Hello and welcome to the October 2013 Immigration Newsletter!
What we hoped would not happen in the September 2013 Newsletter did happen – The U.S. government shut down!!! The first half of October 2013 witnessed a federal government shutdown that lasted 16 days which was the third-longest government shutdown in U.S. history.
As feared, the shutdown significantly impacted certain classes and types of employment based nonimmigrant and immigrant visa processing. During the shutdown, the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) and their websites were closed. This meant that the iCERT Visa Portal System, which accepts applications for the Labor Condition Applications (LCA) and Prevailing Wage Requests (PWR), and the PERM system, became static. No LCAs, PWRs or PERM applications could be submitted and all pending applications were put on hold. The inability to file or receive LCAs had a significant impact on H-1B, H-2A and H-2B filings.
The OFLC iCERT and PERM system were restored on October 18, one full day after the shutdown ended. The shutdown, however, did not affect USCIS for the most part as the agency is largely funded by user fees. E-Verify, however, was unavailable during the shutdown and resumed operations on October 17. Consular sections also continued to provide visa related services during the shutdown.
After the shutdown came to an end, USCIS announced that it will consider the government shutdown as an “extraordinary circumstance” and excuse the late filings of H-1B, H-2A or H-2B petitions as long as the petitioner submits evidence establishing that the primary reason for failing to timely file an extension of stay or change of status request was due to the government shutdown. USCIS also announced that it will temporarily accept H-2A petitions that are filed with a copy of the certified TLC and signatures on the TLC submitted to USCIS do not need to be original.
October also witnessed another landmark event. The State of California passed a bill (AB 60) that would allow illegal immigrants living in the state to apply for a driver’s license. While the landmark law will go into effect on January 1, 2015, it is not clear yet how the new licenses will look or what the exact process for obtaining the licenses will be.
October saw the Department of State (DOS) transitioning to the DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application for K visa applicants, completely replacing forms DS-156, DS-156K and DS-230. During the transition to mandatory use of the DS-160 for K visas, the DS-160 is not required for K visa cases already in process at a U.S. embassy or consulate if, prior to October 7, 2013, either the K visa applicant was already scheduled for an interview; or, has already been interviewed and has been requested to submit additional documentation or is pending administrative processing; or, has already submitted a valid, signed, unexpired DS-156, DS-156K and/or DS-230 or received instructions to do so.
The Online registrations for the Diversity Lottery (Green Card Lottery) DV 2015 Program, which began on 10/1/2013, will conclude on November 2, 2013 at 12:00 noon, Eastern Daylight Time. No late entries or paper entries will be accepted. Further, only one entry by or for each person during each registration period is allowed and if more than one entry is submitted, the applicant will be disqualified. 50,000 DV visas are available for DV-2015. Applicants have been advised not to wait till the final days of the registration period to enter, as heavy demand may result in website delays.
FY 2013 saw US bring 69,930 refugees to the U.S. The DOS announced that that number is closer to the authorized ceiling of 70,000 in 2013 than in any year since 1980. The top five nationalities resettled to the United States in 2013 were Iraqi, Burmese, Bhutanese, Somali and Cuban. For FY 2014, President Obama has authorized the admission of up to 70,000 refugees from around the world.
Other Developments in Immigration Law:
November 2013 Visa Bulletin: EB-2 Advances Marginally for China
In the recently published U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin for November 2013, the EB-2 priority dates remained current in respect to all countries other than India and mainland China. The EB-2 priority date advanced from 09/15/08 to 10/08/08 in respect to mainland China but remained at 06/15/08 for India. While EB-3 priority dates advanced marginally for most countries including China, EB-1, EB-4 and EB-5 numbers continue to remain current for all countries. The F2A priority dates for all countries remains at 09/08/13 except for the Philippines which is at 09/01/13.
Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa Program Extended
USCIS announced that Congress has extended the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Iraqi nationals who worked for or on behalf of the U.S. government. The President signed the bill into law on October 4, 2013. The extension permits USCIS to approve petitions or applications for visas or adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident in any Iraqi SIV case that were pending with it or with the Department of State (DOS) when the program expired on September 30, 2013. USCIS may also approve an additional 2,000 cases as long as the initial applications to the DOS Chief of Mission in Iraq are made by December 31, 2013.
Immigration Articles and Other Fun Stuff:
Our ‘Featured Video’ for this month is “L-1B Visa for Specialized Knowledge Workers: A Complete Overview” in which we look at the term “Specialized Knowledge” and the L-1B Visa requirements to explain how an employer can establish a strong case for the L1B Visa. Please check out and subscribe to our YouTube channel to take advantage of another great service provided to you by VisaPro.
Check out our ‘In Focus’ article for this month titled “E-3 Extension of Status in the U.S.: Three Essential Things to Keep in Mind” to learn more about important considerations to take into account when filing an E-3 extension with USCIS in the U.S.
Every month we introduce a new and interesting question for our opinion poll. Results of our previous poll indicate that a majority of respondents (67%) thought that NVC processing will speed up now that the DOS has transitioned to the online immigrant visa application system. We continue to appreciate that people take interest in the opinion question and cast their votes to give us their feedback. Keep it up! And continue to cast your vote to express Your Opinion.
We also congratulate Cindy for winning last month’s Immigration Quiz. While we received more than one correct response to the quiz question, Cindy gave the best answer and won a free online consultation to discuss the concerned Immigration issues. It’s time to get ready for this month’s quiz. If you know the correct answer 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!