Hello and welcome to the December 2007 Immigration Newsletter!
Everyone at VisaPro wishes you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!!
2007 has been a prolific year for VisaPro. We added immigration services to Canada and five more European countries: Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and Spain. VisaPro’s global immigration is further expanded to Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and into our first South American country, Brazil. VisaPro is also proud to inform our readers that its presentation about Online Marketing Strategies at the Online Marketing Summit ’07 was a huge hit. Learn more about “How to become successful online – Tips from VisaPro.com“.
Getting back to the news for this month, the not-so-good news for non-immigrants this New Year is that all U.S. non-immigrant visas are going to cost them dearly considering the most recent Department of State fee increase. Effective January 1, 2008, the application fee for a U.S. non-immigrant visa will increase from $100 to $131. The reported purpose of this increase is to reduce the burden on the Department and help recover the costs of security and other enhancements to the non-immigrant visa application process. The increase applies both to non-immigrant visas issued on machine-readable foils in passports and to border crossing cards issued to certain applicants in Mexico.
Moving on to some of the interesting events that took place this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) have both issued reminders to the traveling public that as of January 31, 2008, all adult travelers will be required to present proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, and proof of identity, such as a valid driver’s license, when entering the United States through land and sea ports of entry. The DHS and DOS believe that this change is a required step to prepare travelers and relieve the transition to the future requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). What is the WHTI you ask? It’s not a new peace initiative or exchange program. WHTI establishes new documentation requirements for travelers entering the United States who were previously exempt, including citizens of the U.S., Canada, and Bermuda. As recommended by the 9/11 Commission, Congress enacted WHTI as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. Critics have noted that effect of WHTI on the scores of illegal people coming through the Southern borders will be about ‘as fine as frog’s hair.’
Talking about borders, the DHS is moving forward with several advancements in the construction of pedestrian and virtual fencing along the southwest border. They state that these advancements will add to more than 284 miles of fencing already in existence and will enable construction of roughly 670 miles of fencing by the end of December 2008.
The January 2008 Visa Bulletin has been released and most categories showed some forward movement. However, Indian nationals in the EB-2 category are having a tough time as the cutoff date retrogressed by two years, to January 1, 2000. Additionally, the EB-2 category for India could become “unavailable” for the rest of the 2008 fiscal year if the yearly limit is reached in the next few months as expected by the State Department.
Those traveling to the US through the Washington Dulles International Airport will need to keep their fingers open and not crossed as the DHS is now collecting additional fingerprints from international visitors arriving at Dulles. This step is being taken in order to enhance security and fingerprint matching accuracy. The change is part of DHS’s upgrade from two- to 10-fingerprint collection. DOS consular officers and DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers collect biometrics—digital fingerprints and a photograph—from all non-U.S. citizens between the ages of 14 and 79, with some exceptions, when they apply for visas or arrive at U.S. ports of entry.
On the legislative front there is still a strong movement for changes to the H-2B program, Even as efforts are pouring in from all quarters to push for an increase the H-2B cap and make the H-2B Returning Worker Exemption permanent, the USCIS has provided the latest H-2B visa cap count. While the H-2B cap has not yet been reached for the second half of fiscal year 2008 the count is adding up rapidly. The number of beneficiaries approved plus beneficiaries pending stand at 34,432, as of December 17, 2007 (the date of last count).
The USCIS is revising the filing instructions for the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130). As part of the continuing effort to streamline procedures and consolidate processing, effective Dec. 3, 2007, all applicants filing stand-alone Form I-130s are encouraged to file their petitions with the Chicago Lockbox instead of a USCIS Service Center. Petitions filed with the Chicago Lockbox will be routed to, and adjudicated at, the appropriate USCIS Service Center. As with previous filing this routing will be based on the petitioner’s place of residence in the United States.
USCIS gave some respite to I-551 holders when Press Secretary Mr. Christopher Bentley released a statement saying that ‘Green Cards’ (I-551) with no expiration dates are still valid.
The tragic California fires have left an indelible mark on all those who have lost their homes, employment and important documents. The USCIS is putting forth an incredible effort to assist and has directed its officials to give special consideration to fee waiver requests from applicants who have lost their residence and/or employment as a direct result of the October wildfires in Southern California and are now seeking to replace certain documents.
Now for the regulars — this month’s Immigration Article will focus on what needs to be done to extend your nonimmigrant status while in the U.S. Check out our In Focus section which will educate employers in the US about the changes to the Form I-9. We have again brought an interesting question for our opinion poll. We ask all our readers to cast their vote and we appreciate that people are taking interest in giving their opinion. Keep it up! Last month’s opinion was pretty equally divided. About half of the participants believed that giving legal status to illegal immigrants can help the government keep a closer track on them, whilst the remaining thought otherwise. Cast your vote to express Your Opinion.
M. R. G. deserves Congratulations for winning last month’s Immigration Quiz. Answers to the quiz indicated that many of our readers were slightly confused as to whether or not a foreign national can return to the U.S. after his or her Advance Parole expires. However, Mr. Ganjei gave the right answer and won a free online consultation to discuss his Immigration issues. So get ready for this month’s quiz. Your name might be featured in next month’s newsletter. All the Best!!!
See you next month with a lot more noise from the Immigration World!