Labor Immigration Law

United States Labor Immigration Law News and Analysis

Archive for November, 2008

Reminder: DV 2010 Green Card Lottery Closes on December 1

A reminder for those who are eligible for the DV 2010 (aka “green card”) lottery who have not yet submitted their entry – the deadline for submission is December 1, 2008 at 12:00 noon EST.

For more information see our previous entry on DV 2010 or visit the DV 2010 website.

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H-2B Cap Update

USCIS released an update, dated November 24, 2008, of the number of H-2B petitions received and counted towards the H-2B cap.  As of November 21, 2008, 10,265 petitions have been counted towards the 33,000 cap for the second half of Fiscal Year 2009.

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New Nebraska I-765 EAD Expedited Procedures

The Nebraska Service Center (NSC) announced updated I-765 expedite policy pursuant to which NSC will accept requests to expedite processing of Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization,  if the application has been pending for 75 days or more.  NSC had previously announced that it would accept an expedite request for an I-765 that was pending more than 60 days, but has revised that threshold to 75 days.

The fax number for submitting these requests to NSC has changed – the new fax number is 402-219-6344.  The fax should include a cover sheet identifying the case and the filing date and requesting expedited processing; it will be helpful to attach a copy of the I-765 receipt notice.   NOTE: This fax number is limited to expedites for I-765 pending for 75 days or more, and should not be used for any other purpose. Other letters, requests or documentation sent to the NSC via this fax number are more likely to be discarded than routed to the proper file.

Please contact us if you would like our assistance in expediting your pending Form I-765 with the Nebraska Service Center.

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Consulates Require DS-160 For Visa Applications

Some US Consulates abroad are requiring the use of the DS-160 form. For Non-Immigrant Visas, the Consulates in Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey, Montreal, and Vancouver require the DS-160 online form. As of November 24, 2008, the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong will require the use of the DS-160 form for petition based applicants (H, L, O, P, and Q visas).

The DS-160 form is now filled out and submitted electronically.  Please see here for more information.

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H-1B Update from California Service Center

We have been receiving many inquiries about the status of the H-1B processing.  It is our practice to post updates as soon as we receive them.  The latest update is dated November 19, 2008.

According to the California Service Center (CSC), as of November 19, 2008, there were 10 premium processing and 151 non-premium processing cases pending.

Please sign up for our newsletter to receive more H-1B case processing updates via email.

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USCIS Reports on Progress Towards Processing Time Goals

The USCIS has released a chart describing its progress towards meeting the fiscal year (FY) 2008 and FY 2009 processing time goals.  Attached is a PDF of the chart with a couple of annotations highlighting some important lines that are generally of high interest to our clients and readers.

What may be of the greatest interest are the current average processing time compared to the FY 2008 and FY 2009 goals for the following categories :

  • I-140, Immigrant Petition for Worker – current goal:  6 months, FY 2009 goal: 4 months.  Actual average time: 11.8 months.
  • I-485, Adjustment of Status- current goal: 6 months, FY 2009 goal: 4 months.  Actual average time: 13.6 months.
  • I-131, Reentry Permit – current goal: 3 months, FY 2009 goal: 2.5 months.  Actual average time: 3.9 months.

The USCIS has acknowledged that the goals were set before the new fee rule came into effect during the summer of 2007 and which resulted significant increase in the filings.  However, USCIS has declined to realistically adjust (decrease) the goals for FY 2008 and 2009.  As a result, although we expect that the processing times will improve, the gap between the goals for FY 2009 and the actual processing times will remain significant.

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Student and Exchange Visitor Visa Numbers Increase

The U.S. Department of State reported yesterday that it has issued a record high number of F, J and M visas for the fiscal year 2008 – 710,631 in total.  This represents a 9.1 percent increase in comparison to fiscal year 2007 and a 26 percent increase in comparison to fiscal year 2001.

Among some of the other interesting statistics related to student and exchange visitor visas – there was a 40 percent increase in student and exchange visitor visas issued to Chinese nationals over fiscal year 2007, which in itself, was 40 percent higher than fiscal year 2006.   Also, visas issued to nationals from Middle East countries increased by 26 percent in fiscal year 2008 in comparison to fiscal year 2007.

These statistics may suggest a reversal of the downward trend following the events of 9/11.  The student and exchange visitor visa numbers dropped significantly in the years following 9/11, but the trend seems to be correcting itsel and the significant increases seem to suggest that the U.S. still remains a desirable place to study and engage in cultural exchange programs.

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Texas Service Introduces Streamline Procedure for I-485s and I-140s

The Texas Service Center (TSC) has introduced a new email procedure that which is available to attorneys who are AILA members and allows the Texas Service Center to identify I-485s and I-140s which have remained pending beyond TSC processing times posted on USCIS’S website.

According to the new procedure, which is effective immediately, I-485s are subject to the new procedure only when an immigrant visa has been made available, according to the State Department Visa Bulletin.   The new procedure allows submission via email of I-485 cases which are subject to review based on the visa numbers.  An automatic system picks up the cases and determines whether they are subject to review.  If they are, it has some mechanism to prioritize them and distribute the case to a case worker.

The procedures are as follows:

EB I-485 Cases

The procedure may be used by AILA-member  attorneys who see that a visa number is available to his or her client according to the Visa Bulletin.  The inquiry can be submitted as soon as the Visa Bulletin is published.

  1. Identify all clients on one email whose visa numbers will be available according to the visa bulletin.
  2. Send an email to streamline.tsc@dhs.gov
  3. On the subject line, write “EB I-485/”MM” (Example:EB I-485/OCT)
  4. In the body of the email, provide A numbers only. The system will use these A numbers to pull cases and distribute them to floor case workers.
  5. If the applicant has more than one A number, type both separated by a “/” (Example: A111222333/A444555666)
  6. If there are multiple family members, type them all on the same line separated by commas (Example: A111222333, A222333444, A444555666)

I-140 Cases

Attorneys who are AILA members can use this procedure when the filing date is prior to the processing time date for the I-140 as published on the USCIS website.

  1. Identify all clients on one email whose filing dates are prior to the published timeframe
  2. Send an email to streamline.tsc@dhs.gov
  3. On the subject line write “I-140″
  4. In the body of the email, provide A numbers only. If there is no A number on the receipt, provide the receipt number only.  (For stand-alone I-140s where the beneficiary is out of the U.S. and will be applying for a visa at the consulate).  Do not provide any additional information as the text of the email will be used to automatically check the submitted cases and pull the cases for distribution to floor case workers.
  5. If the applicant has more than one A number, type both separated by a “/” (Example: A111222333/A444555666)

Full text of these instructions is available here.

We are AILA members and we will be happy to assist you in moving your case along using the new TSC streamline procedure.  Please contact us.

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Visa Waiver Effective for Seven New Countries

The visa-free travel to the U.S. for certain nationals of Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and South Korea is now effective.  The final rule admitting these countries to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) has been published.

One note for nationals of these seven countries who wish to travel to the U.S. under VWP – you must register in advance for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

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E-Verify Becomes Mandatory for Federal Contractors

We have written about this requirement in the past, but it is now a final rule.  Starting January 15, 2009, federal contractors and subcontractors will be required to begin using the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ E-Verify system to verify their employees’ eligibility to legally work in the United States.

Federal contracts awarded and solicitations issued after January 15, 2009 will include a clause committing government contractors to use E-Verify. The same clause will also be required in subcontracts over 3,000 for services or construction. Contracts exempt from this rule include those that are for less than $100,000 and those that are for commercially available off-the-shelf items. Companies awarded a contract with the federal government will be required to enroll in E-Verify within 30 days of the contract award date. They will also need to begin using the E-Verify system to confirm that all of their new hires and their employees directly working on federal contracts are authorized to legally work in the United States.

It is interesting to note that the final rule is significantly narrower than the proposed rule circulated earlier this year.  The revised final rule would limit its application to contracts worth $100,000 or more, instead of $3,000, and require employers to check the eligibility only of workers on those contracts, instead of all their workers. The changes would apply to solicitations or awards made after January 15, and exempt workers who have already received security clearances, contracts for commercial, off-the-shelf items, and contracts lasting less than 120 days.

According to Department of Homeland Security numbers, more than 92,000 employers currently use E-Verify, a free Internet-based system operated by the DHS in partnership with the Social Security Administration that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their employees. During Fiscal Year 2008, more than 6.6 million employment verification queries were run through the system representing 1 out of every 8 hires made in the United States. Approximately 96.1 percent of all cases queried through E-Verify are instantly found to be employment authorized, and individuals who are not immediately cleared are given the opportunity to correct their government records in order to confirm their work eligibility.

We are attaching a Frequently Asked Questions document, released by USCIS yesterday, to address most of the concerns and questions which may be raised by this new rule.  We at the Capitol Immigration Law Group are an E-Verify registered agent and we can help you understand the requirements of the system and we can help you in your compliance efforts.  Please contact us for more information.

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