Gudeon and McFadden
Weekly Update

 

 
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Updated: May 14, 2019

Current Updates

December 20, 2016: G&M festive season hours

Our office will close for the holidays from 4.30 pm on Friday December 23 and will reopen at 9.00 am on Tuesday January 3.  During this time we will continue to answer urgent client e-mails.  Other requests will be dealt with as soon as reasonably possible.  “Weekly Update” will resume on January 10, so please check back with us then.  We wish our readers a happy and healthy festive season.

 

December 6, 2016:  CBP agriculture seizures; revoking US citizenship

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that its team of agriculture specialists and ‘Beagle Brigade’ based at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport intercepted many prohibited items during the busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend, including foreign plants, propagative seeds and an entire roasted pig inside the baggage of a traveller from Peru.  CBP reminds travellers that all fruit, vegetable and other food/plant products, regardless of origin, must be declared and presented for inspection upon entry to the US.

A New York Times article discussed President Elect Trump’s tweeted suggestion that US citizens who protest government policies by burning the American flag should be punished by losing their citizenship.  This led to an examination of the doctrine, established in the 1967 Supreme Court case of Afroyim v. Rusk, that the US Government cannot revoke US citizenship unless the citizen agrees.

 

November 29, 2016: Extreme hardship updates

The USCIS has updated its Policy Manual (formerly known as the Adjudicators’ Field Manual) with helpful information about what constitutes ‘extreme hardship’ for the purposes of a waiver of ineligibility for an immigrant visa application.  For further discussion of waivers of ineligibility, please see our website article Washington, We Have a Problem! Ineligibilities and Waivers.

 

November 22, 2016:  More pre-clearance news; EVUS program

DHS has chosen another 11 new airports to possibly begin CBP pre-clearance operations.  The airports are located in Edinburgh, UK; Bogota, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City, Mexico; Rome and Milan, Italy; Osaka, Japan; Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil; Iceland and St. Maarten.  CBP reports that more than 10 million travelers fly to the US from these airports each year.

Beginning November 29, 2016, Chinese nationals with 10-year visitor visas (B-1/B-2, B-1 or B-2) must have a valid Electronic Visa Update System (‘EVUS’) enrolment in order to be allowed to travel to the US.  Travellers with visas already issued in their passports may continue using those visas, but they will not be admitted to the US after November 29th without first enrolling in EVUS (enrolments will generally last for two years or until passport expiry).  For further information, see CBP’s Frequently Asked Questions about EVUS.

 

November 15, 2016:  Payment options at the Embassy; more expatriations; looking into the future

Following on from the USCIS Field Office’s announcement that payment by credit card is no longer allowed for I-130 filing fees, the US Embassy in London is no longer accepting third-party card payments for any visa issuance fees.  The credit card payment form has been retired.

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who chose to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status during the quarter ending September 30, 2016.  The list includes the names of 1,379 individuals, only 47 people fewer than the all-time high of 1,426 from the same quarter last year.  After news of the Canadian immigration website crash after the US election results were announced, one wonders how much higher the expatriation numbers will grow.

In the week since Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the US presidential race, a number of apocalyptic scenarios have been raised by those concerned about immigration to the US.  For the thoughts of our principal, Susan McFadden, please see today’s blog post: US immigration policy under President Trump.

 

November 8, 2016: Preclearance in Sweden

An agreement has now been signed to introduce US Customs and Border Protection preclearance operations at Stockholm Arlanda Airport in Sweden.  CBP has announced that the new US preclearance capacity is anticipated to commence in 2019.  For further information about expanded preclearance procedures and the additional preclearance stations planned for ten airports around the world, see the CBP’s September 2015 article on the subject.

 

November 1, 2016: Last call for this year’s green card lottery

The application period for the FY2018 Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ will close on Monday, November 7, 2016 at 12:00 noon EST/17:00 GMT.  If you are eligible, either through your place of birth or the place where your spouse or parents were born, apply as soon as possible.  The Department of State website is likely to be overloaded the closer we get to the deadline.  If you have questions about your eligibility you may wish to look at our article Do You Feel Lucky?  US Government Now Accepting Applications for the Green Card Lottery.

 

October 25, 2016: Paying fees at USCIS London; USCIS fees to increase

Effective last Wednesday, October 19, 2016, credit cards may no longer be used to pay filing fees for petitions filed with the USCIS Field Office in London.  The only acceptable forms of payment are either (1) a US bank cashier’s check, (2) a US bank or US Post Office money order, or (3) an international bank draft.   For more information go to the Field Office’s announcement.

In yesterday’s Federal Register the US Citizenship and Immigration Services published notice of its new fee schedule, to become effective for all petitions and applications filed on or after December 23, 2016.  The fees will supposedly increase on a weighted average of 21% but several petitions and applications of most interest to our readers will see increases well in excess of that figure.  A few examples:   The fee for the I-129 petition for non-immigrant worker used for most petition-based working visas will rise from $325 to $460 (41%); fee for a waiver of ineligibility for an immigrant visa, filed on I-601, will increase from $585 to $930 (59%); and the fee for expedited naturalisation for the child of a US citizen will go from $600 up to $1170, an increase of 95%.  The moral of the story:  Don’t delay, file today!

 

October 18, 2016: Lawsuit against Disney dismissed

Now for an update on a story we discussed in our Weekly Updates of June 9, 2015 and January 26, 2016.  As reported in The New York Times, a federal trial court in Orlando has dismissed the lawsuit brought by Leo Perrero, a former Disney World employee who claimed that US immigration law had been violated when he was replaced by a foreign worker on an H-1B visa.  Mr. Perrero also alleged that some of the actions breached the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (‘RICO’) Act which would have opened the way to treble damages.  But it was not to be.  The court held that, even if all of the facts alleged by the plaintiff were true, he had not stated a cause of action against the defendants.  The dismissal was without prejudice, giving the plaintiff until October 24 to rewrite his complaint and try again. 

 

October 11, 2016: Duration of waivers of ineligibility; photo requirements

The Department of State has updated the section of its Foreign Affairs Manual regarding waivers of ineligibility for visa issuance.  9 FAM 305.4-3(G)(1) now states that Homeland Security will generally grant waivers for up to 60 months and multiple entries, so consular officers may recommend waivers accordingly.  This new policy is applicable even to first-time waiver recipients although there are exceptions.  This will be a huge relief to those visa applicants who until now had been required to reapply for visas nearly every year.

From November 1, 2016, in the absence of extremely unusual circumstances, visa applicants and persons applying for US passports will no longer be allowed to wear eye glasses in their submitted photographs.  See the Department of State’s website for more information about the required photograph specifications.

 

October 4, 2016:  I-94 website; travel for LPRs

The US Customs and Border Protection has updated the website where travellers can download their most recent I-94 Arrival/Departure Record and a list of their US entries and exits during the last five years.  Those entering the US at a land border crossing can also use the website to apply for a provisional I-94 up to seven days before appearing at the port of entry. 

USCIS has published a new form—Form I-131A, Application for Travel Document (Carrier Documentation)—that allows some lawful permanent residents (‘green card’ holders) to apply for a travel document if their green card or re-entry permit has been lost, stolen or destroyed.  The US Embassy here in London recently highlighted its USCIS Field Office’s information on requesting a Transportation Letter for travel to the US when a green card has been lost, stolen, misplaced or expired.  They note that airlines may allow a lawful permanent resident with an expired green card to board a US flight without penalty if the green card was issued with a 10-year expiration date, so you should check with the airline before requesting a Transportation Letter.

 

September 27, 2016:  Challenges to the H-1B lottery

Following up on our Weekly Update of June 7, 2016:  A federal district (trial level) court judge in Oregon has denied a motion by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to dismiss a challenge to the way that H-1B petitions are handled.  Plaintiffs claim that using a lottery to determine which H-1B petitions are adjudicated is arbitrary and capricious, and violates the statutory requirement that petitions be processed in the order received.  They assert that H-1B petitions should be adjudicated on a first-come first-served basis, with excess petitions getting a priority date—a process followed by the USCIS in the adjudication of immigrant visa (green card) petitions that are not immediately available due to numerical limitations.  A copy of the judge’s decision can be accessed here

 

September 20, 2016:  Green card lottery

The application period for the FY2018 Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ will open on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 and will end on Monday, November 7, 2016 at 12:00 noon (Eastern Standard Time).  Eligibility requirements remain the same as last year except that natives of Ecuador are now allowed to take part.  Applicants should read the instructions provided and may wish to watch the Department of State’s video tutorial.  They should also heed the Fraud Warnings on the Department of State website, ensuring to check their application’s status online through the DV Entrant Status Check.  From May 2, 2017, applicants will be able to find out if their entry has been selected in the DV program.  For some additional information about the DV lottery, you may wish to look at our article Do You Feel Lucky?  US Government Now Accepting Applications for the Green Card Lottery.

 

September 13, 2016:  Medical requirements for IV applicants

On August 19, 2016, the Department of State announced new gonorrhea testing requirements for immigrant visa applicants.  Starting no later than October 1, 2016, all immigrant visa applicants aged 15 and older will be tested for gonorrhea during the standard, required medical examination.  Here in London, the Embassy has released an updated informational packet describing the procedure and requirements (now including the gonorrhea test) for the medical performed by its panel physicians, Knightsbridge Doctors.  For applicants aged 15 and older, the fee has now increased from £250 to £290.

 

September 6, 2016: Potential parole for entrepreneurs

On August 31, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule that would give certain ‘international entrepreneurs’ parole to remain in the US for up to two years (with possible extensions up to an additional three years) to get their business off the ground.  Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until October 17, 2016.  As discussed in our website article Promising Progress for Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Start-ups, this new option for entrepreneurs would be a good step toward realizing some of the improvements called for by President Obama and the Secretary of Homeland Security in November 2014.

 

August 30, 2016: A pause in the service

Your correspondent is travelling.  Please check back next Tuesday for a resumption of Weekly Update.

 

August 23, 2016: I-94 corrections by email

If you are in the US and notice a mistake on your I-94 arrival/departure record online, you may be able to get it corrected by email.  Twelve of the more than 70 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deferred inspection sites will now accept email requests for correction of an incorrect I-94.  The list of deferred inspection offices on the CBP website includes the available email addresses in the column marked ‘I-94 Correction Requests.’  It is prudent to check both your I-94 record online and the entry stamp in your passport every time you enter the US.

 

August 16, 2016: Visa problems for war translators

Unfortunately, US immigration doesn’t always work like it should.  An article in the New York Times discusses the thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters who have assisted the US military during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq who are still awaiting the promised help from the US government to get out of the Taliban’s reach.  Although a special visa program is in place to allow them to move to the US, the quota numbers and visa processes are complex and threatened by Congress’s indecision and in-fighting. 

 

August 9, 2016: I-130 checklists for filing in London; new website article

The USCIS Field Office in the US Embassy, London has updated its checklists for filing I-130 immigrant petitions on behalf of alien relatives: Spouse, Child and Parent.  

Want to move to the US permanently without being a multinational executive, someone with extraordinary ability or related to a US citizen?  Green cards are available through employment-based categories EB-2 (members of the professions holding advanced degrees or persons of exceptional ability) or EB-3 (skilled workers, professionals and other workers).  However, the labor certification process required by these categories can be quite tricky.  Our new website article Laborious labor certifications: The complex world of PERM discusses the process.  

August 2, 2016:  Latest quarter’s expatriates; Global Entry interviews at US Embassy, London

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who chose to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status during the quarter ending June 30, 2016.  The list includes the names of 508 individuals (less than half as many as the previous quarter).

As we discussed in our Weekly Update of July 12, 2016, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has begun accepting applications from all UK citizens for Global Entry, a Trusted Traveler Program which allows for expedited clearance of pre-approved, low-risk travelers.  The US Embassy in London has now announced that it will host a 60-day CBP-run Global Entry enrollment event beginning on September 26, 2016.  After being vetted by the UK Home Office and applying through the Global Online Enrollment System website, conditionally-approved Global Entry applicants can now register to attend the required CBP interview at the US Embassy in London. 

 

July 26, 2016: Expanding CBP preclearance; Pokémon Go border issue

A New York Times article discusses the Department of Homeland Security’s drive to increase the number of Customs and Border Protection officers stationed at airports abroad as part of its preclearance operations.  Preclearance stations, already found in 15 airports around the world, allow travellers to go through US immigration and customs procedures in the departure airport before boarding rather than upon arrival in the US.  A precleared passenger may then disembark in the US airport as if from a domestic flight, avoiding the inspection queues and delays in the US that sometimes make it difficult to catch a connecting flight.  In May 2015, DHS announced negotiations to increase the number of preclearance stations, but the current expansion efforts are said to be in response to recent terrorist attacks and are expected to reduce the risk of potential terrorists entering the US.

Last week, CBP reported that two juveniles inadvertently crossed the US-Canadian border illegally while playing Pokémon Go on their mobile phones.  They were apprehended and reunited with their mother after CBP agents determined that the game had made them ‘unaware of their surroundings.’

 

July 19, 2016:  Improvements for Americans abroad

The Department of State has announced a new initiative called ‘MissionOne’ which will expand and modernise services for US citizens living abroad.  MissionOne’s objectives include enhancing the communication between US embassies and consulates and local Americans, expanding the emergency services offered at local posts, improving the security features of US passports and creating the option to renew US passports online.

 

July 12, 2016: Global Entry available to all Brits; Embassy documentary

As announced in the Federal Register, today US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin accepting applications for Global Entry from all UK citizens.  This programme is an automated entry system which allows registered ‘trusted travellers’ to skip immigration queues at designated ports of entry in the US and check themselves in at a kiosk.  To register for Global Entry, British citizens must first be vetted by applying through the UK Home Office website, and if successful may then apply through the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES).  For the last two years, only certain UK citizens who were invited by a British airline carrier, the US Embassy or CBP were eligible to apply for Global Entry, but all Brits are now welcome to apply without a specific invitation.

In anticipation of its move from Grosvenor Square to Nine Elms at the end of 2016, the US Embassy in London commissioned a 60-minute documentary to tell its story and discuss the Special Relationship between the US and the UK, so you can now enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at the Embassy!

 

July 5, 2016:  Proposed request for social media details on ESTA

US Customs and Border Protection has published a proposal to add to ESTA an optional data field for traveller’s social media information, including provider/platform and individual identifier.  It would also be added to the hard-copy I-94Ws which are still required at land border entrances.  This additional data would be used for vetting purposes, to ‘provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections.’  Although this is the first instance of social media details being collected straight from travellers on ESTA applications or I-94Ws, it is not new for DHS to analyse social media activity to identify threats, whether real or satirical.  See our Weekly Update of April 26, 2016 for further information.

 

June 28, 2016:  The US is open for business

The US Commercial Service at the Embassy in London wants British business owners to know that there is help available if they want to expand into the US.  The programme is called SelectUSA and it is designed ‘to provide easy access to federal-level programs and services related to business investment.’

 

June 21, 2016:  More changes to ESTA

US Customs and Border Protection continues to make changes to the online system for travel authorisation (ESTA) that is required for travel on the Visa Waiver Program.  The latest changes will quiz applicants as to their travel to Libya, Somalia, and Yemen and will allow applicants to enter their Global Entry Program Numbers, if applicable.  

 

June 14, 2016:  Possible new visa legislation?

A recent Computerworld article reports that Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren of California is preparing a draft bill entitled the ‘High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2015’ that would, among other things, prioritise the allocation of H-1B visas based on wages and eliminate the per-country cap for employment-based immigrant visas.  Among the other good provisions:  H-1B visas, like the H-2B visas for temporary and seasonal employment, would be made available in two tranches during the year, rather than just once a year as is now the case.  Rep. Lofgren, whose district includes large portions of California’s Silicon Valley, has not yet introduced the bill, so it remains for the moment only a theoretical help to the thousands of would-be H-1B visa holders and their employers.

 

June 7, 2016: Increased fees for some H-1B and L-1 petitions; H-1B lottery in question

The USCIS has published information to help H-1B and L-1 petitioners determine if they will be required to pay the recently-increased additional $4,000 fee or $4,500 fee, respectively.  The requirement of the additional fee is based on the number and visa status of the petitioner’s employees in the US. 

A class action complaint filed on June 2, 2016 against US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is challenging the use of a lottery to determine which H-1B petitions are adjudicated.  The complaint calls USCIS’s computer-generated random selection (and rejection) process for H-1B petitions ‘arbitrary and capricious and not in accordance with the law.’

 

May 31, 2016:  Be prepared for summer travel; new website article

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has some suggestions for how to shorten your processing time in a US airport.  Among them:  US citizens and Canadian visitors entering through one of 12 US airports may now use a new mobile app to transmit their data to the CBP ahead of time. 

We are adding an article to our website today, to assist non-British citizens who wish to apply for their US visas here in the UK.  We hope that you will find answers to your queries in the article ‘Not British, but applying for a US visa in the UK?

 

May 24, 2016:  Mapping US immigration history

The “Immigration Daily” on www.ilw.com has published an interesting map graphic showing US immigration patterns covering almost 200 years.  If you’re interested in moving to the US, take a look at our website pages about Nonimmigrant Visas and Immigrant Visas to see if any visa options might fit your circumstances.  Our website articles offer more in-depth discussions of various visa types.

 

May 17, 2016:  EB-5 issues

The EB-5 program, also known as ‘alien entrepreneur,’ ‘immigrant investor’ or ‘million-dollar green card,’ is a route to immigrant status in the US that is often criticized for being too vulnerable to fraud.  A recent Government Accountability Office report discussed many areas of the program with fraud risks, and it recommended that the USCIS and DHS conduct more regular future risk assessments, develop a better strategy to expand information collection and increase data analysis to reliably report on economic benefits.  While the report stated that DHS has implemented changes toward these improvements, the program continues to draw attention with fraudulent schemes and new questionable approaches; see New York Times articles Program That Lets Foreigners Write a Check, and Get a Visa, Draws Scrutiny, Fraud Charges Mar a Plan to Aid a Struggling Vermont Region, and Price for a Green Card: $500,000 Stadium Stake

 

May 10, 2016:  New scheduling process for immigrant visa interviews; latest quarter’s expatriates

The US Embassy, London has changed part of the procedure for applying for an immigrant visa.  After you have scheduled your medical examination, submitted your DS-260 application form online, and submitted the Embassy’s online notification of readiness form, you will be notified to set up an account and schedule your Embassy interview.  The online scheduling system also allows easy rescheduling.  This is a vast improvement over the previous process of waiting for a letter with an interview date to arrive in the post, contacting the Embassy to request a reschedule and waiting for another letter to arrive in the post with a new interview date which could be just as inconvenient as the first.

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who chose to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status during the quarter ending March 31, 2016: another high total of 1,158 individuals.

 

May 3, 2016:  Nothing to report

As we have no news from the US immigration world to report, ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on May 10.  Please check back with us then.

 

April 26, 2016:  H-1B Premium Processing; social media effects on US immigration

The USCIS has announced that on May 12 it will commence adjudicating cap-subject H-1B petitions selected in the lottery and submitted with Premium Processing.

An article in the New York Times discusses how the US Department of Homeland Security, at Congress’s urging and in response to the San Bernardino, CA shooting, is working on using social media accounts to better identify ties to terrorist organizations.  Examining the social media accounts of all visa applicants and those seeking asylum or refugee status in the United States is apparently underway although DHS may run into technical, logistical and language challenges throughout their analysis.  This is not a new issue however; it harks back to the 2013 Channel 4 documentary ‘Don’t Blame Facebook’ in which our attorney Susan Willis McFadden was interviewed regarding the dangers of careless postings in cyberspace, including the case of two young Brits who were refused entry to the US in 2012 because one had Tweeted that he was going to ‘destroy America.’ 

 

April 19, 2016:  Statistics on green cards and naturalizations; H-1B petition numbers

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics has released Annual Flow Reports regarding people who became Lawful Permanent Residents and people who became US citizens in Fiscal Year 2014.  A total of 1,016,518 persons were granted green card status in FY2014, mostly from Mexico (13 percent), India (7.7 percent) and China (7.5 percent).  You can also see that a total of 653,416 persons naturalized in FY2014, mostly from Mexico (94,889), India (37,854), the Philippines (34,591) and China (30,284).  

The USCIS has reported receiving over 236,000 H-1B petitions, including those filed for the advanced degree exemption, during the five-day filing period that began on April 1.  Thus, on April 9, they performed a ‘computer-generated random selection process, or lottery,’ to select enough petitions to meet the caps, and premium processing will begin no later than May 16, 2016.  All petitions not selected in the lottery will be returned to the petitioners.

 

April 12, 2016: H-1B cap reached; reciprocity for visa-free travel

The USCIS has announced that since filing began on April 1 it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap and the advanced degree exemption for fiscal year 2017.  As a result, the USCIS will perform a lottery to randomly select petitions for adjudication.  It will no longer accept H-1B petitions subject to the FY2017 cap, but it will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. 

As reported in the New York Times, the European Union is pressuring the United States to add additional European countries, specifically Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland and Romania, to the list of countries whose nationals are eligible to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program.  The European Commission will consider requiring US citizens to obtain visitor’s visas before traveling to Europe to urge the case for reciprocity.

 

April 5, 2016: B visa refusal rates; new site for AAO non-precedent decisions

The Department of State has released statistics on the refusal rates of B-1/B-2 visitor’s visas based on the applicant’s nationality during Fiscal Year 2015.  Consular officers denied 20.41 percent of B visa applications for British citizens.  The highest refusal rate was for citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia—85.71 percent.

The USCIS has updated the webpage for non-precedent decisions of the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO).  The AAO reviews and adjudicates appeals filed by petitioners and applicants for certain categories of immigration status whose initial filings were denied, such as a Form I-129 for O-1 classification.  The AAO’s non-precedent decisions from 2005 to present are now in a searchable database.  See our website article How to Prove You’re an Alien of Extraordinary Ability to find out how AAO decisions can be useful in preparing your own case.

 

March 29, 2016: E-passports required for VWP travel; immigration statistics

From April 1, 2016, all visitors, including UK citizens, seeking to enter the US on the Visa Waiver Program/ESTA will require an electronic passport (‘e-passport’).  Depending of their date of issuance, some machine-readable passports were previously accepted for travel on the VWP, but this will no longer be the case.  The websites of the US Embassy in London and US Custom and Border Protection discuss this change; further information about e-passports can be found on this Department of Homeland Security webpage.

The Congressional Research Service report of March 14, 2016 contains a lot of interesting information on US immigration statistics and policy trends, such as the facts that immigration to the US has reached annual levels comparable to the early years of the 20th century and the total number of people in the US who were born abroad (outside the US) is the highest in US history.

 

March 22, 2016: H-1B filing dates; Senator Grassley’s H-1B concerns; new website article

Starting April 1, 2016, the USCIS will be accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2017 cap.  If, as expected, more petitions are filed during the first five business days than can be accommodated under the annual quota of approximately 65,000, a lottery will be conducted among the petitions received to determine which petitions will be adjudicated.  (An additional 20,000 H-1Bs are available to individuals with a US master’s degree or higher.) USCIS has also announced that it will begin adjudicating H-1B cap-subject petitions requesting premium processing no later than May 16, 2016.  For more information on the H-1B caps and lotteries, check out our latest blog post

Speaking of H-1Bs, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has publicly released his letter to the Judiciary Committee, dated February 26, 2016, discussing his concerns that the integrity of the H-1B is being threatened by new programs, such as that of the City University of New York, which would make some cap-exempt H-1Bs available for start-ups and entrepreneurs.  See our Weekly Update of February 23, 2016 for more details.  

With the increase in difficult Requests for Evidence and denials from the USCIS in response to L-1 petitions, and the relatively low chance of getting a cap-subject H-1B petition selected for adjudication, US companies who require foreign workers should think about an E-2 registration.  Our new website article E-2 Visas: Better than L-1s? discusses some of the advantages of going the E route.

 

March 15, 2016: STEM OPT extension; work authorization for H-4 spouses; VWP update

On March 11, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security published in the Federal Register a new final rule amending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program for international students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.  The rule, which will go into effect on May 10, 2016, allows applicants to apply for an extension of their STEM OPT from the current 17 months to 24 months.  It also solves the ‘cap gap’ problem for F-1 students (with timely-filed H-1B petitions) whose F-1 status and employment authorization would expire before they could take up H-1B status on October 1.  

The USCIS has released FAQs regarding the additional applications accepted as of May 26, 2015 for employment authorization (Form I-765) for certain dependent spouses in the US in H-4 status if the principal H-1B visa holder is in the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status.  

US Customs and Border Protection has compiled FAQs regarding the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, offering an up-to-date summary of all the VWP/ESTA changes put into place since December 2015.

 

March 8, 2016:  Known Employer Pilot; updated poverty guidelines

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced the March 3, 2016 launch of their ‘Known Employer Pilot Program’ to test a streamlined process for US employers seeking to hire foreign workers in certain visa categories, including H-1B, L-1A, L-1B, TN nonimmigrant classifications and EB-1-2 and EB-1-3 immigrant classifications.  The pilot will allow employers (the first participants being Citigroup, Inc., Ernst & Young LLP, Kiewit Corporation, Schaeffler Group USA, Inc. and Siemens Corporation) to upload materials to an online Known Employer Document Library.  Once the documents are verified, the employer would not be required to submit them anew with each individual visa petition.  DHS plans to publicly announce the results of the pilot and, if it is successful, will seek to implement a permanent program open to all eligible employers.

DHS has released new poverty guidelines applicable to all I-864 Affidavits of Support filed on or after March 1, 2016.  For additional information about the Affidavit of Support process please see our website articles A Beginner’s Guide to the Affidavit of Support and I-864 Affidavits of Support: The Problem of ‘Domicile’

 

March 1, 2016: Updated ESTA form; EVUS enrollment for Chinese nationals; our new blog

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that a new version is now available online of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form used by travellers to apply for visa-free travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program.  The updated form now includes questions addressing the travel eligibility requirements imposed by a recent change in US law.  CBP suggests that the updated form will help them determine when to grant waivers allowing ESTA travel to people who have recently travelled to certain countries (including Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen) for government-related, humanitarian or business purposes.

Beginning in November 2016, Chinese nationals travelling to the US on 10-year visitor visas (B-1/B-2, B-1 or B-2) will be required to enroll online with CBP’s Electronic Visa Update System (‘EVUS’) to keep their biographic information up to date.  Travellers with visas already issued in their passports will be able to continue using those visas, but they will not be admitted to the US after November 2016 without first enrolling in EVUS (enrollments will generally last for two years or until passport expiry).

We are happy to announce a new blog section on our website!  Please visit our Blog page for further insights and commentary on immigration news, policy and issues.  Our first post discusses in more detail the class-action lawsuits filed against Disney for replacing US citizens with foreign workers on H-1B visas (as discussed in our Weekly Updates of June 9, 2015 and January 26, 2016).  Check back with our blog regularly for additional thoughts about what’s happening in the world of US immigration. 

 

February 23, 2016:  More VWP changes; new H-1B opportunities for entrepreneurs

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it has added three more countries to the list of countries that travellers must not have visited in the last five years if they wish to enter the US on the Visa Waiver Program/ESTA.  Foreign nationals who have visited Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen in the past five years can no longer enter the US without a visa even if otherwise eligible for VWP travel.  

The New York Times has published an article discussing the City University of New York’s new visa program, the first of its kind, which would make some cap-exempt H-1Bs available for start-ups and entrepreneurs.  A board of directors would serve as the necessary petitioning “employer” for H-1B status, and moreover the entrepreneurs would be exempt from the H-1B cap because they would be employed at a college for more than half their time in the US, collaborating with professors and students.

 

February 16, 2016: Renunciation of US citizenship

Following last week’s publication of the names of the latest quarter’s expatriates, BBC News has released an article discussing the woes of US persons living abroad that are contributing to high numbers of renunciations.  These include a lack of congressional representation, an inability to bank with foreign institutions that do not wish to comply with the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), and stringent requirements to report worldwide income which can lead to the possibility of double taxation.  However, the recent increase in the renunciation fee (from $450 to $2,350) may convince some to reconsider giving up their US citizenship.  If you would like more information about renouncing US citizenship, you may wish to look at our website articles US Citizenship—Having It, Getting It, Giving it UpGiving Up US Citizenship: Is it Right for You? and Adiós, Uncle Sam: Renouncing US Citizenship.

 

February 9, 2016: Latest quarter’s expatriates; administrative processing in London

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who chose to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status during the quarter ending December 31, 2015.  Following the previous quarter’s 1,426 (the highest number of expatriates ever), this latest list included the names of 1,058 individuals.

As of December 14, 2015, the US Embassy in London no longer allows applicants to check online the status of their pending visa applications that have been denied under Section 221(g), also known as ‘administrative processing.’  Rather, the Embassy will contact applicants by email if more information is required or if the visa is ready to be issued.  See the Embassy’s website for further details.

 

February 2, 2016: Embassy’s new website; scheduling visa appointments

The US Embassy in London has now launched its updated website with new organization and mobile-viewing features under the new web address https://uk.usembassy.gov

The visa appointment scheduling website has posted an announcement for people who are no longer eligible for travel under the Visa Waiver Program/ESTA due to the recent changes discussed in last week’s Weekly Update.  According to the scheduling website, affected travellers should apply for a nonimmigrant visa at least three months before their desired travel to the US.  If applicants are unable to secure a visa appointment before their planned travel, they should follow the website’s instructions for requesting an expedited appointment.

 

January 26, 2016:  Overstays in the US; Visa Waiver Program changes effective; lawsuits by US citizens who claim they were displaced by H-1B visa holders

The Department of Homeland Security has just released its FY2015 report of those persons who overstayed after entering the US on either the Visa Waiver Program/ESTA or on a visitor’s visa.  Out of the 192 countries listed, the UK had the 9th lowest overstay rate, of just 0.43%.   

The Visa Waiver Program changes reported in the December 15, 2015 Weekly Update are now in effect.  It is possible that waivers from the bar on VWP/ESTA travel by persons who have travelled to Iraq, Iran, Syria or Sudan since March 1, 2011 may be available if the travel was for legitimate business reasons. 

Now, a follow up on a story in our June 9, 2015 Weekly Update.  The New York Times reports that two former Disney employees have filed suit against the company and two global consulting/recruitment firms, alleging that the three companies lied in obtaining H-1B visas for foreign citizens who then took the employees’ jobs.  Class action status is being requested

 

January 19, 2016: Changes to the US Embassy website

The US Embassy, London has announced on its visa blog that the consular pages of its website will soon receive a new look and some reorganisation.  Once the redesign is launched, the visa blog will post guides and tips to help visitors use the updated website.

 

January 12, 2016:  Brits facing VWP problems; immigrant visa statistics

Our attorney Susan McFadden was interviewed on today’s ‘Rip Off Britain’ programme on the BBC, Rip Off Britain: Holidays, which addressed issues that Britons face when going on holiday.  In particular, Mrs. McFadden spoke about why people could be denied ESTA authorisation for travelling to the US on the Visa Waiver Program when they appear to meet all the eligibility requirements.  This program is timely, considering the changes made effective to the Visa Waiver Program on December 18, 2015.  Perhaps those changes affected another British family as reported in a Washington Post article of December 23, 2015; the family planned a trip to Disneyland, received ESTA authorisation and made it all the way to their departure gate in Gatwick airport before they were told that they were not eligible to travel to the US.  See our Weekly Update of December 15, 2015 for a discussion of the VWP changes.

The Department of State has released statistics from the National Visa Center about the number and national origin of people waiting for immigrant visas in various family-sponsored and employment-based categories.  These statistics do not include applications for permanent residence filed in the US by persons currently living there in non-immigrant status.  As of November 1, 2015, a total of over 4.5 million people were on the waiting lists for immigrant visas. 

 

January 5, 2016: Proposed small changes in employment-based immigration status

In 2015’s final issue of the Federal Register the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule that would make some small changes in the treatment of employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant visa holders.   One welcome proposal would extend to holders of E-1, E-2, E-3, L-1 and TN visas the same 10-day grace period before and after visa validity that is currently granted to H-1B visa holders.  The initial grace period would allow visa holders to make preparations in the US for beginning their employment, and the grace period after the validity ends would allow visa holders to either seek new employment, make preparations to change to another immigration status, or wind up their affairs before departing the US.   In addition, holders of E-1, E-2, E-2, H-1B, L-1 and TN visas would be given a one-time grace period of up to 60 days after their employment ends.   The grace periods would also apply to dependents.   The proposed rule is open for public comment until February 29.

 

December 15, 2015: Forthcoming changes to the VWP; G&M festive season hours

As reported by CNN, the US House of Representatives passed legislation on December 8 that would decrease the number of people eligible to travel to the US on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).  Foreign nationals who have visited Iraq, Iran, Syria or the Sudan in the past five years will be prevented from entering the US without a visa even if otherwise eligible for VWP travel.  In conjunction with President’s Obama’s expressed concerns (see last week’s Weekly Update), these new limitations on the VWP are said to be in response to the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.  According to the Guardian’s coverage of the subject, the legislation is considered likely to advance through the Senate and become law by the end of the year.   

Our office will be closed for the holidays from December 24, reopening on January 4.  While the office is closed, we will continue to answer urgent client e-mails.  Other requests will be dealt with as soon as reasonably possible.  “Weekly Update” will resume on the first Tuesday in January, so please check back with us then.  We wish our readers a happy and healthy festive season.

 

December 8, 2015: USCIS statistics; reviews of K-1 visa program and VWP

To add to the data released about L-1B petitions last month, the USCIS has now published statistics for all forms received (totalling 7,650,475) and adjudicated during Fiscal Year 2015.  

A story from Reuters reports that President Obama has asked the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to review the K-1 fiancé visa program.  This request was made as part of the President’s response to the mass shooting which took place in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday, December 2, committed by a US citizen and his foreign-born wife who had entered the US on a K-1 visa.  The article also mentions that border officials have been screening Visa Waiver Program travellers more closely since the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13.

 

December 1, 2015: Online civics practice

Are you preparing for your naturalization interview in the US?  The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has provided practice civics tests in both English and Spanish on their website.  Although the online practice tests are multiple choice, applicants at the naturalization interview will be asked ten questions aloud.  A passing grade is six or more questions answered correctly.

 

November 24, 2015: Updated Foreign Affairs Manual; L-1B statistics

FAM-e, the new electronic version of the Department of State’s updated Foreign Affairs Manual and associated handbooks, is now available online at https://fam.state.gov/.  FAM-e has a useful search function and contains updated language and a new organization and citation system, including the reorganization of Volume 9 (containing guidance on US visa matters) into six sections.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has published data on the number of L-1B petitions filed, approved and denied in Fiscal Year 2015.  The USCIS denied about 25 percent of the petitions filed during FY 2015.  Perhaps the release of the USCIS’s updated policy memorandum led to a decrease in the number of denials, as compared to the 35 percent denial rate in FY 2014, but it continues to be dishearteningly high when compared to the 6 percent denial rate in FY 2006 (see the National Foundation for American Policy’s report). 

 

November 17, 2015: Green card lottery closed; H-1B issues

The application period for the FY2017 Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ is now closed.  Applicants should heed the Fraud Warnings on the DOS website and be aware that they will find out if their entry was selected only by returning to the DV Entrant Status Check from May 3, 2016.

The New York Times has published another article regarding how difficult it is for US start-ups to compete with large outsourcing companies in securing H-1B classification for specialist foreign workers.  Approximately 32% of all cap-subject H-1B petitions received by the USCIS in 2014 were filed by one of five companies who supply workers/consultants to US companies on an outsourced basis.  These massive filings make it unlikely that small companies filing only one or two petitions will have a petition chosen for adjudication.  (Ironically, the chief executive and president of the Times is a UK citizen and H-1B visa holder.)

 

November 10, 2015: New 9 FAM-e; updated information for new immigrants

The Visa Bulletin for December 2015 includes confirmation that the Department of State’s Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9, which contains all guidance on US visa matters (‘9 FAM’), will be replaced by the new electronic version ‘9 FAM-e’ as of November 18, 2015.  While the content of the guidance will not change, 9 FAM-e will include updated language and a new organization and citation system.

The USCIS has updated its Welcome Guide for New Immigrants, to include revised general information on policies, programs and resources, and new sections about personal finance, taxes and financial scams and about the US education system, adult education programs and the health insurance marketplace.  This is a helpful resource for people who have been granted Lawful Permanent Resident (‘green card’) status.

 

November 3, 2015: Global Entry for British citizens

As announced on the US Embassy in London’s website, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has today expanded its Global Entry programme to qualifying UK citizens.  This programme is an automated entry system which allows registered ‘trusted travellers’ to skip immigration queues at designated ports of entry in the US and check themselves in at a kiosk.  To register for Global Entry, British citizens must first be vetted by applying through the UK Home Office website, and if successful may then apply through the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES).  CBP’s plans to make Global Entry available to all Brits meeting the requirements were reported over two years ago, as discussed in our Weekly Update of August 13, 2013.

 

October 27, 2015: Latest quarter’s expatriates

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who chose to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status during the quarter ending September 30, 2015.  It included the names of 1,426 individuals.  This is the highest number of expatriates per quarter ever, surpassing the previous high of 1,335 people who expatriated during the first quarter of 2015 (Bloomberg News).

 

October 20, 2015:  Possible extension of employment authorisation for students; more DV information

In the October 19 Federal Register, the Department of Homeland Security published for public comment a proposed rule that would extend by 24 months the employment authorisation for some F-1 students who have earned degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses.  The proposed rule would also solve the ‘cap gap’ problem for F-1 students whose F-1 status and employment authorisation would expire before they could take up H-1B status on October 1.  The proposed rule would replace an interim rule from 2008 that was struck down on August 12, 2015 by a federal court on procedural grounds. 

The US Embassy in London’s visa blog has posted further information about applying for the ‘green card lottery’ along with a warning to applicants to enter their own information only at dvlottery.state.gov and not rely on other people or agencies to do so on their behalf.  They have also provided a slideshow presentation with more details.

 

October 13, 2015:  Green card lottery update

In today’s Federal Register, the Department of State confirms the entry period and instructions for the Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ for 2017.  It urges applicants not to wait until the last week of the registration period to submit their applications because website delays can occur if too many people try to enter at the same time.

 

October 6, 2015:  Green card lottery; consular systems upgrade

The application period for the FY2017 Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ opened on Thursday, October 1, 2015 and will end on Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 12:00 noon (Eastern Standard Time).  Applicants should read the instructions provided and heed the Fraud Warnings on the Department of State website, ensuring to check their application’s status online through the DV Entrant Status Check.  From May 3, 2016, applicants will be able to find out if their entry has been selected in the DV program.  For some additional information about the DV lottery, you may wish to look at our article Do You Feel Lucky?  US Government Now Accepting Applications for the Green Card Lottery

All US embassies and consulates will be closed to the public this Friday, October 9, 2015 to allow for an upgrade of the Department of State’s consular systems.  If you had previously scheduled a consular interview on October 9, be sure to check if you have been contacted to reschedule the appointment.  Those submitting visa applications after October 9 should be aware that delays in processing may occur due to the systems upgrade.

 

September 29, 2015: USCIS field offices

US Citizenship and Immigration Services has created new web pages for their international offices, containing helpful information about what services are provided at each office, instructions for filing applications, contact details and opening times.  Information regarding the London field office can be found here.

 

September 22, 2015: Senator Grassley’s concerns about L-1B policy memo

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa has publicly released his letter of September 15, 2015 to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), setting out his concerns with the updated L-1B policy memorandum that came into effect on August 31, 2015.  Having previously written to the USCIS to urge the agency not to make L-1B classification any easier to obtain (see our Weekly Update of March 13, 2012), Senator Grassley now writes to question the advisability of USCIS using the new policy memo to increase L-1B approvals, leading to the possibility of foreign workers displacing US citizens from their jobs. 

 

September 15, 2015: Updated ESTA website

Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) announced the launch of a new version of the website for Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”), which allows travellers from 38 countries to apply for authorization to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program—that is, without a visa.  CBP hopes that the more mobile-friendly design, easier access to frequently asked questions, and increased availability to translations will make the ESTA application process simpler for visitors.

 

September 8, 2015:  Loss of nationality fee change

Effective November 9, 2015, a $2,350 fee (“Administrative Processing of Request for Certificate of Loss of Nationality fee”) will be required by the US Department of State of all individuals seeking documentation of their loss of US citizenship.  Currently, this fee is payable only by US citizens renouncing their citizenship before a consular officer.  However, in today’s Federal Register DOS gave notice that it will expand the fee requirement to include those persons who are merely documenting before a consular officer the fact that they previously committed a potentially expatriating act with the intention of relinquishing their citizenship. 

 

September 1, 2015: Preclearance news; immigrant fee payment

Further to our Weekly Update of June 2, 2015, the US Customs and Border Protection has published an article with more information about the expanded preclearance procedures and the additional preclearance stations planned for ten airports around the world, including London Heathrow and Manchester airports.  The article discusses how these updates will affect passengers, airports and airlines. 

The USCIS has announced it is making it easier to pay online the $165 immigrant fee, required of people immigrating to the United States as lawful permanent residents.  The new payment process will require less information and will allow someone else to pay the fee on behalf of the new immigrant.  Further information about paying the immigrant fee can be found on the USCIS Electronic Immigration System.

 

August 25, 2015: E-filing USCIS forms; updated L-1B guidance

The USCIS has announced that it is discontinuing its legacy e-Filing system for the online filing of Forms I-131, I-140, I-765, I-821 and I-907.  All forms in the current system must be completed and submitted by September 20, 2015, after which paper versions must be used until the forms are made available on the USCIS’ new “Electronic Immigration System,” which is meant to be faster, more secure and easier to upgrade and update.  

Previously released for public feedback, the USCIS has finalized its updated policy memorandum on the L-1B nonimmigrant visa classification, clarifying for USCIS officers how L-1B petitioners may demonstrate the specialized knowledge of an employee being sponsored for the visa.  The memorandum will go into effect on August 31, 2015.  We will wait to see how the new guidance influences the notoriously stringent adjudication of these petitions.

 

August 18, 2015:  US government in Cuba

In accordance with the announcement on July 1 that the US and Cuba would re-establish diplomatic relations, the US Embassy in Havana was officially reopened on July 20, 2015.  In time for Secretary of State John Kerry’s Havana visit on August 14, 2015 for the flag-raising ceremony, the Department of State has updated its list of USCIS offices to show a USCIS field office in the newly reopened Embassy.

 

August 11, 2015: New security requirements for VWP

The US Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh C. Johnson, announced last week that new security criteria have been added to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in an effort to find out more about the people traveling to the United States visa-free.  These changes include requiring e-passports for all VWP travelers entering the US; mandating that VWP countries screen travelers using the INTERPOL Lost and Stolen Passport Database; and requiring that VWP countries’ governments consent to increased use of US federal air marshals on flights from VWP countries to the US.  An article in the New York Times suggests these changes are designed to combat a perceived threat from people from VWP countries who have gone to Syria and Iraq to train with Islamic State and other groups.

 

August 4, 2015: Latest quarter’s expatriates; immigration discussions with Bono

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who chose to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status during the quarter ending June 30, 2015.  It included the names of only 460 individuals.  This is the lowest number of expatriates per quarter since 2012—quite a turnaround from the first quarter of 2015 which saw the highest number of expatriates ever, according to Bloomberg News.

In an interview with The Irish Times, U2’s Bono paid tribute to the young people involved in last month’s collapse of an apartment balcony in Berkeley, California.  He spoke of the long tradition of Irish visitors and emigration to the US, including the opportunities available through the J-1 visa program, and of the challenges posed to immigrants by the current political climate.  The interview took place after Bono and Yoko Ono unveiled a tapestry on Ellis Island marking the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s securing permanent residence in the US. 

 

July 28, 2015: Biometric collection upon exiting the US; renunciations in Edinburgh

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has begun using a mobile hand-held device to collect biometric data from foreign nationals exiting the US at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  CBP officers will compare the collected data to the travellers’ information taken upon entry to the US.  The testing phase of the project will expand in the autumn to Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York, San Francisco, and Washington-Dulles.  

The US Consulate General in Edinburgh will now accept and act on applications for the renunciation of US citizenship.  Previously, the US Embassy in London was the only place in the UK where renunciations could be accomplished.  Please see the Consulate General’s website for more information.

 

July 21, 2015: A pause in the service

This being the summer holidays, your correspondent is travelling again.  Please check back next Tuesday for a resumption of Weekly Update.

 

July 14, 2015: SEC cracks down on EB-5 scheme; Premium Processing again available for H-1B petitions

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit on July 6, 2015 against persons who allegedly targeted Chinese investors for a multi-million dollar fraud.  The defendant company, which it was claimed held massive oil and gas reserves, was marketed as a route to lawful permanent residence through the EB-5  Immigrant Investor program.   The press release contains links to the Complaint filed in federal court in San Francisco, as well as to EB-5 ‘Investor Alert’ notices in both English and Chinese.   

Extension of stay H-1B petitions are now again eligible for Premium Processing Service, as announced yesterday by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.   PPS had been temporarily suspended as to those H-1B petitions while the USCIS geared up to process employment authorization document (work permit) applications filed by certain dependent H-4 spouses.  For details, see our Weekly Update entry of May 26.

 

July 7, 2015: A pause in the service

Your correspondent is travelling.  Please check back next Tuesday for a resumption of Weekly Update.

 

June 30, 2015:  DOS technical issues resolved

The Department of State announced yesterday that all visa-issuing US embassies and consulates are now back online, scheduling visa interviews and issuing visas.  In fact, DOS reported that 410,000 nonimmigrant visas were issued between June 21st and June 29th alone in efforts to clear the backlog caused by the worldwide technical issues.  The US Embassy in London has updated its visa blog, confirming the good news that nonimmigrant and immigrant visas, as well as US passports, are once again being issued, but applicants should continue to expect slight delays in processing.

 

June 23, 2015: Department of State IT woes continue

The most pressing topic in US immigration continues to be the inability of most US embassies and consulates around the world to either (1) evaluate DS-160 online visa application forms submitted on or after June 9 or (2) print visas that were approved after June 8.   However, Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs reports that as of noon yesterday a total of 22 visa  posts had been reconnected to the database required for visa approval and issuance.   The situation at the Embassy in London can be monitored on its Visa Affairs webpage.

 

June 16, 2015: Kerry v Din decision; Department of State technical issues

The Supreme Court of the United States yesterday decided the case of Kerry v Din, noted in our Weekly Update entry of October 14, 2014.  The plurality opinion, in which three Justices joined, held that the US citizen plaintiff had no constitutionally-protected ‘liberty interest’ in being able to live in the United States with her husband, a foreign national for whom she had filed an immigrant petition.  In the absence of such a constitutional right it was not necessary to decide whether the explanation she had been given for the denial of his immigrant visa application satisfied the Due Process clause of the Constitution.  Two additional justices concurred in the result, but found that she had been afforded due process and so there was no need to decide whether such a liberty interest existed.  The dissenting opinion, which four Justices joined, would have found both a protected liberty interest and an unconstitutional lack of due process.  Additional interesting and accessible commentary can be found in the Supreme Court’s blog

On June 12, 2015 the Department of State announced that the Bureau of Consular Affairs is currently experiencing technical problems with its overseas passport and visa systems, worldwide.  Due to technical difficulties in the systems performing required national security checks before issuing visas, visa applicants will experience a delay in processing as DOS works to resolve the problem and clear the backlog of visas waiting to be processed.  Additionally, some visa interviews may need to be rescheduled, in particular those from June 14 to 20 for applicants whose DS-160 visa application forms were submitted on or after June 9, as instructed on the Visa Appointment Service.  Applicants are advised to check the Embassy’s visa page for updates on the situation. 

 

June 9, 2015: H-1B visa holders replacing US workers; data on L-1B petitions

As reported in the New York Times, as of January 30 of this year Walt Disney World in Orlando laid off about 250 of its IT employees.  Most were replaced by non-US citizens holding H-1B visas (nonimmigrant visas for highly skilled workers in specialty occupations), employed by an Indian outsourcing firm.  Not only did the American employees lose their jobs, but they were required to train their replacements before leaving their positions.  Although 120 of those laid off found new jobs at Disney and about 40 retired, the high-profile story has reignited debate on the H-1B visa program and its effect on US workers.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has published data on the number of L-1B petitions so far filed, approved and denied in Fiscal Year 2015.  As of March 31, almost 30 percent of petitions filed during FY 2015 were denied.   This corresponds with the National Foundation for American Policy’s report, to which we referred in our update of March 24, 2015, finding that 35 percent of L-1B petitions filed with the USCIS in FY 2014 were denied, compared to only 6 percent in FY 2006.  It remains to be seen how the USCIS’ updated policy memorandum will affect these statistics.

 

June 2, 2015: New CBP preclearance locations

On May 29, the US Department of Homeland Security announced that it intends to begin negotiations to expand air preclearance operations to ten additional airports outside the US, including London Heathrow and Manchester here in the UK.  Preclearance stations, already found in 15 airports around the world, allow travellers to go through US immigration and customs procedures in the departure airport before boarding rather than upon arrival in the US.  A precleared passenger may then disembark in the US airport as if from a domestic flight, avoiding the inspection queues and delays in the US that sometimes make it difficult to catch a connecting flight.  The negotiations for preclearance also include airports in Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.  According to the press release, in 2014 nearly 20 million passengers travelled to the US from the ten airports proposed for new preclearance operations.

 

May 26, 2015: Employment authorization updates; premium processing

As of today, May 26, 2015, the USCIS began accepting applications for employment authorization (Form I-765) for certain dependent spouses in the US in H-4 status if the principal H-1B visa holder is in the process of seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status.  However, this change is coming into effect during a time of lengthy delays in the processing of employment authorization applications; the USCIS has not been adjudicating Form I-765s within the fixed time period of 90 days nor issuing interim employment authorization, as required by regulation.  In fact, on May 22, 2015, a class action lawsuit was filed against the USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security for these unlawful delays in adjudicating Form I-765s for qualifying nonimmigrant visa holders.

Even if the addition of employment authorization for certain H-4 spouses does not increase USCIS delays in adjudicating I-765s, it will at least affect the USCIS adjudication of some H-1B petitions.  The USCIS has announced that it will temporarily suspend premium processing for all I-129 petitions for the extension of H-1B status filed between May 26, 2015 and July 27, 2015 in an effort to implement the new H-4 final rule in a timely manner. 

 

May 19, 2015: Nothing to report

As we have no news from the US immigration world to report, ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on May 26.  Until then, we wish our readers a happy and healthy US Memorial Day and UK Bank Holiday weekend.

 

May 12, 2015: Latest quarter’s renunciations

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who chose to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status during the first quarter of 2015.  The list identifies 1,335 individuals—the highest number ever, according to Bloomberg News.  The Bloomberg article reports the widely-held belief that the increase in expatriations is due to increasingly stringent tax and regulatory requirements imposed upon US citizens living abroad, of which FATCA (the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) is the most recent.   

 

May 5, 2015: No more extra pages for US passports

The US Department of State has announced in the Federal Register a proposal to discontinue as of January 1, 2016 the service of adding additional pages to US passports.  The stated reason is that once the “Next Generation Passport” is introduced on that date, adding pages to those passports could compromise the effectiveness of the new security features.  As of January 1, US passport applicants will be able to choose between a 28-page or 50-page passport at the same fee; those who apply from abroad will automatically be issued the 50-page format.

 

April 28, 2015:  Embassy webchat; US doctors for USCIS-required medical examinations

The US Embassy in London will hold another webchat tomorrow, April 29 from midday to 1pm on the subject of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released an updated Find a Doctor locator to help green card applicants find local doctors in the US who are authorized to perform the medical examinations necessary to the application process. 

 

April 21, 2015: US Cluster Mapping Tool; Immigrant Visa Unit update

As part of the SelectUSA Initiative, the US Embassy in London has recommended that people looking for business or investment opportunities in the use the US Cluster Mapping Tool, created by the Harvard Business School and the US Economic Development Administration.  Doing so will apparently help potential investors or businesspeople identify industry-specific regional clusters and make informed investment decisions. 

We have been informed by the Immigrant Visa Unit at the US Embassy in London that during the months of May and June immigrant visa appointments will be scheduled for the afternoons, rather than the mornings as is their normal practice.  Persons previously scheduled for morning appointments in May are being contacted and told of the change.  Anyone needing a morning appointment will have to wait until July or later. 

 

April 14, 2015: H-1B lottery

The USCIS has now performed a lottery to randomly select petitions for adjudication from the nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions received during the filing period.  The petitions that are not selected in the lottery will be rejected and returned with their filing fees.  According to its announcement of March 12, 2015, the USCIS will begin adjudicating H-1B cap-subject petitions requesting premium processing no later than May 11, 2015.

 

April 7, 2015: FY2016 H-1B cap filled

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that since filing began on April 1 it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year 2016.  As a result, the USCIS will perform a lottery to randomly select petitions for adjudication.  It will no longer accept H-1B petitions subject to the FY2016 cap, but it will continue to accept and process petitions that are exempt from the cap. 

 

March 31, 2015:  L-1B policy memo; H-1B statistics for FY2014

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has now released its promised updated policy memorandum on the L-1B nonimmigrant visa classification, clarifying for USCIS officers how L-1B petitioners may demonstrate the specialized knowledge of an employee.  The memorandum will be posted online for a 45-day public feedback period and will then go into effect on August 31, 2015. 

In advance of tomorrow’s start of the H-1B filing season for petitions subject to the fiscal year 2016 cap, the USCIS has released a report on H-1B petitions filed and/or approved in fiscal year 2014. 

 

March 24, 2015: L-1B denials and policy guidance; no more technical issues

The National Foundation for American Policy has released a report on the high rate of USCIS denials of L-1B petitions for transferring employees with specialized knowledge to the United States.  Fully 35 percent of L-1B petitions filed with the USCIS in FY 2014 were denied, compared to only 6 percent in FY 2006.  Another discouraging finding of the report was that petitions seeking to extend the L-1B classification already held by an individual were denied by the USCIS at a higher rate than initial L-1B petitions, so someone who had already been found to hold specialized knowledge required to fill a US role could suddenly be told that he actually no longer fills those requirements.  These disheartening facts show how desperately needed is the L-1B policy guidance from the USCIS promised by the White House as part of the SelectUSA Initiative.

The Department of State and the US Embassy in London have taken down their warnings about technical issues causing delays in email correspondence and visa issuance. 

 

March 17, 2015: H-1B filing season; Department of State technical issues; new website article

Starting April 1, 2015, the USCIS will be accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2016 cap.  If, as expected, more petitions are filed during the first five business days than can be accommodated under the annual quota of approximately 65,000, a lottery will be conducted among the petitions received to determine which petitions will be adjudicated.  (The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of individuals with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap.)  Last year, the USCIS received approximately 172,500 petitions during the first week of filing.  USCIS has also announced that it will begin adjudicating H-1B cap-subject petitions requesting premium processing no later than May 11, 2015.

As seen on the US visa appointment scheduling website, the Department of State, including US embassies and consulates around the world, is currently experiencing technical difficulties due to system maintenance.  Visa applicants should be aware that these issues may cause delays in visa processing and issuance as well as e-mail correspondence with consular posts.  The US Embassy in London confirmed this by reposting its November 17, 2014 entry on its blog to give notice that it is currently unable to send or receive e-mail.

We have added a new article to our website: Promising Progress for Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Start-ups.  It discusses some of the difficulties facing entrepreneurs who would like to be able to get visas to live and work in the United States, and how their lot may be changing for the better.  We hope you will find it informative. 

 

March 10, 2015:  Updated poverty guidelines; medical instructions

The Department of Homeland Security has released new poverty guidelines applicable to all I-864 Affidavits of Support filed on or after March 1, 2015.  For additional information about the Affidavit of Support process please see our website articles A Beginner’s Guide to the Affidavit of Support and I-864 Affidavits of Support: The Problem of ‘Domicile’

The US Embassy in London has updated its online instructions for immigrant visa applicants’ medical examinations.  Its instructional leaflet was also recently updated, but applicants should refer to the website stating that four photographs will now be required for the medical rather than only one as shown in the leaflet.

 

March 3, 2015: US employment for some H-4 spouses

Effective May 26, 2015, some H-4 visa holders will have the opportunity to apply for employment authorization in the US.  As announced by the USCIS last week, to be eligible, the dependent H-4 must be married to an H-1B visa holder who either 1) is the principal beneficiary of an approved I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker or 2) has been granted an extension of H-1B status under a provision of US immigration law which allows H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the usual six-year limit.  The USCIS estimates that up to 179,600 individuals will be eligible to apply for employment authorization under this rule in the first year and 55,000 annually in subsequent years.

 

February 24, 2015:  Embassy webchat; Supreme Court case on immigrant visa denials and consular nonreviewability

The Embassy will hold another webchat tomorrow, February 24 from midday to 1pm on the subject of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. 

As we first mentioned in our update of October 14, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States granted review in Kerry v. Din.  That case, arising from the denial of an immigrant visa to the husband of a US citizen, challenges the general doctrine disallowing judicial review of consular decisions.  Yesterday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments.  For an analysis of the arguments, see today’s post on the Supreme Court’s blog.

 

February 17, 2015:  Giving up US citizenship

According to BBC News, London’s mayor Boris Johnson, dual US and UK citizen, has announced that he intends to give up his US citizenship due to the fact that his “commitment is, and always has been, to Britain."  In making this decision, he does not reference his necessity to pay US taxes, such as the outstanding US capital gains tax bill he reportedly settled recently (see our updates of November 25, 2014 and January 27, 2015).  Mayor Johnson is not alone in considering expatriation as evidenced by the Internal Revenue Service’s lengthy quarterly list of people who chose to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status during 2014’s final quarter.  It included the names of 1,062 individuals—the second highest number of expatriates per quarter in the last seven years. 

 

February 10, 2015: FAM updates; visa appointments in Canada; myUSCIS website

The Department of State has updated the section of the Foreign Affairs Manual regarding medical ineligibilities for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.  Among other changes, 9 FAM 40.11 N now specifies that people who have had mental health problems with associated harmful behaviour are not ineligible for a visa if a year has passed without any harmful behaviour related to their mental health disorder. 

The US consulates in Canada have upgraded their online system for scheduling visa appointments.  The new system came on line on February 1, 2015 and offers the most up-to-date availability of appointments.  Petition-based visa holders in the US looking to renew their visas in Canada should be aware that wait times for appointments will vary significantly by post and by season. 

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is developing a new website to help people get immigration information, identify their immigration options and find the right forms.  The new “myUSCIS” at https://my.uscis.gov/ will roll out in phases, starting this month.  The goal is to provide a convenient source for trusted immigration information that can be used anytime, anywhere and on any device.

 

February 3, 2015: Busy visa application season

If you need a visa to travel to the US for holiday this summer, you should consider applying as soon as possible.  As the Embassy posted on their visa blog, the summer months saw many visa applications last year, and the same is expected for 2015.  

 

January 27, 2015: Boris Johnson’s US taxes

As a conclusion to the story of Boris Johnson’s current US tax issues (see our update from November 25, 2014), the Mayor of London, a citizen of the United States, has reportedly now settled the US tax bill which he was refusing to pay last year.  We wish Mayor Johnson a happy trip to the US next month.

 

January 20, 2015: Embassy webchat

The Embassy will hold another webchat tomorrow, January 21 from midday to 1pm on the subject of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. 

 

January 13, 2015: Updates for land border crossings

The US Customs and Border Protection has released a free “Border Wait Time” app for travellers crossing into the US by land.  Directions to the closest land ports of entry, estimated wait times and open lane status for pedestrians,  passengers and commercial vehicles will be available with the app.  People who are admitted to the US at a land port of entry and receive a paper I-94 Arrival Record should also be aware of the new address for returning I-94s which were not handed in upon next leaving the US. 

 

January 6, 2015: Warning of EB-5 scams

The US Securities and Exchange Commission and the USCIS have jointly issued an ‘Investor Alert’ to persons interested in obtaining lawful permanent resident status through the EB-5 immigrant investor programme.   After describing some recent enforcement actions taken against EB-5 programme organisers the agencies list investigative steps that should be taken by every would-be EB-5 participant.

 

December 23, 2014:   A pause in the service

Your correspondent is celebrating the holidays.  “Weekly Update” will resume on the first Tuesday in January.  Please check back with us then.

 

December 16, 2014: Two court cases to watch

A Washington State-based labor union representing workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has been granted permission to pursue a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and challenge a 2008 interim final rule that expanded work authorization for foreign students studying in STEM fields.  The federal district (trial) court held that the union could challenge the 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) work authorization for STEM students on the grounds that the union’s members suffered greater competition for jobs than would have been the case without the extension.  Given that extending OPT for all students is one of the aims of the executive action announced by President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security on November 20, this issue will recur as the agency tries to balance the needs of students and those of US workers.

As reported in our October 14 Weekly Update entry, the Supreme Court of the United States will consider during its current term a case raising the question whether a US citizen’s constitutionally-protected interest in marriage entitles her to bring a lawsuit in federal court to force the Department of State to provide a ‘facially legitimate and bona fide’ reason for its decision to deny her husband an immigrant visa.  The Department of State, which sought review of the decision in the lower court, has now filed its opening brief, which can be found here. 

 

December 9, 2014: Renouncing US citizenship; G&M festive season hours

As comment continues on Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s refusal to pay his US tax bill, an opinion piece in the New York Times on Sunday discussed the columnist’s own reasons for giving up his US citizenship.  He particularly focused on the IRS’s strict, confusing and, some would say, unfair financial reporting and tax filing requirements of US citizens who live abroad.  If you are considering renouncing your US citizenship, you may wish to look at our website articles US Citizenship—Having It, Getting It, Giving it Up, Giving Up US Citizenship: Is it Right for You? and Adiós, Uncle Sam: Renouncing US Citizenship.

Our office will be closed from December 24 through January 1, inclusive.  While the office is closed, we will continue to answer urgent client e-mails.  Other requests will be dealt with as soon as reasonably possible.  We wish our readers a happy and healthy festive season.

 

December 2, 2014: USCIS statistics

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has released its latest performance statistics for fiscal year 2014. 

 

November 25, 2014:  Boris Johnson’s issues with US taxes; changes to US immigration enforcement system

Dual UK and US national Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, became the subject of much press, inspiring articles in The Telegraph, The Guardian, Financial Times and The Evening Standard, when he admitted to National Public Radio that he is refusing to pay capital gains tax required by US authorities for the profit gained from the sale of his UK property.  US citizens, wherever they live in the world, are required to file tax returns, report worldwide income and pay US taxes when necessary.  Our website articles Adiós, Uncle Sam: Renouncing US Citizenship and Giving Up US Citizenship: Is it Right for You? discuss how some of these requirements can lead people to consider giving up their US citizenship.  Mayor Johnson’s refusal to submit to US tax law has also added a new spin to his efforts to make the US Embassy pay its London congestion charge fines, reportedly totaling over £7 million. 

On November 20, President Obama announced his planned changes to the country’s immigration enforcement system.  A key part of the overhaul includes a new program for unauthorized immigrants with US-citizen children, about four million people, to gain a new legal status that would defer their deportations and allow them to work legally. 

 

November 18, 2014:  Embassy e-mail and payment issues; overhaul of US immigration enforcement system; K-1 and immigrant visa documents

The London Embassy is currently experiencing problems with their e-mail and payment systems.  Persons needing to pay for services at the Embassy should bring cash (US dollars or the sterling equivalent).  These issues may be related to a reported breach by hackers of the State Department’s computer system. 

According to the New York Times President Obama is planning to announce before the end of this year plans to overhaul the United States’ immigration enforcement system.  Changes may include opening more opportunities for illegal immigrants who are parents of US citizens, expanding immigration benefits for legal non-immigrants with high-tech skills and revamping a controversial immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities, which prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety and repeat immigration violators.  We look forward with interest to the eventual announcement.

The National Visa Center no longer requires original documents (other than the original signed Affidavit of Support) for processing immigrant visa applications.  The Embassy has thus released a new checklist setting out the documents required on the day of the consular interview for K-1 and immigrant visa processing.

 

November 11, 2014: US visas for Chinese nationals

The White House Press Office has announced that starting tomorrow, November 12, 2014, qualifying Chinese nationals will be issued tourist and business visas valid for up to ten years—the longest validity possible under US immigration law—and student and exchange visas valid for up to five years.  Currently, B-1/B-2 visitor visas for Chinese citizens are valid for only one year.  Under the new reciprocal agreement, Americans should also be given the same validity length for these types of visas for visiting or studying in China.

 

November 4, 2014 – New ESTA; green card lottery closed

Yesterday US Customs and Border Protection posted a new ESTA form that must be used, effective immediately, by all persons seeking authorisation to travel to the US on the Visa Waiver Program.  The brief press release announcing the changes did not specify whether existing ESTA authorisations would continue to be honoured, but the posted list of FAQs states that persons with current, valid ESTA authorisations do not need to reapply.  Although the CBP statement refers only to ‘additional data fields of information’ now required on the ESTA form, such as contact information, parents’ names and employment details, careful readers will see that the crucial eligibility questions have also been rewritten and augmented.

The application period for the FY2016 Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ is now closed.  Applicants should heed the Fraud Warnings on the DOS website and be aware that they will find out if their entry was selected only by returning to the DV Entrant Status Check from May 5, 2015.

 

October 28, 2014: Green card lottery closing; Embassy webchat; latest quarter’s expatriates

The application period for the FY2016 Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ will end on Monday, November 3, 2014 at 12:00 noon (Eastern Standard Time).  From May 5, 2015, applicants will be able to find out if their entry has been selected in the DV program by returning to www.dvlottery.state.gov.

The Embassy will hold another webchat tomorrow, October 29 from noon to 1pm on the subject of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.  Following the link will also allow you to check out the new name and look of the US Embassy, London’s visa blog. 

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who chose to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status during 2014’s third quarter.  It included the names of 776 individuals—the third highest number of expatriates per quarter since 2007.  

 

October 21, 2014: Nothing to report

Last week was an unusual quiet period in the turbulent field of US immigration law, with no developments of general application, so ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on October 28.  Please check back with us then.

 

October 14, 2014: Supreme Court case on immigrant visa denials and consular nonreviewability; E visa appointments update

The Supreme Court of the United States has accepted for review a case raising the question whether a US citizen’s constitutionally-protected interest in marriage entitles her to bring a lawsuit in federal court to force the Department of State to provide a ‘facially legitimate and bona fide’ reason for its decision to deny her husband an immigrant visa.  The Ninth Circuit (an intermediate court of appeals with jurisdiction over much of the American West) previously decided that it would invoke a narrow exception to the rule that consular visa decisions are nonreviewable, and ordered the government to give a reason for the refusal.  (Originally the Department had simply cited the 1000-word section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that allegedly justified the decision.)  The Department then appealed to the Supreme Court by way of certiorari and the Court, exercising its discretion, accepted the case for review.  A decision will be issued before the end of the Court’s current term in June.

The E Visa Team at the US Embassy in London has announced revised holiday opening times (since our update of September 30, 2014 below).  The unit will not see registration applicants from December 22, 2014 through January 9, 2015.  However, the unit will continue to see applicants of already-registered companies through December 23, 2014 and will resume normal service for these applications on January 5, 2015.

 

October 7, 2014: Completing Form I-9

The USCIS has produced a video to instruct US workers on how to correctly complete Form I-9 verifying their eligibility to work in the US.  Employers are required to obtain a Form I-9 from every new hire.

 

September 30, 2014:  E visa appointments; new website articles

While the US Embassy, London will be closed on December 25 and 26 and January 1, the E Visa Team will not see applicants for a more extended period of time over the holidays.  They have announced on Twitter that the last E visa appointment of the year will be December 19.

We have added new articles to our website: our annually recurring article about the Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery,’ Do You Feel Lucky? US Government Now Accepting Applications for the Green Card Lottery, and another with some thoughts on the impermanence of US green cards, Maintaining US Lawful Permanent Resident Status.  You can find the full list of our articles here.  We hope that you will find them helpful. 

 

September 23, 2014:  Green card lottery application dates announced

The State Department has announced that the DV-2016 ‘green card lottery’ will be open for applications from October 1 to November 3, 2014.  Applicants should read the instructions provided and heed the Fraud Warnings on the DOS website, ensuring to check their application’s status online through the DV Entrant Status Check.  For some additional information about the DV lottery, you may wish to look at our article Do You Feel Lucky?  US Government Now Accepting Applications for the Green Card Lottery

 

September 16, 2014:  New customs form

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has issued a new customs declaration form which travellers will be required to present to CBP when they arrive in the US from abroad.  While completing the hard-copy form on the airplane or upon arrival is still an option, travellers may now choose to complete the form online before they travel and then present the printed version to CBP when entering the US.  The CBP has also expanded the definition of family members, as shown on the form, and clarified the definition of domestic relationships to ensure people travelling together know whether they should file a joint customs declaration for items acquired abroad.

 

September 9, 2014: Visa options for fiancé(e)s and spouses of US citizens

The Embassy’s Visa Services blog has posted a story about an engaged couple, one a UK citizen and one a US citizen, going through the process of deciding where to get married and which visa to seek.  In this context, you may wish to take a look at our website articles for more information: Before You Say ‘I Do’: Options for British-American Couples, I Married an Alien, Get Us Out of Here: Immigrant Visas for Spouses of US Citizens Living in the United Kingdom, Unknown Unknowns: ‘Do I Really Need a Lawyer to Get My Spouse a Green Card?’ and Same-Sex Marriage and Spousal Visas as well as the newest addition, The K-3 Visa: Not Really an Option. 

 

September 2, 2014: New consular fees

As published in the Federal Register, the Department of State has set new consular fees that will come into effect on September 12, 2014 (see DOS press release regarding effective date).  While some fees will be reduced, such as the E-2 visa application fee and employment-based immigrant visa fee, others will substantially increase, notably the 422% rise in the renunciation fee from $450 to $2,350.  The Embassy’s visa blog offers more information about determining whether you will need to pay the fee increase based on when you pay the application fee and when you go to the appointment.

 

August 26, 2014: Statistics on nonimmigrant admissions; give CBP feedback on ESTA

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics has released its Annual Flow Report regarding nonimmigrant admissions to the United States in Fiscal Year 2013.  The report estimates that there were 173 million nonimmigrant admissions in FY2013.  The largest category of admission was temporary visitors for pleasure, including travellers entering on B-2 visas and the Visa Waiver Program, which represented 79% of I-94 admissions.  Mexican citizens made up 29.5% of I-94 nonimmigrant admissions, the most of any other country of citizenship, while travellers from the United Kingdom made up the second largest portion at 7.5%.

Representatives from the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will be in London on Friday, August 29, 2014 and Monday, September 1, 2014.  They will host focus groups to collect feedback from UK residents regarding the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website.  If you would like to participate, you can find more information on the US Embassy, London’s webpage or CBP’s website

 

August 19, 2014: Visa issuance backlog

The US Embassy, London has announced that they are continuing to clear the backlog of visas waiting for issuance caused by the Department of State’s database’s technical difficulties.  Our experience with the Embassy confirms the return to normal processing times.

 

August 12, 2014: Quarterly report of renunciations; visa reissuance program returns

The Internal Revenue Service has published in the Federal Register the names of those persons who renounced either their US citizenship or their long-term lawful permanent resident status during the second quarter of 2014. The list runs to 576; last quarter it was 1001. 

Certain holders of J, O and P visas are now eligible for reissuance of their visas without the need for another Embassy interview.  For a link to the Embassy’s ‘Visa Reissuance Wizard,’ click here.

 

August 5, 2014: Visa issuance difficulties subside; new information for people of extraordinary ability

The Department of State is making headway in its attempts to clear the backlog of visa applications that arose due to an IT difficulty.  The London Embassy has announced that normal processing has been resumed in most of its cases.

Today we have updated our article How to Prove You’re an Alien of Extraordinary Ability with summaries of the most recent available Administrative Appeals Office decisions, up through June 2014.  We invite you to review them for the light they may shed on evolving standards in this area.

 

July 29, 2014:  Visa issuance delays; Embassy webchat

On July 23, The Washington Post reported that problems with the Department of State’s database used to approve, record and print visas are causing major delays and backlogs in consular posts.  The US Embassy in London acknowledges the technical problems, announcing that the visa status check online will not be updated until the issues have been resolved.  The Department of State assures the public they are working to resolve the issues as soon as possible. 

The Embassy will hold another webchat tomorrow, Wednesday, July 30, on the subject of nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.

 

July 22, 2014: Nothing to report

Last week was an unusual quiet period in the turbulent field of US immigration law, with no developments of general application.  Please check back with us next week, when history suggests that there will once again be news to report.

 

July 15, 2014:  US visa validity

The Foreign Affairs Manual was amended on July 9 to show that the validity of visas should be limited to the validity of the applicant’s medical examination reports.  This is consistent with the immigrant visa issuance policies that have been in place at the US Embassy in London for the past year.  More information about the medical procedure for immigrant visa applications in London can be found in the Embassy’s instructional leaflet.

 

July 8, 2014:  H-1B visa applications; enhanced security for flights to US

Beneficiaries of approved H-1B petitions with an October 1, 2014 start-date may now begin filing their visa applications at US consular posts.  However, successful applicants should remember that they cannot use the visa to enter the United States until ten days prior to the beginning of the approved status period, as per the visa’s annotation. 

The Transportation Security Administration announced on July 6 that certain overseas airports with direct flights to the United States will be required to implement enhanced security measures.  Officers may now ask travelers to power up their electronic devices for inspection, and powerless devices will not be permitted onboard.  Remember to pack your chargers!

 

July 1, 2014: Visa issuance policy; cautions update

The Congressional Research Service has produced a new paper on US visa issuance policy.  The 22-page report discusses not only the process of pre-issuance security checks and the bases for visa denial, but also the respective roles of the Departments of State and of Homeland Security.  It is well worth a read.

Further to our previous Weekly Update postings regarding the London Embassy’s treatment of police cautions:  Although the Embassy has not released any statement as to the new policy it has been developing over the past year, some contours of that policy are slowly becoming clearer.  It now appears that the more recent the caution, the more likely it is to be treated as an admission of the underlying offense—and an admission has the same effect for US visa purposes as a conviction.  However, older cautions, from 2007 and before, may in the context of a visa application still benefit from the more lenient treatment as the equivalent of an arrest. 

 

June 24, 2014:  LPR statistics for FY2013; Embassy webchat; possible reasons for expatriations

The Department of Homeland Security has published a statistical overview of the 990,553 people who became US Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) in fiscal year 2013.  Sixty-six percent of the new LPRs were sponsored by family members; typically, 40% of new LPRs are immediate relatives of US citizens.  In FY2013 there were 12,984 new UK-born LPRs, 1.3% of the total.

The US Embassy in London will host a webchat tomorrow, June 25, from midday to 1:00pm on the subject of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.

An article in the Wall Street Journal of June 16, 2014 highlights the growing number of people who give up their US citizenship or lawful permanent residence.  It suggests that their decision to expatriate is often due to the increasingly rigorous reporting requirements (of both income and savings) imposed on US citizens and LPRs who live abroad.   

 

June 17, 2014:  Tips for new immigrants

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a help sheet for new immigrants as to how to find their A number and DOS case number (‘LND number’ if processing took place in London).  These tips are particularly useful when paying the $165 immigrant visa fee online with the USCIS’ Electronic Immigration System (ELIS). 

 

June 10, 2014: Naturalisation statistics for 2013; US immigrant visa processing; Automated Passport Control

The Department of Homeland Security has published a statistical summary regarding the people who naturalised to become US citizens in 2013.  Mexico was the leading country of birth of persons naturalising in 2013 (13%), followed by India (6.4%), the Philippines (5.6%), the Dominican Republic (5.1%) and the People’s Republic of China (4.5%), while the United Kingdom did not appear on the list of the top 20.

A helpful diagram has been prepared by the Department of State to help people understand the general steps of the immigrant visa process, whether the immigrant visa petition is based on US employment or a US citizen relative.  However, immigrant visa petitions being filed with the USCIS at the Embassy in London should continue to follow the separate instructions provided on the Embassy’s website.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has begun to allow US citizens, lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens and eligible Visa Waiver Program travellers to enter the US through an automated process at some airports.  Automated Passport Control (APC) will expedite the entry process by allowing travellers to use self-service kiosks to submit their customs declaration form and biographic information.  CBP’s website contains further information about APC, including a list of participating ports of entry.

 

June 3, 2014: Nothing to report

As we have no news from the US immigration world to report, ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on June 10.  Please check back with us then.

 

May 27, 2014: Embassy webchat

The US Embassy in London will host a webchat tomorrow, May 28, from midday to 1:00pm on the subject of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.

 

May 20, 2014: J-1 visa information

The Embassy has released a video for people thinking of applying for a J-1 visa to take part in one of the many Exchange Visitor Programs in the US.  It gives helpful information about the J-1 visa procedure specifically, but also shows what it is like inside the Embassy for all nonimmigrant visa applicants.

 

May 13, 2014: Work for some H-4 spouses; new form for Diversity Visa applicants

The Department of Homeland Security has published a proposed rule to allow some H-4 spouses to obtain employment authorization (‘work permits’) in the United States.  The scope is quite limited as the rule would apply only to spouses of H-1B holders who are in the end stages of becoming lawful permanent residents.  The change has been proposed with the stated hope that it ‘would lessen any potential economic burden to the H-1B principal and H-4 dependent spouse during the transition from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident status, furthering the goals of attracting and retaining high-skilled foreign workers.’ 

Applicants who have been selected in the FY2015 Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ will be required to complete and submit online Form DS-260.  This will replace the requirement of filing hard-copy Forms DS-230 and DSP-122 with the Kentucky Consular Center as all the information from those forms has been integrated into the new version of the DS-260, available for access from May 19, 2014.  Please see the Department of State’s instructions on the immigrant visa application process.

 

May 6, 2014:  2014’s first quarter expatriates; I-94 arrival/departure history; new website article

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who have chosen to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status. Those individuals numbered 1,001 for the quarter ended March 31, 2014: the second highest number of expatriates per quarter since 2007, behind only 2013’s second quarter which had a total of 1,130.

On May 1, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) updated its webpage for retrieving I-94 arrival/departure records.  Now visitors to the US can access a history of their arrival/departure dates and points of entry/exit (if known) going back five years from the request date.  As well as being a helpful resource to visa applicants completing the details of their five most recent US trips on their DS-160 visa application forms, travellers may no longer need to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to receive their arrival/departure history.

We have added a new article to our website: More About Visas: How Long Can You Stay in the US? It follows on from our recent article Four Basic Facts About US Visas in discussing the interaction between visas and approval notices that determines how long a visa holder is authorized to stay in the US on each trip. 

 

April 29, 2014: Statistical view of US immigration

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics has released its 2012 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics.   The 124-page Yearbook provides a wealth of data on foreign nationals who during the US Government’s Fiscal Year 2012 were granted lawful permanent residence, were admitted into the United States on a temporary basis, applied for asylum or refugee status, or were naturalized.  Among the interesting facts:  During FY2012 (October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) a total of 12,014 persons born in the UK became lawful permanent residents, representing just 1.2% of the worldwide total of 1,031,631.  Of the 12,014 British-born new lawful permanent residents 6,148 were the immediate relatives (spouse, parents or minor children) of US citizens, while employment-based petitions accounted for another 5,175 new British-born permanent residents.  The top five countries of birth for permanent residents in FY2012 were Mexico (146,406); China (81,784); India (66,434);  Philippines (57,327); and the Dominican Republic (41,566). 

 

April 22, 2014:   Pause in the service

Your correspondent is travelling.  Please check back on Tuesday, April 29, for the next Weekly Update.

 

April 15, 2014:  FY2015 H-1B cap filled and lottery performed

On April 7, 2014, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that since filing began on April 1 it had received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year 2015.  In fact, USCIS received about 172,500 H-1B petitions, including those filed for the advanced degree exemption.  As a result, the Service performed a lottery on April 10, 2014 to randomly select petitions for adjudication.  It will no longer accept H-1B petitions subject to the FY2015 cap or those filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption, but it will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap.  The cap-subject petitions that were not randomly selected will be rejected and returned to the petitioner.

In commemoration of today’s US tax return filing deadline we offer a YouTube clip of the 1942 song ‘”I Paid My Income Tax Today.”  Written by Irving Berlin (who donated the copyright to the US Department of Treasury) and sung by cowboy singer Gene Autry, it celebrates a citizen’s delight in helping to fund his government.  

 

April 8, 2014:  New website article; USCIS e-requests; press coverage on US immigration problems

We have added a new article, Four Basic Facts About US Visas, to our website.  It deals with some general issues about US visas, such as where you can apply for a visa, how many times you can travel to the US on a visa, and the meaning of visa expiry dates.  We invite you to revisit our Articles page shortly for the second instalment in this two-part series designed to explain some practical fundamentals of this surprisingly complex area of the law.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has expanded its e-request system to accept queries about USCIS-issued cards, documents or notices you believe to have gone missing in the post.  Please check the e-request website for more information on what queries may now be submitted to the USCIS online. 

Last week, our attorney Susan McFadden was quoted by The Times, Guardian, Independent, Telegraph and other UK media outlets regarding Nigella Lawson’s apparent US immigration difficulties. 

 

April 1, 2014:  H-1B filing season; Chile joins VWP; Embassy’s advice on requiring a visa to travel

From today through April 7, the USCIS will be accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2015 cap.  If, as expected, more petitions are filed during the first week than can be accommodated under the annual quota of approximately 65,000, a lottery will be conducted among the petitions received to determine which petitions will be adjudicated.  (The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of individuals with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap.)  Last year, the USCIS received approximately 124,000 cap-subject petitions during the first week of filing.

Chile officially became a member of the Visa Waiver Program yesterday, March 31, 2014, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement published in the Federal Register.  Holders of Chilean passports and an ESTA authorization can now travel to the US for business and pleasure purposes without a visa.  This announcement supersedes the DHS’s February statement that Chile would join the VWP in May. 

The Embassy has posted via Twitter a new infographic to assist people in determining whether they need a visa to travel to the United States.  According to the chart, an arrest, caution or conviction for any offense renders a person ineligible for travel on the Visa Waiver Program.  Our website article Travelling to the US Without a Visa briefly discusses this debatable point.

 

March 25, 2014:  J-1 visa problems; Embassy webchat

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights organization, has published a report about the exploitation of J-1 visa holders and the need to reform the cultural exchange program.  It discusses shortfalls of the J-1 program, including the lack of enforceable regulations for participants’ pay or working hours, employers’ use of the program as a source of cheap labor, and even vulnerabilities potentially facilitating human trafficking.  J-1 visa holders should review the pamphlet prepared by the US Department of State governing the rights and protections of workers in the US.  The pamphlet also includes details of organizations which can be contacted in cases of exploitation. 

The US Embassy in London is hosting a webchat tomorrow, March 26, from midday to 1:00pm on the subject of non-immigrant visas.  It appears that questions about immigrant visas will also be welcome.

 

March 18, 2014: Online FOIA request

The Department of Homeland Security has released a new online form for submission of requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or Privacy Act.  The new system will provide requesters with an estimated date of completion of the DHS response.  For additional information regarding records available under FOIA, see the DHS web pages on that topic.

 

March 11, 2014:  Report on nonimmigrant overstays; firm news

The Congressional Research Service has published a report about people who enter the United States on nonimmigrant visas and overstay their authorized period of admission.  While the report estimates that each year hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals overstay their nonimmigrant visas or enter the country illegally (with fraudulent documents or bypassing immigration inspections), it also points out that accurate statistics are unavailable due to lack of effective or consistent record keeping.

We are happy to announce that the experienced US immigration lawyer Katherine Chow has joined Gudeon & McFadden after years of practice in New York City.  Kathleen Kavanagh remains with the firm in an advisory ‘Of Counsel’ capacity.

 

March 4, 2014:  Chile to join Visa Waiver Program; updated poverty guidelines; Edward Gudeon Memorial RDC Service Award

On May 1, 2014 Chile will become the 38th member of the Visa Waiver Program.  As of that date eligible holders of Chilean 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.

The Department of State has updated the Foreign Affairs Manual to show the new poverty guidelines applicable to all I-864 Affidavits of Support filed on or after March 1, 2014.  For additional information about the affidavit of support process please see our website articles A Beginner’s Guide to the Affidavit of Support and I-864 Affidavits of Support: The Problem of ‘Domicile’

The Rome District Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association has just named its annual service award in memory of our late co-founder, Edward Gudeon.  The Chapter states that this is “in recognition of the late Edward Gudeon’s many years of AILA membership and immigration practice in London, his commitment to the development and sharing of consular processing expertise and his tireless efforts over his many decades in practice to improve working relationships between attorneys and consular officers.”  It is a fitting tribute to an excellent lawyer and human being.

 

February 25, 2014: New policy on cautions

Although a formal statement has yet to be released, it appears that the US government has completed reviewing its policy on UK cautions and has decided that cautions received for crimes involving moral turpitude or drugs-related offences will be treated as convictions for US immigration purposes.  If this decision is finalised, visa applicants with such cautions would require a waiver of ineligibility, even if previous visa applications had been approved without a waiver.  Waivers of ineligibility are currently taking 18 to 20 weeks from the day of visa application and consular officer’s recommendation.  Please see our articles A Crime Involving Moral Turpitude!  What in the World is That? and Washington, We Have a Problem! Ineligibilities and Waivers for additional information. We will report further updates on this matter when available.

 

February 18, 2014: US citizenship policies regarding ART

The Department of State has released a new informational sheet about children born abroad to US citizens using donor eggs, donor sperm or a surrogate mother.  This includes one major change from previous policy: if a US-citizen mother gives birth to a child and is the legal mother in the country where the birth took place, her US citizenship will be transmitted to the child, even if Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) was involved.

 

February 11, 2014: Mobile phones allowed in Embassy; possible reason for I-130 delays; 2013’s fourth quarter expatriates

Yesterday, the US Embassy, London confirmed via twitter that mobile phones are now allowed in the consular section.  However, large electronics such as laptops continue to be prohibited.  An updated list of prohibited items can be found here on the Embassy’s website. 

The New York Times published an article on February 8, 2014 regarding the slowdown of the USCIS’s processing of I-130 petitions for alien relatives.  The article suggests that resources once put into the adjudication of I-130s are now going to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (‘DACA’), President Obama’s program to give deportation deferrals to young undocumented immigrants.  Our recent experience with filing I-130s with the USCIS in the United States (rather than the USCIS field office at the US Embassy in London) shows wait times of almost 10 months, so regardless of the reason for these long delays, US citizens petitioning for their non-US citizen family members should plan accordingly. 

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who have chosen to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status. Those individuals numbered 631 for the quarter ended December 31, 2013.

 

February 4, 2014:  USCIS policy manual update; transcript of Embassy webchat

The USCIS has updated its policy manual to include a new section about US citizenship and naturalization.

The US Embassy, London has released a transcript of the webchat it hosted last week on the subject of immigrant and non-immigrant visas.  The consular officers indicated that the US government is still in the process of appraising its policy regarding UK cautions.  Applicants with cautions should continue to expect delays in visa processing, regardless of the type of visa or whether the applicant has previously been approved for a visa. 

 

January 28, 2014:  Immigrant visa statistics; Embassy webchat

The Annual Report from the Visa Office of the US Department of State makes for interesting reading.  For example, during FY2013 the Embassy in London issued a total of 4,172 immigrant visas, less than 0.9% of the worldwide total.  Of the worldwide total of persons who became lawful permanent residents in FY2013 through either adjustment of status or entry on an immigrant visa (but not including spouses, minor children, or parents of US citizens) persons chargeable to the UK numbered 6,513—just 1.7%.

The US Embassy in London is hosting a webchat tomorrow, January 29, from midday to 1:00pm on the subject of visas—immigrant and non-immigrant.

 

January 21, 2014: Nothing to report

As we have no news from the US immigration world to report, ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on January 28.  Please check back with us then.

 

January 14, 2014: Same-sex marriages in Utah recognized by federal government

On January 10, 2014, the US Department of Justice announced that those same-sex couples who married during the brief period in Utah when such marriages were allowed are considered validly married under federal law and therefore eligible for all relevant federal benefits (such as immigration).

 

January 7, 2014: EB-5 green card programme threatened; US Senator to renounce Canadian citizenship

A memorandum from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an investigative arm of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, outlines concerns that the EB-5 regional center programme may have been used by Iranian would-be terrorists to infiltrate the United States. HSI recommends that the regional center programme be eliminated as ‘there are no safeguards that can be put in place that will ensure the integrity’ of that programme. 

US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has stated that he will be renouncing his Canadian citizenship. Although he was born in Canada he claims never to have realised that he might be a citizen of that country.

 

December 17, 2013: Festive season Update

Your correspondent is celebrating the festive season.  “Weekly Update” will resume on the first Tuesday in January.  Please check back with us then.

 

December 10, 2013: Festive season hours

Our office will be closed from December 25 through January 1, inclusive.  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 3, 2013: Transcript from Embassy webchat

The US Embassy, London has released a transcript of its latest webchat which took place on November 26, 2013.  Some points will be contentious, such as the statement that “[a]ny individual convicted of an alcohol or drug related driving offense is not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) - they must apply for the appropriate visa to enter the United States. Failing to do so could result in denial of entry at the border and a permanent ineligibility for misrepresentation.”  For further information about these situations, please see our articles Washington, We Have a Problem! Ineligibilities and Waivers, A Crime Involving Moral Turpitude! What in the World is That? and Drink Driving and the US Embassy, London.

The consular officers also indicated that the US government is appraising its policy regarding UK cautions, so applicants with cautions should expect delays in visa processing: “Currently U.S. Government policy is under review regarding criminal cautions in the United Kingdom. Applicants having a caution may experience lengthy delays during the application process. Apply as soon as possible and don't make final travel plans unless you have received a visa. These delays will affect applicants who may have already received a visa in the past after disclosing the caution.”

 

November 26, 2013: Embassy webchat; I-130 processing times

The US Embassy in London is hosting a webchat today from midday to 1:00pm about nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.

On November 20, 2013, the USCIS updated the processing times on its website.  There has been a tremendous slow-down in the processing of I-130 immigrant petitions for US citizens’ foreign relatives, and the processing time for spousal petitions is in excess of six months.  In contrast, some US citizens eligible to file their I-130’s with a USCIS field office abroad, such as the office at the US Embassy in London, are enjoying processing times of under one month.  For further information on filing in London specifically, please see our article I Married an Alien, Get Us Out of Here: Immigrant Visas for Spouses of US Citizens Living in the United Kingdom.

 

November 20, 2013:  Third quarter expatriates

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who have chosen to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status. Those individuals numbered 560 for the quarter ended September 30, 2013, less than half the number who expatriated during the previous quarter.

 

November 12, 2013:  Honoring US veterans

The US Embassy, London joined President Obama in remembering and paying tribute to America’s servicemen and -women on Veterans Day.  According to the Census Bureau, there are 23.2 million veterans in the United States today. 

 

November 5, 2013: DV-2015 now closed; updated article

The application period for the FY2015 Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery’ is now closed.  From May 1, 2014, applicants will be able to check the status of their entries by returning to www.dvlottery.state.gov.

We have revised our article Unknown Unknowns: ‘Do I Really Need a Lawyer to Get My Spouse a Green Card?’  We hope that you will find it helpful. 

 

October 29, 2013:  Online form replaces DS-2001 for immigrant visa applicants

The Immigrant Visa Unit has updated their online instructions for applying for an immigrant visa at the US Embassy in London.  Formerly, applicants were required to file the paper Form DS-2001 to notify the Unit that they had collected all the necessary documents and were ready for their appointments to be scheduled.  Now, in order for the Immigrant Visa Unit to schedule an appointment, applicants must complete the online Notification of Applicant Readiness Form to show that they have submitted the immigrant visa application Form DS-260, scheduled the medical examination and are in possession of all the documents required on the day of the interview.

 

October 22, 2013:  Federal government back in business; Embassy webchat scheduled

After agreement was reached on a continuing budget resolution to fund the US Government until January 15, 2014 all federal offices are now back to normal functioning.  The USCIS has announced that the Government shutdown will be treated as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ for purposes of forgiving untimely filing of H-1B, H-2A and H-2B petitions.

The Embassy will be holding another webchat this Thursday, October 24 from noon to 1pm on the subject of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas.

 

October 15, 2013: No news during US government shutdown

As the US government shutdown continues, the US Embassy in London continues to conduct scheduled interviews and issue visas.   

 

October 8, 2013: Embassy services during US government shutdown; updated courier information

Although the US government shutdown continues, services and operations at the US Embassy in London are still running as usual.  The Embassy has issued a statement on the effects of the shutdown.

The visa appointment scheduling website has updated their list of courier ‘hubs located throughout the UK which are used for sending documents to and collecting documents from the Embassy in London and the Consulate General in Belfast.  Helpfully, telephone numbers and opening hours are now indicated for each hub.

 

October 1, 2013: Embassy open during US government shutdown; new articles

The US government has shut down today as it was unable to finalize the budget, but the US Embassy in London has announced that any government shutdown will not affect Embassy operations or services.

We have added new articles:  Same-Sex Marriage and Spousal Visas and our recurring article about the Diversity Visa ‘green card lottery,’ Do You Feel Lucky?  US Government Now Accepting Applications for the Green Card Lottery.  We hope that you will find them helpful. 

 

September 24, 2013:  Green card lottery application dates announced; Embassy webchat

The State Department has announced that the DV-2015 ‘green card lottery’ will be open for applications from October 1 to November 4, 2013.  The web page bears an announcement that same-sex couples and their children are now eligible to take part.  Click here to go to the Department of State’s Diversity Visa Program Instructions page for further information and application instructions.  Applicants should heed the Fraud Warnings on the DOS website and be aware that the DOS no longer contacts ‘selectees’ by post (and has never used email for these purposes).

This Thursday, September 26, the Embassy will host another webchat regarding immigrant and non-immigrant visas.  It is scheduled to take place from noon to 1:00pm.

 

September 17, 2013: A pause in the service

Your correspondent is travelling.  ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on September 24th; please check back with us then.

 

September 10, 2013:  Spread of the DS-260

From September 1, 2013, immigrant visa applicants filing with the US Embassy, London (and other posts around the world) must complete the new online DS-260 application form, replacing the paper forms DS-230 Parts 1 and 2.

 

September 3, 2013: New electronic forms for immigrant visa processing

Beginning today, the Department of State is transitioning to an online immigrant visa application.  Immigrant visa applicants who are applying through the National Visa Center in the US will now need to apply online at ceac.state.gov using Form DS-260 (Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration) and Form DS-261 (Choice of Address and Agent).  These forms replace the paper Forms DS-230 and DS-3032.  Additional information about use of the Form DS-260 can be found on the Department of State’s website.

 

August 27, 2013: Nothing to report

As we have no news from the US immigration world to report, ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on September 3.  Please check back with us then.

 

August 20, 2013: Opening times for Embassy’s courier hubs; visa reissuance program suspended

Under the Embassy’s new appointment scheduling and courier system, introduced July 26, 2013, visa applicants may send documents to and collect them from the consular section via 27 hubs around the UK.  We have been informed by DX Secure that these hubs are open Monday through Friday, 8am to 6pm, with the exception of the Belfast hub which is additionally open on Saturdays.

The visa reissuance program, which allowed some visa applicants to obtain new visas without an Embassy interview, has been suspended.  All applicants must now schedule an appointment and attend a consular interview in person.  There has been no indication when the visa reissuance program will resume.

 

August 13, 2013: Global Entry into the US expanded to Brits; both sides of the US citizenship coin

The US Customs and Border Protection reports that its Global Entry programme, an automated entry system which allows travellers to skip immigration queues at designated ports of entry in the US and check themselves in at a kiosk, is being expanded to include additional nationalities—including UK citizens.  CBP began accepting these applications on August 9, 2013.  It is currently limited to certain high-frequency travellers, but CBP says that ‘in the near future’ it intends to make it available to all Brits meeting Global Entry requirements. 

The Internal Revenue Service has published its quarterly list of people who have chosen to renounce their US citizenship or long-term permanent resident (‘green card’) status.  Those individuals numbered 1,130 for the quarter ended June 30, 2013. According to a recent article in the Financial Times those US citizens living in the UK who have not renounced their citizenship are being served by a rapidly-multiplying number of wealth managers specialising in expatriate US citizens in the post-FATCA world.

 

August 6, 2013: More guidance about visa issuance to same-sex partners

On August 2 Secretary of State John Kerry announced, to a gathering at the US Embassy in London,  that when same-sex spouses apply for visas, the Department of State will consider those applications in the same manner that it will consider the applications of opposite-sex spouses. He also made it clear that UK civil unions do not constitute ‘marriage’ for US visa and immigration purposes. 

The Department has released to the public a cable sent to all US visa-issuing posts, giving additional guidance on the subject. 

 

July 30, 2013: New visa appointment booking system for London; guidance from the USCIS re same sex marriages

The new procedure for booking appointments at the US Embassy, London went live on Friday, July 26.   To book appointments and pay application fees applicants may either call the Embassy’s Call Center or use the Embassy’s new online service at http://usvisa-info.com.  Additional information is available in the Embassy’s Visa Services blog. Please note one error:  The blog states that the fee for delivery of a passport to a particular address (rather than to one of the courier’s 31 UK ‘hubs’) is £30.  The fee is actually US$30.

A new FAQ from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services on the subject of same-sex marriages makes it clear that they will be recognized as marriages for a full panoply of immigration benefits, including K-1 fiancé(e) petitions and waivers of inadmissibility.   Same-sex spouses need not wait for new USCIS regulations before applying for these benefits.

 

July 23, 2013:  Welcome to the Prince of Cambridge

We join the President and Mrs. Obama and the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim from the US Embassy London in celebrating the birth of the newest addition to the Royal Family. 

 

July 16, 2013: New online appointment-scheduling system at the US Embassy, London

As of July 26, 2013, in order to schedule nonimmigrant visa appointments and pay MRV application fees, applicants may either call the Embassy’s Call Center or use the Embassy’s new online service at http://usvisa-info.com. Applicants requiring appointments for August and beyond must wait until the new appointment-booking service goes live on July 26.  Additional information is available from the Embassy’s Information Service web page.

 

July 9, 2013:  Visa appointments at the US Embassy, London; webchat

The US Embassy in London is currently scheduling visa appointments through July 26 only.  There is no indication when later appointments will be released.

The Embassy will host another webchat to discuss nonimmigrant and immigrant visas on Thursday, July 11 from 12 noon to 1pm.

 

July 3, 2013:  Same-sex spouses as immigrant visa sponsors

Yesterday, the Secretary of Homeland Security released a statement in response to the Supreme Court’s United States v. Windsor decision invalidating part of the Defense of Marriage Act.  She said, “[E]ffective immediately, I have directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.” The statement also mentioned that as a general rule USCIS looks to the law of the place where the marriage was performed when determining whether it is valid for immigration law purposes.

 

June 25, 2013: The passing of Edward Gudeon

We sadly announce the unexpected and sudden death on 23 June of our friend and former partner, Edward Gudeon. He was 73.

A graduate of Bucknell University and Fordham Law School, Edward practiced as a criminal defense attorney in New York for over a decade before moving to London.  In 1978 he set up London’s first law firm concentrating solely on US immigration and nationality law.  He was actively engaged in that practice until his retirement in 2009, and enjoyed the highest level of esteem and respect from all who dealt with him.   He took a great deal of pleasure in his too-brief retirement which afforded him the opportunity to spend more time with his family in both the US and UK and to continue his life-long hobby of photography.    

Edward is survived by his wife Geri, two daughters, two stepchildren, five grandchildren and one step-grandchild. 

 

June 18, 2013: Tips for filing an E-1/E-2 registration; passport control mistake

The E Visa Team at the US Embassy, London has identified five major avoidable mistakes and unhelpful practices which cause delays to their review of your company’s E-1/E-2 registration.

Most countries have quite stringent security and passport checks at airports these days, but sometimes things don’t go exactly to plan.  This article shows how a nine-year-old schoolgirl was allowed to enter Turkey using a passport that identified her as a pink unicorn.

 

June 11, 2013:  New use for USCIS online system; will foreigners no longer be ‘aliens’?

The USCIS has announced that immigrant visa holders must now use its ‘Electronic Immigration System’ (ELIS) portal to pay the mandatory $165 fee for issuance of their green cards.  The system is also used by some nonimmigrant visa holders to e-file applications to extend or change their status.

Many of our clients find it amusing that the US Government refers to them as ‘aliens.’  However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals—the appellate court with jurisdiction over federal trial courts in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee—has opined that the term is ‘offensive and demeaning.’  It urges Congress to eliminate it from the statute books.  Flores v USCIS, (6th Cir. June 4, 2013).

 

June 4, 2013: Preparing for summer travel to the US

The Transportation Security Administration, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, has produced a Summer Travel Checklist of advice for travellers during the summer holidays. Travellers from the UK may wish to also consult a recent article in the Independent newspaper: ‘Heading for America? Prepare for the longest US immigration queues ever.’ 

 

May 28, 2013: A pause in the service

Your correspondent is travelling. ‘Weekly Update’ will resume on June 3rd; please check back with us then.

 

May 21, 2013:  Wait times for Embassy appointments; USCIS Field Office information

If you need a visa to travel to the US, keep in mind the wait for a visa appointment before you book your summer holiday!  Yesterday the US Embassy, London tweeted that it has a 24-day wait for B-1/B-2 visitor visa appointments and an 18-day wait for F or J visa appointments.

USCIS Field Offices have new web pages which include helpful information such as how to schedule appointments and how often they hold naturalisation ceremonies.

 

May 14, 2013: List of renunciants published; immigration statistics

On May 8, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service published its latest quarterly list of people who have recently given up their US citizenship or long-term permanent residence. 

The Congressional Budget Office has released statistics and graphs on immigration-related topics, analysing trends in immigration and policy proposals.

 

May 7, 2013: Facebook chats with a Visa Officer; more visa statistics; immigration issues for same-sex spouses of US citizens

The Department of State’s Visa Office has announced that it will host a live Facebook chat on a hot topic on the first Friday of every month.  Questions of a general nature, not pertaining to an individual case, may be submitted in advance.

The Visa Office has also released its 2012 Report, which includes many statistics on the nonimmigrant and immigrant visas issued by the Department during Fiscal Year 2012.

A recent Financial Times article addresses the continuing visa plight of same-sex spouses of US citizens, including the implications for big business.  One senator is proposing an amendment to the pending immigration bill to provide visas for Americans’ foreign same-sex spouses.

 

April 30, 2013: Instructions for retrieving automated I-94 details; new procedures for applying for a Social Security card

US Customs and Border Protection has released a video to show travellers to the US how to retrieve their I-94 details online.  The automation of the form will begin at select ports of entry today.

The computerization of Form I-94 is also stimulating an update to the Social Security Administration procedures manual.  Eligible entrants to the US will be able to apply immediately for a Social Security card, rather than having to wait 10 days after entry, as has previously been the case.

 

April 23, 2013: Phasing out the I-94; Embassy webchat

The Customs and Border Protection has released more information about the automation of the I-94 Arrival/Departure cards, including a schedule of when the paper form will be phased out at different ports of entry, beginning April 30.  Under the new process for entry, the CBP officer will stamp the travel document with an admission stamp showing the date of admission, class of admission, and the date until which the traveller is admitted. Travellers will also receive on arrival a flier alerting them that they can find their admission record information at www.CBP.gov/I94.  That website will not go live until the end of April.

The US Embassy, London will host another webchat to discuss nonimmigrant and immigrant visas on Thursday, April 25 from 12pm to 1pm.

 

April 16, 2013: H-1B petitions; statistics on new US citizens and lawful permanent residents

The USCIS has not yet announced which H-1B petitions, out of the approximately 124,000 received between April 1 and 5, have ‘won the lottery’ and will be adjudicated.   

The Department of Homeland Security has released new statistical reports regarding the people who became US citizens and lawful permanent residents during fiscal year 2012. 

 

April 9, 2013: H-1B cap already reached for FY2014

On April 5, 2013, the USCIS announced that they had received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year 2014, only four days after the beginning of the filing period.  Because the USCIS received between April 1 and April 5 what they believe to be enough petitions to fill both the regular and US advanced degree quotas, the Service performed a lottery on April 7, 2013 to randomly select petitions for adjudication.  They will no longer accept H-1B petitions subject to the FY2014 cap or those filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption, but they will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap.  This is the first year since FY2009 that the cap has been reached in the first week of filing.

 

April 2, 2013: I-94 automated from April 26; immigration policy trends reported

Further to last week’s update, the CBP has published their interim final rule on transitioning the I-94 from paper to electronic format, effective April 26.

The Congressional Research Service has released a lengthy report, called a “chart book,” about current trends in US immigration policy, including increased border security and immigration enforcement, improved employment eligibility verification, revision of legal immigration and options to address the millions of unauthorized aliens residing in the country.

 

March 26, 2013: CBP to discontinue the I-94; Embassy webchat scheduled

On March 21, US Customs and Border Protection announced that it has submitted to the Federal Register a rule that will automate Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.  Currently, international visitors entering the US on a nonimmigrant visa must complete an I-94 and retain it in their passport as evidence of their lawful admittance to the US.  The new rule will automate the I-94 information so that visitors will no longer need to complete and keep track of the hard-copy form.  The CBP expects this to streamline procedures and reduce costs by up to $15.5 million per year.

The US Embassy, London will hold another webchat on the topic of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas this Thursday, March 28, between noon and 1 pm. 

 

March 19, 2013: H-1B lottery likely

The USCIS has announced that it believes it will receive during the first week of filing (April 1 to 5) more than enough H-1B petitions to satisfy the entire FY2014 quota.  If this is in fact the case, the agency will conduct a lottery among those petitions received during that week, to determine which petitions will be adjudicated.   This lottery procedure was last used in April 2008.   In order to deal with the avalanche of expected filings,  those petitions that are accepted for adjudication and which request Premium Processing Service will for purposes of the 15-day guarantee be deemed to have been filed on April 15.  

 

March 12, 2013: Embassy Twitter chat scheduled; Telegraph article about renouncing US citizenship

The Embassy will be hosting a Twitter chat about visas this Wednesday, March 14, from noon to 1pm.  Tweet your question, using the hashtag #USVisas, and get an answer from a consular officer. 

Our attorney Susan McFadden was quoted in a Daily Telegraph article discussing the increase in the number of Americans renouncing their US citizenship and the reasons for that increase.

 

March 5, 2013: Research on US citizens living abroad; no green cards for same-sex partners

A bill was introduced on February 8, 2013 in the US Congress that would require the establishment of a ‘Commission on Americans Living Abroad,’ to study how federal laws affect US citizens living outside the US.  Among the topics that would be studied would be the impact of ‘FATCA’ (the ‘Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act’) on the ability of US citizens to get bank accounts abroad.

And on the subject of US citizens living abroad: A recent article in the New York Times featured a gay American who was forced to move to London in order to be with his British same-sex partner.  US immigration treatment of same-sex partners was contrasted unfavourably with the straightforward approach under British law.

 

February 26, 2013: List of renunciants published; Embassy webchat scheduled

On February 14, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service published its latest quarterly list of people who have recently renounced US citizenship. 

The US Embassy, London will hold a webchat on the topic of immigrant and nonimmigrant visas this Thursday, February 28, between noon and 1 pm.

 

February 19, 2013: Affidavits of support; a delay is a ‘denial’

The Department of State has updated the Foreign Affairs Manual to show the new poverty guidelines applicable to all I-864 Affidavits of Support filed on or after March 1, 2013. For additional information about the affidavit of support process please see our website articles A Beginner’s Guide to the Affidavit of Support and I-864 Affidavits of Support: The Problem of ‘Domicile’ .

Further new guidance from the Department makes it clear, once again, that when a consular officer asks an applicant for additional information under Immigration and Nationality Act section 221(g) before adjudicating the visa application, the applicant must report this as a visa denial for ESTA purposes. 

 

February 12, 2013: US Embassy to hold ‘Twitter chat’ regarding visas

The US Embassy in London will be holding a Twitter chat tomorrow, February 13, between noon and 1 pm. The consular officer will take questions on the subject of visas; the hash tag is #USVisas

 

February 5, 2013: New poverty guidelines for I-864; DOS advises on waits for visa interviews and processing

The Department of Health and Human Services has issued its new poverty guidelines. These will become effective for I-864 ‘Affidavit of Support’ purposes on March 1.

The Department of State has created a new web page for persons applying for non-immigrant (temporary) visas.  It allows the applicant to compare the waiting times for visa interviews and for the post-interview return of the passport experienced by applicants at all US visa-issuing posts.

 

January 29, 2013: US immigration law reform? I-130 processing speeds up; Tina Turner to expatriate              

A bipartisan group of eight US Senators has announced a legislative proposal to reform the immigration system.  It would provide a route to legal status for millions of undocumented foreigners currently in the US, increase the number of H-1B visas available each year, and grant permanent residence automatically to persons who earn advanced degrees at US universities in science, maths or technology.

Processing times for I-130 immigrant petitions filed with the USCIS in London continue to fall.  As of January 24 the USCIS Field Office in London was processing I-130s filed on January 10.

Tina Turner has become the latest high-profile American to plan the relinquishment of her US citizenship. According to an article in a Swiss German-language newspaper she has been accepted by the local council and now awaits only formal approval from the canton and federal governments.

 

January 22, 2013: Inaugural address raises hopes for immigration reform

In his second inaugural address, given yesterday, President Obama raised hopes that immigration reform may be part of the legislative agenda for the coming two-year Congressional term.  ‘Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.’  For the annotated text and a video of the address,  plus analysis by the reporters of the New York Times, click here

 

January 15, 2013: Visa application status checks;  Homeland Security and Twitter

The Department of State now offers a website where applicants can check on the status of pending visa applications, whether immigrant or non-immigrant. 

Susan McFadden was interviewed on a Channel 4 documentary broadcast on January 8;  ‘Don’t Blame Facebook’ dealt with the dangers of careless postings in cyberspace.  Susan spoke about the case of two young Britons refused entry to the US in 2012 because one had Tweeted that he was going to ‘destroy America.’ 

 

January 8, 2013: New fee for immigrant visa holders; provisional waivers for some IV applicants with ‘unlawful presence’ bars

Beginning on February 1 the Department of Homeland Security will begin charging immigrant visa holders a processing fee of US$165 for issuing them the Form I-551 ‘green card.’   The fee will be payable online after the applicants receive their immigrant visas but before they use them to enter the United States. DHS will not issue the green cards until the fees are paid.

The DHS will be putting into effect on March 4 a new procedure that will allow some family-based immigrant visa applicants to apply from within the United States for a provisional waiver of the 3- or 10-year bar due to unlawful presence.   The new final rule was published in the Federal Register on January 3.  Under current practice applicants cannot apply for a waiver of the bar until they have departed the US and had their immigrant visa interview in the foreign country.   This often has the result, admits the DHS in its executive summary of the new rule, that applicants are separated from their US-resident families for over a year whilst awaiting a decision on the waiver application. 

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:

  1. The person is applying for an O or P visa;
  2. He or she has previously held that same category of visa;
  3. The last time the person applied for an O or P visa he or she gave a full set of fingerprints; and
  4. The previous O or P visa either
    1. Is still valid, or
    2. 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

B-1/B-2 

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)

C-1/D    

8:00 am

E-1 and E-2

8:00 am

E-3

8:00 am to 2:00 pm

F-1  1:30 pm

H

8:00, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, 10:00 and 10:30 am

I

8:00 am

J-1

11:00 and 11:30 am, 12 noon, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00 and 2:30 pm

L

9:00, 9:30, 10:00 and 10:30 am

O

8:00 am

P

8:00 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:

  1. If the applicant has a drink-driving arrest or conviction within the last three years;
  2. If the applicant has two or more drink-driving arrests or convictions at any time;
  3. 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

B-1/B-2 

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)

C-1/D    

8:00, 8:30 am

E-1 and E-2

8:00 am

F-1 

11:00 am and 1:30 and 2:00 pm

H

8:00, 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, 10:00 and 10:30 am

I

8:00 am

J-1

11:00 and 11:30 am, 12 noon, 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00 and 2:30 pm

L

9:00, 9:30, 10:00 and 10:30 am

O

8:00 and 8:30 am

P

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

 

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