Labor Immigration Law

United States Labor Immigration Law News and Analysis

Archive for August, 2009

Revised Instructions for Case Status Inquiries with Service Centers

USCIS has instituted a new (and supposedly more streamlined and reliable) process for directing case status inquiries with USCIS service centers.  Case status inquiries should be conducted by following these steps:

Step 1: Contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283.  The NCSC can assist customers, community-based organizations and liaison groups with case related inquiries.  Before calling the NCSC please have available your receipt number, alien registration number, type of application filed and date filed.  During your call we recommend that you take note of the following information:

* The name and/or id number of the NCSC representative
* The date and time of the call
* Any service request referral number, if a service referral on a pending case is taken

Step 2:  If more than 30 days have passed since you contacted the NCSC and the issue has not been resolved or explained you can email the proper USCIS Service Center to check the status of your case.

* California Service Center:            csc-ncsc-followup@dhs.gov
* Vermont Service Center :            vsc.ncscfollowup@dhs.gov
* Nebraska Service Center:           ncscfollowup.nsc@dhs.gov
* Texas Service Center:                tsc.ncscfollowup@dhs.gov

Please note: Emails should be sent to the Service Center that has jurisdiction over your case. The receipt notice will indicate EAC for the Vermont Service Center, SRC for the Texas Service Center, LIN for the Nebraska Service Center, and WAC for the California Service Center.

When contacting the Service Centers by email you will need to provide the information outlined in Step 1.  If the NCSC did not issue a service request after your call, please indicate the reason the NCSC representative did not issue the request.

Step 3:  In the event you do not receive a response within 21 days of contacting the appropriate Service Center, you may email the USCIS Headquarters Office of Service Center Operations by email at: SCOPSSCATA@dhs.gov.  You will receive a response from this email address within ten days.

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USCIS to Accept New H-2B Fiscal Year 2009 Petitions

The H-2B filing period for fiscal year 2009 (FY2009) has been reopened by USCIS due to insufficient applications filed under the cap.  Accordingly, USCIS accepts immediately new H-2B petitions under the FY2009 cap for starting work date before October 1, 2009.

FY2009 H-2B Numbers Are Under the Quota

On January 7, 2009,  USCIS announced that it has accepted a sufficient number of H-2B petitions to meet the annual cap of 66,000 H-2B visas.  However, the Department of State has received far fewer than expected requests for H-2B visas and as a result, has issued only 40,640 H-2B visas for fiscal year 2009 to date. This means that there are approximately 25,000 visas that may go unused, as they have not been granted. Because of the low visa issuance rate, USCIS is reopening the filing period to allow employers to file additional petitions for qualified H-2B temporary foreign nonagricultural workers.

FY2009 Filing Deadline Is Imminent

The normal (non-premium processing) adjudication time frame for H-2B petitions is 60 days. USCIS will make visa numbers available to petitions in the order in which the petitions are filed. However, because H-2B petitions (Form I-129) for fiscal year 2009 visas must be received, evaluated, and adjudicated on or before the fiscal year 2009 deadline of Sept. 30, 2009, USCIS cannot guarantee approval of any H-2B petition on or before the Sept. 30, 2009 deadline. Employers therefore are encouraged to file as soon as possible and to request premium processing by filing a Form I-907 and
submitting the $1000 premium processing fee, which will allow for expedited adjudication before October 1.

Petitions received on or after Oct. 1, 2009, and/or requesting a starting date on or after Oct. 1, 2009, will be considered towards the fiscal year 2010 H-2B cap and are subject to all eligibility requirements for fiscal year 2010 H-2B filings, including 8 CFR 214.2(h)(6)(iv)(D), which requires that the start date listed on the petition be the same as the starting date authorized on the temporary labor certification.

Please see a USCIS FAQ regarding this H-2B filing window reopening.

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Introduction of Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-160

We have reported previously on the Department of State’s (DOS) efforts to introduce an electronic form (DS-160) for submitting nonimmigrant visa (NIV) application at its consulates around the world.   The goal is to have DS-160 replace the paper forms currently used for NIV applications at all U.S. consulates.

The DS-160 online NIV application form is being used at this time at the following U.S. consulates (said to represent about 10% of all NIV applications) –  Australia (Melbourne, Perth, Sydney); Bermuda (Hamilton); Canada (Montreal, Vancouver); Hong Kong; Ireland (Dublin); Libya (Tripoli); Mexico (Ciudad Juarez, Hermosillo, Matamoros, Monterrey, Nogales, and Nuevo Laredo), and Montenegro (Podgorica).   In a recent cable, DOS has indicated that it would hold off on adding additional consulates to the DS-160 list until it can add additional server capacity to ensure that all electronic applications can be handled efficiently.   More information by DOS can be found here.

It is important for all nonimmigrant visa applicants to verify the requirements of the U.S. consulate where they intend to apply for NIV visa and establish whether they must use paper or online application forms.  Checking-in with the local U.S. consulate also allows the applicant to become familiar with the exact rules, procedures and requirements imposed at that particular U.S. consulate.

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September 2009 Visa Bulletin – EB-2 India and China Move Forward

The September 2009 Visa Bulletin was released by the State Department.  The only change, in comparison to the August 2009 Visa Bulletin, is the forward movement in the EB-2 China and India categories which changed from January 1, 2003 to January 8, 2005.  All other categories remain unchanged.  Here is a summary of the September 2009 Visa Bulletin:

  • EB-1 remains current across the board.
  • EB-2 remains unchanged for all categories except as noted above for EB-2 China and India:  EB-2 ROW (Rest of World) is current, EB-2 China and EB-2 India are January 8, 2005.
  • EB-3 is unavailable for all categories.
  • Other worker visa numbers are also unavailable.

Based on the last few visa bulletins, visa availability during the final quarter of the fiscal year is likely to remain very limited as some employment-based categories approach or have already reached their annual numerical limits.

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