Updated: May 23, 2017
December 11, 2012: Holiday hours
Our office will be closed from December 25 through January 1, inclusive. ‘Weekly Update’ will return on Tuesday, January 8. Whilst the office is closed we will continue to answer urgent client e-mails, and other requests will be dealt with as soon as reasonably possible. We wish our readers a happy and healthy festive season.
December 4, 2012: New article about renunciation of US citizenship
The State Bar of Arizona has published in the December 2012 issue of its magazine Arizona Attorney an article by Gudeon & McFadden lawyers Susan McFadden and Kathleen Kavanagh. To read the article, ‘Adiós, Uncle Sam: Renouncing US Citizenship,’ click here.
November 27, 2012: No Premium Processing for immigrant managers; Embassy webchat scheduled; USCIS ‘e-request’ service
Representatives of the USCIS stated, in a November 14 meeting with representatives of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, that there are no longer any plans to extend Premium Processing Service to immigrant petitions for multinational executives and managers ‘within the foreseeable future.’ Would-be immigrants and their lawyers had been awaiting this PPS extension since a USCIS announcement on August 2, 2011. [See our ‘Weekly Update’ entry for August 9, 2011.]
The US Embassy, London will hold a webchat on the topic of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas this Thursday, November 29, between noon and 1 pm.
Persons with petitions pending with the USCIS can now submit status queries online. For directions and the e-mail address, click here.
November 20, 2012: Warnings for marriage-based visa applicants
By amendment to the Foreign Affairs Manual effective November 14 the Department of State will now require consular officers to ensure that persons applying for US immigrant visas based upon marriage have received copies of the USCIS pamphlet ‘Information on the Legal Rights Available to Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence in the United States and Facts about Immigrating on a Marriage-Based Visa.’ For a copy of the pamphlet, click here.
November 13, 2012: EB-5 Programme Data Released
The USCIS has released a report showing that the approval rates for EB-5 ‘alien entrepreneur’ immigrant status petitions, both conditional and final, have risen over the past eight fiscal years even as the number of petitions filed has soared. For an overview of the EB-5 programme please see our website article Immigrant Investor: The ‘Million Dollar Green Card’.
November 6, 2012: List of renunciants published; Embassy webchat
Last Thursday the Internal Revenue Service published its quarterly list of people who have recently renounced US citizenship.
A transcript of the London Embassy’s October 25 webchat on the subject of visas, immigrant and non-immigrant, is now available.
October 30, 2012: Green card lottery application period ends this week
The application period for the FY2014 diversity visa ‘green card lottery’ will end at noon US East Coast time this Saturday, November 3. For instructions on how to apply, click here.
October 23, 2012: An update on the B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa
The Department of State has recently sent to its visa-issuing posts around the world a cable that supersedes the June 21, 2012 cable on the continued validity of the B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa. (For a discussion of that cable, see our July 10, 2012 ‘Weekly Update’ entry.) The new cable, which does not appear on the Department’s Visa Policy Updates page, reminds consular officers that although the visa is still under interagency review, they should not hesitate to issue it in appropriate cases. Additional emphasis has been put in this most recent cable on the requirement that applicants must have either a bachelor’s degree in a specialty field, or the equivalent experience, and the activities to be undertaken must also be of H-1B calibre.
A discussion of the visa itself, and its applicability to persons working for non US employers and rendering temporary professional services to their employers’ clients in the US, can be found in our website article Working (Legally) on a Visitor’s Visa or Visa Waiver Entry.
October 16, 2012: Taiwan joins the Visa Waiver Program; processing of applications from undocumented youth
On November 1, 2012 Taiwan will become the 37th member of the Visa Waiver Program. As of that date eligible holders of Taiwanese passports and an ESTA authorization will be able to travel to the US without a visa. To read the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announcement, click here.
Processing of applications under the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) has accelerated. As of October 10 a total of 179,794 applications had been received, and 4,591 approved. According to a DHS spokesman quoted in the New York Times the typical adjudication process will take approximately 4 to 6 months.
October 9, 2012: More warnings about the ‘green card lottery’; slow grant of help for undocumented youth
The US Embassy, London has posted a notice to potential DV FY2014 entrants, stressing in the strongest possible terms that applicants should note and retain the confirmation number that is generated when the application is filed. From that note: ‘[The confirmation number] will be needed in order to check whether you have been selected for the program, and it cannot be retrieved at a later stage. You cannot check your DV entry status without your confirmation number and it cannot be retrieved later under any circumstances.’ The status of applications can be checked beginning May 1, 2013.
A USCIS report shows that as of September 14 a total of 82,361 applications had been filed for benefits under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that grants benefits including employment authorization to some undocumented people who entered the United States as children. As of that date 29 applications had been approved.
October 2, 2012: EB-5 extension becomes law; conflicting guidance for applicants with alcohol-related arrests and convictions
On Friday September 28 President Obama signed into law Senate Bill 3245, extending until September 30, 2015 the EB-5 regional center program.
Effective September 25 the Department of State updated the Foreign Affairs Manual provision relating to medical examinations for non-immigrant visa applicants. Consular officers are now instructed that they must refer an applicant for a medical examination if the applicant has had (1) ‘a single alcohol-related arrest or conviction within the last five years,’ or (2) ‘two or more drunk driving arrests or convictions in the last ten years.’ This conflicts with another provision of the Foreign Affairs Manual which requires medical examinations if an applicant has two or more ‘alcohol related arrests or convictions within the last ten years,’ not restricted to drink driving offenses.
September 25, 2012: ‘Green card lottery’ application period begins next week
The US Department of State has released instructions for the green card lottery, the application period for which begins at noon US East Coast time next Tuesday, October 2. Potential applicants should read the eligibility requirements carefully, because eligibility turns not on citizenship, but on ‘nativity.’ Contrary to popular belief, some UK citizens are eligible to take part.
September 18, 2012: New life for the EB-5 ‘regional center’ programme
Both houses of Congress have now passed and sent to the President for signature Senate Bill 3245 which will extend the EB-5 regional center pilot programme until September 30, 2015. The programme, which provides immigrant visas for investors who make qualifying investments of at least $500,000 in a business located within a pre-qualified ‘regional center,’ was set to expire on September 30 of this year. Although Congress stopped short of making the programme permanent, it did strike the word ‘pilot’ from the title of the programme. For more information see our website article Immigrant Investor: The ‘Million Dollar Green Card’.
September 11, 2012: A pause in the service
Your correspondent is travelling. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on September 18; please check back with us then.
September 4, 2012: L-1B approvals fall; warning of green card lottery fraudsters
A report released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services shows that in Fiscal Year 2011 approvals of L-1B petitions reached 73%--their lowest level in at least 9 years. L-1B petitions are used to sponsor for transfer to jobs in the United States certain persons who have either ‘specialized knowledge’ of a company’s ‘product, service, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests and its [sic] application in international markets’ or an advanced level of expertise in the organization’s processes and procedures. For further information about L-1 visas, you may wish to see our website article Intracompany Transfers.
In advance of the green card lottery application period beginning next month (Weekly Update entry for August 14) the US Embassy in London is reminding potential applicants that the US Government does not contact lottery winners by e-mail, and that if they receive such an e-mail it is a scam.
August 28, 2012: Embassy guidance about Visa Waiver Program eligibility; webchat this Thursday
The Embassy has posted a new infographic flow chart to assist people in determining whether they need a visa to travel to the United States. According to the chart, an arrest or conviction for any offense renders a person ineligible for Visa Waiver Program travel. For a different opinion on that point, see our website article Travelling to the US Without a Visa.
The Embassy will hold a visa webchat this Thursday, August 30, between noon and 1 pm. The subject: Immigrant and Non-immigrant Visas. For additional information, click here.
August 21, 2012: Help for undocumented youth
The USCIS is now accepting applications for deferred action on behalf of certain undocumented young people who entered the United States before their 16th birthdays. The form and instructions are available on the USCIS website. Three legal organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association, have prepared a 22-page informational guide to deferred action. To access it, click here.
August 14, 2012: Green card lottery application dates announced
The DV-2014 ‘green card lottery’ will be open for applications from October 2 to November 3, 2012. Click here to go to the Department of State’s Diversity Immigrant Visa Program page, which promises additional information as the commencement of the application period grows closer.
August 7, 2012: A pause in the service
Your correspondent is travelling. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on August 14; please check back with us then.
July 31, 2012: Sponsored immigrant enforces the I-864 in divorce context
The influential Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a US permanent resident who was the beneficiary of an I-864 Affidavit of Support—it was signed by her US citizen then-husband in connection with an immigrant visa application—is entitled to claim monetary support from him without any showing that she has tried to reduce (mitigate) her damages by looking for work. In the Wisconsin state divorce case between the parties the court had made her receipt of spousal support contingent upon such a showing. She then sued her ex-husband in federal court to enforce his support obligation under the I-864. The opinion in the case, Liu v Mund, was issued on July 12, 2012 and can be accessed on the Seventh Circuit’s website, http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/ .
July 24, 2012: Background statistics on the H-1B program
The US Department of Labor, which adjudicates the Labor Condition Applications required for H-1B petitions, has released selected LCA statistics from the first three quarters of FY 2012. Among the more interesting findings: Fully 25% of all positions certified were for jobs in California, and the top 10 employers accounted for 41% of all positions certified.
July 17, 2012: Lawful permanent residents in the US—where do they come from, where do they live?
A new report from the Office of Immigration Statistics gives a statistical picture of the lawful permanent resident (‘green card’ holder) population of the United States. The OIS estimates that there were 13.1 million LPRs in the United States as of January 1, 2011. Of that number, 25.4% were born in Mexico, compared to 2.2% born in the UK. Fully 25.9% of all LPRs live in California, with the State of New York having the next largest share of lawful permanent residents, at 12.4%.
July 10, 2012: New life for the B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa
The Department of State has sent a cable to its visa-issuing posts around the world, re-affirming the continued validity of the B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa. The cable, which does not appear on the Department’s Visa Policy Updates page, reminds consular officers that although the visa is still under interagency review, they should not hesitate to issue it in appropriate cases. The Department also advises that the visa should be annotated (contrary to recent practice at the Embassy here in London) ‘to avoid possible delays at the port of entry.’
Readers may reacquaint themselves with the background of the current B-1 in lieu of H-1B controversy in our Weekly Updates of April 26 and May 31, 2011, below. A discussion of the visa itself, and its applicability to persons working for non US employers and rendering temporary professional services to their employers’ clients in the US, can be found in our website article Working (Legally) on a Visitor’s Visa or Visa Waiver Entry.
July 3, 2012: Immigrants play vital role in US innovation
According to a study published last week by a non-profit group co-founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, foreign-born researchers played a role in more than 75% of all patents registered by leading American research universities.
June 26, 2012: Supreme Court rules on Arizona immigration law; new website article added
The US Supreme Court has upheld one key portion of the controversial immigration law passed by the State of Arizona—the portion that requires police officers to determine the immigration status of persons they stop or arrest, if they have reason to suspect that the person may be an undocumented alien. Other portions of the law, such as the one making it a state crime to fail to comply with federal requirements for alien registration, were struck down as pre-empted by federal law. Arizona v United States, decided June 25, 2012.
We have added a new article to our website, setting out some of the ways in which an immigration lawyer can be helpful even in a relatively straightforward family-sponsored case. We invite you to read Unknown Unknowns: Why You Don’t Need an Immigration Lawyer for Your Family-Based Visa Case (and Why You Might Want One Anyway).
June 19, 2012: H-1B quota reached; hope for young undocumented immigrants
The annual quota for H-1B petitions was reached on Monday, June 11, as announced by the USCIS on June 12. The USCIS also said that the quota of an additional 20,000 H-1Bs for persons with advanced degrees from US institutions had been reached on June 7.
The immigration benefit known as ‘deferred action’ will now be available to certain young undocumented people who came to the US as children. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization. Full details and a list of the criteria can be found in the announcement made by the Secretary of Homeland Security on June 15.
June 12, 2012: Visa appointments in London; H-1B quota filled?
Visa appointment availability at the US Embassy in London is now updated every Monday via Twitter, @USAinUKCGCorner.
The USCIS has not updated its published H-1B ‘cap count’ since June 1, at which time approximately 9,400 of the regular cap and 1,300 of the US advanced degree cap were still available. However, given the speed at which petitions were filed in the week leading up to June 1, it is likely that if an H-1B petition is not already on its way to the USCIS for filing, it will be too late for the FY2013 quota.
June 6, 2012: H-1B quota nearly filled; change in inadmissibility waiver procedure; preparing for the naturalization test
As of June 1 the USCIS had receipted in 55,600 H-1B petitions against the standard ‘cap’ of 65,000 and 18,700 against the 20,000 reserved for persons with earned advanced degrees from US institutions.
On June 4 the USCIS began requiring certain applicants for waivers of inadmissibility to file their applications directly with the USCIS in the United States. The new program applies to applicants for immigrant visas and for non-immigrant K and V visas.
The USCIS and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History have launched a new website, ‘Preparing for the Oath: US History and Civics for Citizenship.’ It is a web-based multimedia resource designed to help applicants study for the civics portion of the naturalization test, and features items from the Institution’s collections.
May 29, 2012: H-1Bs still available; more about Facebook and US citizenship
Last week the USCIS did not publish its usual update of the H-1B count. According to the most recent information available (May 11) approximately 68% of FY2013’s H-1Bs have been allocated. This represents 65% of the regular cap numbers, and 80% of the 20,000 reserved for persons who have earned advanced degrees from US educational institutions.
The text of the ‘Ex-PATRIOT Act,’ directed at Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin and other former Americans thought to have given up their citizenship for tax reasons, is now available.
May 22, 2012: Facebook flap continues
Eduardo Saverin’s renunciation of US citizenship has prompted US Senator Charles E Schumer and three co-sponsors to introduce a bill that would tax the future US-source capital gains realised by anyone who gave up US citizenship within the past 10 years. Senate Bill 3205, introduced on May 17, has been given the name ‘the Ex-PATRIOT Act’ (‘Expatriation Prevention by Abolishing Tax-Related Incentives for Offshore Tenancy’). According to the summary released by Senator Schumer’s office it would also require the Internal Revenue Service to make a decision as to tax-avoidance intent, or lack thereof, as to each person who renounces citizenship and is subject to the ‘exit tax.’ A brief overview of the exit tax can be found in our website article Giving Up US Citizenship: Is it Right for You?. When the text of the Ex-PATRIOT Act is released it will be available on the legislative information web page of the Library of Congress.
May 15, 2012 : High profile US citizen renounces; H-1B count
A number of media outlets reported on the decision by Eduardo Saverin, a co-founder of Facebook, to renounce the US citizenship he acquired through naturalization in 1998. His renunciation became a matter of public record on April 30 when his name appeared in the list of expatriates published every calendar quarter by the Internal Revenue Service.
As of May 11 the USCIS estimated that 36,700 regular cap petitions had been filed (against a total of approximately 65,000 available) and 14,800 against the total of 20,000 reserved for persons with earned advanced degrees from US institutions.
May 8, 2012: US expatriate tax stories sought; H-1B filing update
The US Democratic Party organisation ‘Democrats Abroad’ has established a task force to address the impact of tax law and enforcement on Americans living abroad. A website has been established, Tax Stories from Americans Abroad, to collect anecdotes illustrating the challenges faced by expatriates in managing their tax affairs—with the hope of bringing about changes to reduce the size of the challenges.
The number of H-1B petitions filed inched up this week. As of May 4 a total of 32,500 petitions had been filed against the regular cap of approximately 65,000, and 13,700 against the cap of 20,000 reserved for persons with an earned master’s degree or higher from a US institution. This represents an increase of 11% over the previous week.
May 1, 2012: H-1B count update; Mexican migration to the US comes to a standstill
The USCIS has issued an update of the number of H-1B petitions filed toward the FY2013 quota. As of April 27 the numbers stand at 29,200 for the regular cap (of approximately 65,000) and 12,300 toward the 20,000 H-1B’s reserved for persons who have an earned master’s degree or higher from a US institution.
A report published last week by the Pew Hispanic Center reaches the conclusion shown in its title: ‘Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less.’ Among the factors identified as being partially responsible are the weak US job market, heightened border enforcement, increased deportations, and Mexico’s declining birth rate and improving economic conditions.
April 24, 2012: Paperwork pushes US citizens to renounce citizenship
Every April millions of Americans file their US tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. It is therefore no surprise that April typically brings a flurry of newspaper and magazine stories about American citizens choosing to give up their citizenship because of the administrative burden required to comply with US financial reporting requirements. This April has been no exception. See for example, a story from Reuters that was picked up by a number of newspapers. The IRS’s own National Taxpayer Advocate noted, in her 2011 report to Congress, that ‘For some US taxpayers abroad, the tax requirements are so confusing and the compliance burden so great that they give up their US citizenship.’ In the spirit of the season we have revised and updated both our website articles on this subject: US Citizenship—Having It, Getting It, Giving it Up and Giving Up US Citizenship: Is it Right for You?
April 17, 2012: Visa application fees change; ‘B-1 in lieu of H-1B’ back in the news
Effective April 13, 2012 the fees charged by US embassies and consulates for visa applications have changed. Fee receipts showing payment before April 13 will be honoured through July 12. Beginning on July 13 applicants will need to pay a supplemental fee if the fee for the visa for which they are applying has increased. For the Department of State’s notice on this subject, click here.
The Seattle Times has published an article on the fraught subject of professional workers performing services in the US on B-1 business visitor visas. In this case, the professionals were Russian engineers working in the Boeing factory in Seattle, Washington. For a discussion of the ‘B-1 in lieu of H-1B’ or ‘professional services’ exception to the general rule prohibiting B-1 entrants from working in the US, see our website article Working (Legally) on a Visitor’s Visa or Visa Waiver Entry
April 10, 2012: H-1B race is on; new attorney for Gudeon & McFadden
The US Citizenship and Immigration Service reports that during the first week of FY2013 H-1B petition filing—April 2 through 9—it received 17,400 petitions toward the ‘regular’ H-1B limit of 65,000 and 8,200 toward the additional 20,000 H-1B classification slots available to persons with earned master’s degrees or higher from US institutions.
Our firm is happy to announce that Kathleen Kavanagh has joined us as an associate attorney. Ms Kavanagh, who has a distinguished background as a lawyer and academic, will be working in all aspects of the firm’s immigration and nationality practice, including immigrant and non-immigrant visas, acquisition and loss of US citizenship, and waivers of ineligibility and inadmissibility.
April 3, 2012: Visa application fees to change; help for would-be immigrants with ineligibilities due to unlawful presence
Visa application fees will change effective April 13, pursuant to an interim final rule published in the Federal Register on March 29. The fee for applications based upon approved petitions (H, L, O, P, Q and R visas) will increase from $150 to $190, while the fee for E visas will decrease from $390 to $270. The fees for many types of immigrant visas will also decrease. To access the rule, click here.
On April 2 the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule, previously announced on January 9, that will benefit immigrant visa applicants applying from within the United States for a waiver of the 3- or 10-year bar due to unlawful presence. The proposed rule is available for comment until June 1.
March 27, 2012: DHS statistics show profile of unauthorized immigrants in the US
The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics has produced a report estimating the size of the unauthorized immigrant population in the US. The total figure is 11.5 million as of January 2011. The report also contains estimated breakdowns by region and country of birth, date of estimated entry to the US, as well as by US State of residence.
March 20, 2012: Report on the Visa Waiver Program; Embassy webchats, past and future
A December 2011 report by the Congressional Research Service into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) has made its way into the public domain. It offers good background on the VWP and a summary of the related legislation that has been introduced during the current Congress.
The Embassy in London has scheduled another webchat on the subject of non-immigrant visas, this one to take place this Thursday, March 22, from noon to 1 pm, GMT. The transcript from the February 23 webchat on that issue has now been posted; to review it, click here.
March 13, 2012: Olympics to cause delays in issuing US passports; battle over L-1B’s
The US Embassy, London has warned that the Olympics will cause delays in passport processing this summer. Persons needing new passports soon are encouraged to apply now.
Senators Grassley (R-Iowa) and Durbin (R-Ill.) have publicly released their letter of March 7, 2012 to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency is currently reviewing its interpretation of ‘specialized knowledge’ in the L-1B context and the senators urge the USCIS not to make L-1B classification any easier to obtain than it is now.
March 6, 2012: Waiver processing to be centralized in the US
The USCIS has announced plans to centralize in the US the filing and adjudication of I-601 applications for waivers of ineligibility. As mentioned last week, I-601s are filed by persons seeking permanent residence through immigrant visas or adjustment of status, and by certain non-immigrant visa applicants. This Friday, March 9, at 20.00 GMT, the USCIS will hold a teleconference on the subject. For more information, or to register to take part in the teleconference, click here.
February 28, 2012: Waiver processing times
The USCIS is now publishing monthly reports regarding the processing times for Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, filed in USCIS offices abroad. The reports list, office by office, the number of I-601s received and completed; the number of cases pending; and the percentage of cases completed within 0-3 months; 4-6 months; 7-9 months; 10-12 months; and over 12 months. As of January 31, 2012 the percentage of cases filed in the London Field Office that took more than 12 months to complete (25%) was exceeded only by that of the office in Tegucigalpa, Honduras (27%).
I-601 applications are filed by persons seeking permanent residence through immigrant visas or adjustment of status, and by certain non-immigrant visa applicants. The London Field Office has jurisdiction for adjudicating I-601 applications filed in the following countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
February 21, 2012: Embassy appointments to be restricted in Summer 2012; extended ‘L’ visa validity; H-1B process to change
The Embassy in London has warned prospective non-immigrant visa applicants that visa appointments will be severely limited during July and August—due, one assumes, to the Olympics and Paralympics.
The Department of State has issued a final rule allowing consular officers to issue ‘L’ visas for periods longer than the validity of the underlying petition. The validity of ‘L’ visas will now be governed by the country-specific reciprocity schedule, meaning that UK passport holders could obtain ‘L’ visas of up to five years’ validity.
In its semi-annual regulatory agenda, published in the Federal Register, the Department of Homeland Security forecasts that by October 2012 it will have implemented its upcoming rule requiring H-1B petitioners to apply for registration before filing H-1B petitions for individuals.
February 14, 2012: Report shows extent of USCIS scrutiny of L- and H-1B petitions
A sobering analysis of FY2011 data, just released, shows that the USCIS issued Requests for Evidence in fully 63% of all L-1B petitions (for intracompany transferees with specialized knowledge) and that 27% of such petitions were denied.
February 7, 2012: CBP ‘Global Entry’ program expanded and made permanent
The Global Entry program, which allows for speedy, automated passage through US immigration for pre-approved participants, will be made permanent as of March 7, 2012, according to a final rule from Customs and Border Protection, published on February 6. Eligibility has been extended to include not only US citizens and lawful permanent residents, but also non-immigrant citizens of Mexico and the Netherlands. Further, the minimum age limit of 14 years has been abolished, although applicants under 18 will need the consent of a parent or legal guardian.
January 31, 2012: Updated information for filers of I-864 affidavits of support; new visa refusal article
On January 26 the Department of Health and Human Services released its 2012 Poverty Guidelines. The increases in the incomes which will be considered to constitute poverty level range from 2.85% for a household of two persons to 3.35% for a household of eight. Pursuant to section 20.5(j) of the USCIS’ Adjudicator’s Field Manual the Guidelines become effective for USCIS purposes on the first day of the second full month following their release—in other words, 1 March.
We have added a new article to our website, explaining the meaning of 214(b) visa denials and suggesting ways to approach re-application after such a denial. We invite you to read A 214(b) Denial: What It Means, What You Can Do.
January 24, 2012: Embassy offers webchat about immigrant visas; streamlined visa renewals on their way?
The US Embassy in London has scheduled a webchat at mid-day GMT tomorrow, January 25, on the subject of immigrant visas. To take part or to lodge a question, click here.
On January 19 President Obama announced a programme to streamline the visa renewal process. Apparently some (re)applicants will be spared the need for (re)interviews. No details as to implementation have yet been released.
January 17, 2012: Immigration benefits too easily obtained, says Inspector General
The Office of the Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security, has recommended a number of changes to the processes used by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, in the hopes of increasing fraud detection. The OIG states that many USCIS employees feel that the agency ‘is too heavily weighted toward promoting immigration’ and feel pressured to approve ‘questionable applications.’
January 10, 2012: Suggested changes to ‘extraordinary ability’ green card scheme; new I-864 affidavit of support article
The US Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Ombudsman has issued a report recommending changes to the adjudication of petitions that seek lawful permanent resident status on the basis of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.
We have added a new article to our website, dealing with the special difficulties encountered by US citizens who live abroad and need to complete an I-864 affidavit of support to sponsor a family member for an immigrant visa. We invite you to read I-864 Affidavits of Support: The Problem of Domicile.
December 20, 2011: Social networking and the immigration authorities; and a pause in the service
The current issue of the State Bar of California publication California Lawyer contains an article about the use by US immigration authorities of social networking sites to gain information on people applying for immigration benefits.
‘Weekly Update’ will next appear on January 10, 2012. Please come back and see us then.
December 13, 2011: US Supreme Court to Rule on Arizona Immigration Law
Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to consider a case brought by the federal government challenging the constitutionality of an immigration-related law passed by the State of Arizona. The law, known as ‘SB 1070,’ purported to regulate on a state level many aspects of immigration law that had been thought reserved to the federal government’s jurisdiction. Lower federal courts have to date prohibited Arizona from enforcing some of the controversial provisions of the law such as criminalizing undocumented aliens’ acceptance of employment and permitting law enforcement officials to ask for proof of immigration status in a wide variety of situations not previously allowed. The case will now be heard this term, with a decision due before the Court recesses in June.
December 6, 2011: Nonimmigrant visa guidance from the US Embassy, London
The Embassy has published a transcript of its October 27, 2011 webchat on the topic of nonimmigrant visas. Among the topics covered were applications by non UK citizens in London; visa applications after convictions for various offenses; and the amount of time an applicant can expect to spend in the Embassy on the day of his or her interview.
November 29, 2011: H-1B quota reached
On November 23 the USCIS announced that the quota of H-1B petitions for FY2012 had been reached the previous day, November 22. Consequently there are now no new H-1B’s available for employment to begin before October 1, 2012. The filing period for FY2013 petitions seeking H-1B employment authorization to begin on or after October 1, 2012 will open on Monday, April 2, 2012.
November 22, 2011: H-1B’s near annual limit
It appears that the annual quota for new H-1B classifications will be exhausted earlier this fiscal year than last, when H-1Bs were available for petitions filed on or before 26 January 2011. The USCIS’s updated count shows that as of 14 November a total of 56,300 petitions had been receipted in against the quota of 65,000.
November 15, 2011: How to apply for a work permit; decline in green card lottery entries
We have added a new article to our website, explaining the process of applying for a US work permit. We invite you to read Work Permits: An Overview. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the FY2013 diversity visa/green card lottery, the application period for which ended on 5 November 2011, attracted only half as many applications as did the FY2012 lottery. Among the possible reasons given for the decline in participation is that persons chargeable to Bangladesh were not eligible to apply this year. Last year Bangladesh-born applicants filed 7.6 million lottery applications.
November 8, 2011: Green card lottery; immigrant visas for persons of marriageable age
The application period for the Diversity Visa (‘green card lottery’) ended on November 5. If the programme survives the periodic Congressional attempts to repeal it, the application period for the Fiscal Year 2014 lottery will be announced in the autumn of 2012. To see the current bill to eliminate the lottery, reported out to the House of Representatives on July 21, 2011, click here.
Effective October 31, 2011 all persons of ‘marriageable age’ who are applying for immigrant visas as the children of the petitioner or principal applicant are required to sign Form DS-237, ‘Statement of Marriageable Age Applicant.’ This Department of State form requires that applicants swear or affirm that they are not currently married, and that they understand that if they were to marry before their entry to the United States on the immigrant visa they would lose the right to immigrate on that visa.
The USCIS has published an update on H-1B filings for FY2012. As of November 2 the agency had received 50,800 petitions filed against the limit of 65,000. The quota of 20,000 H-1B’s set aside for beneficiaries with earned advanced degrees from US institutions has been filled.
November 1, 2011: Green card lottery application period ends on Saturday
The Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ application period for Fiscal Year 2013 ends this Saturday, November 5, at 4 pm GMT. For additional information and access to the online application form, click here. If you are interested in taking part you may wish to first read additional information on our website, found here.
October 25, 2011: Help from the US Embassy
The US Embassy in London will be hosting a webchat this Thursday, 27 October, from midday to 1 pm London time, on the subject of nonimmigrant visas. For further information or to leave a question for the webchat, click here. To review our website’s discussion of the most common types of nonimmigrant visas, click here.
October 18, 2011: Historical perspective on US immigration; schools approved for foreign students
The Office of Immigration Statistics has released a map series with information on the number of people who obtained legal permanent resident status each year between 1892 and 2010. The data is also broken down by US state and region of residence.
If you are considering studying in the US you should first ensure that the school or university you would like to attend is approved by the Department of Homeland Security for ‘F’ and ‘M’ student visa purposes. A new list of such institutions was issued yesterday, October 17. This information is also available in a map format.
October 11, 2011: Alcohol-related visa problems; update of H-1B
We have added a new article to our website, dealing with the difficulties encountered by visa applicants in London who have alcohol-related arrests or convictions. We invite you to read Drink Driving and the US Embassy, London.
As of September 23 the USCIS had received 36,300 H-1B petitions counted against the FY2012 regular cap and 17,700 petitions filed against the quota of 20,000 H-1B’s reserved for applicants who have earned advanced degrees from a US institution.
October 4, 2011: Green card lottery opens; help for EB-5 delays
Today at 5 pm London time the application period opens for the Fiscal Year 2013 Diversity Visa/’Green Card Lottery’ scheme. For additional information and access to the online application form, click here.
On September 28 the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule containing requirements and procedures for determining the claims of persons whose EB-5 ‘million dollar green card’ applications were approved between January 1, 1995 and August 31, 1998. These people and their cases have been in immigration limbo since 1998 when the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the predecessor agency to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, released certain precedent decisions regarding eligibility for EB-5 classification. There has been litigation ever since on the issue of whether those decisions should apply to petitions in various stages of adjudication. This proposed rule has been promulgated in response to a 2002 federal law forbidding the INS/USCIS to take adverse action against this group of people until it publishes implementing regulations to do so.
September 27, 2011: Embassy offers webchat help to immigrant visa applicants
On this coming Thursday, September 29, consular officers from the US Embassy in London will hold a webchat to answer questions and give advice on the subject of immigrant visas. It is scheduled to take place between midday and 1 pm, and questions may be submitted ahead of time as well as during the webchat itself. For additional information or to submit a question click here.
September 20, 2011: Visa help for students
The Department of Homeland Security has launched a new website, Study in the States, with the stated goal of ‘encouraging the best and brightest international students to study in the United States.’ The website offers students, exchange visitors, and their schools and universities information about the US immigration system and practical advice on topics such as how to obtain Social Security Number and a US driving license. The London Embassy has also created a YouTube video (‘Mission Possible’) to assist those people applying for student visas.
September 13, 2011: Naturalization test; EB-5 ‘million dollar visa’; updated H-1B count
The USCIS has posted a video about the naturalization process and test. For an additional link to the list of 100 civics questions used in that examination, click here.
One of the articles in the Los Angeles Times series ‘9/11: A Decade After,’ deals with the EB-5 immigrant investor visa: ‘In US Visa Program, Money Talks.'
As of 26 August the USCIS had received 29,000 H-1B petitions counted against the FY2012 regular cap and 15,800 petitions filed against the quota of 20,000 H-1B’s reserved for applicants who have earned advanced degrees from a US institution.
September 6, 2011: A pause in the service
Your correspondent is travelling. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on September 13; please check back with us then.
August 30, 2011: Deadline approaches for widows/widowers of US citizens
The USCIS Ombudsman’s Office has issued a reminder that October 28, 2011 is the deadline for certain widows and widowers of US citizens to petition for immigration to the United States based upon their marriage.
August 23, 2011: Green card lottery application dates announced; webchat to be hosted by US Embassy, London
The DV-2013 ‘green card lottery’ will be open for applications from October 4 to November 2, 2011. Click here to go to the Department of State’s Diversity Immigrant Visa Program page, which promises additional information as the commencement of the application period grows closer.
The US Embassy, London is hosting a webchat this Thursday, August 25, at 2 pm BST, on the subject of non-immigrant visas. For additional information or to submit a question ahead of time, click here.
August 16, 2011: Immigrant visas in the spotlight
Many US citizens living outside the United States are no longer able to file in their country of current residence the I-130 petitions needed to sponsor their family members for immigrant visas. As of yesterday, August 15, I-130s must be filed in the United States unless the US citizen lives in a country with a USCIS office. (There are exceptions for emergencies.) Those petitioners who live in a country, like the United Kingdom, which does have a USCIS office, can choose to file either in the US or in their home country. To read the USCIS announcement on the subject, click here.
The US Embassy in London has released a new YouTube video reminding immigrant visa applicants to obtain all needed documents before attending their interviews.
August 9, 2011: Fast track to green cards for executives and managers
On August 2 the USCIS announced a package of measures designed to ‘fuel the nation’s economy and stimulate investment.’ Among the changes to be made: For the first time Premium Processing Service will be available to accelerate adjudication of petitions seeking immigrant (green card) status for multinational executives or managers. No effective date was given for the introduction of these new measures. For information about the widely-used multinational executive or manager route to a green card please see our website article Multinational Executives and Managers – EB-1-3.
August 2, 2011: BBC Radio carries US visa news; H-1B filing update
Susan McFadden was interviewed on BBC Radio Solent on a wide range of US visa and immigration topics. To listen to the interview, which is available on the BBC’s website until Friday, August 5, click here. The interview begins at approximately 2 hours 40 minutes into the programme.
As of July 22 the USCIS had received 21,600 H-1B petitions against the FY2012 regular cap, and 13,300 petitions filed against the quota of 20,000 H-1B’s reserved for applicants who have earned advanced degrees from a US institution.
July 26, 2011: USCIS publishes statistical reports and updates processing times
On July 18 the USCIS added to its website a new page, www.uscis.gov/data, making public a number of statistical reports regarding petitions and applications filed and their outcomes. Our favourite: A tabulation of all receipts and approvals, by fiscal year quarter, for all applications and petitions submitted to the USCIS.
Processing time information for the four USCIS Service Centers was updated on July 20. Please note that the data itself is nearly 2 months old and is therefore of limited value in forecasting current adjudication times. To access the processing time reports, click here.
July 19, 2011: The green card lottery makes the news again
The results of the redrawn ‘green card lottery’ are now available online.
In related news, the lawsuit brought in an attempt to force reinstatement of the invalidated results of the first lottery has been dismissed.
July 12, 2011: Nothing to add
Last week was an unusually quiet period in the turbulent area of US immigration law, with no developments of general importance. Please check back next week, when history suggests that there will once again be news to report.
July 5, 2011: Embassy webchat about Visa Waiver and ESTA; H-1B filing update
The Embassy in London has published a transcript of the webchat held on June 30 regarding the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA.
An update on H-1B filings: As of June 24 the USCIS had received 17,400 H-1B petitions against the FY2012 regular cap, and 11,300 petitions filed against the quota of 20,000 H-1B’s reserved for applicants who have earned advanced degrees from a US institution. The total number of FY 2012 H-1B petitions filed (28,700) represents a decrease of approximately 12% over last year’s, for on June 18, 2010 the comparable figures were 22,900 regular cap cases, and 9,700 advanced degree exemption.
June 28, 2011: Lawsuit challenges invalidation of green card lottery; restrictions on J-1’s for some Eastern Europeans
A lawsuit has been filed against the Department of State in an attempt to force reinstatement of the recently invalidated results of the DV lottery.
Department of State spokesman answers a press conference query about the pilot programme ensuring additional protections for J-1 “Summer Work Travel” applicants from Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine.
June 21, 2011: Challenge to law of US citizenship transmission fails; USCIS hears complaints about ‘specialized knowledge’ rules
On November 10, 2010 the US Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case challenging the constitutionality of the US statute that makes it more difficult for unwed US citizen fathers to transmit citizenship to their children than for unwed US citizen mothers. To read the opinion from the court below, click here. The Supreme Court released its decision in the case, Flores-Villar v. United States, on June 13, 2011.
The Court was equally divided, 4-4, so the judgment below, which had upheld the statute, was affirmed.
The USCIS has posted a summary of the teleconference it held on May 12, 2011 regarding its interpretation of ‘specialized knowledge’ for purposes of L-1B classification. Many participants commented that the agency is applying an increasingly restrictive interpretation of the term and makes overly burdensome requests for additional information.
June 14, 2011: US Treasury rules push expatriates to renounce citizenship
Yesterday's issue of the Financial Times reported on the protests of non US financial institutions against new US laws that will require them to report to the Internal Revenue Service details of their US clients' accounts. A second article told the story of a US citizen living in Germany who gave up her citizenship after being hit with a sizable fine for failing to file US tax returns--even though she did not owe any tax.
June 7, 2011: Reprieve for I-130 petitioners living outside the US
In a teleconference last night, entitled ‘Process Changes for Petitioners Residing Overseas: Forms I-130 and I-601,’ USCIS representatives confirmed that US citizens living outside the US will continue to be allowed to file I-130 petitions in the countries where they live, as long as there is a USCIS office in their country of residence. For a list of USCIS offices outside the United States, click here. This is contrary to statements made in the November 9 teleconference on the same subject, which had indicated that in the future all I-130 petitions would be filed and adjudicated in the US. Beginning August 15, 2011, US citizens living in countries without a USCIS office will be required to file their I-130 petitions at a lockbox in the United States. Instructions as to the exact procedure to be followed will be made public closer to the August 15 effective date. Consistent with previous practice, official notes of the teleconference should be available soon on the USCIS’s Notes from Previous Engagements web page.
May 31, 2011: B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa under threat; new J-1 visa website on its way
In its response to a query from a US Senator (see April 26 entry below) the Department of State has indicated it plans to revoke or, at the very least, ‘substantially amend’ the regulation that created the B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa.
Tomorrow, June 1, the Department of State will launch a new J-1 Exchange Visitor Program website, which it promises will contain ‘everything potential applicants need to know, from how to participate in a program to what the program is like.’
May 24, 2011 Spotlight on the EB-5; H-1B filing update
The USCIS is proposing a number of changes designed to make the EB-5 ‘million dollar green card’ programme more attractive to potential applicants. Among the changes: EB-5 applications would be eligible for Premium Processing Service. Meanwhile on May 23 the Houston Chronicle published an article about the EB-5 programme, with particular attention given to regional centers in Texas.
An update on H-1B filings: As of May 20 the USCIS had received 12,300 H-1B petitions against the FY2012 regular cap, and 8,500 petitions filed against the quota of 20,000 H-1B’s reserved for applicants who have earned advanced degrees from a US institution. On May 21, 2010 the comparable figures were 19,600 regular cap cases, and 8,200 advanced degree exemption.
May 17, 2011: Green card lottery results declared void; changes to I-130 petition filing locations on the way
This past week brought heartbreaking news for people whose green card lottery applications had been declared ‘winners’: The selection process was flawed, the results have been voided, and the lottery will be re-run. For the announcement from the US Department of State, click here.
Effective August 15 the USCIS is amending its regulations to direct US citizens living abroad to file I-130 petitions in accordance with the (soon to be amended) form instructions. According to today’s Federal Register notice, ‘Instructions for filing relative petitions will provide the option of either mailing the petition to the USCIS Chicago Lockbox, or filing at the USCIS international office if the petitioner resides in a country where USCIS has an office.’
May 10, 2011: More help on the I-129 ‘deemed export’ certification; H-1B filings so far
The Department of Homeland Security has posted notes from its March 24, 2011 teleconference about the ‘deemed export’ certification that is now part of the I-129 petition for nonimmigrant worker. The teleconference Included interviews of two Commerce Department officials who help administer the export controls programme.
As of April 29 the USCIS had received 9,200 H-1B petitions against the general cap, and 6,600 against the additional 20,000 H-1B’s available to persons with earned advanced degrees from US institutions. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discusses the reasons for the slow uptake of H-1B’s this year.
May 3, 2011: NSEERS all but eliminated
By notice published and effective on Thursday, April 28, 2011, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has terminated the restrictions imposed by the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) upon nationals and citizens of 25 countries (Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen). Established in 2002, NSEERS required nationals and citizens of designated countries to comply with special registration requirements, appear at immigration offices in the United States to give additional information when requested, and to both enter and leave the US only through specified ports of entry. The Secretary noted that improvements in security throughout the immigration system had made special registration redundant. Although there are currently no countries whose nationals and citizens are subject to NSEERS, the programme framework itself has not been abolished.
April 26, 2011: Doubt cast on visa favoured by consultants; preclearance through Dublin available to US-bound travelers
US Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has written to Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano challenging the ‘B-1 in lieu of H-1B’ visa and requesting detailed information regarding the number of such visas issued each year for the past five years. To see a PDF copy of the letter, click here. For a discussion of the B-1 in lieu of H-1B visa, please see our website article, Working (Legally) on a Visitor’s Visa or Visa Waiver Entry.
Preclearance of travelers to the US has been available through Dublin, Ireland since January 19, 2011. The Department of Homeland Security has now published an amendment to its regulations to add Dublin to its list of such preclearance offices.
April 19, 2011: Help for employment-based applicants for adjustment of status; holiday closures for US Embassy London
The USCIS has issued guidance helpful to persons who are seeking adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence (‘green cards’) based upon employment, and whose I-485 adjustment applications have been pending for more than 180 days. In certain conditions applicants may change (‘port’) the offer of employment on which their adjustment application is based from one job to another job as long as both jobs are in the ‘same or similar occupational classification’. The guidance, in the form of a question and answer fact sheet, deals with the fundamental question of what constitutes a ‘same or similar occupational classification’ so as to allow an applicant to move from one job to another job in a way while remaining eligible to adjust status without having to file a new I-140 immigrant petition.
The US Embassy in London will be closed the following days, which are holidays in the United Kingdom: Friday, April 22 (Good Friday); Monday, April 25 (Easter Monday); Friday, April 29 (Royal Wedding); and Monday, May 2 (Early May Bank Holiday).
April 12, 2011: Government shutdown averted; results from first week of FY 2012 H-1B petition filing
The biggest news in the US immigration world this past week was what did not happen. A shutdown of the US Government was averted at the last minute when a temporary agreement on the budget was reached, so neither the Department of Homeland Security nor the Department of State needed to implement their published contingency plans. The DOS plan called for visa services to be ‘severely curtailed’ but the fee-for-services functions of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (an agency of DHS) would have continued during the shutdown.
During the first week of filing for the 2012 fiscal year ‘crop’ of H-1Bs the USCIS has accepted 5,900 regular ‘cap subject’ petition and 4,500 for persons with earned advanced degrees from US universities.
April 5, 2011: The H-1B season begins; the characteristics of new lawful permanent residents
As of last Friday, April 1, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services is again accepting H-1B petitions. The recent history of the H-1B quota mirrors the boom and recession, showing their impact on employment in the ‘specialty occupations’ covered by H-1B visas. An overview::
- The current fiscal year’s quota of H-1B’s—FY 2011--was exhausted on January 26, 2011.
- In FY 2010 H-1B’s were available until December 22, 2009.
- In FY 2009, covering employment to begin on or after October 1, 2008, the USCIS received nearly 163,000 H-1B petitions during the five day filing period that ended on April 7, 2008. A lottery of the timely-filed petitions was held to determine which petitions would be adjudicated.
- In FY 2008 the USCIS reported having received on the first two days of filing (April 2 and 3, 2007) more than enough petitions to fill the annual quota.
- In FY 2007 the H-1B quota was reached on June 1, 2006.
- In FY 2006 the cap was reached on August 12, 2005, in spite of Congressional action the previous year that had added 20,000 visas for certain advanced degree holders.
The Department of Homeland Security has released its annual report regarding the characteristics of people who became lawful permanent residents (LPRs) (‘green card’ holders) during FY 2010. Interesting statistical tidbits include the facts that 54% of the new LPRs were already living in the US at the time they were granted permanent resident status, and 66% received their status through sponsorship by family members.
March 29, 2011: Nothing to add
Last week was an unusually quiet period in the turbulent area of US immigration law, with no developments of general importance. Please check back next week, when history suggests that there will once again be news to report.
March 22, 2011: USCIS offers help to I-129 petitioners regarding ‘deemed export’ certification
On March 24, 2011 at 2 pm Eastern Daylight Time the USCIS Ombudsman’s Office will sponsor a teleconference designed to assist prospective petitioners for certain ‘H,’ ‘L’ and ‘O’ visas to comply with the deemed export certifications on the revised I-129 form. For information on the teleconference, and instructions as to how to participate, go to the Office’s website, or click here.
March 15, 2011: New income guidelines for immigrant visa sponsors; no ‘celebrity security’ immigrant status for bodyguard
The USCIS has posted its 2011 Poverty Guidelines for use in I-864 immigrant visa affidavits of support.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has rejected the appeal of Céline Dion’s bodyguard, who claimed that he should be given immigrant status as an alien of extraordinary ability in the field of celebrity security. To read the court’s opinion, click here.
March 8, 2011: Changes proposed to H-1B process; extraordinary ability visa in the news
On March 3 the USCIS published in the Federal Register a proposed rule that would establish a mandatory Internet-based electronic registration process for US employers seeking to file H-1B petitions for workers subject to the annual cap. To see the press release summarizing the 14-page proposed rule, click here. The rule as drafted would require an employer who wants to hire an H-1B worker to register during a particular period of time established by the USCIS, which would last for a minimum of two weeks. A separate registration would be required for each prospective H-1B employee. The potential benefit to employers would be that in cases where the annual cap is about to be reached, an employer would not be required to go to the trouble and expense of preparing a complete H-1B petition package, only to have it rejected because the quota had just been filled. Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted on or before May 2, 2011.
The New York Times reported on March 2 that singer Celine Dion’s Canadian citizen bodyguard is appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals the USCIS’s decision to deny him a US immigrant visa. The basis for his petition is that he is an alien of extraordinary ability in the field of celebrity security.
March 1, 2011: Updated poverty guidelines effective today
The Department of State has updated its Foreign Affairs Manual to reflect the 2011 poverty guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services. These guidelines must be used for all I-864 Affidavits of Support filed on or after March 1, 2011. The USCIS has not yet published a new I-864P with updated figures. For additional information regarding the I-864, which is used by persons sponsoring family members for immigration to the United States, please see our website article A Beginner’s Guide to the Affidavit of Support.
February 22, 2011: Export certifications now required
As of February 20 petitioners filing the I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker are required to make an export-related certification if they seek to sponsor employees or prospective employees for any of the following classifications: H-1B; H-1B1 (Chile/Singapore); L-1; or O-1A (alien of extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics). This certification was originally to have been required as of December 23, 2010 but the effective date was postponed by the USCIS.
Petitioners must now certify that with respect to the technology or technical data they will supply to the beneficiary, they have reviewed the Export Administration Regulations (‘EAR’) [15 CFR Parts 770 to 774] and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (‘ITAR’) [22 CFR Parts 120-130] and have determined whether a license from the US Government is required to release this technology or technical data to the beneficiary. If a license is required the petitioner must state that it will prevent access to the technology or technical data by the beneficiary until the license or other authorization has been obtained.
These certifications are required because both EAR and ITAR provide that release of controlled technology or technical data to a foreign person in the US, even by an employer, is deemed to be an export to that person’s country or countries of nationality. This is the doctrine of ‘deemed export.’
The USCIS’s instructions to the new Form I-129 state that the licensing requirements ‘will affect only a small percentage of petitioners because most types of technology are not controlled for export or release to foreign persons.’ The technology and technical data that are subject to controls can be found on the Commerce Control List and the US Munitions List, both of which are subject to periodic amendment.
February 15, 2011: Work permit and travel document to be combined
Applicants for adjustment of status who have filed/are filing Form I-485 and seeking both the advance parole and employment authorization (a ‘work permit’), may now receive both documents on a single, durable card that can be carried in a wallet. Further information and a photograph of a sample card are available on the USCIS’s FAQ on the subject.
February 8, 2011: H-1B cap reached
On January 26 the USCIS calculated that it had received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year 2011. To read the announcement , click here. Since the cap for the 20,000 H-1B’s reserved for persons with advance degrees from US institutions was reached on December 22, 2010, there are now no cap-subject H-1Bs available for employment to begin before October 1, 2011.
February 1, 2011: A pause in the service
Your correspondent is travelling. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on February 8; please check back with us then.
January 25, 2011: Updated poverty guidelines on the way for immigrant visa applicants and their sponsors
In the January 20, 2011 issue of the Federal Register the Department of Health and Human Services issued new poverty guidelines for 2011. These will be applicable for purposes of I-864 affidavits of support on March 1, 2011. The USCIS will likely have published a new I-864P by then.
January 18, 2011: H-1B’s back in the spotlight; new blog for Embassy, London
The Government Accountability Office has published a report on the H-1B program. One of the topics investigated was the impact on smaller US firms of being unable to obtain needed foreign workers because of the annual ‘cap’ on the number of H-1B’s available.
The USCIS estimates that as of January 7 it had accepted 58,700 petitions for filing against the FY2011 cap of approximately 65,000.
The Visa Services section of the US Embassy has a new-look blog.
January 11, 2011: More news about the ‘million dollar green card’ programme
The USCIS has released a Power Point version of the presentation made at its December 16, 2010 ‘stakeholder’ meeting regarding the EB-5 immigrant visa. Among the interesting bits of information is that British-born applicants are the third largest nationality group in the EB-5 category. However, they accounted for just 7% of the EB-5 visas issued during the 2010 fiscal year; 41% went to persons chargeable to Mainland China, and 16% to persons chargeable to Korea.
January 4, 2011: Export control questions on the I-129 lifted temporarily; ‘million dollar green card’ programme evaluated
Due to public confusion about the export control questions on the new I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (see our Weekly Update posting of December 7, below), the USCIS has announced that petitioners do not need to complete that part of the form (Part 6) until February 20, 2011.
A recent Reuters article, ‘Overselling the American dream,’ reports on the experiences of numerous investors who have taken part in the EB-5 ‘million dollar green card’ programme.
December 21, 2010: Embassy offers video and webchat help regarding arrests, cautions and convictions; short explanation of the EB-5 route to a green card
The Embassy has released a new YouTube video entitled ‘Arrests, Cautions, Convictions & ESTA.’ It makes the helpful point that not all arrests, cautions or convictions render a person ineligible to use the Visa Waiver Program. For further details on this topic you may wish to see our website articles Travelling to the US Without a Visa and A Crime Involving Moral Turpitude! What in the World is That?
For a transcript of the December 9, 2010 Embassy webchat on the subject of crimes involving moral turpitude and controlled substance violations, click here.
A useful summary of the EB-5 ‘million dollar green card’ program has been prepared by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and published on its blog, The Beacon.
December 14, 2010: H-1B petition numbers advance; I-130 filing update
The USCIS has released an update on the number of H-1B petitions filed for employment to begin during FY2011—that is, before October 1, 2011. As of December 3 a total of 51,200 ‘cap eligible’ petitions had been received, against a cap of approximately 65,000. The additional allotment of H-1Bs available for persons with earned master’s degrees or higher from US institutions is also still available, with 18,700 petitions received against a total available of 20,000.
The USCIS has now posted the promised ‘Executive Summary’ of the November 9, 2010 teleconference regarding plans to centralize in the USCIS the filing and adjudication of all I-130 petitions. The Summary was blunt as to the purpose of that teleconference: ‘The session was for USCIS to listen to the views and information of individual stakeholders. The session was not used for the purpose of obtaining group or consensus advice.’
December 7, 2010: ‘Deemed export’ doctrine leads to new burdens for employers
Beginning on December 23, 2010 new certifications with be required of some petitioners filing the I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. The new version of the I-129 form, use of which becomes mandatory on that date, requires an export-related certification from employers seeking to sponsor employees or prospective employees for any of the following classifications: H-1B; H-1B1 (Chile/Singapore); L-1; or O-1A (alien of extraordinary ability in science, education, business or athletics).
Petitioners must certify that with respect to the technology or technical data they will supply to the beneficiary, they have reviewed the Export Administration Regulations (‘EAR’) [15 CFR Parts 770 to 774] and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (‘ITAR’) [22 CFR Parts 120-130] and have determined whether a license from the US Government is required to release this technology or technical data to the beneficiary. If a license is required the petitioner must state that it will prevent access to the technology or technical data by the beneficiary until the license or other authorization has been obtained.
These certifications are required because both EAR and ITAR provide that release of controlled technology or technical data to a foreign person in the US, even by an employer, is deemed to be an export to that person’s country or countries of nationality. This is the doctrine of ‘deemed export.’
The USCIS’s instructions to the new Form I-129 state that the licensing requirements ‘will affect only a small percentage of petitioners because most types of technology are not controlled for export or release to foreign persons.’ The technology and technical data that are subject to controls can be found on the Commerce Control List and the US Munitions List, both of which are subject to periodic amendment.
November 30, 2010: Expanded visa availability for partners of US citizens
US citizens who normally live and work outside the US, but are returning to the US for a temporary stay, may now hope to take with them their non US citizen domestic partners. A recent change to the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual makes B-2 visitors’ visas available to members of US citizens’ households under such circumstances. It however remains the case that the United States does not recognize same-sex civil partnerships or marriages for purposes of sponsoring a partner for immigration—that is, a permanent move to the US through obtaining of an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. This is true even if the partnership is fully recognized by the law of the country or the US state in which it was contracted.
November 23, 2010: New USCIS fee schedule
The new USCIS fee schedule goes into effect today. The filing fee for the I-130 ‘Petition for Alien Relative’ will go up from $355 to $420, and the fee for Premium Processing Service, where available, will increase to $1,225 from its current $1,000. For a USCIS Fact Sheet listing the affected fees, click here.
The Congressional Research Service has released a new study on the Visa Waiver Program.
November 16, 2010: Adjudication of all family-based petitions will be centralized in the US
Last week the USCIS held a teleconference on the subject of I-130 petitions filed by US citizens living abroad. Currently those petitions can be adjudicated in US embassies and consulates, often resulting in significantly shorter processing times than those realized by persons filing with the USCIS in the United States. For example, the I-130 processing time here in London is now two months, whereas the processing time in United States is at least five months.
During the course of the teleconference it became clear that the adjudication of all I-130s’s will be moved to the US—likely in the Spring of 2011. The USCIS promises that an ‘executive summary’ of the teleconference will be posted and invites interested parties to check back periodically.
US citizens living in the United Kingdom and contemplating sponsoring their family members for immigrant visas at any point in 2011 or 2012 would be well advised to consider filing their petitions now, in advance of the change.
November 9, 2010: Temporary help with the DS-160 online visa application form
During the month of November only applicants will be able to retrieve a partially-completed DS-160 form even if they did not save it to their own electronic device. The Embassy’s Visa Services section believes that this will help those applicants who, in the course of answering the lengthy list of questions posed in the DS-160, may lose their connection or be ‘timed out’ by the Department of State’s website. For further details and instructions, go to the Visa Services’ blog.
November 2, 2010: Festive season appointments for ‘E’ visas; H-1Bs still available
The Embassy in London has notified applicants that it will not be scheduling any ‘E’ visa appointments between December 23, 2010 and January 4, 2011. The last pre-holiday date for interviews in connection with a pending application for treaty registration will be December 17.
The USCIS has released an update on the number of H-1B petitions filed for employment to begin during FY2011. As of October 22 a total of 44,300 ‘cap eligible’ petitions had been received, against a cap of approximately 65,000. The additional allotment of H-1Bs available for persons with earned master’s degrees or higher from US institutions is also still available, with 16,200 petitions received against a total available of 20,000.
October 26, 2010: All family-based petitions to be adjudicated in the US?
Currently US citizens living outside the US who wish to sponsor family members for immigration may file the necessary I-130 petition outside the US, with a USCIS field office or a US embassy or consulate. The USCIS is considering changing this procedure so that all Form I-130’s are adjudicated domestically. On November 9 the USCIS will hold an online teleconference to discuss and explain the upcoming changes. For further information on how to join the teleconference, click here.
October 19, 2010: Some visas to be available without interview
The Embassy in London has announced that some visa applicants will be excused from appearing for interviews. The primary conditions are as follows:
- The person is applying for an O or P visa;
- He or she has previously held that same category of visa;
- The last time the person applied for an O or P visa he or she gave a full set of fingerprints; and
- The previous O or P visa either
- Is still valid, or
- Expired within the last 12 months.
For additional eligibility requirements and information on getting a visa without an interview, go to the Embassy’s Visa Reissue Wizard. For information on O and P visas, click here.
October 12, 2010: The recession’s silver lining
The USCIS has released an update on the number of H-1B petitions filed for employment to begin during the current fiscal year. The figures show a sharp reduction of demand relative to previous years. As of October 1 a total of 40,600 ‘cap eligible’ petitions had been received, against a cap of approximately 65,000. The additional allotment of H-1Bs available for persons with earned master’s degrees or higher from US institutions is also still available, with just 14,900 petitions received against a total available of 20,000.
October 5, 2010: Green card lottery application period begins today; new article on employment-related green cards
Today at noon, US East Coast Time, the Department of State will begin accepting applications for the green card lottery. This year the application period will be just 30 days long, rather than 60 as has been the case in recent years. Other significant changes include the fact that successful applicants will no longer be notified by post. Notifications will be made solely through the Entry Status Check function on the Department’s dedicated web page, www.dvlottery.state.gov.
We have added a new article to our website, dealing with the difficulties a small or struggling business may have in sponsoring a manager or executive for immigrant status. We invite you to read ‘Ability to Pay the Proffered Wage’ in the Small Employer Context.
September 28, 2010: USCIS filing fees to rise; Embassy offers web chat regarding Affidavit of Support
Effective November 23, 2010 filing fees will increase for a number of USCIS petitions and applications. For example, the filing fee for the I-130 ‘Petition for Alien Relative’ will go up from $355 to $420, and the fee for Premium Processing Service, where available, will increase to $1,225 from its current $1,000. For a USCIS Fact Sheet listing the affected fees, click here.
Tomorrow, September 29, the US Embassy London will host a web chat dedicated to the I-864 Affidavit of Support (used for all family-based immigration and some employment-based cases as well) and to the difficulty of establishing that the sponsor/affiant is domiciled in the United States. For details, or to post a question ahead of the web chat, go to the Visa Services web page of the US Embassy’s site. For additional information on the subject, see our web site article A Beginner’s Guide to the Affidavit of Support.
September 21, 2010: Pause in the service
Your correspondent is travelling; ‘Weekly Update’ will resume next week.
September 14, 2010: Green card lottery application period to begin October 5, 2010
The DV-2012 ‘green card lottery’ will be open for applications from October 5 to November 3, 2010. Click here to go to the Department of State’s Diversity Immigrant Visa Program page, which promises additional information as the commencement of the application period grows closer. Only electronic entries will be accepted.
September 7, 2010: Online immigrant visa application process trialed
The Department of State is now running a pilot programme that will allow applicants for immigrant visas to e-mail to the National Visa Center PDF versions of all required documents. Applicants who submit PDF versions of their documents will be required to take the hard-copy originals to their immigrant visa interviews.
August 31, 2010: Pause in the service
Gudeon & McFadden are moving offices today. Please note our new address and return to our website next week when ‘Weekly Update’ will resume.
August 24, 2010: Visa difficulty for British celebrity
The New York Post reports that difficulty in obtaining an O-1 employment-authorized visa is delaying a planned move to the US by UK television celebrity Piers Morgan. The news has been picked up by a number of news outlets, including the Guardian. For background on the O-1 visa for aliens of extraordinary ability, see our website article How to Prove You’re an Alien of Extraordinary Ability. For information on the slightly different version of the O-1 for aliens of extraordinary achievement, see Lights! Camera! Visa! Aliens of Extraordinary Achievement in Film and Television.
August 17, 2010: US entertainment industry protests visa difficulties
An article in the August 10 issue of the Los Angeles Times reports on the US entertainment industry’s increasing difficulties in obtaining visas for foreign-born artists. Apparently the California Service Center’s denial rates of petitions seeking classification in the ‘O’ and ‘P’ categories (both often used by artists and entertainers) have doubled from the previous year, as have the rates for requests for evidence for both individual and group petitions.
August 10, 2010: Fee set for Visa Waiver Program travel
The Department of Homeland Security has announced that as of September 8, 2010 a fee will be payable by persons seeking ESTA authorization to travel to the United States on the Visa Waiver Program. The fee for an ESTA application will be US$4.00 and if the authorization is granted, an additional US$10.00 per authorization will be payable. Since ESTA authorizations can be valid for up to two years, if you anticipate travel to the United States in the next two years you may wish to apply for ESTA authorization now, before the fee comes into effect. For a discussion of the circumstances under which a new ESTA authorization must be obtained within the two year period see our website article Travelling to the US Without a Visa.
August 3, 2010: The immigrant visa form goes online
In today’s Federal Register the Department of State announced that it will be introducing an electronic application procedure for immigrant visas. The electronic form, which will be known as the DS-260, is not yet available on the Department’s Visa Forms web page.
July 27, 2010
The USCIS Ombudsman has now released the office’s annual report to Congress. To review the report, click here.
July 20, 2010: Renunciation of US citizenship, from a British perspective
On July 17, 2010 the Financial Times carried an article entitled ‘Americans forfeit citizenship to avoid tax.’ For a discussion of the issues involved in renunciation of US citizenship, including the potential for being barred for life from the United States if one does renounce for the purpose of avoiding US tax, see our website article Giving Up US Citizenship: Is it Right for You?
July 13, 2010: Overview of US immigration law; residence requirements for US naturalization
The Federal Judicial Center has published a 186-page e-book entitled Immigration Law: A Primer. The Federal Judicial Center, created by Congress in 1967, is the research and education arm of the federal judicial system.
A recent article by Gary Endelman and Cyrus Mehta deals with the problems of maintaining and proving US residence for purposes of naturalizing as a US citizen. See ‘Naturalizing in a Flat World.’
July 6, 2010: More stringent visa rules for applicants with drink-driving arrests; new fees for consular services
The Department of State, acting pursuant to new instructions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has issued a cable changing the procedures and medical evaluations applicable to visa applicants. Among the changes: All visa applicants must be sent for a full medical examination if they have had a single alcohol-related arrest or conviction within the past five years or two or more alcohol-related arrests or convictions within the past ten years. For full details, see the CDC’s 37-page Technical Instructions on this subject.
The Department of State has announced a new fee schedule for certain consular services, effective July 13. A schedule of the new fees can be found by clicking here. Among the changes is the imposition for the first time of a fee for renunciation of US citizenship, in the amount of $450.00.
June 29, 2010: H-1B’s in the news
The H-1B petition filings continue at a slow pace. For those persons with an earned Master’s degree or higher from a US institution 20,000 H-1B’s are reserved. As of June 18, 9,700 eligible petitions had been received by the USCIS. Against the regular cap of approximately 65,000 available H-1B’s the USCIS had received 22,900 petitions as of that date. To go to the USCIS cap count page, click here.
The USCIS has published a report about the characteristics of H-1B workers during US Government Fiscal Year 2009 (ended September 30, 2009). This report, required by Congress, gives information regarding the occupations and countries of origin of, and compensation paid to, H-1B workers.
June 22, 2010
On Friday, 25 June the US Embassy in London will be holding a web chat from 10.00 to 11.00 on the topic of marriage-based immigration.
June 15, 2010: USCIS proposes fee increases
The USCIS has published a new proposed rule that would raise its fees a weighted average of ten per cent. Three new fees would be added, one of which would be for the work of the USCIS in connection with immigrant visas.
June 8, 2010: Nonimmigrant visa application fees go up; E-2 visas and the recession
The new schedule of nonimmigrant visa application fees announced in our May 25 Weekly Update entry went into effect on Friday, June 4.
In its May 28 issue the New York Times reports on the plight of E-2 visa holders whose visas were not renewed because the recession made previously-approved businesses ‘marginal.’ To read the article, click here.
June 1, 2010: H-1B advice and updated count
The Department of Labor has released another in its series of ‘elaws’ guides to federal employment laws, and this time the topic is the H-1B visa. To go to the H-1B Advisor, click here.
Further on the subject of the H-1B visa: The USCIS has updated its count of the number of H-1B petitions accepted for filing. As of May 21 the USCIS had accepted for filing 19,600 regular cap cases, and 8,200 against the quota reserved for those persons with an earned master’s degree or higher from a US institution of higher education.
May 25, 2010: I-94W to be eliminated; visa application fees to increase
The I-94W is the green form that has been completed by millions of Visa Waiver Program entrants. (For a copy, click here.) By the end of the summer the I-94W will be no more, having been replaced by ESTA on-line registration. This according to a press release last week from the Department of Homeland Security.
Effective June 4 the standard visa application fee for a non petition-based nonimmigrant visa (such as a B-1/B-2) will rise from US$131 to US$140. A greater increase will apply to the petition-based visas (H, L, O, P, Q and R) for which the charge will be $150. Even larger increases are set for E visas ($390) and the K visas ($350). To see the Federal Register announcement of the changes, click here
May 18, 2010: Fee to be charged for Visa Waiver Program travel
Under a new US law that became effective on March 4, 2010, a fee of at least US$10.00 is to be charged for each authorization under ESTA for visa-free travel to the United States. The ‘Travel Promotion Act of 2009’ requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to set the fee, and begin to collect it, no later than September 4, 2010. Since ESTA authorizations can be valid for up to two years, if you anticipate travel to the United States in the next two years you may wish to apply for ESTA authorization now, before the fee is put into place. For a discussion of the circumstances under which a new ESTA authorization must be obtained within the two years period see our website article Travelling to the US Without a Visa.
May 11, 2010: New article about relinquishing/renouncing US citizenship
In response to a steady stream of inquiries on the subject we have added a new article to the website: Giving Up US Citizenship: Is it Right for You?
May 4, 2010: Focus on expatriation; H-1B count is updated
An article in the New York Times of April 26, 2010 has highlighted the small but growing number of people who give up their US citizenship; more than twice as many people expatriated themselves in the last quarter of 2009 as in all of 2008.
H-1B visas are still available. As of April 27, 2010 the USCIS had accepted for filing 16,500 H-1B regular cap cases, and 6,900 cases where the beneficiaries have an earned US Master’s degree or higher, and therefore qualify for the separate quota of 20,000. http://bit.ly/9pGpvp
April 27, 2010: Government report into investor visas; USCIS fees to rise
A 2009 report from the Congressional Research Service entitled ‘Foreign Investor Visas: Policies and Issues,’ has been made public. (The CRS prepares reports at the request of members of Congress and Congressional committees; they are not for general release.) The report contains wide-ranging information about the past, present and future of the investor visas, both the nonimmigrant (E-1 and E-2) and the immigrant (EB-5). It makes worthwhile reading for anyone considering seeking a US visa through investment.
In the April 26 Federal Register the USCIS released its semi-annual regulatory agenda. It forecasts publishing in June a proposed rule to increase fees.
April 20, 2010: Statistics regarding new green card holders and citizens during FY2009.
The Office of Immigration Statistics within the Department of Homeland Security has released a number of reports regarding naturalizations and admissions to permanent resident status during Fiscal Year 2009. That was the period between October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009. During that year 743,715 persons were naturalized as US citizens. The top three countries of origin were Mexico (15.0%), India (7.1%) and the Philippines (5.2%). The number of persons admitted to permanent resident status was 1,130,818, with Mexico (15.0%), People’s Republic of China (6.0%) and the Philippines (5.0%) the top three countries of origin. Fifty-nine percent of all new lawful permanent residents adjusted status in the United States, with 41% having applied for immigrant visas abroad.
April 13, 2010: H-1B filing season off to a slow start; Embassy schedules webchat
During the first week in which it is accepting petitions for H-1Bs in Fiscal Year 2011 the USCIS received approximately 19,100 petitions—13,500 counting against the overall cap and a further 5,600 for the 20,000 H-1Bs available every year to persons with earned advanced degrees from US institutions. http://bit.ly/dvZ79c
The US Embassy in London will be holding a webchat on April 16 at 3.00 pm BST on the subject of affidavits of support—both the I-864 and the I-134. Further information can be found on the Embassy’s website, in the Visa Services blog.
April 6, 2010: FY 2011 H-1B petition filing period opens
On April 1 the USCIS began accepting petitions for H-1B classification, employment to begin on or after October 1, 2010. Available is a total of approximately 78,200 new H-1B visas; 20,000 of that number are reserved for persons who have earned advanced degrees from a US institution of higher education.
Why April 1? It is because H-1B petitions cannot be filed more than six months in advance of the requested start date of employment. The annual quota of H-1B visas becomes available on October 1 of each year—the first day of the US Government’s fiscal year (‘FY’). Therefore petitions for the new ‘crop’ of H-1B’s cannot be filed before April 1.
For periodic updates on the number of petitions accepted for filing visit the USCIS web page on the subject by clicking here.
March 30, 2010: US Supreme Court to rule on citizenship statute; Greek citizens given date for visa-free travel
The US Supreme Court will hear arguments this autumn in a case challenging the statute that makes it easier for unwed US citizen mothers to transmit citizenship to their children than for unwed US citizen fathers. The opinion of the court below, as well as the filings of the parties in the Supreme Court, can be accessed on the SCOTUS blog. There is also an article in Forbes magazine on the subject.
Greek citizens will become eligible on April 5 to participate in the Visa Waiver Program. For a list of the requirements to travel visa-free please see our website article Travelling to the US Without a Visa.
March 23, 2010: Gudeon & McFadden firm news
After a career of 44 years, our friend and colleague, Edward Gudeon, has begun his well-earned retirement from the practice of immigration law in the United Kingdom. We wish him well as he enjoys the fruits of his many years of professional endeavour.
The firm will continue its practice as Gudeon & McFadden from our offices in Mayfair, advising individuals and businesses on all aspects of US immigration and nationality law, consular processing of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, waivers of ineligibility, maintenance and loss of permanent resident status, and the acquisition of US citizenship and loss of citizenship by expatriation.
March 16, 2010: Greece added to the Visa Waiver Program; DS-160 visa application form now required
On March 9 the Secretary of Homeland Security announced that Greece will be added to the Visa Waiver Program. Citizens of Greece who fulfill the requirements for VWP travel, including online ESTA registration, will be able to travel to the US without visas within approximately 30 days. For information regarding the requirements for visa-free travel please see our website article Travelling to the US Without a Visa.
The DS-156 visa application form is no longer accepted at either the Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Belfast. All applicants for nonimmigrant visas (except K visas) must now use the DS-160 online form.
March 9, 2010: Continuing problems with DS-160 online visa application form
Due to applicants’ difficulty in connecting with the Department of State’s website in order to complete their applications and upload them, the Embassy in London has announced that all applicants in London and Belfast during the week of March 8 may continue to use the old forms—the DS-156, -157 and -158.
March 2, 2010: DS-160 form now required of all nonimmigrant visa applicants; US asylum case attracts international comment
Effective yesterday, March 1, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas at the US Embassy in London must use the new online form, the DS-160. To see the Embassy’s announcement on the subject, with links to the form, click here. The Embassy has also released a new YouTube video on the subject.
An immigration judge’s decision in January to grant asylum in the US to a German family continues to attract press coverage in both countries. The judge found that the family faced persecution due to their insistence upon home-schooling their children, which is illegal in Germany. Recent coverage includes articles in The New York Times, Time magazine, Spiegel, and Die Welt.
February 23, 2010: New processing rules for K-3 visas for spouses of US citizens; estimate of unauthorized population in the US
Effective 1 February 2010 the US Department of State will end its processing of a K-3 visa application (for the spouse of a US citizen) once the I-130 petition for alien relative, which is the foundation for an IR-1 or CR-1 immigrant visa, has been approved. To see the text of the Department’s guidance on the subject, click here.
The Department of Homeland Security estimates that as of January 2009 there were 10.8 million ‘unauthorized immigrants’ living in the United States. This represents an increase of 27% since 2000, but a decrease from the 11.6 million who were estimated to be present in January 2008.
February 16, 2010: Immigrant visa fees to change
The Department of State has published a proposed rule changing the fees assessed by the Department for immigrant visa processing, various American citizen services, and passport issuance. If implemented in its current form, the rule would decrease the fee for immigrant visa processing in family cases and would more than double the immigrant visa processing fee in employment-related matters. The rule will take effect on or after March 11, 2010.
February 9, 2010: Pause in the service
Your correspondent is traveling. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on February 16, 2010.
February 2, 2010: DS-160 on-line nonimmigrant visa form goes live in London
Effective yesterday, February 1, 2010, the DS-160 on-line visa application form became mandatory for all applicants for H, L, O, P, Q or R visas who are applying in person at the Embassy in London. The Consular Electronic Application Center website that carries the application has been experiencing connectivity problems, and applicants are therefore advised to save their work frequently.
January 26, 2010: Visa interviews rescheduled
Services at the Embassy this week are severely limited, and many interviews for both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas have been rescheduled. This is apparently due to the planned visit to London of the US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
January 19, 2010: Temporary Protected Status available for Haitians
As part of its response to the earthquake in Haiti, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) immigration status will be made available to qualifying Haitian nationals who were in the US on January 12, 2010. Once granted, TPS allows recipients to live and work in the United States for a set period—in this case, 18 months—with the potential for renewals. Created in 1990, TPS is available to nationals of countries designated by the Secretary of Homeland Security as suffering conditions that temporarily prevent those countries’ nationals from returning safely or, in certain circumstances, where the countries are unable to adequately handle the return of their nationals. In addition to Haiti the countries currently designated for TPS are El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan. For additional information regarding TPS, click here.
January 12, 2010: DS-160 visa application form now available; EB-5 regional centers list released
The DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application form is now available online for persons applying at the US Embassy London.
The USCIS has released an updated list of all approved EB-5 regional centers.
January 5, 2010: On-line visa application form to be required in London from February 1, 2010; H-1B visa quota reached
The US Embassy in London has announced that as of February 1, 2010 the DS-160 on-line visa application form will be required of all applicants for H, L, O, P, Q or R visas who are applying in person. (For information as to the categories of persons who may apply for visas by post/courier, click here) The DS-160 will be mandatory for all nonimmigrant visa applicants at the London Embassy as of March 1, 2010. Although the Embassy’s announcement and Visa Services blog entries on the subject do not mention K visas specifically, K applicants should be exempted from DS-160 completion, as the US Department of State has instructed embassies and consulates around the world to have K applicants continue to use the hard-copy DS-156 and DS-156K ‘until further notice.’ To see the Department’s announcement on the subject, click here.
On December 22, 2009 the USCIS announced that as of the previous day it had received sufficient H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for the current fiscal year (FY2010). It will conduct a lottery of all cap-subject petitions received on December 21 to determine which will be adjudicated and which will be returned, fee cheque uncashed.
December 22, 2009: A pause in the service
We wish all our readers a happy and healthy festive season. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on January 5.
December 15, 2009: Nonimmigrant visa application fees set to go up
The Department of State has announced its intention to raise the fee payable by applicants for nonimmigrant visas. The schedule of proposed fees was published in the Federal Register on December 14, with provision for a public comment period of 60 days. If the Department adopts the schedule as proposed, the standard Machine Readable Visa fee paid by applicants for non-petition visas (except E visas) will go up from $131 to $140. Steeper increases have been announced for the H, L, O, P and R visas, all of which will attract an application fee of $150, and for K (fiancée) visas, the fee for which will jump to $350. The biggest increase will be in the application fee payable for E visas; it will be $390, nearly three times the current level.
December 8, 2009: On-line visa applications coming soon to an American embassy or consulate near you
The Department of State is in the process of deploying world wide the on-line visa application form, the DS-160. If all goes according to plan, applicants for all nonimmigrant visas except for K visas will be using the web-based form by April 30, 2010. The US Embassy in London will be required to transition to the new form by March 1, 2010. For further information regarding the roll out, and links to forms, click here.
November 24, 2009: Website offers help to people wishing to study in the United States
The US Department of State has designed what it hopes will be a ‘one-stop shop’ website with information for people interested in studying in the US: www.educationusa.state.gov. In addition to visa information it offers a searchable database of US Government-sponsored advising centres throughout the world, reference materials on subjects such as university admission procedures, and access to EducationUSA pre-departure orientations.
November 17, 2009: Changes to immigrant visa medical examination and vaccinations announced; HIV infection will longer be grounds for inadmissibility
Effective December 14, 2009 applicants for immigrant visas or adjustment of status will no longer be required to have vaccines for either Human Papillomavirus (HPV) or Varicella Zoster Virus (the virus that causes both chickenpox and shingles). To read the final notice from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), click here.
Effective January 4, 2010, persons will no longer be inadmissible to the US based solely on the ground that they are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Accordingly, applicants for immigrant visas or for adjustment of status will as of that date no longer be required to undergo HIV testing as part of the medical examination required for US immigration. Click here for the CDC’s new final rule on the subject.
November 10, 2009: H-1B quota nearly filled; Embassy takes aim at ‘lonely hearts’ fraudsters
The USCIS has updated its website to state that as of October 30, 2009, approximately 53,800 H-1B cap-subject petitions had been filed. The USCIS has approved sufficient H1-B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees to meet the exemption of 20,000 from the fiscal year 2010 cap. Therefore, any H1-B petitions filed on behalf of an alien with an advanced degree will now count toward the general H1-B cap of 65,000.
The US Embassy, London has released a YouTube video entitled ‘Scamnet: Lonely Hearts Scam Division.’ It offers dramatized tips on how to avoid becoming the victim of Internet-based fraud.
November 3, 2009: Help for visa applicants whose applications are undergoing administrative processing
Some visa applicants are told at their Embassy interview that their cases require additional administrative processing. If you attended a visa interview on or after October 1, 2009 and you received a 221(g) ‘Administrative Processing’ handout at the interview, you can now check the status of your case on-line. Instructions on the process can be found on the Embassy’s website. To go to the appropriate page, click here.
October 27, 2009: President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology lobbies for improvements to US visa system
In an opinion piece in the October 19, 2009 issue of the Wall Street Journal the president of MIT urged the US Government create an easier path to lawful permanent residence for persons with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
October 20, 2009: Visa appointments at the Embassy during the festive season
The US Embassy’s Operator-Assisted Information Service is now booking nonimmigrant visa appointments through to January 8, 2010. The Service can be reached at 090 42 450 100; calls cost £1.20 per minute to a BT landline. The Service is closed on December 25 through 28, 2009 and on January 1 and 2, 2010. It will close at 4.00 pm on December 24 and 31.
The Embassy will be closed on November 26, December 25 and 28, 2009 and on January 1, 2010.
October 13, 2009: USICS ‘clarification’ of rules for O and P visa petitions; green card lottery instructions and registration are available online
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has issued what it terms a ‘clarification’ of the requirements for agents filing as petitioners, particularly (but not exclusively) in the context of the performing arts. To go to the press release, which has a link to an accompanying USCIS fact sheet, click here.
Full instructions and online registration forms are now available for the DV2011 ‘green card lottery’ programme; click here. The registration period began on October 2, 2009 at noon, Eastern Daylight Time and will end on November 30, 2009 at noon, Eastern Standard Time.
October 6, 2009: EB-5 regional center programme extended to October 31, 2009
The EB-5 regional center pilot programme, providing immigrant visas to investors who make qualifying investments of at least $500,000 in a business located within a pre-qualified ‘regional center,’ was set to expire on September 30, 2009. It has now been extended a further month, until October 31, 2009, while discussions continue over a possible further extension.
September 29, 2009 : New visa interview appointment times at the US Embassy in London
8:00, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00 and 11:30 am, 12:00 noon, 1:00 and 1:30 pm
8:00, 9:00, 9:30 and 10:00 am (VCU appointments)
E-1 and E-2
8:00 am to 2:00 pm
8:00, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, 10:00 and 10:30 am
11:00 and 11:30 am, 12 noon, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00 and 2:30 pm
9:00, 9:30, 10:00 and 10:30 am
September 22, 2009: Green card lottery application period to begin October 2, 2009
The DV-2011 ‘green card lottery’ will be open for applications from October 2 to November 30, 2009. Click here to go to the Department of State’s Diversity Immigrant Visa Program page, which promises additional information as the commencement of the application period grows closer. Only electronic entries will be accepted.
September 15, 2009: New procedure for lost US visas; new ambassador to the United Kingdom
The US Embassy now requires persons whose passports are lost or stolen to report to the Embassy that loss or theft if the passport contained a valid US visa. This report can be made either by e-mail, post, or in person during a subsequent visa application. A fillable PDF copy of the required report, and additional information regarding the procedure , is available at the web page of the Lost and Stolen Passport/Visas office.
On August 17, 2009 the new US Ambassador, Louis B. Susman, arrived in the UK to take up his duties. A YouTube video by Ambassador Susman can be found by clicking here.
September 8, 2009: Alcohol-related problems for visa applicants
In June 2007 the US Department of State made public its instructions to US embassies and consulates, regarding the circumstances under which visa applicants must be required to undergo medical examinations for possible alcohol-related problems. Those circumstances fall into three categories:
- If the applicant has a drink-driving arrest or conviction within the last three years;
- If the applicant has two or more drink-driving arrests or convictions at any time;
- If there is ‘any other evidence to suggest an alcohol problem.’
Business Week recently dealt with the issue of visa denials on the grounds of excessive alcohol consumption in an article entitled ‘Alcohol Factors into Increased Visa Denials.’
September 1, 2009: H-1B’s still available; US Government policy regarding searches of electronic equipment at the border
For the first time since 2004, H-1B visa numbers remain available into September for qualified applicants. As of August 14, 2009 approximately 45,000 H-1B cap-subject petitions for the upcoming fiscal year had been received by the USCIS. This represents an increase of only approximately 500 petitions in the month since the last count. Approximately 20,000 petitions qualifying for the advanced degree cap exemption had been filed. The USCIS is continuing to accept both types of petitions and will do so until it determines that sufficient numbers have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account that not all of the petitions are likely to be approved, and that some may be revoked or withdrawn.
The Department of Homeland Security has issued new directives governing its officers’ searches at US borders of electronic media and communications devices such as laptop computers and mobile phones. To read the Department’s press release, which contains links to the two sets of directives and to a privacy assessment, click here.
August 11, 2009: A pause in the service
Your ‘Weekly Update’ author is on holiday. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on September 1.
August 4, 2009: US Embassy in London schedules visa webchat
On Thursday, August 13 a consular officer from the visa section of the US Embassy in London will answer visa-related questions in a webchat open to all. It is scheduled to begin at 2 pm London time (1400 BST). No registration is necessary and questions and comments may be submitted before and during the programme. To participate, go to https://statedept.connectsolutions.com/london .
July 28, 2009: Premium Processing Service again available for some religious worker petitions
Effective July 20, 2009 Premium Processing Service (PPS) is available for some R-1 nonimmigrant religious worker petitions. Eligible for PPS are only those R-1 petitions filed by petitioners who have already passed an on-site USCIS inspection. For a copy of the USCIS announcement and accompanying Q&A, click here. This change has not yet been reflected in the USICS’s PPS information page, which continues to show that PPS is not available for any R-1 petitions.
Under PPS the USCIS guarantees petitioners a response to their petition within 15 calendar days of receipt. The fee for PPS is $1,000, which is in addition to the standard filing fee for the classification sought.
July 21, 2009: USCIS gives guidance about EB-5 immigrant investor visas
The USCIS has published a list of the regional investor centers approved for participation in the pilot programme for immigrant investors who make qualifying investments of at least $500,000 in a business located within a pre-qualified ‘regional center.’ In addition it has updated its Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) on issues related to the job creation required of the EB-5 investor. A press release, with links to the AFM update, can be found here.
If you are interested in further information about the EB-5 programme, please see our website article Immigrant Investor: The ‘Million Dollar Green Card’.
July 14, 2009: Status of green card lottery entries; updated H-1B petition count
People who took part in the DV-2010 ‘green card lottery’ may check the status of their entries on a new Department of State web page.
H-1B visa numbers remain available for qualified applicants. As of July 10, 2009 approximately 44,900 H-1B cap-subject petitions had been received by the USCIS. This represents an increase of only approximately 100 petitions in the two weeks since the last count. Approximately 20,000 petitions qualifying for the advanced degree cap exemption had been filed. The USCIS is continuing to accept both types of petitions and will do so until it determines that sufficient numbers have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account that not all of the petitions are likely to be approved, and that some may be revoked or withdrawn.
July 7, 2009: HIV to no longer be ground for inadmissibility? New US Embassy for London
On July 2, 2009 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a proposed rule that would end the designation of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection as a “communicable disease of public health significance.’ If the rule were to be adopted, HIV infection alone would no longer render an alien inadmissible to the United States, and testing for HIV infection would no longer be required as part of the screening for US immigration and permanent residence.
The Department of State has created a special website with news about the status of the Embassy’s planned move from Grosvenor Square to Nine Elms, Battersea and the architectural contest to design the new building.
June 30, 2009: Helpful guidance from the US Department of State for nonimmigrant visa applicants; updated H-1B petition count
The US Embassy in London has published on YouTube a helpful three-minute video entitled ‘Attending a Nonimmigrant Visa Interview.’ Prospective visa applicants will find it well worth their time. In addition, the Department of State—the US governmental department that issues visas--has produced a 12-page pamphlet for nonimmigrant visa applicants, informing them of their rights while in the US, including the rights to be treated and paid fairly.
An updated H-1B petition count has been issued. As of June 26, 2009 approximately 44,800 H-1B cap-subject petitions had been received by the USCIS. This represents an increase of only approximately 400 petitions in the two weeks since the last count. Approximately 20,000 petitions qualifying for the advanced degree cap exemption had been filed. The USCIS is continuing to accept both types of petitions and will do so until it determines that sufficient numbers have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account that not all of the petitions are likely to be approved, and that some may be revoked or withdrawn.
June 23, 2009: Use of emergency and temporary passports on the Visa Waiver Program; PPS returns for some immigrant petitions
Beginning on July 1, 2009 holders of non-electronic emergency and temporary passports from the UK and 25 other countries will no longer be eligible to travel to the US on the Visa Waiver Program (‘VWP’). This change does not affect passport holders from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and South Korea, who have always required an electronic passport for visa-free travel. It also does not affect German citizens, as German temporary or emergency passports have never been valid for travel under the VWP.
Beginning June 29, 2009 accelerated adjudications by means of Premium Processing Service (PPS) will once again be available for some types of I-140 immigrant petitions, including aliens of extraordinary ability. PPS will not, however, be available for those persons applying as multinational executives or managers. For the text of the USCIS announcement on the subject, click here.
June 16, 2009: Green card delays; H-1B’s still available
US Citizenship and Immigration Services has announced that new immigrants may experience delays of up to 8 weeks in the issuance of their new permanent resident cards, colloquially known as ‘green cards.’ This is due to the updating of card production equipment.
As of June 12, 2009 approximately 44,400 H-1B cap-subject petitions had been received by the USCIS. This estimate is a retrogression from the previous figure of 45,800 announced on May 29, 2009. Approximately 20,000 petitions qualifying for the advanced degree cap exemption had been filed. The USCIS is continuing to accept both types of petitions and will do so until it determines that sufficient numbers have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account that not all of the petitions are likely to be approved, and that some may be revoked or withdrawn.
June 1, 2009: A pause in the service
Our lawyers are in the US, attending the annual conference of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on June 16.
May 26, 2009: O-1 visa in the spotlight
A recent article in Business Week magazine is one of the few in the popular press to discuss the O-1 visa for aliens of extraordinary ability or extraordinary achievement: ‘When Only “Geniuses” Need Apply’. If you would like further information regarding the standard of ability or achievement required for this route to an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, please see any of our articles on the subject:
May 19, 2009: New procedure for some visa applicants at the US Embassy London
The US Embassy in London is introducing a new prescreening procedure that promises to reduce the delays currently experienced by some visa applicants in obtaining a visa appointment date.
In the past all applicants who had ever been arrested, convicted or cautioned for a criminal offense, or who had been removed from the US or denied entry (‘affected applicants’) were required to apply for an appointment with the Visa Coordination Officer. This often resulted in a wait of several months for an appointment.
Effective immediately affected applicants who call the Embassy’s schedulers at the Operator-Assisted Information Service will be given an e-mail address to which they must send various documents particular to their situation. For example, an applicant with a criminal record might be asked to send a police certificate from the Association of Chief Police Officers. Embassy employees will then review the information, decide whether a VCO or standard appointment is appropriate, and e-mail the applicant their decision.
May 12, 2009: H-1B’s still available; immigrant visa availability tightens
The number of petitions filed seeking new H-1B’s for employment to begin October 1, 2009 has remained almost static for several weeks, according to the most recent USCIS update. As of April 27, 2009 the USCIS reports having received approximately 45,000 petitions subject to the overall annual cap and 20,000 petitions potentially qualifying for the advanced degree cap exemption. The agency is continuing to accept both types of petitions and will do so until it determines that sufficient numbers have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account that not all of the petitions are likely to be approved, and some may be revoked or withdrawn.
Meanwhile, the Department of State reports that demand for immigrant visas/green cards in the employment-based categories has surged. There has been a particularly great demand from people already resident in the United States, who are applying for adjustment of status. This past month the cut-off priority date for applicants chargeable to India applying in the employment-based second preference (‘EB-2’), for persons of exceptional ability and members of the professions holding advanced degrees, moved backward (‘retrogressed’) by over 4 years. A review of the Visa Bulletin shows that in May 2009 Indian applicants in the EB-2 category could apply for immigrant visas, or adjustment of status, if their priority date was before the cut-off of February 15, 2004. In June such applicants will be able to apply only if their priority date is before the new cut-off of January 1, 2000. The Department of State warns that during the remainder of the US Government’s fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2009, availability of immigrant status through either immigrant visas or adjustment of status ‘cannot be guaranteed, and the establishment of cut-off dates, or retrogression of existing cut-off dates, cannot be ruled out.’
May 5, 2009: New procedural rules for I-864 affidavits of support
On April 28, 2009 the US Department of State released new regulations for consular officers reviewing the I-864 Affidavits of Support required of most people sponsoring relatives for immigrant visas or adjustment of status. To see the new rules, click here. For additional information on the affidavit of support, including information as to when it is required, please see our website article A Beginner’s Guide to the Affidavit of Support .
April 28, 2009: New web page for Visa Section, US Embassy London
The Visa Section at the US Embassy in London has a new web page: http://www.usembassy.org.uk/visaservices/. It contains information on a wide variety of topics, from immigrant visas to retrieving property left at the Embassy. Subscription via RSS feed is available, and blogs with opportunity for comment and moderated discussions are promised.
April 21, 2009: Visas for HIV-positive applicants; H-1B’s still available
The Department of State has amended its regulations for the issuance of visitor visas to persons who test positive for HIV. (Persons with HIV are inadmissible to the US, and ineligible for visas, unless a waiver of inadmissibility/ineligibility is obtained.) The new regulations create a speedier alternative to the typical case-by-case waiver adjudication for those persons who meet the requirements, which include a limit of 30 days stay per entry. Case-by-case waiver adjudication remains available for other cases, including persons who wish to apply for a wider variety of visas or who seek stays of longer than 30 days. For a fact sheet from the Department of Homeland Security, click here.
The new visa application procedure is set out in the Foreign Affairs Manual. In addition to the other forms required for a visa application, HIV positive applicants applying for visas under the new scheme must read and sign form DS-5512 which outlines eligibility requirements for this streamlined processing.
H-1B’s continue to be available for employment during Fiscal Year 2010—that is, for employment to begin on or after October 1, 2009. As of April 13, 2009 the USCIS had received approximately 43,000 H-1B petitions for visas subject to the annual quota (or ‘cap’) and approximately 20,000 petitions potentially qualifying for the advanced degree cap exemption. The agency will continue to accept petitions until it determines that sufficient numbers have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account that not all of the petitions are likely to be approved, and some may be revoked or withdrawn. Updates on the numbers of petitions filed are published by the USCIS at http://www.uscis.gov/h-1b_count.
April 15, 2009: A sign of the economic times
A week after what had been the anticipated cut-off date for the filing of H-1B petitions for employment in the new fiscal year, the USCIS is continuing to accept petitions for H-1B visas. During the previous filing periods in 2007 and 2008 the annual quota for new H-1B’s was filled within the first few days of availability, necessitating a lottery to determine which petitions would be adjudicated. For additional information and periodic updates on the number of petitions filed you may wish to bookmark the USCIS home page: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis
April 7, 2009 : New visa interview appointment times at the US Embassy in London
8:30, 9:00, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00 and 11:30 am, 12:00 noon, 1:00 and 1:30 pm
9:00, 9:30 and 10:00 am (in cases where criminal conviction is disclosed)
8:00, 8:30 am
E-1 and E-2
11:00 am and 1:30 and 2:00 pm
8:00, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, 10:00 and 10:30 am
11:00 and 11:30 am, 12 noon, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00 and 2:30 pm
9:00, 9:30, 10:00 and 10:30 am
8:00 and 8:30 am
8:00 and 8:30 am
April 2, 2009 : H-1B petition crush
On Wednesday, April 1 the annual stampede for H-1B visas begins. Last year the US Citizenship and Immigration Services reported receiving nearly 163,000 H-1B petitions during the five day filing period that ended on April 7, 2008. Those petitions were seeking a total of 78,200 new H-1B visas for employment to begin on October 1, 2008; 20,000 of that number are reserved for persons who have earned advanced degrees from a US institution of higher education.
Why such a crush in April? It is because H-1B petitions cannot be filed more than six months in advance of the requested start date of employment. The annual quota of H-1B visas becomes available on October 1 of each year—the first day of the US Government’s fiscal year (‘FY’). Therefore petitions for the new ‘crop’ of H-1B’s cannot be filed before April 1.
Employers seeking H-1B visas for employment to begin during FY2004 were able to file petitions until the annual cap was reached on February 17, 2004. In spite of subsequent Congressional action adding 20,000 visas for advanced degree holders, the FY2006 cap was reached on August 12, 2005—the first time the cap was reached even before the beginning of the fiscal year in which the visas would be used. The next year the cap was reached even more quickly; the allotment of FY 2007 visas was exhausted on June 1, 2006. This set the stage for FY2008 (employment to begin on October 1, 2007) when the USCIS reported having received on the first two days of filing more than enough petitions to fill the annual quota.
This year the USCIS has announced that it will follow the same procedure as last year, conducting a lottery among all petitions received between April 1 and April 7. For further details from the USCIS about the FY2010 H-1B filing procedure, click here.