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Update of Recent Immigration Policy Changes Premium service report
Comments, emails

Official daily immigration policy or news update, please click here.

Older news:

USCIS finalizes fee increase for all applications and services starting July 30, 2007. file your application before that date to avoid the big fee hike  click here.

USCIS proposes fee increase for all applications and services.  click here.

Premium processing is now available to EB1-EA.  click here.

USCIS expands premium processing to EB1-OR, EB2(except NIW), and EB3 immigration petitions.  click here.

USCIS NOTIFIES EMPLOYERS OF FILING CHANGES. All I-129 applications file to Vermont center, all I-140 applications file to Nebraska center  click here.

Dr. Emilio T. Gonzalez Sworn in as Director of USCIS.  click here.

H2B visa, Only those applications with employment starting date after April 1 2006 will be accepted. click here.

H1B e-filing procedure will change after February 15, 2006 by using new forms.

 

H1B visas are still available and H2B cap is far from reached.  click here.

USCIS Fee Increase Effective October 26

USCIS will increase the application fees by a small amount, details please click here.

Analysis of EB1 and EB2 Visa Backlog for Nationals of China and Indian

Since the news came out, we received enormous amount of inquiries about it. As we pointed out in our last update, the backlog is caused by a number of factors. Many people get discouraged. In fact, this is a difficulty, it is also an opportunity. Recently, we found the processing of I-140 is very swift. Some applicants even received the receipt and approval notice at the same time. Remember, an approved I-140 is good for life, while visa backlog is a matter of time. We believe it will be cleared up in several months.

EB1 and EB2 Visa Backlog for Nationals of China and Indian

The long-predicted retrogression of EB1 and EB2 visas happened today as Department of State announced the visa availability for October 1, 2005. The cut-off dates for Chinese and Indian are Jan 2000 for EB1, May 2000 for EB2, and Aug. 2002 for EB1, Nov. 1999 for EB2, respectively. No other country is included for the backlog in these two categories. The retrogression is caused by a number of reasons such as recent large number of  I-485 filing (since the implementation of PERM, some people with very early priority date get filed recently), accelerated processing of I-485 by CIS thanks to its backlog elimination projects, and even accounting errors.

 

H1B Cap Reached

The cap for fiscal year 2006 has reached, no H1B application that is subject to the cap will be accepted. H1B extension or transfer is NOT subject to the cap. Also, higher education and non-profit research organizations are NOT subject to the cap. Besides, there is still quota available for the 20,000 additional H1B visas if you have an advanced degree from U.S. (Master's or higher). If you do not belong to the above groups of people, then the earliest date you can SUBMIT your application is April 1, 2006.

USCIS Implements New H-1B Rules and Fees

USCIS started to implement the H-1B provisions of the Omnibus Appropriations Act which added 20,000 visas for the H1B visa for fiscal year 2005.
In addition, USCIS starts to collect a new Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee of $500 for H1B abd L-1 visas. 

Removal of the Standardized Request for Evidence Processing Timeframe

Adjustment of the Appeal and Motion Fees Proposed.

Information Regarding the H-1B Numerical Limitation for Fiscal Year 2005

Direct Mail Program for Submitting some I-485, I-765, and I-131
Note: Employment based immigration will not be affected under this program, their mailing addresses remain the same.

US DEPARTMENT OF STATE STARTS TO ACCEPT VISA LOTTERY ENTRIES FOR 2006.

USCIS ANNOUNCES CHANGE IN PHOTO STANDARD.

Recent Immigration Related Progress

--- In recent three months, lots of changes were proposed or implemented. Good news is that USCIS vowed to enhance services with a goal of 6 month processing time for every petition by 2006 (We have heard of such goals in the past, isn't it?) Some measures have already implemented such as more forms can be filed electronically, including Form I-140. Unfortunately, those measures are usually not fundamental. For an example, electronic filing of I-140 does not make sense for EB-1 and NIW at all. Another measure that could bring significant benefits to immigrants is to issue EAD (Employment Authorization Card) for 5 years instead of current annual cards. This measure is proposed but not implemented yet. 

In an internal memo, USCIS instructs four adjudicating centers to simultaneously adjudicate I-140 and I-485 if they are filed concurrently, also to give those cases of concurrent filing priority. That means in the initial review of I-140, a quick decision of denial can be made to all applications, in the end, if I-140 is approved, I-485 will be approved with I-140 too. Later on, USCIS explains that this policy only applies to those I-140s with labor certification and the procedure will have a trial in two centers.

Our analysis: In the past, INS would process I-140 first, then I-485. For I-140 with labor certification, usually, it will be approved if the I-140 is filed properly. To take the advantage of the new policy, we suggest you to file I-140 and I-485 concurrently if you use labor certification. However, for EB-1 and NIW, since the approval rate is not very high, there are still substantial risk of concurrent filing of I-140 and I-485. We would still suggest you to assess your case and needs carefully in order to make a decision of whether to file I-140 and I-485 concurrently.

Also, USCIS instructs adjudicators to make a best decision based on the evidences submitted and issue less RFE (Request for more evidences) as a measure of reducing backlog. The effects of this policy are yet to be seen.

--- On June 23, 2004, the State Department published a notice in the Federal Register that "The Revalidation Division is discontinuing its domestic visa revalidation (or reissuance) service. The Division will CLOSE TO NEW APPLICATIONS ON JULY 16, 2004. ALL APPLICATIONS FOR VISA REVALIDATIONS IN THE E, H, I, L, O, OR P CATEGORIES MUST BE RECEIVED IN THE ST. LOUIS PROCESSING OFFICE ON OR BEFORE JULY 16, 2004. Applications and supporting documentation received after July 16 will be returned. Applications for visa revalidation following a 221(g) refusal and requests for corrections must be submitted to the Revalidation Division in Washington no later than September 30, 2004."

Many law firms or lawyers without a clear understanding of the visa revalidation spread the news on the internet with their wrong interpretation and caused panic in the immigrant communities. Actually, this is not a big deal. Visa revalidation means, for an example, if you entered USA with an H-1B visa, you are currently on H-1B status, and you want to go out of USA and then re-enter, you can have your visa revalidated in the USA and you do not have to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to obtain the visa. This is the visa revalidation, it will not be available after July 16. Not many people used it anyway, because, most people did not even know it. You do not need to go out of the country in order to extend your H-1B status, you do not need to go out of the country if you change your status from F-1 to H-1B.

Please read the official State Department interpretation.
___________________________________________________-

Many individuals have difficulty understanding the difference between the visa expiration date and the length of time you have permission to remain in the United States. These are very different terms.

What is a Visa?

  • Citizens of foreign countries generally need visas to enter the United States. A visa is permission to apply to enter the United States. It is a document which is affixed to a page in your passport.
  • Under U.S. law the Department of State has responsibility for issuing visas, and most visas are issued at one of the Department of State embassies and consulates abroad. Therefore, when you want to travel to the United States, you must first apply for a visa at an American embassy or consulate abroad. A consular officer decides whether you are qualified for a visa. 
  • A visa doesn’t permit entry to the U.S. A visa simply indicates that your application has been reviewed by a U.S. consular officer at an American embassy or consulate, and that the officer determined you’re eligible to travel to the port-of-entry for a specific purpose. The port of entry can be an international airport, a seaport or a land border crossing. 
  • At the port-of-entry a U.S. immigration officer of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decides whether to allow you to enter and how long you can stay for any particular visit. Only the U.S. immigration officer has the authority to permit you to enter the United States. 


What Does the Visa Expiration Date Mean? 

The visa expiration date is shown on the visa. Depending on the alien’s nationality, visas can be issued for any number of entries, from as little as one entry to as many as multiple (unlimited) entries, for the same purpose of travel. 

  • This generally means the visa is valid, or can be used from the date it is issued until the date it expires, for travel for the same purpose, when the visa is issued for multiple entry.
  • This time period from the visa issuance date to visa expiration date as shown on the visa, is called visa validity. If you travel frequently as a tourist for example, with a multiple entry visa, you do not have to apply for a new visa each time you want to travel to the U.S. 
  • As an example of travel for the same purpose, if you have a visitor visa, it cannot be used to enter at a later time to study in the U.S. The visa validity is the length of time you are permitted to travel to a port-of-entry in the United States to request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to permit you to enter the U.S. The visa does not guarantee entry to the U.S. 
  • The Expiration Date for the visa should not be confused with the authorized length of your stay in the U.S., given to you by the U.S. immigration inspector at port-of-entry, on the Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94, or I-94W for the Visa Waiver Program. The visa expiration date has nothing to do with the authorized length of your stay in the U.S. for any given visit.
  • There are circumstances which can serve to void or cancel the period of time your visa is valid. If you overstay the end date of your authorized stay, as provided by the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. immigration officer at port of entry, or Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), then this action on your part generally will automatically void or cancel your visa. However, if you have filed an application in a timely manner for extension of stay or a change of status, and that application is pending and not frivolous, and if you did not engage in unauthorized employment, then this normally does not automatically cancel your visa. If you have applied for adjustment of status to become a permanent resident alien (“green card” holder), you should contact BCIS regarding obtaining Advance Parole before leaving the U.S.
  • Each time you arrive at the port-of-entry, a U.S immigration officer decides whether to allow you to enter and how long you can stay. Only the U.S. immigration officer has the authority to permit you to enter the United States. 


Admission to the U.S. - Duration of Stay - Form I-94

  • Upon entering the U.S., an immigration officer of the Department of Homeland Security's, Border and Transportation Security, at the port of entry, places a small white card, Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record in your passport. On this card, the U.S. immigration inspector records either a date or "D/S" (duration of status). In most cases, a specific date will be indicated on the Form I-94 (in the lower right-hand corner). If your I-94 contains a specific date, that is the date by which you must leave the United States. Some students, exchange program participants, and certain temporary workers (e.g., foreign diplomats) will be admitted for “duration of status.” If you have "duration of status" or “D/S” on your Form I-94, you may remain in the U.S. as long as you continue your course of studies or remain in your exchange program or qualifying employment. 
  • If you are traveling on the Visa Waiver Program, you will receive Form I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival-Departure Record, a green card. 
  • Your Form I-94, or I-94W is a very important document to keep in your passport, since it shows your permission to be in the U.S.
  • As example of the difference between the duration of stay permitted in the U.S. and validity of a visa, your visa may be valid for several years, and yet your authorized period of stay, as shown on the Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94, may be limited to a few weeks. 
  • The date or D/S notation, shown on your Arrival-Departure Record, I-94 or I-94W is the official record of the your authorized length of stay in the U.S. You cannot use the visa expiration date in determining or referring to your permitted length of stay in the U.S. 
___________________________________________
 
 

April 14, 2004

USCIS Announces Fee Adjustments to Enhance Service

Washington, D.C.-- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will announce tomorrow in the Federal Register a revised fee structure for immigration benefits. The new fee structure will become effective on April 30, 2004; 15 days after publication. The new fees add an average of $55 to the current cost of immigration benefit applications, and increases the biometrics fee by $20 for certain applications.

For the detailed fee structure, please click here. (pdf file, Acrobat Reader required)

February 3, 2004

USCIS Proposes Fee Increases to All Immigration Applications

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced in the Federal Register a proposed adjustment to the fee structure for immigration benefits. The revised fees would add an average of $55 to the current cost of immigration applications.

September 16, 2003

Sunset of Additional $1,000 Filing Fee Imposed by American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) and Return to 65,000 Annual Limit on H-1B Petition Approvals

The purpose of this memorandum is to remind Service Centers that absent additional H-1B legislation enacted before the end of the current fiscal year, H-1B petitioners who file petitions on or after October 1, 2003, will no longer be required to submit the additional filing fee of $1,000. This is a result of the sunset provision in Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
section 214(c)(9)(A). Furthermore, the annual ceiling on H-1B petition approvals under INA section 214(g) will revert from 195,000 to 65,000 beginning in fiscal year 2004. Any H-1B petition filed on or after October 1, 2003 that includes the additional $1,000 filing fee imposed by ACWIA together with the base filing fee of $130 in a single remittance should be rejected by Service Centers as improperly filed. If the fees are in separate remittances,
then the $1,000 ACWIA fee can be rejected and the petition and filing fee accepted. 

Note: The above is directly copied from a memo by William R. Yates, Associate Director for Operations USBCIS, to Service Center Directors.
 

September 15, 2003

State Department Issues DV Lottery 2005 Guidelines; On-line Applications Accepted Starting November 1

The State Department has issued information and questions and answers on the criteria and procedures for applying for the FREE Diversity Visa Lottery for 2005. NOTE: Not all nationalities are eligible to apply. The registration period is November 1 through December 30, 2003. All applications must be filed electronically, directly to the State Department on or AFTER November 1, 2003.

Natives of the following countries do not qualify for the diversity program: Canada, China [mainland-born], Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Great Britain, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Philippines, and Vietnam.
 

June 19, 2003

Eduardo Aguirre, Jr confirmed as the  Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services

Eduardo Aguirre, Jr., was nominated by President George W. Bush to be Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), a key leadership position in the Department of Homeland Security, in February 2003. The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination on June 19, 2003. 

Mr. Aguirre and his wife, Maria Teresa, both emigrated from Cuba as unaccompanied minors at the age of 15. He joined the Department of Homeland Security from the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), where he was Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer. From December 2001 to December 2002, he served as acting Chairman of the Bank.

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