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Pennsylvania DOT adds 8 languages to Driver’s License Test- Eliminates Automatic Use of Translators


On July 22, 2013, Pennsylvania joined New Jersey, New York and many other states by making its written driver’s license  test available in multiple languages. The test will now be available in Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), French, Hindi, Korean, Russian, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. Prior to this announcement the test had been available only in English and Spanish.

The test will be continue to be administered on the same knowledge testing equipment as before the change and will have both text and audio. The only exception to this policy is the Hazardous Materials Endorsement Knowledge test, which is only offered in English, as required by State and Federal law.

With the addition of these 8 languages, PennDOT has now disallowed the use of translators during the knowledge test as well as for skills tests and special point exams. However, there is still a mechanism available for those who do not speak one of the 10 languages available:  Applicants seeking licenses should have their translator contact PennDOT at 1-800-932-4600 or  717-412-5300 to request a Knowledge Test Translation Authorization Letter and provide contact information as well as the location where the test will be taken and the required language. The translator will be contacted by PennDOT within 5 business days to discuss the request.

PennDOT indicates that it will continue to monitor the languages  customers are requesting and consider offering additional languages if a need is identified.

While this is a positive move for speakers of the 8 additional languages made available, the new no-translator policy without prior approval will be difficult for PennDOT to administer and will delay the licensing process for many. 

A better solution for PennDOT would be to follow New Jersey’s lead and continue to allow translators in the languages in which the test is not available.  New Jersey permits translators if they meet one of the three criteria listed below:

    • A full-time faculty member of a state-accredited college or university with proper identification from the institution
    • A priest, minister, rabbi or other religious leader of a recognized organization with credentials of association with the organization
    • An individual with an interpreter identification card issued by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Language Services

This solution address the problem of having testing results compromised by the use of biased or faulty interpreters, while still permitting test takers easy access to the agency and the test taking process. PennDOT’s  new process, with its pre-approval requirement, forms to be completed and other bureaucratic processes will greatly hamper the test taking process for foreign speakers in languages not currently available.  

In New Jersey the written test is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Japanese. In New York the test is available in Chinese, English, Haitian Creole, Italian, Korean, Russian and Spanish.

 
 
 
 

I-94s Go Electronic: What it means for Travelers and Employers


On May 1, 2013 US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began the roll-out of its new electronic I-94 system. By the end of May, paper I-94s will be eliminated for all foreign national travelers except those entering at land border ports. This means that any foreign national traveler entering the United States at an air or sea port, will receive only a notation in their passport with their entry date, type of status and the expiration date of their stay. Information will be recorded and retrieved by CBP by scanning the traveler’s passport. Upon exiting the United States, travelers do not need to do anything differently.  Those with a paper I-94s will continue to surrender them  to the commercial carrier or CBP upon departure and those who entered with the new process will have their departure recorded via electronic manifest.

Accessing I-94 Records: To verify the information contained in an electronic Form I-94, travelers should go to http://www.cbp.gov/i94  to review their record. Travelers are also advised to  print out a paper copy of the electronic I-94 information for their records. This record will only be available until the traveler’s next entry into the United States, so it is imperative for foreign nationals who intend on seeking visa extensions or legal permanent residence to maintain accurate and complete electronic I-94 records. Any errors discovered should be immediately reported to nearest CBP  office so that they may be quickly corrected.

Maintaining Accuracy: In the new process, CBP will be relying heavily on the manifest arrival and departure records provided by the airlines to record entry and departure information for foreign national travelers. As a result it is imperative to ensure that  personal information such as name and date of birth is correct and consistent throughout the traveler’s documents and travel record.

 I-9 Completion: The new electronic I-94 will make employment eligibility verification and I-9 form completion more complicated.  The new I-9 form with an issue date of March 8, 2013 should be used for all new-hires and re-verifications. On this form, employees with temporary work authorization are now required to include their passport number and the country of issuance on the form. Employers, when completing Section 2, List A should record passport information and visa information.  The expiration date of the employee’s immigration status should be included in the employer’s tickler system so that reverifciation may be completed on time. Be careful not to confuse the expiration date of the passport or visa with the expiration date of the person’s legal immigration status, as these will rarely be the same.

Phased Implementation: Implementation of  electronic I-94s began on April 30, 2013 and will continue through the end of May 2013.  See the Automated I-94 Rollout web page for implementation information and schedules.  During the first week, the system was implemented at Charlotte (NC) International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport, Las Vegas International Airport, Miami International Airport and Orlando International Airport.  During the second week, CBP expanded into major air and sea ports by region, including the air sea ports in the New York/Newark, NJ area, Boston and ten other cities. Ports in Los Angeles and San Francisco, among other regions, are being implemented the week of May 14, along with pre-flight clearance stations abroad.  The move to an electronic system is estimated to save the government $15.5 million

For more information on this or any immigration topic, please contact Valentine Brown vbrown@duanemorris.com (215) 979-1840.

 

 

 
 
 
 

May Visa Bulletin: Strong Advancement in EB-3 Everywhere except India


The May Visa Bulletin has been released by the Department of State and things are looking up for those in the EB-3 category with large advancements for Chinese, Mexican, and all other chargeability area nationals.

With regard to the EB-2 category, Chinese nationals will experience over a one month advancement from April 1, 2008 to May 15, 2008; while Indian nationals remain at September 1, 2004, which has not changed since the end of 2012.  In the meantime, Mexican, Filipino, and nationals from all other areas of chargeability remain current in EB-2 through May of 2013. 

All of those in the EB-3 category will see advancements in their priority dates.  Chinese, Mexican, and all other chargeability areas will see large advancements of up to eight months, while Indian nationals will an advancement of 14 days.  Filipino nationals will advance six days.  See the chart below:

 

Employment Based Third Preference

All Chargeability Areas Except those listed 

China- mainland born 

India 

Mexico 

Philippines 

April

07/01/2007

04/22/2007

12/08/2002

07/01/2007

09/08/2006

 

May 

12/01/2007

12/01/2007

 

 

12/22/2002

12/01/2007

09/15/2006

 

 As always, due to the fear of retrogression, its vitally important that I-485 applications be filed in the first month of visa availability.  If your priority date is current or will become current based on the May 2013 visa bulletin, please contact our office.

  For additional information regarding the Visa Bulletin, or any other immigration matters, please contact Valentine at 215-979-1840 or at vbrown@duanemorris.com.

 

 

 
 
 
 

H-1B Lottery is Complete: Applicants have 2/3 Chance for Selection


USCIS announced today at 3:00 PM that it had received approximately 124,000 H-1B Visa applications from April 1 through April 5. Because this number exceeded the 20,000 Masters Cap + 65,000 regular Cap, USCIS initiated the lottery procedure. The fact that the lottery has already been completed is a  welcome improvement over past years when the lottery was not completed until much later in April. Having the lottery done early will allow applicants who did not get selected additional time to evaluate thier immigration options and make other plans, prior to the expiration of their current immigration status.

Chance of Success: Based upon the number of applications received, each applicant will have an unscientific 2/3 chance to obtain an H-1B visa number. The chance calculation is not exact as we do not know how many of the 124,000 applications received were persons with a US Masters degrees.  The Masters degree cap lottery was conducted first, with any losers being added to the regular cap lottery.

H-1B applicants will either receive a USCIS receipt notice, signifying that their applications have been successful and selected in the lottery, or they will receive their complete application, including their filing fee checks back in the mail, with a notice indicating that they did not get picked.

Premium Processing: As previously indicated, in a USCIS statement, the agency will begin premium processing H-1B applications on April 15, 2013, thus the statutory 15 day period will commence on that date.

We should start receiving H-1B receipt notices within the next several days. Normally the rejected applications take much longer to be mailed, because they must be handled by humans in the mailroom, whereas USCIS receipts are all system generated.

If you application has not been selected, it is best to consult with your immigration attorney to determine the best options for addressing this disappointing news. Often other options are available, such as a change of status to a different status, or a STEM OPT extension. This is not however, the case for all applicants and some may be required to return home after their current status expires.

Cap Exempt H-1Bs: It is important to remember that the H-1B cap does not affect all  H-1B applicants. As stated in its press release today:  “USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap will not be counted towards the congressionally-mandated FY 2014 H-1B cap. Accordingly, USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:

  • extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the U.S.;
  • change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
  • allow current H-1B workers to change employers;
  • allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.”

 We are hopeful that with the strong likelihood of immigration reform, this might be our last H-1B cap for a while. Proposals currently under consideration would increase the cap to a maximum of 300,000 depending upon prior H-1B usage, economic and unemployment rate factors. We will keep our fingers crossed. 

If you have any questions regarding this information or other options to the H-1B, please contact Duane Morris. 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

CBP Announces Automation of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record - Eliminates Paper Forms, Streamlines Admission Process


On March 21, 2013, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) announced that it submitted to the Federal Register a rule that will automate Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. 

This rule should streamline the admissions process for individuals lawfully entering the U.S.  Many readers of this blog would recall that CBP has already eliminated the use of Form I-94 for visitors entering the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA).

Form I-94 provides foreign national visitors and workers entering the U.S. evidence they have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. which is necessary to verify alien registration, immigration status, and employment authorization.

 The automation means that affected visitors will no longer need to fill out a paper form when arriving to the U.S. by air or sea, improving procedures and reducing costs. The change will go into effect 30 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register. 

 Travelers wanting a hard copy or other evidence of admission (which is important to have for those authorized for employment for purposes of Form I-9) will be directed to ww.cbp.gov/I94* to print a copy of an I-94 based on the electronically submitted data, including the I-94 number from the form, to provide as necessary to benefits providers or as evidence of lawful admission. (www.cbp.gov/I94 ).

As part of CBP’s work to bring advances in technology and automation to the passenger processing environment, records of admission will now be generated using traveler information already transmitted through electronic means. This change should decrease paperwork for both the officer and the traveler and will allow CBP to better optimize its resources.

For more information about this post, pleae contact Hector A. Chichoni at: 305.960.2277 or hachichoni@duanemorris.com.

This post does not constitute legal advice and does not establish an attorneyclient relationship.

 
 
 
 

The H-1B Visa Filing Deadline Is Almost Upon Us


The H-1B cap for Fiscal Year 2014 consists of only 65,000 regular visas, and an additional 20,000 are available to only individuals with advanced degrees from American universities.

 H-1B petitions for the 2013 to 2014 Fiscal Year (FY 13-14) must be received by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on April 1, 2013.

The April 1, 2013, deadline for the filing for new H-1B visas is approaching, and the time for employers needing to hire foreign nationals in specialty occupations in H-1B status is now. If employers do not act, they will be unable to secure an H-1B (subject to the cap) for the October 1, 2013, start date and will have to wait another year until they are able to file for H-1Bs again.

There are many reasons why employers do not meet the H-1B filing deadline. Sometimes employers simply are not acquainted with immigration law intricacies. For example, an employer may be relying on the fact that a foreign national employee in F-1 status working pursuant to Optional Practical Training (OPT) still has “plenty” of time left on his or her employment authorization. Employment authorization under OPT is only good for 12 months (or 29 months if the foreign national has a STEM degree and his or her employer is using E-Verify). Depending on when the 12 (or 29) months of OPT employment authorization cycle ends, the foreign national employee may have to stop working because he or she is unable to continue being authorized for employment until the next fiscal year’s start date. Thus, it is vital for an employer to file the H-1B visa petition under the fiscal year prior to the OPT’s expiration, even though there still may be plenty of time left of employment authorization.

Furthermore, employers often hire foreign nationals in other nonimmigrant classifications whose status may also be soon expiring and whose only option to continue working for that same employer is to file for a change of status to H-1B, subject to the cap now.

Likewise, last year during the “crazy” H-1B filing season, many applicants did not get an H-1B visa because the petitions were not filed in a timely manner. In addition, many H-1B cases failed to make the deadline because they were not “properly filed.”

Every year, many employers experience economic hardship as a direct result of failing to meet the H-1B cap filing deadline. It is impossible to predict when the new FY 13-14 H-1B cap will be exhausted, but it is anticipated to be exhausted very quickly.

The U.S. Department of State’s April 2013 Visa Bulletin provides additional information on the availability of immigrant numbers during April 2013.

For Further Information If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact any Hector A. Chichoni at hachichoni@duanemorris.com or 305.960.2277.

 

 
 
 
 

Revised Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (M-274)


 

The newly revised Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 (Rev. 03/08/13 N) is now available for immediate use by all employers. To help inform employers of the revisions, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)  is also  offering free educational webinars that highlight the new features and changes made to Form I-9, which includes fields and format, and expanded and clearer instructions. The webinars offered by USCIS also include an overview of how to use Form I-9.

USCIS has also published a revised version of the Handbook for Employers (M-274).  The M-274 contains not only the instructions to complete the newly revised Form I-9, but also answers to substantive and procedural Form I-9 questions. The M-274 is available at USCIS’s I-9 Central website (www.uscis.gov). The updated revision of the M-274 is dated: January 5, 2011. The prior M-274 revision was July 31, 2009.

Director Alejandro Mayorkas has stated that the M-274 has been revised and updated with new information about applicable regulations, including new regulations about electronic storage and retention of Forms I-9; it clarifies how to process an employee with a complicated immigration status; and, it addresses public comments and frequently asked questions.

Some of the many improvements, new sections, and tools included in the M-274 are:

New visual aids for completing Form I-9

Examples of new relevant USCIS documents

Expanded guidance on lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, individuals in Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and exchange visitors and foreign students

Expanded guidance on the processing of employees in or porting to H1-B status and H2-A status

Expanded guidance on extensions of stay for employees with temporary employment authorization

The Handbook for Employers now also includes information for employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) who must verify their employees’ employment authorization on Form I-9 CNMI. It also highlights information about documents CNMI employers may accept from their employees.

If you need assistance with Form I-9, we would be happy to assist you.  Please contact Hector A. Chichoni at hachichoni@duanemorris.com or at 305.960.2277. 

This blog should not be construed as legal advice, as pertaining to specific factual situations or as establishing an atttorney-client relationship. 

 
 
 
 

USCIS Announces The Release of a New and Revised Form I-9


On Thursday, March 7, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will release today a new and revised version of Form I-9.  After several rounds of revisions and changes, the new and revised Form I-9 will be made officially available through the Federal Register. As required by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), the Form I-9 is used by employers to verify a new employee’s identity and to establish and employee’s employment eligibility in the United States. According to USCIS, the new Form I-9 contains formatting changes and the inclusion of additional data fields, including employee’s foreign passport information, telephone number, and email address.  Moreover, the new Form I-9 has been expanded from one to two pages and the form’s instructions provide additional clarifications. USCIS’s notice states that:  

 Employers must use the new Form I-9 immediately; however, USCIS recognizes that some employers may need additional time in order to make necessary updates to their business processes to allow for use of the new Form I-9. USCIS recognizes that modifications to electronic systems may be particularly necessary for employers utilizing electronic Forms I-9.  For these reasons, USCIS is providing employers 60-days to make necessary changes. USCIS believes that the 60-day period will help alleviate the burden that immediate implementation of the newly revised Form I-9 would have imposed on employers. Note that employers do not need to complete the new Form I-9 “(Rev. 03/08/13)N” for current employees for whom there is already a properly completed Form I-9 on file, unless re-verification applies. Unnecessary verification may violate the anti-discrimination provision at section 274B of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1324b, which is enforced by DOJ’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment.

USCIS’s notice also contains the dates that employers should begin using the newly revised Form I-9 and announces the date that employers can no longer use prior versions of the form.  The new Form I-9 with a revision date of “(Rev. 03/08/13) N” is available for use beginning from the date of its publication in the Federal Register.  Prior versions of Form I-9 “(Rev. 08/07/09) Y” and “(Rev. 02/02/2009) N” can no longer be used by the public effective 60 days from the publication date of the new Form I-9 in the Federal Register. Failure to use the new and revised Form I-9 can result in the imposition of penalties under the Immigration and Nationality Act.  U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement will be responsible for enforcing compliance with the new and revised Form I-9.

Employers can obtain the new Form I-9 by calling USCIS’ National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 or by visiting USCIS’s I-9 Central web page at www.uscis.gov/I-9Central. A Spanish-language version of the new Form I-9 is available at www.uscis.gov for use in Puerto Rico only.

If you need assistance with Form I-9, we would be happy to assist you.  Please contact Hector A. Chichoni at hachichoni@duanemorris.com or at 305.960.2277. 

This blog should not be construed as legal advice, as pertaining to specific factual situations or as establishing an attorney-client relationship.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Responds to Sequestration Questions


Customs and Border Protection (CBP) The Department of Homeland Security agency resposible for the movement of people and goods across international boundaries has published several statements on how sequestration will affect its operations:

Travel and Trade:

 In a FAQ issued on Saturday, CBP indicates that "under the automatic sequestration cuts, we anticipate reducing agency-wide expenditures significantly during the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013. CBP Field Operations, the office responsible for securing the U.S. border at ports of entry, will experience budget cuts equating to the loss of several thousand CBP officers at these ports of entry, in addition to significant cuts to operating budgets and programs. Stakeholders in the travel and trade industries will see service impacts and CBP employees will be furloughed. Additional information regarding priorities during sequestration, reduced hours of operation at ports and increased airport wait times of up to 50% or more are provided.

Imports:

CBP has issued a FAQ on how the sequestration cuts may affect the movement of imports into the United States.  The agency states that "at the national level, OFO and the Office of International Trade (OT) Headquarters staff will participate in weekly telephone conference calls, coordinated through the Office of Trade Relations, with cargo industry stakeholders to address the impacts of the sequester on imported shipments. As part of the weekly conference call, OFO, OT, and industry stakeholders will discuss modifications to this document to address impacts caused by sequestration." It also answers such questions on port monitors, responses to trade disruptions and whether any special procedures will be put in place for conveyance diversions during sequestration.

Cargo Priorities:

CBP has also issued a framework for cargo priorities under sequestration. CBP states that the following "roadmap" will be used to reduce the impact of sequestration on business:

  • Improving the automated systems and processes for receiving advance information on cargo and passengers and using that information for targeting terrorism risks or other threats;
  • Modernizing our commercial operations, and working with our trade partners to secure the nation and to keep commerce flowing;
  • Integrating other government agencies into our risk-based strategy and into a seamless process that is both efficient and effective; and
  • Working with other countries to secure the global trade lanes and with the World Customs Organization to promote a global and more unified approach to supply chain security

DM Immigration Insider will provide additional updates on agency changes as a result of sequestration as they become avialable.

 
 
 
 

Senate Gang of 8 Offers Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform


Democratic Senators Schumer (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL), Menendez(D-NJ), Bennet (D-CO) and Republican Senators Graham (R-SC), Rubio (R-FL), Flake (R-AZ) and McCain (R-AZ), also known as the "Gang of 8" have released a bi-partisan framework for immigration reform.  

The 5 page document, "Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform" is an outline of the Senate's requirements for a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  The eight drafters have all agreed to (long, expensive) pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country, but only when strict border enforcement measures have been met.

The four basic legislative proposals included in the framework:

A Path to Citizenship:  The legislation will include a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required. This proposal requires "registration" of all undocumented immigrants and the approval of some kind of probationary legal status, while waiting for the enforcement goals to be met. During this time, immigrants will have to pay fines, back taxes and will be given work authorization. A Commission of Southwest border leaders will be appointed to monitor and recommend when security measures have been sufficiently met that the second phase of legalization can begin. The second phase requires that all undocumented immigrants go to the back of the line before being approved for legal permanent residence. It is unclear what this will mean in practice as the line for a green card is more than 10 years long in some categories.

Reforming our Current Legal Immigration System: Changes to our current system will reduce backlogs in the family and employment based preferences, and should attract highly skilled foreign nationals to the United States. Foreign  students who achieve an advanced degree in a STEM field will be awarded a green card.  In addition the new system should be rational, and de-incentivize illegal immigration, by streamlining and speeding application processes. 

Employment Verification: "Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers.  Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation's workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers." It is notable that there is no mention of E-Verify, but the proposal is clearly heading toward nationwide-electronic verification.  E-Verify cannot detect identity theft and that is a major complaint of detractors.

New Temporary Work Visa Program & Labor Protections: The proposal will provide businesses with the ability to hire lower-skilled workers in a timely manner after demonstrating that there were no American workers available for the position. This proposal sound much like our current H-2B program, which is onerous and expensive for employers. Hopefully the legislation will propose something new, rather than a rehash of existing policies.

The Senators are participating in a press conference this afternoon to lay out more of the details. Reports are circulating that this is the first time Senator McCain has signed on to an Obama administration-led initiative since 2009. Prospects for a similar broad proposal in the House are not as sunny, but I am an eternal optimist. Stay tuned and DM Immigration Insider will keep you posted.

 
 
 
 

Holiday Travel Reminders from CBP


Each year as the holiday season approaches, our airports and borders experience an influx of international travelers.  U.S. Custom and Border Protection at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport has provided some reminders and recommendations to make upcoming holiday travel more enjoyable and stress free.

 Use Trusted Traveler Programs.  Programs such as NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry, or FAST/EXPRES significantly decrease processing wait times.  At U.S. Airports, the quickest and easiest way to go through CBP processing is to become a member of Global Entry.  Global Entry is available in 31 U.S. airports, 10 preclearance locations, and allows pre-approved travelers to by-pass traditional CBP processing and use a self-service kiosk upon arrival.  Global Entry kiosks reduce entry wait times and 75% of members are processed in under five minutes.  The program is available to U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents as well as Mexican Nationals.  Canadian citizens and residents receive Global Entry benefits through membership in the NEXUS program.  Those enrolled in the Dutch Privium program or South Korea’s Smart Entry Service may also apply for Global Entry and vice versa.  To apply, applicants must pay the $100.00 application fee and possess a machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card.  More information can be found at www.GlobalEntry.gov

 Be mindful of what you are bringing into the U.S.  According to CBP, during the holiday season they seize more foreign fruits, vegetables, meats, and animal/plant products coming into the U.S.  There are certain items from foreign countries that are restricted and may carry foreign animal and plant pests and diseases that could damage American crops, livestock, pets, and environment.  For a full list of restricted items, check out: CBP Restricted Item List. 

Nationals or citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries are required to have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the U.S. under VWP.  CBP advises that ESTA applications should be submitted when making travel plans to ensure approval prior to traveling.  Those traveling with a visa should have a completed I-94 form when approaching CBP processing.  

 Have all required documents for the country you are visiting as well as identification to re-enter the U.S.  For country specific information, check out www.travel.state.gov

 Complete Customs Declaration form (6059b) upon reaching CBP processing.  Declare all items from abroad, even if purchased in duty-free shop. 

Build additional time into trips during busy travel seasons in the instance of a thorough inspection by CBP.  Please be aware that CBP officers have the right to inspect you and your personal belongings including luggage, vehicle, and personal searches.

 Monitor border wait times for various ports of entry and attempt to plan your trip during periods of lighter traffic or use an alternate, less traveled port of entry.

For more information regarding international travel, check out CBP’s  Know Before You Go brochure or for any other immigration matters, please contact Valentine at 215-979-1840 or at vbrown@duanemorris.com.

 
 
 
 

January Visa Bulletin: Steady Advancement for Employment Third Preference


The U.S. Department of State has released the January Visa Bulletin and it looks like 2013 is off to a good start, especially with regard to the EB-3 category which will see small advancements in four of the five areas of chargeability.  In the EB-2 category, Chinese nationals will see a two month advancement from October 22, 2007 to December 8, 2007; while Indian nationals will remain at September 1, 2004.  Mexican, Filipino, and nationals from all other areas of chargeability remain current through January 2013.  Those in the EB-3 category, with the exception of Filipino nationals, will all see advancements in priority dates.  Chinese, Mexican, and all other chargeability areas will see a two month advancement, while Indian nationals will an advancement of seven days.  See the chart below:   

 

Employment Based Third Preference

 

All Chargeability Areas Except those listed

China- mainland born

India

 

Mexico 

Philippines 

December

12/22/2006

07/01/2006

11/01/2002 

12/22/2006

08/15/2006 

 

January

02/01/2007

 

09/22/2006

11/08/2002

02/01/2007

08/15/2006

  

As always, due to the possibility of retrogression, its vitally important that I-485 applications be filed in the first month of visa availability.  If your priority date is current or will become current based on the January 2013 visa bulletin, please contact our office.

 For additional information regarding the Visa Bulletin, or any other immigration matters, please contact Valentine at 215-979-1840 or at vbrown@duanemorris.com.  

 
 
 
 

Indian H-1B Visa Extension Applicants now eligible to have Interviews Waived


The U.S. Mission in India has announced the expansion of the Interview Waiver Program (IWP), as part of an ongoing initiative by the Department of State to streamline the visa process and meet increased visa demand in India.  The IWP allows qualified individuals to apply for additional classes of visas without being interviewed in person by a U.S. consular officer.  With nearly 700,000 nonimmigrant visa applications in 2011, the expansion is expected to benefit thousands of visa applicants in India.

 The current IWP, implemented in March 2012, allows Indian visa applicants who are renewing visas that are still valid or expired within the past 48 months, to submit their applications for streamlined processing, including waiver of a personal interview, within the following visa categories:

  • Business/Tourism (B-1 and/or B-2) 
  • Dependent (J-2, H-4, L-2) 
  • Transit (C) and/or Crew Member (D), including C-1/D 
  • Children applying before their 7th birthday (any visa class) 
  • Applicants applying on or before their 80th birthday (any visa class)  

 Under the expanded program, the following Indian applicants may also be considered for streamlined processing:

  •   Children applying before their 14th birthday (any visa class)
  •  Students returning to attend the same school and same program
  •  Temporary workers on H-1B visas
  •  Temporary workers on individual L-1A or L-1B visas.

While the goal is to simplify visa processing, not all applications will be accepted for streamlined processing and consular officers may choose to interview any applicant in any visa category.  All renewal applications must be within the same classification as the previously issued visa in order to be eligible; however, applicants with visas annotated with the words “clearance received”, are not eligible to waive the personal interview.  Renewal applicants may still be required to make an appointment for biometrics collection and all applicants must submit the required fees and DS-160 application form.

For more informatin on the interview waiver process, please visit the Mission India visa information page.

For more information regarding the IWP, please visit: the or contact Valentine at 215-979-1840 or at vbrown@duanemorris.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

House Passes STEM Jobs Act: No Chance in the Senate


The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Friday, November 30,  to make green cards available to foreign students graduating from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.  The STEM Jobs Act, proposed by the Republican Party (GOP), is a symbolic step forward toward meaningful immigration reform.

The STEM Jobs Act (The Act) would provide up to 55,000 green cards a year to foreign students who earn a Masters or Doctoral degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics at a U.S. university.  The Act would also make it possible for spouses and children of legal permanent residents to come to the U.S. while waiting for visas to become available to them, a wait that is currently two years or more.  Conversely, the Act calls for the elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which provides up to 55,000 green cards annually to people from countries with traditionally low rates of immigration, including most countries in Africa.

The Act is a positive step forward in the arena of Immigration Reform and indicates that the GOP has taken a lesson from the 2012 election, and may be ready to work on comprehensive legislation.  The Act is also supported by high-tech industries hoping to keep highly-trained, US educated employment prospects in this country instead of losing them to competitors abroad; a problem that if resolved will boost innovation and job growth in the US economy. 

Passage of the  Act confirms that the GOP is willing to vote in favor of increasing visas for highly skilled foreign nationals, the Act is not broad enough to get complete bipartisan support.  Those opposed to the Act believe that it does not meet the long-term objectives of attaining comprehensive reform and are vehemently opposed to the elimination of the Diversity Visa Lottery Program.

While passage of the Act is a step forward, it is doubtful that the bill will make any additional progress once it reaches the Senate.  With such little time left in the lame duck session, it is unlikely that the bill will acted on  prior to the end of the session.  However, with both parties seeming ready to tackle the country’s broken  immigration system, the Act is a progressive and promising precursor to what 2013 may hold for immigration reform.

For more information or any other immigration matters, please contact Valentine at 215-979-1840 or at vbrown@duanemorris.com.

 

 

 
 
 
 

December Visa Bulletin Shows Little Movement in EB Categories


The visa bulletin for December of 2012 has been released and shows small advancements for those in employment based second (EB-2) and third (EB-3) preferences.

In the EB-2 category, Chinese nationals will see an advancement from September 1, 2007 to October 22, 2007; while Indian nationals will remain at September 1, 2004.  Mexican, Filipino, and nationals from all other areas of chargeability remain current through December 2012.

 Those in the EB-3 category, all will see slight advancements in December. See the chart below:  

 EB-3

 All Other Countries

 China  India  Mexico  Philippines
 November 2012  11/22/06  04/15/06  10/22/02  11/22/06  08/08/06
 December 2012  12/22/06  07/01/06  11/01/02  12/22/06  08/15/06

Due to the possibility of retrogression, its vitally important that I-485 applications be filed in the first month of visa availability.  In addition Indian nationals who are in EB-3 may want to consider re-filing their PERM and I-140 petitions in order to qualify for EB-2, as the prospects for timely visa availability in the EB-3 category remain extremely dim. 

For additional information regarding the Visa Bulletin, or any other immigration matters, please contact Valentine at 215-979-1840 or at vbrown@duanemorris.com

 
 
 
 
 

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.