Hello and welcome to the December 2010 Immigration Newsletter!
VisaPro wishes all its readers Happy Holidays and a very prosperous New Year 2011!
Another year has passed and what a year it’s been! With 2010 coming to a close, we have successfully completed one more year with you. The year 2010 has witnessed many crucial changes in the world of immigration. We look forward to welcome the year 2011 and wish that the New Year brings pleasant things to all our lives.
Let us have a look at some of the interesting events that took place in 2010.
On December 20, 2010, the federal agencies released the rule making agenda for the next six-months. For the last few years, the USCIS rule-making agenda has included a plan for the initiation of “preregistration” of EB-485 applications even during the period of immigrant visa retrogression as well as an accompanying plan to terminate the procedure of current “concurrent” filing of I-140 petition and I-485 application when the immigrant visa number becomes current for the employment-based immigrants. These plans are no longer in the rule-making agenda released on December 20th. The new agenda released this month in the Federal Register, did not cover the entire program as described here. However, no information is available whether USCIS has completely dropped its previous plan to pursue termination of concurrent filing. Oftentimes, agencies will initiate a proposed rule making process outside of the semi-annual agenda which are officially released every six months. For now, however, it is a relief that USCIS seems to have dropped this plan.
The most widely discussed USCIS development i.e. the 2nd increase in immigration petition fees in three years, went into effect on November 23, 2010. Most of the fees increased on average by 10%. Notably, the fee for the Naturalization application did not increase. Furthermore, fees for EB-5 regional center designation and civil surgeon designation were added.
USCIS’ revised edition of Form I-129 was also release on November 23, 2010 and just become mandatory for H-1B, L-1 and all other nonimmigrant visa categories that require the form. The new Form I-129 asks questions that are very important in the H-1B context with an increased level of scrutiny for H-1B employers who place employees at client sites is reflected in the new form. Interestingly, USCIS has also added a question about “sensitive data” and the Export Administration Regulations and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and asks employer petitioners to certify that licensure is or is not required. Because of serious concerns raised by immigration practitioners and stakeholders, USCIS is now allowing employers to leave the question blank until February 11, 2011 giving both employers and practitioners the opportunity to examine the regulations and how it affects their employees.
And finally, the (really) bad news- the highly anticipated passing of the DREAM Act failed in the lame duck session of Congress. The most recently introduced version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was moved for debate cloture motion on December 17, 2010. Senate Reid needed 60 votes to invoke cloture. However, on December 18, 2010, the Senate failed to get 60 votes for the cloture motion for DREAM bill. DREAM is practically destroyed and dead not only for this year but also for years to come.
While 2010 was not a particularly good year for immigration, we can hope that 2011 will bring us better news!
Other Developments in Immigration Law:
USCIS Issues Final Rule For CNMI-Only Investor Program; The Rule Provides Status For Eligible Long-Term Investors
USCIS posted a final rule in the Federal Register that creates a nonimmigrant investor visa classification in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The E-2 CNMI Investor Visa allows foreign long-term investors to reside in the CNMI through December 2014. Petitions for the E-2 CNMI Investor classification will be accepted beginning Jan. 18, 2011. Petitions received before Jan. 18, 2011, will be rejected.
USCIS Revises Form for Naturalization Candidates Seeking Medical Disability Exceptions
USCIS has revised Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, for individuals with disabilities who are seeking exceptions from the English and civics requirements for naturalization. USCIS will accept the previous version of the Form N-648 for 90 days, from Dec. 22, 2010, until March 21, 2011. Beginning March 22, 2011, USCIS will only accept the current version of Form N-648, dated 9/24/2010.
CBP Issues a Christmas Holiday Travel Reminder
CBP issued a Christmas holiday travel reminder to remind travelers planning trips across the border this weekend into the United States to make sure they have their proper documents and to anticipate heavy traffic during this Christmas season. Border traffic volumes are expected to increase during this holiday weekend and all travelers are reminded of a few simple steps they can employ to cross the border more efficiently.
New Visa Procedures in U.S. Embassy, Mexico
Beginning January 10, 2011, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico will process visas differently. Under the new procedure, most applicants would have to, prior to their consular interview, go the Application Service Centers (ASC), which will be located in buildings separate from the U.S. Embassy and Consulates. The ASC staff will collect the applicant’s biometric information that will be reviewed by the consular section prior to the applicant’s interview. ASCs are part of a Global Support Strategy (GSS) aimed to be implemented at visa processing posts worldwide within the next two years. ASCs are to be implemented in large volume visa processing countries to improve the applicant experience.
Immigration Articles and Other Fun Stuff:
Check out our In Focus section for this month, titled 10 “Must-Dos” for Every F-1 Student and J-1 Exchange Visitor for Smooth Admission in the U.S., which is aimed to help F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors by presenting 10 very important things they must do in order to ensure smooth admission into the U.S.
Every month we introduce a new and interesting question for our opinion poll. Last month’s poll results indicate that 73.33% of the respondents think that post the recent electoral setback President Obama would not be able to pass a Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). We appreciate that people take interest in the opinion question and cast their vote to give us their feedback. Keep it up! And continue to cast your vote to express Your Opinion.
We congratulate Sandra Paul for winning last month’s Immigration Quiz. Again, we received a significant number of responses from our readers, who talked about various solutions to support their position, but Sandra Paul gave the correct answer and won a free online consultation to discuss the concerned Immigration issues. So 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!