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Update of Recent INS Policy Changes

May 29, 2003

Certain Asylees With Pending Adjustment of Status
Applications Should Notify the BCIS of a Change of Address

The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) announced that asylees who filed adjustment of status applications on or before February 1, 1999, and have not received a decision regarding their adjustment application, should contact the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283 to ensure that the agency has a record of their current address. Applicants can also contact the NCSC to check on the status of their case.

NOTE: When you call this number, first press #1 ("for information about pending
applications"), and once there, press #2 ("for change of address of your N-400 and certain pending asylum adjustment applications"). When you call, be sure you have your application receipt number available.

April 29, 2003

BCIS Announces Electronic Filing for Two Popular Immigration Forms 

Beginning May 29, 2003, customers can e-file online two of our most popular forms, i.e., to request Employment Authorization (Form I-765) and to renew or replace a Permanent Resident Card (I-90). 

March 1, 2003

INS officially merged into the Department of Homeland Security today

Its name changed to USBCIS. All services remain the same. Field offices and adjudication centers still have the same addresses.

February 28, 2003

Filing fee returns to pre-January 24 levels

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) today published a final rule in the Federal Register that reinstates the surcharge added to immigration benefit
application fees. This fee is used to support asylum and refugee services and the agency?s fee waiver program.

On January 24, 2003, INS published an interim rule that eliminated the surcharge. The
Service was required to take that action under provisions of section 457 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Public Law 107-296. The U.S. Congress has since repealed that section of the law. Effective February 27, the immigration benefit application fee schedule returns to the levels that existed prior to January 24.

All applications and petitions filed with INS on or after February 27, 2003 must comply with the new fee schedule. (The readjusted fee table is attached.) Applications and petitions not accompanied by the increased fee will be rejected with a request to submit the appropriate amount.

However, the Service will accept applications and petitions postmarked on or before
February 27 with the reduced fee that went in effect on January 24. 

January 24, 2003

INS Fee Change

Effective today, INS changed fees for some applications and petitions, following is a partial table of the fee schedule.
Title New Fee
Application to Replace Alien Registration Card ("Green Card") $95
Petitions for Nonimmigrant Workers $96
Petition for Alien Relative $96
Application for Travel Document $80
Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker $99
Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status $186 ($160 for child under 14 years-old)
Application to Extend/Change Non Immigrant Status $102
Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement of Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, As Amended $142
Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence $105
Application for Employment Authorization $88
Application for Voluntary Departure Under the Family Unity Act $102
Action on an Approved Application or Petition $103
Application for Naturalization $188
Fingerprinting $50 no change

November 25, 2002

H.R. 5005, Homeland Security Act of 2002 signed into Law

This afternoon, President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 into law after it passes both Houses. To read the sections of the law that are related with immigration and naturalization, please click here. Almost the entire current INS will be moved into the new Homeland Security department except the Administrative Appeal Units and the Immigration Judges that stay with the Department of Justice. It is an awkward arrangement from the perspective of immigrants. How can AAU in DOJ overturn the decisions made by another Department, not to mention that Department is much more superior and is operating almost in a secret fashion, which is allowed by the law. Fortunately, the transition can take up to two years for its completion. In the two years, there will be tremendous opportunities for immigrants that may never be seen before and again.
 

November 6, 2002

Impact of 2002 election on Immigration

In yesterday's election, Republicans had a big victory and re-gain the control of both Senate and Congress. No doubt, the Homeland Security Bill will pass this time. The Bill passed earlier this year by Congress divided INS into Service function and Enforcement function, only the Enforcement part would be moved to the Homeland Security Department. The original proposal was to move the entire INS to the new Department, which is still a possibility. If the Service part of INS stays with the Department of Justice, we would not expect much an impact on legal immigration. If the entire INS moved to the Homeland Security Department, for sure, immigration services for legal immigrants would be compromised. Let us hope for the better one.
 

October 30, 2002

The INS launched an on-line status-check system on October 28, 2002. To check the status of any of your applications, you can visit http://egov.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/cris/jsps/caseStat.jsp, or you can still call the telephone number that is given on your receipt.

About two months ago, the Waiver Review Division at the Department of State launched a similar system to allow an applicant to check the status of a J-1 waiver application at http://63.70.23.80. Or you can call the phone number given on your receipt.

The on-line systems are actually just the alternative versions of the computerized telephone answering systems.

October 2, 2002

Nothing really dramatic happened this period. INS is in an unstable time if we do not classify it as "turmoil". The President's proposal of establishing a Homeland Security Department, which would include the INS, was stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senator. Democrats want the 200,000 employees in that Department to have the same labor rights as other federal employees (Title V protection), while President Bush does not want that, he wants "black box" operation for efficiency. No compromise has made between both sides so far. The uncertainty really slows down the INS. The time for processing most applications has substantially prolonged. In Department of Labor, an internal memo was issued to scrutinize permanent labor certification applications. Apparently, DOL is doing what it is supposed to do to protect American workers under harsh economic conditions. Now, the processing is further slowed and the denial rate is increased for permanent labor certification. However, it could be worse for immigrants if the immigration services moved to the proposed Homeland Security Department.

The only bright spot is the policy allowing concurrent filing of adjustment of status with employment-based immigration petition. With this policy, it is not a big deal if you have to wait for a little longer since you will have legal status and work-permit. Previously, without these benefits, you have to wait for 3 years anyway. So why do you care about waiting three and half years now? Well, the above statements are based on the conditions that you apply under EB1 or NIW.

August 1, 2002

On July 31, 2002, INS implemented one of the most profound change in immigration policy. Concurrent filing of adjustment of status with employment-based immigration petition is allowed, if a visa number is immediately available. This policy greatly benefits people who are currently applying an emplyment-based green-card, or those currently on non-immigration working visas (such as H, O, TN etc..), or students on F-1 visas or F-1 OPTs as well as their spouses on F-2 or H-4 visas. With this policy, they can all easily obtain legal work authorizations, or obtain travel documents for going outside and re-entering the United States without applying a visa again at a Consulate. 

June 13, 2002

This is really an unstable period for INS. The Bill passed by the Congress to break INS into two branches did not even emerge on the Senator floor for voting. On June 6th, President Bush proposed a new Homeland Security Department. In the proposal, the INS will be moved from Department of Justice to the new Department and then be separated into "Enforcement" function and "Immigration Service" function. The proposal is now pending the House approval. If the proposal is approved, which is expected, the new Department will be formed in October. It is forseeable that the immigration services will be the last priority for the Department of Homeland Security. More mishandling of cases and delays are quite possible. 

During this period, however, our members have reported greater success recently. Immigration petitions are usually processed in two months.

April 11, 2002

INS Restructuring Proposal

House judiciary committee passed a proposal to break INS into two branches, a "service" branch and an "enforce" branch. The two branches will still belong to the Department of Justice. (It is not a law yet, there is still a long way to go.) Nevertheless, this is a good news for legal and law-abiding immigrants. Even though the "service" branch is still a federal government agency and we can not expect its service to be like a commercial company (take a look at the poor services at postoffice or Department of Labor), still, this would be the biggest step in improvement of services in INS history. While restructuring talks going on, our members have already reported smooth processing of EB1 (Extraordinary Ability and Outstanding Researcher) and NIW cases recently. With skyrocketing unemployment, however, permanent foreign labor certification is almost halted, the Department of Labor is under tremendous pressure to scrutinize the labor certification process. All employment-based immigration visas are currently available. If you want to apply for a employment-based green card, this is the time, and we suggest you to try EB1 or NIW.

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