be input into the system. DOL asks that you NOT submit inquiries on these cases as it does not have the capacity to check them all. Indeed, email inquiries regarding status are receiving automated responses to this effect.

USCIS Guidance Memo Describes New Schedule A Requirements

A June 15, 2005, memo  from William Yates instructs the field regarding the documentation acceptable for a Schedule A immigrant petition both before and after March 28, 2005, the effective date of the PERM regulation. Changes, retroactive to March 28, from prior documentation requirements are included, as are instructions regarding posting requirements.

Washington Update, Volume 9, Number 4, June 2005

In this Issue: Immigration Debate Surfaces in Unlikely Forum; Senate Judiciary Committee OKs Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act; PATRIOT Act Reauthorization Hearings Begin; DHS Expands US-VISIT Exit Program; DHS and DOS Announce New Passport Initiative, President Bush “Surprised”; Lobby Day 2005 a Resounding Success; and more…

(191K .PDF file) Washington Update, Volume 9, Number 4, June, 2005.

Reciprocal E-3 Visas for Nationals of Australia

Summary of the Provision Included in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Package (H.R. 1268)

Section 501 Reciprocal Visas For Nationals of Australia:

a) Amends INA § 101(a)(15)(E) by adding a new subsection (iii) for Australian nationals who will perform services in a specialty occupation. The DOL also must certify to DOS and DHS that the intending employer has filed an attestation under INA § 212(t) (labor attestation for nonimmigrant professionals entering under agreement. Currently used for the Singapore and Chile H-1B(1) visas.)

b) Limits the number of E-3 visas to 10,500 for each fiscal year. This numerical limitation only applies to principal aliens and not their spouses or children.

c) Amends INA § 214(i)(1) so that the definition of specialty occupation applicable to H-1B visas also applies to the E-3 category.

d) Amends INA § 212(t) to include the E-3 category.

Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2005

Section-by-Section Summary of the Provision Included in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Package (H.R. 1268)

U.S. Department of Labor Releases Backlog FAQs

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) of the U.S. Department of Labor issued PERM backlog processing FAQs.

Recapture of Visa Numbers for Schedule A Occupations

Summary of the Provision Included in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Package (H.R. 1268) : Summary of the provision recapturing FY 2001-2005 for use by Schedule A occupations contained in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Package (H.R. 1268) as provided in the conference report filed on May 3, 2005

Regulation Implementing 20,000 Fiscal 2005 H-1B Numbers

The Law Office of Paul B. Christensen, P.A. has received an advance copy  of the regulation implementing the 20,000 H-1B numbers for fiscal year 2005.

USCIS to Implement H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004 – USCIS Will Apply 20,000 Fiscal 2005 H-1B Numbers to All Qualified H-1Bs

Press release from USCIS indicates that the 20,000 H-1B numbers for fiscal 2005 under the exemption will NOT be limited to individuals holding a master’s or higher from a U.S. university, but instead will be applied to all qualified H-1B nonimmigrants. The date when filing can begin is not yet announced. USCIS advises employers not to file petitions until guidance is issued in the Federal Register concerning the new H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004.

Read More.


Text of the REAL ID Act (H.R. 418) as passed by the House on 2/10/05 by a vote of 261 to 161.

New Foreign Labor Certification Processing Times as of February 8, 2005

The US Department of Labor revised the Foreign Labor Certification Processing Times and Dates as of January 13, 2005. The times for processing labor certification applications vary greatly between regional offices and State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) based upon their workload. Regional offices and SWAs located in high volume areas with high populations of immigrants take more time to complete labor certification applications. The volume of applications received is the main factor that influences the length of time required to review and make a decision on labor certification applications.

H-2B Cap Reached on January 3, 2005

USCIS announces that by January 3, 2005, it received sufficient numbers of H-2B petitions to reach the FY05 H-2B cap of 66,000. Any cap-subject H-2B petitions received after January 1, 2005 will be rejected. The next available start date for cap-subject H-2B petitions is October 1, 2005.

Summary and Analysis of PERM Regulation (via AILA)

Summary and analysis of the December 27, 2004 final Department of Labor regulation implementing the PERM permanent labor certification process.

USCIS Instructs on EB-3 Retrogression/Rescinds Concurrent Adjudication Memo

An undated memo from William Yates instructs the field on handling I-485s subject to visa availability retrogression, noting that such filings must be RECEIVED by 12/30/04 to be accepted (12/31 is a Federal holiday). The memo also rescinds the 3/3/04 memo on concurrent adjudication of I-140s/I-485s, although concurrent filing continues.

DOL PERM Regulation–Advance Copy 12/23/2004

Advance copy of the Labor Department’s final PERM regulation, which alters the permanent labor certification process. Slated for publication on Monday, December 27, 2004. Significant changes from the proposed regulation are made. New rule takes effect 90-days from Federal Register publication on Monday, December 27, 2004.

DHS Press Release on H-2B Count (via AILA)

In its December 13th announcement, USCIS states that it has received 61,747 H-2B petitions counting against the FY05 66,000 cap. USCIS advises further that it needs to approve approximately 100,000 beneficiaries to fully utilize the 66,000 H-2B visa cap during a fiscal year, and that it anticipates imposing, in FY05, a cut-off with exceptions similar to those in FY04.

President Signs the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004

President Bush, on 12/17/04, signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (S. 2845). We will post the public law number as soon as one is issued.

Immigration Lawyer – Immigration Attorney – Immigration Law Firm
USCIS Discusses Impact of New Law on L-1s/$500 Fee to Take Effect March 8, 2005

USCIS press release discusses impact of the L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2004, from the Omnibus legislation, on the L-1 process, and notes that the $500 “fraud fee” takes effect March 8, 2005.

President Signs FY 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4818)

President Bush, on 12/8/04, signed the $388.4 billion FY 2005 omnibus spending package comprising 9 appropriations bills (H.R. 4818). The new law contains several immigration-related measures, most notably, reforms to the L-1 and H-1B visa programs.

Legislative Text of L and H-1B provisions included in the Fiscal 2005 Omnibus Appropriations bill (H.R. 4818) (via AILA)

The House and Senate passed the Omnibus Bill, which included reforms to the L-1 and H-1B visa programs. The House must now pass a technical amendment before the bill will be sent to the President for signature. While the exact date of enactment is unknown, we are anticipating the bill will be signed into law in early December.

President Signs Bill to Extend J Waiver Program for Physicians (via AILA)

On December 3, 2004, President Bush signed legislation that extends and modifies the “Conrad 30” J waiver program for foreign-born physicians (S. 2302, Pub. L. No. 108-441). Under the program, aliens who participate in medical residencies in the United States on exchange program (J) visas are exempted from the two-year foreign residence requirement of INA § 212(e) if they agree to practice medicine for three years in an area designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) as having a shortage of health care professionals. The program has been extended several times, most recently via the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act, which extended the program until June 1, 2004. S. 2302 extends it for another two years, until June 1, 2006.

The new law makes several important changes to the J waiver program. First, it specifies that physicians who are sponsored for a waiver by either a federal or state agency will be exempt from the H-1B cap. In addition, the bill allows five of each state’s 30 waivers to go to doctors that practice medicine in areas not designated by the Secretary of HHS as having a shortage of health care professionals, if the doctors receiving the waivers practice in facilities that serve patients who reside in areas designated by the Secretary as having a shortage of health care professionals. Finally, the measure permits foreign doctors receiving a waiver to work in medically-underserved areas in either primary care or specialty medicine. Under current law, only state agencies and the Veteran’s Administration are permitted to sponsor specialists. To request a waiver for a specialist, however, the interested agency would be required to demonstrate a shortage of doctors able to provide the appropriate medical specialty in the designated geographical area.

Unanimous Supreme Court Rules DUI Is Not “Crime of Violence”

[November 8, 2004] Court rules, 9-0, that state DUI statutes that either do not have a mens rea component or require only a showing of negligence in the operation of a vehicle are not “crimes of violence” under 18 USC §16, which would have made the offense an aggravated felony.

DHS on Expansion of US-VISIT to VWP Travelers on September 30, 2004 (via AILA)

The Department of Homeland Security reminds travelers of the expansion of the US-VISIT program on 9/30/04 to include all foreign visitors at airports and seaports who are requesting admission to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

USCIS Reaches H-1B Cap for Fiscal Year 2005

USCIS announced, at approximately 8:00 pm on October 1, 2004, the first day of fiscal year 2005, that it has enough H-1Bs in the pipeline to meet the FY 2005 cap. All cap-subject cases received after the end of the business day October 1 will be returned.

Click here for additional information from the USCIS.

Fiscal 2005 H-1Bs Likely to Stay Open for “Several” More Weeks (via AILA)

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has been advised that it is likely to be “several weeks” before the filing of cap-subject H-1B petitions is cut off for fiscal 2005. The reason that it is not being cut off sooner, despite the upsurge in H-1B filings, is the recapture of unused Singapore/Chile free trade numbers

Update on PERM

The PERM regulation remains pending at OMB, and it is widely believed that, if it moves at all, it will not be published until after the election. It is believed that some key changes have been made from the proposed rule. (via AILA)

Fiscal 2004 and Fiscal 2005 H-1B Numbers

USCIS advises that, as of August 18, 2004, it had received 45,900 cap-subject H-1B filings subject to the fiscal 2005 cap. Of those, 21,000 have been approved; the rest are in the pipleline.

USCIS has recently provided figures for the H-1B filings currently in the pipeline for fiscal 2005, as well as the numbers adjudicated thus far for fiscal 2004.

In February 2004, USCIS announced that it was cutting off the ability to file cap-subject H-1Bs for fiscal 2004 because it had enough cases on file to meet the quota for that fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2004. Since that time, it has continued to adjudicate fiscal year 2004 cases. The 56,100 number posted on August 23, 2004 is what has actually been adjudicated so far that are chargeable to fiscal 2004. USCIS has indicated that there are still other cases in the pipeline chargeable to fiscal 2004.

Because one cannot file an H-1B petition more than 6 months in advance of the work start date, we were not allowed to file fiscal year 2005 cases until April 1, 2004, six months before the start of the 2005 fiscal year on October 1, 2004. Thus, even while it was still adjudicating fiscal 2004 cases, USCIS has been receiving-and adjudicating-fiscal 2005 cases. The figures of 40,000 cases received and 21,000 approved that were posted on August 20, 2004, represent these H-1B filings that will not take effect until after the 2005 fiscal year starts on October 1, 2005.

The overall quota for H-1Bs is 65,000 for each of fiscal years 2004 and 2005. However, because the legislation enacting the Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreements sets aside a total of 6,800 H-1Bs per year for use under those agreements, the quota is effectively decreased to 58,200. Any numbers unused under those FTAs at fiscal year’s end are added back into the quota, but can only be used for adjudications during the first 45 days of the new fiscal year. It is generally believed that very few numbers have been used under the FTAs.

DHS Publishes Notice on Status for F/J Students Affected by the H-1B Cap – Deadline for Filing COS is 7/30/04

On February 25, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) published a notice in the Federal Register informing the public of the procedures DHS would follow as the fiscal year 2004 (FY 2004) numerical cap for the H-1B nonimmigrant category would be reached. This notice supplements that information and informs the public that as part of those H-1B cap procedures the Secretary of Homeland Security will exercise his authority to extend the status of certain F and J nonimmigrant students if DHS has received from their prospective employer a timely filed request for change of nonimmigrant status to that of an H-1B nonimmigrant no later than July 30, 2004 and the employment start date on the petition is no later than October 1, 2004.

The extension allows Fs and Js to legally stay in the United States until October 1, but they cannot work for their H-1B employer before that date unless they have some other sort of work authorization that allows them to do so. If the H-1B petition is still pending as of October 1, they will no longer be in valid nonimmigrant status, but they will not be accumulating unlawful presence. If the CIS denies the H-1B petition after October 1, two things may happen. If the student still has time remaining on his or her 60-day (F-1) or 30-day (J-1) grace period, they can complete that grace period. If, however, their grace period has already expired when the CIS denies the H-1B petition, the F or J student’s status will terminate as of the date of the denial and they will be expected to leave the country immediately.

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.


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

Press Office
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

February 17, 2004

Press Release


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.