Earlier today, a group of eight U.S. Senators released a proposed framework for a comprehensive immigration reform. The document signed off by Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York, John McCain of Arizona, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Marco Rubio of Florida, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Jeff Flake of Arizona, outlines the framework for comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to U.S. citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S.
Our office has closely monitored Congress’ attempts to enact into law a comprehensive immigration reform over the past few years; however, this time around it seems that passing a comprehensive immigration measure is actually possible, and even likely. After the November 2012 elections, the Republicans have embraced the idea of immigration reform more warmly. As a result, we will continue monitoring serious developments on this topic and provide updates for the benefit of our readers and clients.
The Proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Framework
Create a Path to Citizenship for Unauthorized Immigrants Already in the U.S.
Under the proposal, the law would allow undocumented immigrants with otherwise clean criminal records to quickly achieve probationary legal residency after paying a fine and back taxes. Such immigrants could pursue full citizenship — giving them the right to vote and access to government benefits — only after new measures are in place to prevent a future influx of illegal immigrants. Such measures would include border security, a new program to help employers verify the legal status of their employees and more stringent measures aiming to prevent immigrants to overstay their visas.
Minor children who are not documented and who were brought to the U.S. would not be subject to the “back-of-the-line” provisions and would have an easier path to citizenship. Similarly, agricultural workers who have been working without documentation would have an easier path to citizenship.
Improve the Legal Immigration System and Attract the World’s Best and Brightest
The proposal seeks to reduce current backlogs in the family and employment-based visa categories so that future immigrants see the lawful immigration system as the only way of entry into the U.S. Also, a green card would be awarded to Ph.D. or Master’s degree holders in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) from an American university.
Stronger Employment Verification
The proposal calls for a “tough, fair, effective and mandatory” employment verification system making employers liable for hiring undocumented workers and making it harder for undocumented workers to falsify documents and find employment.
Increasing Foreign Workers Quotas
The proposal seeks to improve the system for hiring lower-skilled workers by U.S. employers by allowing more lower-skilled workers’ quotas and making it faster and easier for U.S. workers (after following procedural safeguards to ensure no U.S. workers are available for the job) to bring foreign workers.
Other Immigration Proposals in Congress
There are other immigration proposals, in varying stages, intended to deal with related issues. For example, Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, a Republican, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a Democrat, would propose a bill which would nearly double the number of H-1B temporary visas available each year to highly skilled immigrants. It would also free up more permanent resident visas, known as green cards, so those immigrants could eventually settle in the United States and go on to become citizens.
It seems as finally there seems to be broad enough consensus here in Washington, DC that the current immigration system must be reformed to deal with structural problems. Our office faces and helps individuals who have to deal with such structural immigration system problems every day and we welcome these proposals. Just because this is a framework, it is subject to (and will likely) change, negotiation and political manipulation by many; however, we hope that what would emerge as immigration reform law is a fairer system which would allow certainty and path to achieving the American dream to many.
We will certainly follow developments very closely and provide updates. We invite you to subscribe to our free weekly immigration newsletter to receive timely updates on this and related topics. We also invite you to contact us if our office can be of any assistance in your immigration matters or you have any questions or comments about this article.No comments
Some of our clients and readers are aware that in March 2012, the U.S. Embassy in India introduced the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) which allows eligible individuals to apply for certain types of visa without being interviewed in person by a U.S. consular officer. Under this program, holders of B, J-2, H-4, L-2, C, D visa holders, in addition to children under 7 years of age and elderly applicants over 80 years of age could have their in-person interview waived.
Last week, in a press release from November 19, 2012, the U.S. Embassy in India announced that the IWP would be expanded to include (1) H-1B and individual (non-blanket) L-1 workers, (2) F-1 students returning to the same school/program; and (3) children applying before their 14th birthday traveling on any visa.
About the Interview Waiver Program
The Interview Waiver Program was introduced in March 2012 and allows individuals who seek to obtain U.S. visa stamp and who meet the eligibility requirements to skip the interview by a consular officer step. According to the U.S. Mission in India, this program has been successful so far and will be expanded to allow additional applicants to take advantage of the streamlined procedure.
Another reason behind this move is also the increasing demand in U.S. visas in India. In 2011, consular officers in India processed nearly 700,000 nonimmigrant visa applications, an increase of over 11 percent over the previous year. At the current time, applicants have to wait fewer than ten days for a visa interview to be scheduled and, according to the Department of State, spend less than one hour at U.S. consular facilities in India. In addition to the Interview Waiver Program, in September 2012, the U.S. Mission in India introduced additional changes to the application process, including the payment, biometrics and interview steps.
Interview Waiver Program Eligibility Requirements
Under the expanded program, the following types of visas are eligible for the interview waiver program:
- Business/Tourism (B1 and/or B2);
- Students (F-1) returning to attend the same school and same program;
- Temporary workers on H-1B visas or on individual L-1A or L-1B visas who are returning to work for the same petitioner in the same classification and the previous visa has not expired for more than 12 months;
- Dependent (J2, H4, L2);
- Transit (C) and/or Crew Member (D) – including C1/D;
- Children applying before their 14th birthday traveling on any visa class;
- Applicants applying on or after their 80th birthday traveling on any visa class.
There are additional requirements, all spelled out at the www.ustraveldocs.com website. Among the most notable are (1) the previous visa must have been issued in India, must be issued after November 1, 2008 (for dropbox use) or after August 1, 2004 (biometrics required); (2) there must not be a “Clearance Received” annotation on the previous visa; and (3) the previous visa must not have expired for more than 48 months (for most classifications, 12 months for H-1B or L-1 visas).
We encourage the U.S. Mission in India’s efforts to streamline the application process and allow applicants, especially H-1B or L-1 workers who are often under time pressure to return to their employment, to process their visas faster. It should be noted, however, that even though some visa applicants may be able to take advantage of the interview waiver program, the U.S. Consular Section officers are likely to call for an interview any applicant whose application paperwork is missing or if there are questions about one’s continued eligibility.
As always, prior to submitting a visa application, please remember to check with the U.S. consulate regarding documentation requirements for the specific visa type. As the U.S. consulates in India are implementing the new application processes, we recommend that you stay flexible, and build in extra lead time to accommodate travel itineraries. Please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics. If our office can be of any help, please feel free to contact us.No comments
Almost all non-US nationals who have traveled to the U.S. at least once are familiar with the little white (or green) card inserted into one’s passport upon admission into the U.S. (sample) Many people do not fully realize the significance of the Form I-94 — most importantly, it records the entry date into the U.S. and determines how long a foreign national is entitled to remain lawfully in the U.S. Form I-94 card is important document serving to establish valid status in the U.S. and to obtain certain benefits, including driving licenses.
Proposed Elimination of Form I-94
In the near future, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP, the agency which admits foreign nationals in the U.S.) is expected to stop issuing Form I-94s to most foreign national at the U.S. ports of entry. The Department of Homeland Security (which oversees CBP and Citizenship and Immigration Service) is instead proposing to use an automated entry system to record each nonimmigrant’s arrival. Travelers will receive a passport stamp annotated with their immigration status and the date their period of stay expires. After the I-94 is eliminated, CBP may create an online portal to allow nonimmigrants to check their status and period of stay and print out a record of their admission. But until such time, foreign nationals will only have their passport stamp to prove entry and validity of status.
It should be noted that foreign nationals entering at land ports of entry will, for the time being, continue to receive a functional I-94 card, as will refugees and some other classes of foreign nationals.
What the I-94 Change Means to Employers and Foreign Nationals
Currently, the I-94 card is used as proof of lawful immigration status and the permissible period of stay. In addition, numerous federal and state agencies use the I-94 to verify whether a foreign national is entitled to certain benefits, including a Social Security number, a driver’s license, among others. USCIS rules require nonimmigrants to carry the I-94 as proof of their status.
Further, along with a valid foreign passport, the I-94 is one of the documents used to verify a foreign national’s employment eligibility on Form I-9 and in the E-Verify database. Since Form I-9 require employees to present and employers to inspect the actual paper I-94 card, it is important for employers to expect, and keep abreast of, the upcoming changes. It is not yet clear how elimination of the I-94 will affect these critical procedures and requirements pertaining to completing the Form I-9. Though CBP has been meeting for some time now with interested government agencies about its paperless I-94 implementation program, specific plans to revise regulations that currently require Form I-94 are not yet known.
While we applaud the government’s efforts to create a more efficient paperless system of recording foreign nationals’ entry information, the impact of eliminating the paper Form I-94 is significant and, in many cases, not fully understood and analyzed. We will continue monitoring this subject and provide updates to our clients and readers. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help you. Also, please visit us again or subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to ensure that you obtain related immigration-related news and announcements.No comments
Travel Warning: Passport Expiration Date May Affect Duration of Authorized Stay (I-94) Upon Entry into the U.S.
The summer has traditionally been a busy traveling season and as the summer start to approach and many of our clients and readers start making international travel plans, we see an increased flow of inquiries and consultations regarding travel and passport expiration dates. Most often the question is, What should be the duration of the passport for purposes of (re)entering the U.S. after travel abroad?
At Least Six Months Passport Validity Required
As an initial matter, the Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) requires that passports be valid for six months beyond the date the traveler will exit the U.S., however, the U.S. has signed agreements with a number of countries to waive this requirement. When such an agreement is in place, the passport must be valid for the entire period of the visitor’s intended stay, but the additional six month validity period is not required. Please read our article on the Six-Month Club for more information.
Passport Expiration Date Before Petition Expiration Date
The question then arises for travelers who are in the U.S. pursuant to a petition with a certain expiration date, such as H-1B, L-1, etc. For example, H-1B petitions are normally issued with a validity of three (3) years and when an H-1B worker travels to the U.S., he or she would expect that upon entering the U.S., the CBP agent would provide a Form I-94 with expiration date equal to the H-1B expiration date plus ten (10) days. However, if the passport has an expiration date which is before the H-1B petition expiration date, CBP, by regulation, should issue a Form I-94 card with expiration date equal to the passport expiration.
However, CBP is inconsistent in the application in this rule and they often disregard the earlier passport expiration date. This, unfortunately, creates confusion among many travelers who seem to get arbitrary Form I-94 expiration dates during different travels.
My I-94 Expiration Date Is The Same as My Passport Expiration and Earlier than My Petition Expiration — What Should I Do?
As discussed above, where the passport expiration date is before the petition (Form I-797) expiration date, CBP should issue Form I-94 with expiration date equal to the passport expiration. As a result, the foreign national is allowed to remain in the U.S. for a period which is shorter than the period they (and their employer) expected. In such cases, it is important to understand the options for obtaining a Form I-94 with expiration date equal to the petition expiration.
Option 1 – Form I-94 “Correction” by CBP. Normally, CBP allows travelers who have been issued erroneous Form I-94 cards to visit a CBP office (normally at international airports) and, after obtaining a new passport, to request that they be issued a corrected I-94 card. This approach has worked for some of our clients in the past. However, some CBP offices refuse to issue such corrections because, technically, the initially issued Form I-94 had the proper expiration date.
Option 2 – Application for Extension of Status. Alternatively, an application to extend status may be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) to request that a new Form I-94 card be issued to match the Form I-797 petition expiration date. This option must be pursued before the Form I-94 expiration date or the extension of status application may be denied.
Note that USCIS does not require that a passport has a validity for the entire period of requested extension of stay — all USCIS needs is a passport valid at the time of filing of the application to extend status. 8 C.F.R. § 214.1(a)(3). The passport does not have to be valid for the entire period of time requested in the extension of status application as the regulations only require that the individual “agree[s] to maintain the validity of his or her passport.”
Option 3 – Leave the U.S. and Reenter with a Renewed Passport. Finally, the foreign national may leave the U.S. and after obtaining a new passport, travel back to the U.S. If a U.S. visa has been issued on the passport that has expired, the foreign national should carry both the new passport and the expired passport containing the valid visa. There is no need to re-apply for a new visa unless the visa term has itself expired.
Consequences of Overstaying Form I-94 Expiration
It is very important to understand that any corrections of Form I-94 card, extensions of status applications or travel abroad be attempted before the Form I-94 expiration date, as issued and determined by CBP. Overstay of the Form I-94 expiration date starts the period of unlawful presence which has severe consequences.
First, overstaying the end date of the authorized stay, as provided by the CBP officer at a port-of-entry and noted on the Form I-94 card would automatically void or cancel the visa stamp. In addition, filing for an extension of status after I-94 expiration has a significant chance of denial. Finally, overstaying the I-94 expiration by more than 180 days may trigger the 3-year ban of entering the U.S. (overstaying by more than one year may result in a 10-year ban).
Travel Preparations — Ensure Passport Has Sufficient Validity
We urge our readers and clients, especially those who plan to enter the U.S. on the basis of a USCIS-approved petition, to ensure that their passport has validity which is greater than the expiration date of their petition approval notice. Also, we always recommend that when a traveler arrives into the U.S. and during border control, to verify his or her I-94 card expiration date, as noted by the CBP officer and to address any questions or concern at that time with the CBP officer. Addressing issued at a later time is usually complicated (and often, costly).
The Form I-94 expiration date is extremely important and it should be checked upon every entry into the U.S. and, ideally, while at the CBP agent station. If you feel that you have not been issued a Form I-94 with a correct date, ask the CBP agent or ask to speak with a supervisor. Foreign nationals should not assume that because they are entering on a visa and pursuant to a I-797 petition approval which has a certain expiration date, that the authorized period of stay in the U.S. on Form I-94 would be the same.
Our office has been able to successfully help many foreign nationals, in a variety of visa types, in either having their I-94 cards corrected or extended. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of any help.No comments
Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), certain Canadian and Mexican professionals are allowed to enter the U.S. under the TN nonimmigrant classification to engage in certain TN-eligible occupations.
TN Admission Requirements
It is important to note that requirements for admission of Canadian and Mexican TN workers vary. A Canadian citizen TN worker may apply for TN classification at the border, while Mexican TN workers must first obtain a TN visa at a U.S. Consulate. Because it is not necessary for citizens of Canada to obtain a TN visa stamp, Canadian TN workers can seek admission as TN worker at a U.S. Class A port-of-entry, at a U.S. airport handling international traffic or at a U.S. pre-clearance/pre-flight station.
Proper Period of Admission
A citizen of Canada may be admitted to the U.S. in TN status for up to three years, assuming that the individual’s passport will remain valid throughout the admission period. A key document a Canadian TN worker should be ready to present is a TN support letter, prepared and issued by the intended US employer describing how the intended position and the employee qualify for TN status.
Not all Canadian TN workers are given a 3-year TN stay, however. If the intended employment is of shorter duration, as described in a TN employer support letter, the TN worker is likely to be given TN status for the requested work period.
The requirement of a passport with sufficient validity and a proper TN employer support letter makes it important for Canadian TN workers to prepare a proper application for admission into the U.S. on TN status. Our office routinely handles emergency calls from would-be-TN Canadian workers who are held at the border due to irregularity with their employer support letter or related documents. We are happy to assist with the preparation of proper TN admission paperwork. Please feel free to contact us for assistance or with questions.No comments
A Brookings Institution report, and a Washington Post article provide an updated overview of the composition of the immigrant labor force. According to the Brookings report, for the first time the proportion of highly skilled immigrants exceeds that of low skilled immigrants in the United States.
The report cites that 30 percent of the country’s working-age immigrants, without taking into account legal status, have at least a bachelor’s degree (definition of highly skilled), while 28 percent lack a high school diploma (definition of low-skilled). Although the foreign-born population in the United States has increased dramatically in the past 30 years, until 2007 or so, the number of low skilled labor exceeded that of high skilled immigrants. Only after 2007, due to increased numbers of F-1 students and H-1B skilled work visas, has the proportion of skilled immigrants increased.
The report also looks as geographic areas and the highly skilled/low skilled composition for those areas. Generally, coastal cities and established “gateway” metropolitan areas attract more highly skilled workers, while areas near the U.S.-Mexico border attract a higher percentage of low skilled immigrants.
The report will certainly fuel the debate over immigration reform in the U.S. However, even without its political implications, the report provides an interesting analysis of the composition of highly/low skilled immigrants in the United States.No comments
Can I Travel to U.S. with Valid H-1B Visa and Pending (or Approved) H-1B Transfer When Prior H-1B Petition Has Been Revoked?
Our office receives a number of inquiries from current and prospective clients, employers and individuals, as to whether an H-1B worker who is beneficiary of a pending H-1B transfer petition can be readmitted into the U.S. based on the valid H-1B visa stamp and the pending H-1B transfer petition.
Reported Incidents of Refused H-1B Admissions
There is a lot of confusion on this subject, especially after reported incidents where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have refused to admit H-1B workers attempting to enter the U.S. with a valid H-1B stamp (from a prior employer) and evidence of pending H-1B transfer petition. Unfortunately, there are confirmed reports of CBP agents refusing to admit such H-1B workers in cases where the prior employer has withdrawn the H-1B petition (as the employer is required to do).
The Legal Framework
Pursuant to the relevant section of AC21 (§105) and as further discussed in the January 29, 2001 Pearson Memorandum, an H-1B beneficiary may be re-admitted to the United States in H-1B status to work for a different employer than the original petitioner if the alien possesses a valid, unexpired H-1B visa (unless exempt from the visa requirement), and if the alien can prove he or she was previously admitted in H-1B status and the alien’s current employer timely filed a new H-1B petition before the alien began work.
CBP Expected to Take Action to Ensure Uniform Application of the Legal Framework
During a recent AILA/CBP exchange, CBP has agreed that a former employer’s H-1B petition withdrawal should not impact a foreign national’s eligibility for AC21 H-1B portability based on a timely-filed H-1B petition by a new employer when the foreign national is seeking admission based on an H-1B visa issued pursuant to the prior employment. CBP has further indicated that if the foreign national has an otherwise valid H-1B visa from the prior employment, and has evidence of a timely filed H-1B petition by a new employer (Form I-797 receipt or approval notice), the individual should be admitted on the basis of the old visa.
To ensure consistent application of these rules, CBP has agreed to send a reminder to their field offices that no new visa is required even though the prior petition has been withdrawn and revoked.
We are encouraged by CBP’s willingness to inform their field offices of the applicability of these regulations. Despite this, it is possible that an H-1B worker may be denied admission by a CBP agent after misapplication of these regulations. To complicate matters further, not all H-1B workers who have pending (or approved) H-1B transfer petition by a new employer and who seek to be admitted into the U.S. know whether their prior employer has withdrawn their H-1B petition.
As a result, a safer approach would be to for a H-1B worker seeking admission to the U.S. on H-1B status based on pending (or approved) H-1B transfer petition to be prepared to point to the relevant regulations discussed here and/or to ask to speak to a CBP supervisor at the point of entry and to explain that H-1B admission not be denied due to the fact that the prior employer’s H-1B petition has been revoked.
Our office also is happy to provide individual case consultations, which may include preparing a document package addressed to the CBP agents to explain the legal framework and to facilitate an H-1B worker’s admission into the U.S. Please contact us if our office can be of any assistance.No comments
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) will be eliminated effective April 28, 2011. See the Federal Register notice and WSJ article.
The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, NSEERS, required individuals from more than 20 predominantly Arab countries to register with the government on arrival and departure from the U.S. Until today, nationals of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen had to register every time they entered or left the U.S. at a border post.
The manual process required about 30 minutes of additional inspection at a port of entry for those arriving on nonimmigrant visas. Visitors had to register again on exiting the country.
DHS Rationale for Ending NSEERS
According to DHS, the main reason for ending NSEERS is that since the NSEERS requirements were established, DHS has created a number of additional procedures and safeguards which, in effect, duplicate NSEERS’ need for manual registration upon entry into the U.S.
According to DHS,
Over the past six years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented several new automated systems that capture arrival and exit information on nonimmigrant travelers to the United States, and DHS has determined that recapturing this data manually when a nonimmigrant is seeking admission to the United States is redundant and no longer provides any increase in security. DHS, therefore, has determined that it is no longer necessary to subject nationals from these countries to special registration procedures, and this notice deletes all currently designated countries from NSEERS compliance.
For example, the US-VISIT program, in effect since 2004, collects entry and exit information and collects biometrics, to be compared with other government records. CBP also requires passenger manifests to be provided for passengers arriving by air or sea into the U.S. There are also a number of international data-sharing agreements, which allow DHS to do better analysis of aliens applying for admission in to the U.S.
As a result of the DHS rule, nonimmigrant nationals and citizens of these countries are no longer required to comply with the requirements of 8 CFR 264.1(f), including the requirement that they exit through designated ports of entry. Accordingly, nationals and citizens from these countries are no longer subject to the NSEERS registration requirement and DHS will no longer register aliens under NSEERS effective on April 28, 2011.No comments
Important Update: April 9, 2011: Short-term Government Funding Bill Passed.
As it appears as of the time of this article, the U.S. federal government is likely to shut down, we would like to provide some information as to how the shutdown would affect the immigration cases pending or to be filed shortly. Our office has been receiving an increasing number of inquiries from alarmed clients as to what would happen should the federal government close on Monday if a deal is not reached on the federal government’s budget. (See latest Google News)
How Would a Government Shutdown Affect Immigration Cases?
There is no simple answer to this question, as some federal government agencies would continue to operate, some would close partially and some would close almost completely. Since the last time this kind of shutdown happened was 15 years ago, there are no clear rules and guidance as to what would remain open and what would close. With respect to immigration, it appears that there would be some disruptions to pending cases and upcoming filings. Generally, the government is likely to stop all non-essential, all non-self-funded and all non-contractually funded services.
Since USCIS is funded primarily through application fees, it is expected that most of its services and centers would operate normally, perhaps with slightly diminished staff. Because USCIS is a government agency which relies on other government agencies to perform its services, there may be certain disruptions; however, overall, case processing at USCIS is expected to resume. Border processing of immigrants and border enforcement activities would continue as they are deemed “essential.”
Department of State – No (or Slow) Visa Applications; Visa Bulletin Uncertain; NVC Processing Could Continue
The Department of State (DOS) is expected to to cease non-emergency visa services and non-US citizen services at U.S. Consular Posts abroad. As a result, no new visas are expected to be issued and visa application interviews are likely to be cancelled (or postponed). U.S. passport applications will not be accepted and processing of submitted applications is likely to be put on hold.
As a comparison, according to data from the Congressional Research Service Report, during the last shutdown in 1995, approximately 20,000 – 30,000 visas went unprocessed each day and 200,000 applications for U.S. passports went unprocessed.
It is unknown at this point, however, whether the May 2011 Visa Bulletin, which is expected to be issued over the next few days and which is issued by the Department of State, will be affected. We hope that it would be released before Monday when a possible shutdown would take effect. Many of our readers are eagerly expecting the May 2011 Visa Bulletin because it is expected to bring some substantial forward movement to the EB-2 India category.
With respect to immigrant visa (family, employment, etc.) cases pending at the National Visa Center (NVC), it is possible that they would continue to be processed as NVC’s staffing funding was under contract.
Department of Labor – LCA, PERM and Audits
It is unclear exactly how the Department of Labor would be affected. We expect that ETA Form 9035 LCA filings, used most often in connection with H-1B filings, to be affected. This may mean that no new LCAs can be filed (and those filed may be put on hold) and, as a result, new H-1B filings can be delayed.
ETA Form 9089 PERM labor certifications are expected to be similarly affected. It is unclear whether the system allowing new PERM labor certification filings would be shut down; however, we expect that processing of PERM labor certification cases to stop during a shutdown. This holds true for processing of PERM audits and appeals at the BALCA.
While the full extent of the federal government shutdown (if it were to happen over the next day or two) is unknown; we can anticipate some disruptions to government services affecting immigrants. Perhaps more severe would be the disruptions to visa applications at U.S. Consular Posts abroad, followed by delays or inability to file H-1B and/or PERM labor certifications. While some of these affected cases would be able to withstand delay, there would be a number of urgent visa or petition cases which would need to be filed or processed. The shutdown would also create a significant increase in the processing time backlogs for almost all immigration cases.
We stand ready to help analyze any cases which are time-sensitive and may suffer severe negative impact by the shutdown. Please feel free to contact us. Our office would also continue to monitor developments and provide timely updates. Please feel free to subscribe to our free weekly newsletter to obtain developments on this and related topics.No comments
The Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) is a centralized processing facility for petition-based nonimmigrant visa programs and for the Diversity Visa program (also known as “green card lottery”). Located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, KCC serves a variety of important functions affecting many visa applicants and foreign nationals who are selected under the Diversity Visa lotttery. There are 300 employees, of which 97% are under private contracts.
For the Diversity Visa program, KCC processes approximately 100,000 selectees every year to ensure that all of the 55,000 allocated immigrant visa numbers are properly allocated. KCC also receives 12,000 I-129 nonimmigrant visa petitions each week from USCIS and processes them for U.S. consular posts around the world.
Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU)
As part of its processing tasks, KCC houses the Fraud Prevention Unit which creates base files for petitioners and researches petitioner information in connection with visa stamp applications. The purpose of the FPU is to allow the government to research the petitioner in more depth from within the U.S. Often a U.S. consular post is not able (logistically or otherwise) to do proper petitioner research; as a result, the FPU allows such petitioner research or verification tasks to be conducted from within the U.S.
As part of its duties, the FPU could contact the petitioner directly to ask questions, or if an end-client is involved in the employment arrangement (such as with many IT consulting companies), the FPU could contact the end-client directly. The FPU researchers will identify themselves – they do not make pretext calls to gain information. The researcher creates a memo regarding the information obtained, which is entered into the FPU database. Normally there is no need to research the same petitioner multiple times, in the absence of some particular need to do so.
The trigger for FPU review is either random (reportedly about 1% of all records) or upon specific request by a consular post. Normally, electronic records are created from I-129 records for all petitioners whose petitions are processed by KCC. All petitioners are verified and minimum research is conducted to verify the petitioner’s existence. A more in-depth petitioner existence review is conducted randomly or upon consular post request.
Training in the FPU is category-specific. Researchers are trained on industries, company size and other factors. Agents in the FPU receive an overiew of all petition-based NIV categories; however, they normally specialize regionally. Currently, there are two teams-India and Global (all non-Indian posts).
Petition Information Management Service (PIMS)
The PIMS system allows consular posts to obtain petition information in connection with visa applications (most often by the beneficiary of the petition). KCC acts as the central processing facility of petitions processed by USCIS. Normally, USCIS sends petitions to KCC’s PIMS systemwhich are then scanned and made available to consulates around the world in the PIMS system.
In the normal course of processing, KCC receives boxes of files from USCIS and electronically tracks them based on the USCIS barcodes on the files as they are received. I-129 petitions are scanned, 55 fields are entered for data capture, a petitioner is assigned, a quality control check is conducted, and then the hard copy is shredded.
KCC reports that it has processed 65,000 consular PIMS inquiries in FY2009 and 48,000 in FY2010. For the vast majority of these inquiries, sufficient information is in CLAIMS for KCC to update PIMS within 24 hours. KCC’s PIMS processing completion target times for entry into the system are: COB the next day for “expedited petitions” (which do not necessarily include premium processing), 3 working days for O, P, T and U petitions, 5 working days for other petitions and for revocation/CIS notices, and 10 working days for any other extension or change of status petitions. The processing time for USCIS affirmations of petitions returned by the consulate with a revocation recommendation is within 5 days.No comments