INS Announces Revisions in Fees

WASHINGTON D.C. – The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) announced revisions to its fees for immigration benefits and services. The new fees are published in Federal Register and will become effective from February 19, 2002; 60 days after publication.

Federal guidelines require INS to review fees every two years to ensure that it is recovering the costs of providing immigration services, rather than supporting those services with tax revenue. INS last reviewed and revised fees in Fiscal Year (FY) 1999. The average fee increase of $20 per application adjusts for inflation and recovers the costs of infrastructure investments that are not included in the current fee levels. The fee adjustment provides INS with the funding needed to process new immigration petitions and applications in a timely manner.

“This adjustment is key to INS’ dedication to provide accurate immigration information and benefits to customers in a courteous and professional manner “ said William Yates, INS’ Executive Associate Commissioner for Immigration Services. “We are committed to making every effort to process INS applications in a timely manner and help people move one step closer to living the American dream.”

INS will continue to accept and process applications and petitions with the old fees until February 19, 2002; when the new fees take effect. In certain circumstances, INS has the ability to waive fees. More information can be found on the INS website http://www.INS.gov; INS website

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Changes to IV Packet System for Immigrant Visa Processing

1. The IV packet system is being eliminated in favor of a simpler system of standardized mailings and more explicit provision for the use of Internet and other electronic resources when appropriate. The procedural notes in 9 FAM Volume 42 dealing with immigrant visa processing has been revised to reflect these changes and will be updated in the next release of Inserts.

2. Although the IV packet system has served well for over forty years with relatively few changes, the ease with which information can now be maintained and shared electronically makes the linear, rationed approach to immigrant visa information less useful. The numbered packets, many of which are no longer used by consular sections and rarely seen by applicants, were also the source of some confusion. The numbered packet system has therefore been eliminated. Packets 1, 2, 2a and 3a no longer exist. Standardized information sheets should be used to respond to queries as discussed below. The old Packet 3 has now been renamed the “Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants.” Packet 4 is referred to as the “Appointment Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants.” Packet 4a, important as the mailing that initiates the termination process, is now referred to as the “Follow-Up Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants.”

3. Automated consular systems will continue to refer to standard information packages by their old packet numbers for the time being.

4. The DSL series information sheets are obsolete and should no longer be used. Instead, information sheets identified by title and date have been drafted and are available on the CA Intranet by clicking on the “IV” link. These information sheets are referenced in the revised FAM notes, but copies of this information will no longer be maintained in the FAM. Instead, consular personnel should consider the text available on the Intranet site to be the definitive text. Every effort will be made to ensure that content of the CA Internet site mirrors that maintained on the Intranet, but in the event of any discrepancy, posts are reminded that the Intranet remains the definitive source of visa information. These information sheets and the forms posted on the Intranet site may be e-mailed to inquirers and IV applicants as requested. They may also be printed on demand at smaller volume posts. Larger volume IV operations should use these information sheets as master documents and continue to print in bulk those most commonly used.

5. VO is working with CSD on changes to the format of Appendix C that will make it easier to maintain and share post-specific IV processing information. The post should print country-specific portions of Appendix C from the online version of Appendix C whenever this information is requested.

6. The old OF-169 (the “Packet 3 checklist,” renumbered DS-2001 last year) has been redesigned. The information concerning documents required for IV application has been separated out into an information sheet entitled “Instructions for Immigrant Visa Applicants.” This document, covered by the form letter generated by the automated IV system, will become the basic component of the new “Instruction Package for Immigrant Visa Applicants.” The DS-2001 has been redesigned as a one- page optional form to be used by applicants or their agents to notify post or NVC that they are ready for interview. The revised DS-2001 is now with OMB for approval and will be distributed and posted on the Intranet as soon as available. In the meantime, posts may feel free to use either the current DS-2001 or the revised “Instructions for Immigrant Visa Applicants” (posted on the CA Intranet) but should not use both forms, as this would cause confusion. The new DS-2001 cannot be used until approved by OMB.

7. Revision of 9 FAM 42 procedural notes to remove references to “rationing” or piecemeal provision of information to IV applicants have been done. But IV processing posts are still required to provide the “Instruction Package” and “Appointment Package” at the appropriate stage in the IV process, this information may be provided to all inquirers, applicant or not, prepared or not, at any time. The forms and information sheets used in the IV process are public documents widely available on the Internet. Although consular officers will still need to stress to IV applicants the need to proceed through the IV process in a linear manner to avoid confusion, all information should be made available upon request.

8. Septel will provide guidance on further FAM changes concerning the definition of “documentarily qualified” and various pre-screening measures that may be used in the IV process.

9. For Further queries and comments are welcome and should be addressed to CA/VO Tony Edson.

Golden State Transportation Bus Company Charged In Migrant Smuggling Case

WASHINGTON, D.C- Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and theFederal Bureau Investigation (FBI) have disrupted the largest illegal aliensmuggling ring involving a commercial bus company announced Attorney General John Ashcroft .The joint investigation conducted by the INS and FBI has led to the indictment of the principal officers of Golden StateTransportation, a Los Angeles-based regional bus company, and more than 30 company employees, and one of the largest asset forfeiture involving alien smuggling.

The indictments unsealed in U.S. District Court in Tucson, Arizona allege that Golden State Transportation conspired with migrant smugglers to move hundreds of undocumented immigrants every month from the southwest border to destinations nationwide. The two-year probe, initiated by the Tucson Border Patrol Sector, included an investigation of Golden State Transportation’s operations in Arizona, California and Colorado.

“Migrant smuggling circumvents the legal immigration process for profit,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft. “I have seen first hand the life threatening and oppressive conditions that confront people trying to cross the border illegally. Today’s indictment underscores our commitment to prosecute migrant smugglers, seek forfeiture of their illegal profits, and
put them out of business.”

The indictment alleges that Golden State Transportation generated a substantial amount of its annual revenue by transporting undocumented immigrants from the U.S.-Mexico border to cities in the nation’s interior, primarily Los Angeles, Denver, and Yakima, Washington. In addition, the indictment describes how Golden State Transportation routinely permitted migrant smugglers to purchase large blocks of tickets in advance and scheduled bus departures and arrivals late at night to prevent detection by law enforcement.

The Golden State Transportation employees charged initially in this case represent corporate officers and senior management in the company’s corporate structure. Incorporated in 1989, Golden State transportation offers service to several southwestern states as well as Mexico. In addition, the company operates bus terminals in a number of major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Denver, El Paso, Albuquerque, Tucson, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.

“This case reaffirms our commitment to disrupt migrant smuggling on all fronts, from the border to the boardroom,” said INS Commissioner James Ziglar. “The United States Attorney’s Office will vigorously prosecute those who smuggle illegal aliens into the United States or harbor or transport them,” said Paul Charlton, United States Attorney for the District of Arizona.

INS and Border Patrol agents made arrests in seven states and executed nearly 20 search warrants during the last two days. The actions took place in Los Angeles, Fresno, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and Denver.

The United States Attorney’s Office in Tucson has obtained a restraining order prohibiting Golden State Transportation from disposing of its assets, such as buses and terminals. The restraining order allows Golden State Transportation to continue its lawful operations while the investigation is ongoing. Beyond that, authorities are seeking to seize and forfeit Golden
State Transportation assets associated with illegal activity, including vehicles, real estate, and bank accounts.

U.S Labor Department allows electronic filing of LCAs

The U.S. Department of Labor has announced that it is implementing a new system to allow web-based filing of Labor Condition Applications. This new rule, which will not go into effect until January 14, should make the process of applying for and receiving an approved LCA significantly faster.

Employers seeking to hire highly skilled, temporary foreign workers Under the H-1B visa program will be able to fill out the requisite Labor Condition Applications electronically under a new Labor Department rule issued this week. In addition to filing labor condition applications (LCAs) by facsimile transmission or by mail, employers will be given the option of using an electronic filing system under the new rule, scheduled for publication in the Dec. 5 Federal Register and effective Jan. 14. Intended to improve customer service, the rule will allow employers to submit their LCAs electronically on a Labor Department Web site.

“Employers will find the electronic filing system more convenient and less burdensome, since, unlike a system based on filing applications by FAX or by mail, the new system will allow the filing of an application without the submission of a ‘hard copy,’ ” according to the rule. Electronic filing will enable DOL’s Employment and Training Administration to process LCAs more efficiently, “without the technical and administrative uncertainties inherent in the technology currently available to process applications that are submitted by FAX,” the rule said.

Employers seeking to hire under the H-1B visa program must first complete an LCA to provide certain information to the Labor Department regarding wages, working conditions, and benefits available to the foreign workers.

Employers that are dependent on H-1B workers or who have been found in violation of the visa program’s requirements also must attest on the LCAs that they have sought to recruit U.S. workers, to offer positions to U.S. workers who are equally or better qualified than the H-1B workers, and to avoid Displacement of U.S. workers.

The new labor condition application form (Form ETA 9035-E) and electronic submission and certification system will be accessible on a DOL Web site-www.lca.doleta.gov-currently under development. “Because the electronic filing system includes guidance to the employers in filling out their LCAs ‘on line,’ the LCAs will have fewer incomplete or obviously inaccurate entries and will, therefore, ordinarily be acceptable for immediate electronic certification,” according to the rule.

Accompanying the new rule is a request for comments to the Office of Management and Budget regarding new information collection provisions related to Form ETA 9035-E. Affected parties do not have to comply with the rule’s revised information collection requirements until the Labor Department publishes a notice approving the revisions in the Federal Register.

INS Provides guidance on Social Security Number and H-1B Petitions

Washington: The Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) issued a memorandum to provide field offices with guidance on the adjudication of H-1B petitions where the beneficiary is unable to obtain a state license because he or she is not in possession of a social security card.

According to the regulations of social security Administration (SSA), an H-1B alien is not able to obtain a social security card unless they are physically present in the United States. There are cases where some H-1B petitions in these cases have been denied because the alien beneficiary has not received his or her license.

This issue has arisen regarding the adjudication of H-1B petitions filed for certain public high school teachers. In the case of the teachers, the INS has been receiving H-1B petitions filed on behalf of public school teachers that are not supported by the required license. The teachers are unable to obtain licensure solely because they cannot obtain a social security card because they are not physically present in the U.S.

To accommodate the needs of H-1B petitioners, INS officers involved in the adjudication of H-1B petitions are given the following guidance.

An H-1B petition filed on behalf of an alien beneficiary who does not have a valid state license shall be approved for a period of 1 year provided that the only obstacle to obtaining state licensure is the fact that the alien cannot obtain a social security card from the SSA. Petitions filed must clearly state that the only obstacle to the issuance of state licensure is the lack of a social security card. The Petitioner must establish that all the regulatory and statutory requirements for the occupation have been met. The Adjudicator should determine the alien files the required license, else the application should be denied.

INS officers should continue to approve H petitions that require state licensure when the only obstacle to obtaining the license is the alien’s lack of physical presence.

If additional information required, please contact Adjudications Officer John W Brown at 202-616-7435.