Hello and welcome to the March 2006 Immigration Newsletter!
The immigration debate is underway before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. The Committee began its “mark-up” earlier this month to consider the comprehensive immigration reform bill proposed by Chairman Arlen Specter. We covered the highlights of the bill in the news item Comprehensive Immigration Reform debate begins today published on March 02, 2006.
President Bush visited India and Pakistan earlier this month. We were particularly interested in the President’s trip to Hyderabad, a city in southern India that has emerged as the hottest destination for software and IT companies to establish their presence. Since VisaPro’s Indian office is located in Hyderabad, we were looking forward to the President making an announcement of a new consulate in that city… and finally we got the good news. Our Indian office has been serving clients across the length and breadth of India, irrespective of their location, however, a U.S. consulate in Hyderabad will help us serve our clients in a more personalized manner.
During the last issue of Immigration Monitor we discussed about the CRS report on L-1 visa. I further reviewed the report and found it interesting to note that while the 107th Congress reduced the length of foreign employment for blanket visa applicants to six months, and amended the law to permit spouses of L-1 nonimmigrants (i.e. L-2 spouses) to work in the U.S.; the 108th Congress has made the regulations a bit stricter. The 108th Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act that places restrictions on the employment of specialized knowledge personnel at a worksite of an employer, other than the petitioning employer, under certain circumstances. The Act further reverted the foreign employment period of blanket visa applicants back to one year and also imposed a $500 fraud prevention and detection fee on H-1B and L-1 petitioners. There has been a great deal of activity in the 109th Congress, including proposals to establish a cap on L-1 visas, imposition of an additional $1,500 fee on L-1 applications, and requiring L-1 employers to submit LCA, however, you are already aware that none of these proposals found their way in the final version of the conference report of the proposals by the Senate and the House.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released poverty guidelines for the year 2006 during the last week of January. Our In Focus article explains the significance of poverty guidelines in filing an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864). We often receive various queries from confused applicants, looking for guidelines for filing an Affidavit of Support. As the article explains, it is always better to obtain professional advice if you are confronted with too many questions, than putting your application at jeopardy.
The flurry of H-1B activity is round-the-corner. Beginning April 1, 2006, the USCIS will start accepting H-1B petitions for FY 2007 (October 2006 – September 2007). I am sure employers are waiting with their bunch of H-1B petitions to file them as soon as the quota opens. We at VisaPro advise all U.S. employers to plan in advance and file early to ensure that they don’t miss the bus this time. Don’t forget to read our Industry Perspective article to learn more about the advantages of planning and filing early.
Janet Flores deserves kudos this time for a well researched and a comprehensive response to last month’s Immigration Quiz. There were at least half a dozen other answers which missed the winner’s podium by just a whisker. It was a tough fight between the final two; however, Ms. Flores’ response was selected as the winner because it is more interactive and comprehensive.
Over 31% of the participants in Your Opinion, our monthly immigration poll, anticipate that guest worker program will be the hot topic for discussion before the Congress during the coming weeks. About 25% are of the view that recapture of H-1B and immigrant visas will be the most important issue, whereas 24% think that removal of illegal immigrants will be the Congress’s top priority. What is your opinion on this month’s poll question? I will wait to see your vote.
I will catch you next month with more news from the U.S. Senate on comprehensive immigration reform, and various other interesting issues. Let me know if you would like us to write about an important immigration issue in particular and we will consider it for inclusion in the Immigration Monitor.