Hello and welcome to the March 2010 Immigration Newsletter!
March is a crucial month in immigration. With April 1 just around the corner employers are gearing up to file H-1B cases for fiscal year 2011. There is a lot of excitement in the air. April 1 marks the first and only day of H-1B filing and with only 65,000 H-1B visas available H-1B petitioners are getting anxious. Many immigration experts are trying their hand at guessing if the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will the reach the H-1B cap this year very soon or will the situation be like last year.
The pace of cap usage for the upcoming filing season is difficult to predict because of several competing factors. The fiscal 2010 cap was reached just a few months ago, unlike in recent years when it was reached on the first filing day, so there is not likely to be the kind of pent-up demand that employers have been experiencing. At the same time, improvement in the economy and in certain industries could mean more new petitions subject to the cap than last year’s slower overall filing rate would suggest. Even though cap usage was generally slow throughout most of the last fiscal year, there was a spike in quota number usage in November and December, suggesting a resurgence of demand. At this time, all we can do is simply wait and watch.
Effective February 24, 2010, the USCIS changed the procedures for filing the application for employment authorization (EAD), or Form I-765. The Form I-765 now must be filed at either a designated lockbox or at the Vermont Service Center (VSC) depending on what category filed under. For the first month USCIS will automatically forward incorrectly filed applications to the appropriate lockbox facility (Phoenix or Dallas) for processing. After March 26, 2010, improperly filed petitions will be returned with a note to file at the correct facility.
The USCIS is also streamlining the processing of adoption petitions. The petitions, both Forms I-600 and I-600A, will continue to be filed through the Dallas Lockbox facility, but all petitions will now be processed through the USCIS’ new adoption team established at the National Benefits Center in Missouri. USCIS cites efficiency and consistency as the reason for the change.
In another streamlining move, the USCIS has also changed the filing location for Form I-824, Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition. As of February 19, 2010, all Form I-824s must be filed with a lockbox facility. As with the change to the EAD applications noted above, the USCIS will automatically forward improperly filed petitions for the first 30 days, after which they will return improperly filed applications with a note to file at the appropriate lockbox facility. You guessed it, this is another efficiency move.
It is not just the USCIS that is making changes in its procedures. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) recently issued a notice regarding a change in processing procedures for K-3 visa cases. K-3 petitions are filed for the spouses of U.S. citizens when there is a delay in completing the processing of the I-130 petition. Effective February 1, 2010, if both a K-3 petition and the underlying Form I-130 spousal petition approvals are transmitted to the National Visa Center (NVC), then processing of the K-3 petition will be discontinued by NVC. The NVC will process only the I-130 immediate relative petition. This will allow the foreign national spouse to enter the United States on an immigrant visa instead of the K-3 nonimmigrant visa. The stated reason for the change is that the availability and need for the K-3 nonimmigrant visa ends with the approval of the I-130 petition.
This move by the DOS is not without controversy, with strong opinions being voiced by individuals on both sides of the discussion. Some people believe that the I-130 is a much better option to start with, while others feel that the change in procedure makes K-3 visa a less attractive and, in many cases, superfluous option. Of course, this depends upon the speed at which I-130 petitions are being processed. It is always advisable to discuss the pros and cons of pursuing the K-3 with a qualified immigration attorney who can evaluate the options.
Other Developments in Immigration Law:
Greece Becomes a Member of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the designation of Greece as a member of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) – strengthening passenger information sharing and ensuring strict security standards while streamlining travel for Greek citizens visiting the United States. Greece joins the 35 nations already participating in Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Greek citizens will be able to visit the United States without visas in approximately 30 days.
DHS Unveils Initiatives to Enhance E-Verify
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano joined U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas to announce a trio of initiatives to strengthen the efficiency and accuracy of the E-Verify system.
Immigration Articles and Other Fun Stuff:
Now for the regulars – this month’s Immigration Article “Can You Travel To The US On A Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Or Do You Need A Visa” lays an emphasis on when does a national of a VWP country needs to apply for a visa instead of using the VWP to enter the U.S. The article also speaks about the eligible countries for VWP and requirements to enter the U.S. on a Visa Waiver Program. Also check out our In Focus section for this month entitled “Can One Get Married On A Tourist Visa” where we discuss all the pros and cons of getting married to a U.S. citizen on a tourist visa.
Every month we introduce a new and interesting question for our opinion poll. Last month’s poll results indicate that 66.67% of the respondents believe that proving a valid employer-employee relationship for H-1B visas can be a cause of worry for the U.S. employers. 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 Tahir Mahmood 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 Tahir Mahmood 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!