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U.S. IMMIGRATION NEWSLETTER is the E-Newsletter regarding U.S. Immigration Laws, News & Issues compiled by GLOBAL LAW CENTERS on a Bi-weekly basis and special news issues are sent when important immigration news arises. It is a must reading for potential immigrants, employers and human resources managers. It provides analysis of the latest developments in U.S. immigration laws. Information provided in this newsletter is general information only and may not apply to any particular set of facts or situations.
In This Issue
President Obama signed into law Public Law 111-230 on August 13, 2010 increasing the filing fees for certain H-1B and L-1 petitions. Effective immediately, the law requires the submission of an additional fee of $2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions postmarked on or after Aug. 14, 2010, and will remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2014. The additional fee, if applicable, is in addition to the base processing fee, the existing Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee, and any applicable American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) fee, needed to file a petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129), as well as any premium processing fees, if applicable. This law is applicable to petitioners (employers) who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A, L-1B and L-2) nonimmigrant status.
USCIS requests that petitioners include a notation of whether the fee is required in bold capital letters at the top of the cover letter. Where USCIS does not receive such explanation and/or documentation with the initial filing, it may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) to determine whether the petition is covered by the public law.
Recent media reports and independent bloggers indicate that many large Indian IT companies will face the brunt of this fee increase. The legislation targets companies that lawmakers say “exploit” U.S. visa programs. A summary of the Senate version listed Wipro, Tata, Infosys and Satyam as such firms, saying that they fly thousands of employees to the U.S. to work at as technicians and engineers for their clients. The Indian Government has raised objection to this bill stating it is discriminatory. We will continue to monitor this development and provide our analysis on how this fee increase will impact the hiring decisions of many employers in this struggling economy.
Recently, the US Department of State (DOS) announced a new pilot project that will allow foreign nationals seeking immigrant visas (IV) to the United States complete their immigrant visa applications electronically.
The IV Electronic Processing Program is a pilot project which uses electronic communication and documentation methods to simplify and accelerate the immigrant visa application process. This program uses e-mail for communication and submission of all forms and documents to the NVC using the Portable Document Format (PDF).
Under the Electronic Processing Program all forms will be downloaded, completed, signed (if required), scanned, saved as PDF files, and e-mailed to the NVC. Required civil documents and supporting documents must be converted to PDF files by scanning and e-mailed to the NVC.
After the NVC has completed processing the applicant’s petition, the applicant will need to present the original physical documents to the US Embassy/Consulate at the time of the applicant’s visa interview.
The US Embassies and Consulates participating in the Electronic Processing Program may have already sent the notifications to the applicants, petitioners, and attorneys who may be eligible to participate in the program.
If eligible to participate in Electronic Processing the applicant (or designated agent) and the petitioner must: Have regular access to e-mail internet service; Have the ability to scan required documents into PDF files; Be able to submit all forms electronically (no paper copies will be accepted).
All visa applicants, their designated agent (if applicable), and their petitioner will need to follow the processing requirements in order to successfully complete Electronic Processing of the immigrant visa petition.
Note: If the applicant does not wish to participate in Electronic Processing, the applicant should follow the instructions provided in the National Visa Center’s letter (e.g. paying the applicable fee or mailing the Choice of Address and Agent Form, DS-3032, to the NVC).
Section 3 – ICE Memo on Guidance for Removal Proceedings Involving Aliens with Pending or Approved Applications or Petitions
On August 20, 2010, John Morton, Assistant Secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, issued a guidance regarding the handling of removal proceedings of aliens with pending or approved applications or petitions. The policy outlines a framework for ICE to request expedited adjudication of an application or petition for alien in removal proceedings that is pending before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if the approval of such application or petition would provide an immediate basis for relief for the alien.
In any case involving a detained alien whose application or petition is pending with the USCIS, ICE shall affirmatively request that the USCIS expedite the adjudication of the application or petition. ICE should promptly transfer the file to USCIS and USCIS will endeavor to adjudicate all the detained cases referred to it by ICE within 30 days. In any case involving a non-detained the USCIS shall adjudicate within 45 days.
Even though this policy was issued to avoid unnecessary delay and efficient use of ICE resources, it is a welcome change. Hopefully, this policy will result in the faster adjudication of applications and petition and grant immediate relief to eligible aliens whose matters are pending with ICE.
An H-1B Visa (Specialty Occupation) is a non-immigrant visa that is available to a foreign national who has been offered a job by a United States company for services to be performed in the United States. H-1B Visas are available to workers in specialty or professional occupations. It allows one to stay and work in the U.S. for an initial period of three years, but not to exceed six years. H-1B Visa holders can travel in and out of the United States, when it has been granted by a U.S. consulate. Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may receive visas as well.
Per federal regulations, the USCIS is only permitted to issue 65,000 H-1B visas each fiscal year (FY). They are also required to set aside 6,800 for nationals of Chile and Singapore, thereby leaving only 58,200 visas available for the regular H-1B program. Out of these individuals who have earned a U.S. Master’s degree are processed under a separate quota of 20,000. Any remaining master’s cap applicants not selected in this special category will then be run in the random selection under the regular H-1B cap.
As of August 27, 2010, the USCIS has received approximately 34,900 H-1B petitions counting toward the 65,000 cap. The agency has received approximately 13,000 petitions for individuals with advanced degrees. Employers interested in obtaining H-1B Visas for prospective employees do not need to demonstrate that there is a shortage of qualified U.S. workers so there is no need for Labor Certification.
It is recommended that employers have an attorney to present the proper documentation and establish that the offered position is a specialty occupation; and that the employee has the appropriate credentials for the job. To further discuss your possibilities for an H-1B visa please contact our office at 714-657-7460 for a free consultation.
If you are from Haiti and presently in the United States pursuing studies in F-1 status and have suffered severe economic hardship as result of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, a special relief approved by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is available, allowing you to obtain employment authorization.
This relief applies only to students who were lawfully present in the United States in F-1 status on Jan. 12, and enrolled in an institution that is certified by ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program. This special relief is available to eligible Haitian F-1 students permitting them to obtain employment authorization, work an increased number of hours during the school term, and, if necessary, reduces their course load while continuing to maintain their F-1 student status. Haitian F-1 students granted employment authorization by means of this notice will be deemed to be engaged in a full course of study if they meet the minimum course-load requirements specified in the notice.
ICE wants to ensure that students from Haiti, who were here at the time of January’s tragic events, are able to concentrate on their studies without the worry of financial burdens created by the devastation of the earthquake. If you need assistance to obtain an employment authorization, Global Law Centers will be delighted to help you navigate the complex US immigration system.
The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano announced today unmanned aerial system (UAS) flights will begin out of Corpus Christi, Texas, on September 1st. DHS unmanned aerial capabilities will now cover the Southwest Border—from the El Centro Sector in California, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.
This comes as a response to the recently passed Southwest border security legislation, promising to increase the number of personnel assigned to border enforcement security task forces and number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers working along the U.S-Mexico border.
Plans also include an increase in deployments of border liaison officers who have begun screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs, and cash. The President has also authorized the deployment of an additional 1,200 National Guard troops to the border to provide intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and immediate support to counternarcotics enforcement while Customs and Border Protection recruits and trains additional officers and agents to serve on the border.
The Administration is dedicating $600 million in new funding to enhance security technology at the border, share information and support with state, local, and tribal law enforcement, and increase federal law enforcement activities at the border. That effort will include the deployment of more agents, investigators, and prosecutors as part of a coordinated effort with states and cities to target illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, and money.
Some of the additional highlights of recent achievements:
- Deploy additional technology and complete fencing construction along the Southwest border. Over the past 17 months, CBP has deployed additional Mobile and Remote Video Surveillance Systems, and thermal imaging systems. DHS has also completed 646.5 miles of fencing out of nearly 652 miles mandated by Congress.
- Increased employer audits to deter violations of employment verification laws and protect American workers. Since Jan. 2009, DHS has audited more than 2,785 employers suspected of hiring illegal labor, debarred more than 100 companies and 80 individuals, and issued more than $6.4 million in fines—more than the total amount of audits and fines issued in the entire previous administration.
- Deploy Secure Communities technology to all southwest border communities. The Obama Administration has expanded the Secure Communities initiative—which uses biometric information to identify criminal aliens in state prisons and local jails to expedite removal proceedings—from 14 to 567 locations, including all jurisdictions along the Southwest border. This program has identified more than 287,500 aliens in jails and prisons who have been charged with or convicted of criminal offenses, including more than 43,000 charged with or convicted of major violent or drug offenses.
- Target criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety. The Obama Administration has fundamentally reformed immigration enforcement, focusing on identifying and removing criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety. Overall, criminal removals/returns increased by almost 22,000.
With all the significant changes being made in the attempts to secure our border we can only hope that the Obama Administration continues to follow through on their promises and begins to tackle the even greater task of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Last week ICE made 102 arrests in Arizona. These arrests were made as part of Operation Community Shield, an ongoing initiative by ICE in which the agency uses its powerful immigration and customs authorities in a coordinated strategy to attack and dismantle criminal street gangs across the country. Of the gang members and gang associates arrested during the enforcement action that concluded late Saturday, 29 are currently facing prosecution on state criminal charges, including outstanding warrants for gang-related violations.
ICE is successfully targeting these gangs, arresting their leaders, disrupting their operations, and putting their members and associates behind bars. Since Operation Community Shield began in February 2005, ICE agents nationwide have arrested more than 18,000 gang members and gang associates. As part of the effort, Homeland Security Investigation’s National Gang Unit identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations.
Transnational street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-born members and are frequently involved in human and contraband smuggling, immigration violations and other crimes with a connection to the border.
The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their retirement and health care benefits, helping employers find workers, strengthening free collective bargaining, and tracking changes in employment, prices, and other national economic measurements. For more information regarding the USDOL and their mission please visit www.dol.gov.
Early this summer, Terra Universal, a Fullerton company known for manufacturing clean room and laboratory equipment, was the subject of an employment raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who acted on a report that the company had been knowingly hiring illegal workers.
Universal Terra has received another complaint this month, this time by ACLU alleging the company exploited and discriminated against immigrant workers.
ACLU officials claim that the multimillion dollar federal government contractor had violated federal labor laws, alleging company officials required employees with Hispanic surnames to work long hours without overtime based on their perceived legal status in the country.
In all, 43 people were arrested on June 29, 2010 on suspicion of being in the country illegally. The ACLU is reporting that Terra’s human resources department had a way of cataloging workers who had papers and who didn’t, with red stickers on those who they believed were undocumented. Employees claim that they were told individually that they didn’t have equal rights under employment law, were not entitled to equal pay, and were not entitled to vacation or sick days & holidays.
Global Law Centers fully supports increased employer audits to protect the rights of both immigrant & U.S. Citizen Workers.
The fall and winter holiday periods are among the busiest long-distance travel times of the year. Many of our clients find themselves travelling and visiting friends and family abroad, or, in the alternative many clients are calling us asking how they can assist their family members in visiting the U.S. Most foreign visitors who are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program are required to obtain a B-1/B-2 visitor’s visa in order to travel to the U.S. The visa which allows an individual to travel into the U.S. is issued at the applicant’s nearest consulate in increments of 3 to 10 years. The visa is not to be confused with the I-94 which determines the amount of time an individual can actual visit the U.S. Upon entry into the U.S. the CBP will usually issue an I-94 valid for up to 6 months. Please keep in mind that passports should have a validity date of beyond six months from entry otherwise the officer may choose to only validate the I-94 between 1-5 months.
Popular locations for foreign visitor’s include: Disneyland, in Anaheim, CA, Hollywood, Universal Studios (near Los Angeles), or Sea World in San Diego. Los Angeles is home to many great museums full of art and history from around the world including the J. Paul Getty Art Museum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, and Museum of Contemporary Art-Los Angeles.
While Orange County is host to a bright and lively night scene in the Anaheim, Orange, and Garden Grove area near Disneyland, we are also proud to offer some of the most spectacular natural beauty found on our California coastlines, bright sunny beaches at Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, or Newport Beach. In sunny California you can even visit in the middle of winter! To experience beauty of a more seasonally appropriate climate, just drive into California’s San Bernardino and Riverside two hours outside of Orange County and you will find snowy peaks at Big Bear, Mountain High, or Snow Summit for hours of fun skiing, snowboarding, and tubing. For more information on how you or your family members can visit the U.S. this holiday season please visit http://globallawcenters.com/b_visa.php.
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The information contained in GLOBAL LAW CENTERS U.S IMMIGRATION NEWSLETTER is intended strictly to be used for information purposes and to educate the public in a general manner. The information contained in this newsletter should not be considered legal advice, legal consultation, expressed or implied representation or a formal or an informal retention of this office. To create a formal attorney-client relationship a retainer must be signed and a fee must be paid to this office. Our response to any of your questions, comments, concerns etc. does not establish an attorney-client relationship. By responding to your questions we do not consider ourselves your attorneys. The response to your questions is strictly informational in nature and should not be considered or used as legal advice in any manner. The information contained on this site is general information on immigration laws and issues. The general information that is included in this web page will not cover the various exceptions and loopholes that are prevalent in the Immigration laws. We hope that our newsletter will educate you and hopefully enhance your understanding of Immigration laws. To read more information please visit GLOBAL LAW CENTERS website.