Friday, October 1, 2010

USCIS Raises Immigration Filing Fees Soon!

On November 23, 2010 U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, (USCIS) will adjust its fees for immigration applications and petitions. All filings which require a fee that are postmarked with a date of November 23, 2010 or later will require the new fee. Overall the fees will increase by roughly 10%. However six application fees will decrease and the Nationalization application fee will remain the same. There will also be an expansion of the availability of fee waivers for certain application and petitions.

USICS is a fee based organization. More than 90% of its budget comes from the fees paid by applicants and petitioners who apply for immigration benefits. That being said, it is hard to believe that the current fees imposed by USICS are not sufficient to fulfill their budgetary needs. For example it costs a permanent resident $675 ($595 plus a biometrics fee of $80) to apply for naturalization.

There are thousands of foreign nationals who simply can not afford the current fees for immigration benefits. The reduction in six of USCIS’s applications and the expansion of additional fee waivers help only a select few. However the majority of application and petition fees are already too costly and the rise in fees will only increase the difficulty of foreign nationals obtaining immigration benefits.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

USCIS Reminds Hondurans and Nicaraguans to Follow TPS Late Re-Registration Rules

Although the re-registration period for TPS for Hondurans and Nicaraguans has ended, late filers may still re-register if they follow new USCIS guidelines. USCIS reminds Hondurans and Nicaraguans, who are eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) but who have not filed for re-registration, to follow the late re-registration guidance. USCIS may accept a late re-registration application if you have good cause for filing after the end of the re-registration period of your country. You must submit a letter that explains your reason for filing late with your re-registration application.

The 18-month extension of TPS for nationals of Honduras and Nicaragua will remain in effect through January 5, 2012. Individuals who did not file a TPS re-registration application during the re-registration period will lose their TPS benefits, including employment authorization and protection from removal from the United States, unless they submit the application and demonstrate that they had good cause for filing late. The re-registration period for Honduras and Nicaragua closed July 6, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Utah Officials React to “Illegals List”

Utah officials and community leaders reacted swiftly and with revulsion to the announcement this week that confidential state records had been breached to compile a list of more than 1,300 supposedly undocumented people living in Utah, including pregnant women and children. State Attorney General Mark L. Shurtleff condemned the list, noting that “some call it a blacklist, but I call it a hit list.” Speaking for himself and on behalf of the governor of Utah, Gary R. Herbert Shurtleff made it clear that the release of confidential information was “not the way we do things in Utah” or in this country. He noted that the state government of Utah is trying to speak with one voice to condemn the release of information, will not be using the list to initiate actions against anyone on it, and roundly criticized those who would use lists, hate mongering and political rhetoric to stir up racism in Utah. Instead, he called on the federal government to continue to work for a truly comprehensive solution to immigration reform.

He noted that the “good people of Utah won’t stand for this” and predicted that the list itself may backfire, given the controversy it has created, and serve as a tipping point for a more rational discussion on immigration reform. Mero also noted that he believed support for comprehensive immigration reform represented a tenet of an “authentic conservative position” as fixing the immigration system went directly to what kind of people we are and what kind of world we want to live in.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Temporary Protected Status Extended for Haitians

The government announced an extension to the registration period for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Haiti. Initially, the 180-day registration period for Haitians was from Jan. 21 through July 20, 2010. This registration period is now being extended through Jan. 18, 2011.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initially announced the TPS designation of Haiti for 18 months, from Jan. 21, 2010 through July 22, 2011. Only Haitians who have continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 12, 2010, the day of the earthquake are eligible. TPS will not be granted to Haitians who first entered the United States after that date.

TPS applicants must submit both the Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, and Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, to register. Applicants must pay the Form I-821 fee. Applicants age 14 and older must also submit the biometric service fee. Applicants who are age 14 through 65 who request an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) must pay the Form I-765 fee. Applicants under age 14 or over age 65 who request an EAD do not need to pay the Form I-765 fee.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Education and The Dream Act

National higher education leaders have recently announced the formation of a coalition on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act or (DREAM ACT) Over two dozen educational organization are pushing for congress to vote on the Act before the August recess. The Dream Act would help to legalize undocumented students who were in the United States before the age of 16, have lived here for five consecutive years, are of good moral character and are committed to attending an institution of higher learning or serve in the military for at least two years. The Dream Act has had bipartisan support since it was first introduced in 2001. However, there have never been enough votes to enact the legislation. That may be changing as congress is being pressured by both sides to fix an immigration system that had been broken for years. It is estimated that the passage of this Act could affect over 1 to 2.5 million undocumented immigrants. The issue of legalizing undocumented students can be viewed separate and apart from any “amnesty” or “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” because it deals with children that were not responsible for making the decision to come to this country.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Obama's Plan for Immigration Reform

The latest news on reforming the immigration laws is that President Obama is considering a plan to “parole or offer “deferred action” to the millions of people in the United States that are undocumented. Deferred action and parole are often used for emergency or humanitarian reasons. They are discretionary actions within the control of the executive branch. With the granting of deferred action, individuals are often permitted to apply for employment authorization. Eight Republican Senators have issued a statement to the president advising him that a deferred action or parole program would not be a good idea for the United States. As usual, the Senators agree that the immigration system needs to be fixed. They state that the borders need to be secured and the current laws need to be enforced. However, the Senators offer no realistic solutions of their own to deal with this complex problem.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hillary Clinton announces that the Justice Department will Fight Arizona on Immigration Laws

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on an Ecuadorian T.V. channel last week that the current administration will file a lawsuit against the new Arizona law SB 1070. This law which is expected to go into effect on July 29, 2010 is intended to decrease the immigrant population by arresting, and filing criminal charges against undocumented residents of the state. It is no secret that this law has created a national debate about immigration, racial profiling, and states’ rights.
The federal government only occasionally intervenes forcefully in a state’s affairs. Thus, the administration’s decision to take on this politically risky litigation during an election year illustrates the severity of the Arizona law. Lawsuits filed by the federal government in the past, include issues of discrimination, infringement on voter’s rights, prison conditions, and school desegregation.
At least five lawsuits have already been filed in federal court, and civil rights groups have asked a federal judge to issue an injunction while the cases are heard. A State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said Mrs. Clinton’s comments, were meant to answer deep qualms about the law in Mexico and other Latin American countries. “It is important to recognize that this has resonated significantly beyond our borders,” Mr. Crowley said.
While Arizona’s law has drawn opposition from those who worry that Hispanic-Americans and legal residents will be mistaken for illegal immigrants, legal scholars say the case is more likely to turn on whether it intrudes on federal immigration authority. The theory of this law, he said, is that Arizona is “borrowing federal regulatory authority to help carry out federal policy.” But he said, “If the federal government comes in and says you are interfering, I think that is going to be a problem for the state.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Revised E-Verify Program Goes Operational

USCIS today went operational with its re-designed E-Verify Program. The new web interface is said to include improved navigational tools to enhance ease-of-use, minimize errors, support compliance with the terms of use, and enable real-time validation of employers enrolling in E-Verify against commercial data. The new interface also has enhanced security features such as masking Social Security numbers to further protect privacy and ensure that only valid companies enroll in E-Verify. All current E-Verify users are required to complete the updated tutorial. The tutorial takes about 20 minutes to complete and serves as a “how-to” of the new system.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

USCIS To Issue Redesigned Green Card

USCIS announced it has redesigned the Permanent Resident Card—commonly known as the “Green Card”—to incorporate several major new security features. For the first time in 50 years, the card will actually be green in color. The redesign is the latest effort by USCIS to deter immigration fraud. The government hopes that “state-of-the-art technology” incorporated into the new card will prevent counterfeiting. Effective May 11, 2010, USCIS will issue all Green Cards in the new, more secure format. Those who have older versions of the card will be keep them until they expire and then exchange them for the newer version.
USCIS: USCIS To Issue Redesigned Green Card

Monday, May 17, 2010

DHS visits H1-B employers!!

The Department of Homeland Security has begun increasing the number of inspections conducted at companies that employ H1-B workers. This is done in an effort to cut down on the number or H1-B applications containing fraud and technical violations. It is said that CIS suspects one in five applications contain fraud and technical violations. These employers chosen for inspection are done at random and should have a “Public Access File” available for an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer. Employers are entitled to have their attorney present in-person or telephonically. The ICE officers will request your Public Access File. They will also request to speak to the person representing the company on the application as well as the H1-B employee and other employees on site. Your public access file should include a complete copy of the H1-B application filed with USCIS. In order to prepare for this inspection, it is recommended that one person at the company be responsible for handling the inspection should the need arise.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

ICE Serves 180 Audit Notices to Businesses in 5 States

ICE announced issuance of Notices of Inspection to 180 businesses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee. The notices alert business owners that ICE will inspect their records to determine if they are complying with employment verification laws.

The recent announcement by ICE of the increased inspections is the first signs in several months of stepped-up enforcement procedures for I-9 inspections. ICE announced that it “is focusing it resources on the auditing and investigation of employers suspected of cultivation illegal workplaces by knowingly employing illegal workers. The initiative being launched today is a direct result of this new strategy.”

The Obama administration has, thus far, steered away from crack downs on large employers with illegal work forces which characterized the last years of the Bush Administration. Instead, the current administration has focused on contractors that do business with the federal government. The reported aim to steer these contractors into signing up with E-verify, the on line, I-9 compliance program.

It is still unclear whether DHS has now shifted to a more aggressive program similar to that under the Bush Administration.

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Investor Visa Proposed

A bill which would create a new path for permanent residency through investment was introduced into the Senate on February 24th, 2010.

In a rare display of bipartisanship, Democrat John Kerry and Republican Richard Lugar co-sponsored a bill which would significantly ease the requirements of obtaining a green card through investment. The bill would allow individuals to obtain a temporary green card by investing as little as $250,000 in a start-up company. After 2 years, the investor could obtain a permanent green card by showing he or she has generated at least five full-time jobs in the U.S., attracted $1 million in additional investment capital or achieved $1 million in revenue.

The bill would greatly liberalize the current EB5 category which requires investors to invest at least $1 million and create ten jobs.

We will monitor the progress of this bill as it goes through Congress.

Monday, March 15, 2010

DHS Reports Decline of Unauthorized Population in the U.S.: January 2009

DHS released a report estimating that the unauthorized immigrant population living in the U.S. decreased to 10.8 million in January 2009 and grew by 27 percent between 2000 and 2009.

DHS estimates that the unauthorized immigrant population living in the United States decreased to 10.8 million in January 2009 from 11.6 million in January 2008. Between 2000 and 2009, the unauthorized population grew by 27 percent. Of all unauthorized immigrants living in the United States in 2009, 63 percent entered before 2000, and 62 percent were from Mexico. Most of the reported decline is being attributed to the current economic recession.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

ICE To End Detention of Most Asylum Applicants

ICE announced today it would release from detention most asylum applicants who can demonstrate a credible fear of persecution in their home country starting January 4, 2010.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – the “immigration police” announced today that it would end the practice of imprisoning most foreign nationals who seek political asylum upon their arrival to the U.S. Under the new policy, asylum seekers will generally be released from custody if they can demonstrate in an interview with asylum officers that they have a “credible fear” of persecution or torture if they return to their home countries.

The released individuals would be still need to continue their cases before an immigration judge and report to an ICE officer on a regular basis while the case is proceedings in the courts.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

TPS Announced for Haitians in the U.S.

In response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, the USCIS announced today that it would grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians living in the U.S. on January 12, 2010.

The six-month registration period began on Jan. 21, 2010, and continues through July 20, 2010. During these period, Haitian nationals who have been physically present in the U.S. since January 12, must file an application that will grant them 18 months of legal status and employment authorization. The application must be postmarked on or before the last day of the registration period. Registration is by filing both an Application for Temporary Protected Status, Form I-821, and an Application for Employment Authorization, Form I-765, with any appropriate fees (see table below) or fee waiver requests, and supporting documentation. For most, filing fees are $130 plus an additional $340 for employment authorization.

Supporting documents include: (1) Two color passport-style photographs of yourself; (2) Evidence of Haitian nationality; and (3) Evidence that you have continuously resided in the United States since January 12, 2010; and have been continuously physically present in the United States since Jan. 21, 2010.

All Haitians living in the U.S. who are not permanent residents are urged to apply.

We will have much more information on this matter soon.