Slow Pace of H1B Adjudications Affects US Businesses & Economy

In mid-September, we had to inform many of our clients, who had filed H1B visas for their employees, that we had not received a response from USCIS; and judging from the published backlogs about these filings (over as many as 17,000 H1B visas), it isn’t likely that we will receive any decisions until the end of the year. Reluctantly, we advised our clients to pay the additional premium processing fee for urgent requirements.

Business and Economic Losses

If the losses from the slow adjudication process are added up, losses for American businesses are also adding up. First, there are the current projects that American businesses have with American client companies, which run the gamut from hospitals, car rental companies and credit card processors; financial and banking companies; retail, hotel and restaurant chains; IBM and Microsoft; and universities. In this day and age, everything is online and mobile. Current contracts are either delayed or postponed, and taxes paid by visa holders to the US and State government coffers are not collected. If delays continue, US businesses are likely to send these operations overseas, enriching foreign tax coffers.

Second, we face a brain drain from American universities. The difficulty for foreign students obtaining a timely US visa forces these students, who have gathered knowledge at our universities, to migrate to Australia, Canada, UK and their home countries where their US-gained knowledge is welcomed. This situation, again, is a loss of millions of dollars to the US economy.

Foreign Students in American Universities

This past year, enrollment of temporary residents in graduate school surged by 7.3%. Temporary residents made up 16.9% of American graduate school enrollment, a figure only growing as foreign governments pay for their citizens’ American education, specifically in technical fields. Foreign students made up a sizable percentage of technical areas: 45.5% of students in US engineering graduate programs, and 42.4% of students in US mathematics and computer science graduate programs, are foreign students. (NYTimes, “Enrollment Drops Again in Graduate Programs”, 9/28/2012).

Recently, some beneficiaries of H1B visas have reported receiving tremendously shortened periods of visa approvals from the consulates, despite being approved for the full period of H1B visa entitlement from USCIS. This re-adjudication contributes to the unfriendly and unwelcoming atmosphere facing H1B applicants and their sponsoring companies.

The tide of demand for US visas ebbs and flows: often, the federal government is not able to support US companies’ efforts to attract the best and brightest to work for us.The wave of hostility generated by our actions should not arrive at a tipping point. We could very well lose what makes up our American identity, and our ability to produce multi-million dollar products like Facebook, iPhones and Google.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Employer Liability on DACA Issues

Mike is 27 and has a GED; he is employed by XYZ company. He applies for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Memorandum. When he goes to his boss at XYZ, he tenders the EAD as evidence of his newly minted status as being allowed to work legally. While DACA does not confer status on Mike, he is now allowed to work legally for XYZ. Many employer liability issues arise from this scenario.

Employer Liability

Firstly, as the employer, XYZ could have constructive knowledge of the employee‘s prior unauthorized status. Hence, the employer could be charged under Missouri Omnibus immigration law as ‘knowingly’ employing an unauthorized worker in the US. In addition, XYZ could be charged with violating Form I-9 laws.

Secondly, the employer may have other potential Form I-9 issues. Now that the employer has constructive knowledge of the employee not having work authorization in the US, the employer may have to seriously consider terminating the employee, or could potentially become liable of knowingly retaining an employee whose immigration status is under question.

However, an employer is not supposed to be an immigration document expert. If the employer previously employed a worker who provided false documents that appeared to be valid and to relate to the individual employee, then the employer may provide a “good faith argument” if there is an ICE audit.

Yet, if a prior employee now declares that he/she is eligible for DACA work authorization, the employer needs to make certain that this policy of terminating this ‘newly discovered’ unauthorized employee does not discriminate against other similarly placed employees in the employer’s workforce. In other words, the employer cannot have one policy towards ‘seemingly foreign looking individuals’ and another policy towards ‘seemingly US born individuals’ if both populations present with similar DACA-related issues. This is called national origin discrimination.

Form I-9 Issues

The employer, under I-9 guidance, may have to terminate the employee who needs DACA employment authorization in order to continue working with the employee. The employer may have to terminate the employee and, if needed, rehire after new DACA-related employment authorization has been produced by the employee. The employer may also have to manage employer liability, and purge their employment records of all unnecessary I-9 documents in line with USCIS guidance.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

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How Employers can Reduce Audit in PERM Filings for Roving, Telecommuting and Traveling Employees

The tech industry is facing many challenges today, notably denials from the Department of Labor (DOL) based on very little understanding of how the industry works. Most large employers in the sector are not the ‘job shops’ that USCIS fears; and DOL is convinced the tech industry is engaged in fraud of some kind, or is somehow interested in recruiting foreign workers when willing and able US workers are available!

US employers in this sector pay a premium in governmental application costs and legal fees because they are unable to find a suitable worker in the advertised job. In fact, most recruiters I speak to would prefer to hire locally rather than internationally.

Both USCIS and DOL target employers who file for an employee with job duties involving roving, telecommuting or travelling; USCIS has recently issued guidance on roving employees placed at client worksites, in the H-1b visa context. DOL continues to audit and issue denials for roving, travelling or telecommuting positions. Current audits require employers to define employees’ positions as either national or regional roving without a residential requirement, or roving with a residential requirement. Additionally, DOL has expressed concern that these jobs may not be bona fide opportunities for the positions advertised at the intended place of hire; and, in the case of roving employees with no fixed ‘intended area of employment’, the location chosen to advertise the job opportunity and the wage may be artificial and misrepresented by the employer.

Where to Advertise for Roving Employees

In the past few years, DOL has audited and denied applications where the residential address of the employee does not match the location of employment. DOL decided that this position was for a telecommuting employee, a benefit the employer did not disclose in the advertisement for the position and therefore not disclosed to an eligible US applicant, but offered to the beneficiary as a benefit. A PERM application can also be denied based on job advertisements in the incorrect Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). The employer advertised the job where the client worksites were located, instead of the MSA where the employer’s headquarters was located.

In Paradigm Infotech, Inc (BALCA, June, 2007), the employer advertised the roving position in Erie, Pennsylvania where the client worksite was located, instead of the company headquarters. To reach the PERM denial, DOL conducted research on the employer. DOL ascertained that the employer’s headquarters was in Columbia, Maryland as confirmed by employer’s tax records and DOL interviews with employees. DOL also performed site visits to the Erie location of the employer’s branch to ascertain that sufficient office space existed, and parking space was available for the number of employees who were supposed to work there, in accordance with employer’s documentation filed with Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA). Based on short term contracts with client companies, inadequate office space at Erie, and payroll records that confirmed that employees worked at different locations, PERM labor certification was denied by DOL and the denial was upheld by BALCA. BALCA reasoned that the employer needed to test the labor market at the place where the alien was working, and since this was a roving employee and that geographical area of the labor market was unknown, the job market to be tested for PERM purposes was located at the employer’s headquarters.

Following Paradigm, employers with large business units away from company headquarters should also advertise at headquarters location. This is confirmed by the Barbara Farmers Memo: ETA Field Memorandum 48-94§10, published by DOL in 1994 and still followed by DOL.

Prevailing Wage Issues

Employers should also file to obtain prevailing wage determinations from DOL in all the intended areas of potential work sites for the foreign worker. Future locations can be determined from itineraries and statement of work signed with the end client.

Employers with International Locations

In August 2012, BALCA upheld that advertisements in the PERM context also include ‘travel requirements’. The employer in M-IL.L.C., filed a PERM for an employee who was required to travel to international locations as part of the job requirement. This fact was listed on the PERM application Form 9089 and the prevailing wage determination, but not listed on the advertisement for the job opening. 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(f)(4) states, “Advertisements placed in newspapers of general circulation or in professional journals before filing the Application for Permanent Employment Certification must… indicate the geographic area of employment with enough specificity to apprise applicants of any travel requirements and where applicants will likely have to reside to perform the job opportunity.” The employer’s advertisements did not include the travel requirement. Denial was based on the fact that travel requirements listed on the PERM application and the prevailing wage determination was not matched by the advertisement for the position.

Conclusion

While we cannot with certainty expect every PERM filing with travel requirements to be audited by DOL, we must certainly file like that is a very real possibility. Any filing with the DOL is subject to audit, even if in the past those very same requirements were certified by DOL. The safest course in our uncertain climate is to match information on the prevailing wage with the PERM form, and the employer’s advertisement requirements for the position advertised.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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Deferred Status for Dreamers

In the last few months, there has been many reports on Obama’s new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Memorandum, a form of prosecutorial discretion. The memorandum states that children who entered before June 15 2012, and before they turn 15 years old, could be granted authority to work and lawful status for a period of two years. There are a lot of misunderstandings about the benefits offered, and not enough understanding about the dangers and caveats of filing this application.

Radio Stations Report Incorrect Facts about Deferred Status
Even reputable radio stations get the facts wrong. KMOX and NPR both erroneously reported the incorrect age of eligibility. The eligibility starts at age 15 and ends at age 31, not 30 as these stations reported.

No Path to Citizenship
Deferred action does not confer any lawful immigration status, such as the status enjoyed while waiting for an adjustment of status. Deferred action also does not change the current immigration status, such as a grant of a visa, or lead to US citizenship.

What deferred status provides is a period of authorized stay. In other words, the person in deferred status is allowed to stay in the US with the permission of the government. Any unlawful status before deferred action is granted, or after deferred action status ends, will still be unlawful (source). Immigration can review and/or withdraw the deferred action status at any time.

Presence in the US
In order to apply, individuals must be between the ages of 15 to 31 as of June 15, 2012. They must also have lived in the US continuously from June 15th 2007 to the present, and should have been physically present in the US on June 15th, 2012. Presence in the US is also required when filing an application.

Inspection at the border is not required; individuals could have ‘snuck’ over the border or have overstayed their visa.

Proving Presence in the US
It is fine to have left for a few days to Mexico or the Caribbean; this will not interrupt continuous physical presence. Documentation of stay could include medical and school records, or utility bills and tax filings. The evidence is weighed by USCIS using a ‘totality of circumstances’ standard to prove circumstantially that there is the required presence in the US. In addition, presence could be proved by evidence of stay in the US before and after June 15th, 2012.

Stay in school! Be “all that you can be.”
Applicants must be enrolled in elementary, secondary, high school or college to be eligible. A GED from a reputable school is fine, and a college education is great. An honorable discharge from the Coast Guards or Armed Forces is fine too. Anecdotally, there are only a few who will benefit from service in the armed forces. Only US citizens and permanent residents can enroll with a few exceptions from ‘those vital to the national interest’, and even then most would be eligible for naturalization and would not need deferred status.

Beware of Crimes
Applicants with significant criminal history need not apply. Those who are subject to removal orders from an immigration judge should apply for prosecutorial discretion. ICE may administratively close cases for individuals who are eligible for deferred action.
But if an individual has remained in the US after a grant of voluntary departure from a judge, then that person is subject to other immigration penalties, such as fines and bars to filing an immigration application for 10 years.

Being a Member of a Gang
Many law enforcement agencies maintain a ‘gang book’ of tattoos and the meaning of gang symbols. If an applicant has a gang tattoo or has been profiled in a ‘gang book,’ then that may be a problem, especially if the applicant is interviewed and the tattoos are revealed.

Traffic Offenses
Generally, traffic offenses are not considered fatal to an application. However, those with outstanding traffic tickets; unpaid parking tickets; accidents and arrest warrants for traffic violations; and accumulation points on a drivers’ license close to suspension of the license, need to exercise caution.

DWIs and Domestic Violence
Increasingly domestic violence and driving under the influence are being targeted as bars to immigration benefits. DWI convictions are already a bar to returning on a non-immigrant visa to the US. DWIs are a bar to applying, regardless of the sentence imposed.

Using a False Social Security Number
Using a false social security number is a federal crime with applicable jail time and fines. The applicant risks USCIS reporting the false document use to ICE, which could end in removal and federal prosecution. Chances are that false claims of US citizenship status have been made on I-9 forms, and taxes have been filed using the same social security number. In addition to all the federal crimes, there could also be immigration law violations due to the possible allegations of identity theft. Filing an application under these circumstances is very risky.

Entering Using False Documents
While a minor may not have a say on if the parents entered using false documents, USCIS can still share that information with ICE, and those facts could pose a problem for the parents and others who entered using false documents. All applicants are fingerprinted and photographed. There will be a background check on all applicants, and USCIS can share information about false documents and criminal history with ICE.

Arizona Decided Not to Issue Drivers’ Licenses
Gov. Brewer recently signed an executive order not to issue drivers licenses to conferees of deferred status on the basis that they were in unlawful status. Perhaps she did not read the relevant statutes. This statute is also called the Real ID Act.

Improved Security for Drivers’ Licenses and Personal Identification Cards

Pub.L. 109-13, Div. B, Title II, §§ 201 to 207, May 11, 2005, 119 Stat. 311, provided that:
“(2) Special requirements.–
“(A) In general.–To meet the requirements of this section [this note], a State shall comply with the minimum standards of this paragraph.
“(B) Evidence of lawful status.–A State shall require, before issuing a driver’s license or identification card to a person, valid documentary evidence that the person–
“(i) is a citizen or national of the United States;
“(ii) is an alien lawfully admitted for permanent or temporary residence in the United States;
“(iii) has conditional permanent resident status in the United States;
“(iv) has an approved application for asylum in the United States or has entered into the United States in refugee status;
“(v) has a valid, unexpired nonimmigrant visa or nonimmigrant visa status for entry into the United States;
“(vi) has a pending application for asylum in the United States;
“(vii) has a pending or approved application for temporary protected status in the United States;
(viii) has approved deferred action status; or
“(ix) has a pending application for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States or conditional permanent resident status in the United States.

The Final Word
Deferred status could be used to keep a person in status while they are waiting for a priority date, in the family context. This status could stall unlawful status for a person shy of their 18th birthday. There is also a lot of discussion about filing for advanced parole after obtaining deferred status to exit and re-enter the US, and then, without filing a waiver, to file for immigrant status based on a relative.

The deferred status application is seemingly simple, but could be extremely complicated and lethal for the applicant and family members (see Arrabally, Yerrabelly). Those matters should be discussed with an immigration attorney before applying. Contact Nalini Mahadevan or Diane Metzger at Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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DHS Enforcement Actions — July 2012

On July 19, Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke before the House Judiciary Committee, offering important information on how US immigration law enforcement would affect employers.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Since January 2009, ICE has audited 8,079 employers who are suspected of “knowingly hiring” workers who do not have authorization to work in the US. The federal government has also debarred 726 companies and individuals from federal contracts; imposing and collecting more than $87.9 million in fines and sanctions against companies and their officers.

Sec. Napolitano said ICE will eliminate high-profile raids on worksites because such raids do little to improve public safety. The government now feels that deportation of criminal aliens and unauthorized workers is having little affect on employers’ willingness to hire these individuals. Instead, the government will renew and focus its efforts on Form I-9 inspections; civil fines; debarment; and employer education and compliance with current law.

USCIS, ICE and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) have greatly increased their engagement with employers and the public through national and local stake holder meetings, webinars and newsletters. Self-check through E-Verify is also encouraged for individual employees. There are now 385,000 companies participating in E-Verify with more than 1.1 million hiring sites. E-Verify is also developing a robust customer service hotline; and increasing outreach staff to promote the E-Verify’s benefits, and educate employers and employees about rights and responsibilities.

Federal agencies receive information to prosecute employers through local police enforcement; traffic stops; criminal prosecutions and informers; and through employee complaints to ICE hotlines and OSC online complaint forms.

The Obama Administration is refocusing efforts on worksite compliance and arrests of unauthorized and criminal aliens, and deporting these aliens at great cost to their countries of origin.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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I-601 Centralized: What You Need to Know

Filing for Form I-601, an application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, has been centralized as of June 4, 2012. Persons who cannot qualify for an immigrant visa because they cannot be admitted to the US without a waiver must file an I-601 if they are qualified.

Filing Applications

Applicants who are located outside the US must now apply for Form I-601 through a USCIS Lockbox; the application is then delivered to the Nebraska Service Center for adjudication. Applicants in Mexico will have the choice of submitting their application to the USCIS Lockbox, or to the USCIS Ciudad Juarez Field Office during the first six months of the organizational change. When the six-month period is over, applicants in Mexico must submit through the USCIS Lockbox in the US.

Applicants in Cuba will still be able to file through the USCIS Havana Field Office; adjudications will carry on at this field office.

Compelling Circumstances

Sometimes there are compelling circumstances for which USCIS will make an exception and where the USCIS Field Office Director will accept and decide Form I-601 locally. Such exceptions could be,

1. Medical emergency of the applicant or qualifying family member which requires immediate travel;
2. Imminent threats to the personal safety of the applicant or qualifying family member;
3. A beneficiary is within a few weeks of aging out of visa availability;
4. A petitioner has adopted a child locally and has an imminent need to depart the country.
(source)

Tips for Filing at the USCIS Lockbox

To reduce the likelihood of your Form I-601 being rejected, follow these tips:

• Read the form filing instructions, ensure that the form is neat and legible, and keep all entries within the spaces provided on the form.
• Use the current form version, and mail all pages of the form.
• If completing the form by hand, only use black or blue ink, and avoid highlighters and correction fluid.
• Submit all required documentation or evidence as indicated in the form instructions.
• Sign the form in the correct section. The signature must be in the original and in the correct section, or the form will be rejected.
• Pay the correct fee. USCIS cannot refund the amount of any overpayments. Checks or money orders must be payable in U.S. dollars.
• Complete the entire form as indicated in the instructions. Form I-601 will be rejected if any of these fields are missing:
– Family Name
– Address
– Date of Birth
– Signature in Part D
• Form I-212 will be rejected if any of these fields are missing:
– Last Name
– Address
– Signature in Part V
(source)

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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How US Immigration Policy on H-2As Will Shrink the US Economy

The US Department of Agriculture’s May 2012 Economic Research Service (ERS) Report Summary conducted a study titled, “The Potential Impact of Changes in Immigration Policy on U.S. Agriculture and the Market for Hired Farm Labor: a Simulation Analysis”, to analyze the effects of large shifts in the US’s supply of foreign workers.

US immigration laws often have drastic effects for our foreign workers, and the government isn’t lenient in implementing immigration policy. Hired labor is an important facet of our economy, particularly in the US’s agricultural market. In the last 15 years, almost half of our foreign workers haven’t had the correct authorization to work in the US. Alterations in US immigration law and policy could either negatively or positively effect our agricultural production and overall economy.

The report compares a “156,000-person increase in the employment of temporary nonimmigrant agricultural workers” in the H-2A visa category; and “a 5.8-million-person decrease in the total number of unauthorized workers in all sectors of the economy, including agriculture” (ERS Report Summary), based on a 15 year projection.

If we employ the first scenario of an increase in 156,000 H-2A visas, that would raise agricultural output and exports. For example, fruits, tree nuts, vegetables and nursery products, would benefits more of the scenario’s benefits, and would increase by 1.1% to 2% output and 1.7% to 3.2% export growth. However, over the 15 years, the earnings of the agricultural workers would decrease by 4.4%.

If we deport 5.8 million unauthorized workers from all sectors of the economy, there would be an overall large-scale decline in output and exports in the economy. Fruits, tree nuts, vegetables and nursery products would be the most distressed areas of the agricultural market, suffering a 2% to 5.4% reduction in output and 2.5% to 9.3% reduction in exports. Long term, wages would increase fro 3.9 to 9.9 percent.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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H1Bs may be over by mid-June, 2012!

If you are an employer with plans to employ a student on an H1B visa or employ someone from abroad or transfer an H1B employee from a US non-profit to your company, ACT FAST.

FY 2013 H-1B Cap Count
65000 Cap subject visas are issued every year. About 6800 visas are set aside for fashion models and citizens from Chile and Singapore under treaties with those countries. For the sake of simplicity, these visas have not been excluded from the H1B visa count below.

H1B visas receipted by USCIS so far:
Regular Cap Count             H-1bs Receipted             Difference from week to week
April 4                                     16,742                                0
April 9                                     17,400                                658
April 13                                    20,600                               3200
April 20                                    25,000                               4400
April 27                                    29,200                               4200
May 4                                      32,500                                3300
May 11                                    36,700                                4200
May 25                                    48,400                                11700

Forecast: All dates are approximate, and meant for planning purposes only.
If the Regular Cap Count is 65000, and the Balance of H-1bs remaining as of 5/4/2012 is 32500:

If 3500 visas are received per week, H-1b cap will be reached in 9 weeks, or July 13th.
If 5000 visas per week, the cap will be reached in 6.5 weeks, or June 27th.
If 6000 visas per week, the cap will be reached in 5.4 weeks, or June 15th.
If 7000 visas per week, the cap will be reached in 4.64 weeks, or June 10th.
If 8000 visas per week, the cap will be reached in 4 weeks, or June 6th.

There was an uptick in filings for the last 2 weeks in May, from the 4th to the 15th. Filings increased to pre-May levels. With this progression, the regular cap visas may be finished by mid-June, 2012.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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USCIS Centralizes Filing and Adjudication of I-601 and I-212

Today, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the centralized filing and adjudication of certain waivers for grounds of inadmissibility.

Beginning June 4, 2012, individuals abroad who have applied for certain visas and have been found ineligible by a US Consular Officer will be able to mail requests to waive certain grounds of inadmissibility directly to a USCIS Lockbox facility. This change affects individuals abroad who have been found inadmissible for an immigrant visa or a nonimmigrant K or V visa — these individuals must send waiver applications.

Currently filed applications
Currently, applicants experience processing times from one-month to more than a year, depending on their filing location. USCIS’s new centralization will provide customers with faster and more efficient application processing and consistent adjudication. It is part of a broader agency effort to transition to domestic filing and adjudication; it does not reflect a change in policy or the standards by which the applications are adjudicated. Individuals filing waiver applications with a USCIS Lockbox will now be able to track the status of their case online.

The change affects filings for:
• Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility
• Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal
• Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, (if filed after a denial of a Form I-601 or Form I-212).

Applicants who mail their waiver request forms should use the address provided in the revised form instructions on the USCIS website. Applicants who wish to receive an email or text message when USCIS receives their waiver request, may attach Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, to their application.

Filing a waiver at Ciudad Juarez
During a limited six-month transition period, immigrant visa waiver applicants in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, will have the option to either mail their waiver applications to the USCIS Lockbox in the US, or file in-person at the USCIS office in Ciudad Juarez. Applications filed at CJ will be transferred to the US for adjudication.

If you filed before June 4th, 2012
USCIS is aware of the pending caseload for applicants in Ciudad Juarez, and is taking proactive steps to work through these cases. USCIS will significantly increase the number of officers assigned to adjudicate the residual cases filed before June 4, and those filed during the interim six-month transition period. USCIS has already begun to test this process and has transferred applications from Ciudad Juarez to other USCIS offices in the US.

This change is separate and distinct from the provisional waiver proposal published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2012.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

This blog is not intended as legal advice.

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USCIS Creates a New Online Filing System

Today U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched the first phase of its Electronic Immigration System, known as USCIS ELIS. The system has been created to enable immigration benefit seekers and legal representatives to create an account to file for benefits online.

Who is eligible to file online?

In this first phase, individuals can establish a USCIS ELIS account and apply online to extend or change their non-immigrant status for certain visa types, or file Form I-539. Eligible individuals include foreign citizens who have traveled to the US temporarily to study, conduct business, receive medical treatment, or visit on vacation. You can use USCIS ELIS to extend your status if you are a B-1, B-2, F-1, M-1 or M-2; change your status if want to become a B-1, B-2, F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1 or M-2; or reinstate your status if you were a F-1 or M-1.

If you are a student on F-1 visa…

Students on F-1 visa may have a date-specific visa, which means there is a completion date and a start date to their course of study. These students are eligible to file and extend their status on USCIS ELIS.

If you are a student and admitted for duration of status, then you should contact your Designated School Official (DSO) to extend your student status. Your I-94 will give the end date as D/S, in which case you cannot change your status on USCIS ELIS.

If you are a student on an M-1 visa, you cannot change your status to an F-1 visa.

If you want to reinstate status, and you were an F-1 or M-1 visa holder, then both you and your spouse can reinstate status on USCIS ELIS, provided you are not subject to any immigration bars and have not overstayed your visa. In other words, you can only reinstate your status if you meet the F-1 criteria for eligibility status under the applicable sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Why use USCIS ELIS?

According to USCIS, this online account will allow you to interact with USCIS; receive email and text notifications; obtain information in real-time; submit electronic evidence; use a US credit card; be represented by an attorney or accredited representative; be assisted by an online setup assistant; and obtain real-time case status information.

To create an account:
Log onto www.uscis.gov/uscis-elis, enter your email, choose a password, answer personal identity questions, and obtain a secure pin number.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

This blog is not intended as legal advice.

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