September 10, 2015

USCIS Announces Major Update To Monthly Visa Bulletin

USCIS, in coordination with Department of State (DOS), is revising the procedures for determining visa availability for applicants waiting to file for employment-based or family-sponsored preference adjustment of status. The revised process will better align with procedures DOS uses for foreign nationals who seek to become U.S. permanent residents by applying for immigrant visas at U.S. consulates and embassies abroad.

This revised process will enhance DOS’s ability to more accurately predict overall immigrant visa demand and determine the cut-off dates for visa issuance published in the Visa Bulletin. This will help ensure that the maximum number of immigrant visas are issued annually as intended by Congress, and minimize month-to-month fluctuations in Visa Bulletin final action dates.
The Visa Bulletin revisions implement November 2014 executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson, as detailed in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st century, issued in July 2015.

What is Changing

Two charts per visa preference category will be posted in the DOS Visa Bulletin:
  • Application Final Action Dates (dates when visas may finally be issued); and
  • Dates for Filing Applications (earliest dates when applicants may be able to apply).
Each month, in coordination with DOS, USCIS will monitor visa numbers and post the relevant DOS Visa Bulletin chart. Applicants can use the charts to determine when to file their Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
To determine whether additional visas are available, USCIS will compare the number of visas available for the remainder of the fiscal year with:
  • Documentarily qualified visa applicants reported by DOS;
  • Pending adjustment of status applications reported by USCIS; and
  • Historical drop off rate (for example, denials, withdrawals, abandonments).

About the Visa Bulletin

DOS publishes current immigrant visa availability information in a monthly Visa Bulletin. The Visa Bulletin indicates when statutorily limited visas are available to prospective immigrants based on their individual priority date.
  • The priority date is generally the date when the applicant’s relative or employer properly filed the immigrant visa petition on the applicant’s behalf with USCIS. If a labor certification is required to be filed with the applicant’s immigrant visa petition, then the priority date is when the labor certification application was accepted for processing by Department of Labor.
  • Availability of an immigrant visa means eligible applicants are able to take one of the final steps in the process of becoming U.S. permanent residents.

April 22, 2014

ICE Agrees To Limit Use Of Shackles On Immigrants In San Francisco Immigration Courts

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed to avoid shackling immigrants at the San Francisco immigration court in many hearings. Immigrants will still be shackled at a type of brief, procedural hearing in which several detainees are addressed at the same time.

In 2011 the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and others filed a lawsuit against ICE. The lawsuit says detainees at the San Francisco court wear metal restraints on their wrists, ankles and waists and that most are bused from jails several hours away, spending hours in shackles before, during and after their hearings.

A federal judge in San Francisco was scheduled to consider Thursday whether to approve the settlement in the lawsuit, ACLU attorney Julia Harumi Mass said the agreement applies only to the San Francisco court, which serves more than 2,000 immigrants a year who are in ICE custody at three county jails in Northern California.- Huff Post

Juana Villegas wears handcuffs while demonstrating outside the Tennessee Supreme Court building on Thursday, June 14, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. In 2008, Villegas was jailed in Nashville and kept in shackles while in labor with her son, Gael Carachure, now 3 years old. Inside the Supreme Court chamber Thursday, a Nashville immigration attorney argued that the Davidson County sheriff should be barred from participating in a federal program that lets deputies perform some of the duties of immigration | ASSOCIATED PRESS

April 15, 2014

Immigrants Make San Francisco One of the Top Metropolitans for High Tech Entrepreneurs

Researchers at the Kauffman Foundation have found that the importance of highly skilled immigrants is growing "because immigrants are far more likely to start businesses – particularly high-tech companies – than are the native-born".

This can serve as a lesson for metro areas trying to attract these types of entrepreneurs. Foreign born entrepreneurs are more likely to locate in areas that have ethnically diverse populations. It is not surprising then to find that San Francisco along with Los Angeles and New York was home to about a third of all immigrant high-tech entrepreneurs in the country in 2011.

Source: Kauffman Foundation

April 01, 2014

Chile Added to Visa Waiver Program

On February 28, 2014, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State designated Chile as a country that is eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program.  Accordingly, this rule updates the list of countries designated for participation in the Visa Waiver Program by adding Chile. This final rule is effective on March 31, 2014.

Eligible citizens, nationals and passport holders from designated Visa Waiver Program countries may apply for admission to the United States at U.S. ports of entry as nonimmigrant aliens for a period of ninety days or less for business or pleasure without first obtaining a nonimmigrant visa, provided that they are otherwise eligible for admission under applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. 


March 28, 2014

Start-Ups and H1-B Visas

Two years ago USCIS announced it would increase its efforts to optimize visas for entrepreneurs and start-up businesses in an attempt to encourage investment and bolster the economy. Despite the governments efforts there are still a number of barriers to start-ups obtaining H1-B approvals.

In the last issue of  American Immigration Lawyer's The Voice,  they pointed out several important factors USCIS will look at when adjudicating an H1-B petition:

1. Is there a bona fide job offer?

There must be a bona fide offer, it cannot simply be an accommodation for a friend. If the financial condition of the start up is questionable USCIS will request evidence of the petitioners financial condition to determine if there is a bona fide offer.

2. Employers Actual Need and Sufficiency

USCIS may also question whether the employer actually NEEDS the H1-B position. USCIS wants to see that there is enough specialty occupation work for the beneficiary throughout the period of validity of the visa and that the beneficiary will not be performing non-specialty occupation work, such as sales, administrative tasks, etc.

3. Facilities for Work

USCIS also often asks if the employer has facilities to accommodate the work of the beneficiary. If there is, evidence should be provided of the facility. If not, as is often the case with start-ups, then there will need to be an explanation of alternative work arrangements.

For the full article by Ekaterina Powell click here.