BCIS Soon to Provide E-filing for Certain Immigration Benefit Applications

In an effort to improve customer service and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (BCIS) ability to verify individuals’ identity, the Bureau is implementing electronic filing of some applications for immigration benefits. This new e-filing system, in addition to the Bureau’s current collection and storage of applicants’ digital photographs, signatures and fingerprints, will enable the Bureau to strengthen its security features and, at the same time, ensure more efficient processes.

Online applications will soon be available for Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and Form I-90 (Application for Replacement of Green Card). These two forms account for nearly 30 percent of all benefit applications filed with the BCIS. Over the next few years, BCIS will provide online filing for all immigration benefit forms.

Applicants or their representatives can submit applications at any time, from any web location. Applicants will immediately receive electronic confirmation of receipt of the application. They can then schedule an appointment to visit an Application Support Center to provide a digital photograph, signature, and fingerprint.

BCIS plans to release the following online forms in Fall 2003:

Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) Form I-821 (Application for Temporary Protected Status) Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing)

For more information, visit the BCIS website at http://www.bcis.gov.

Timing for Fingerprints for CSC Adjustment Cases

The California Service Center has changed the timing of fingerprint appointments for pending I-485 applications. They will now schedule print appointments approximately 9 months after the I-485 is filed. The CSC has instituted this change to avoid having the prints expire by the time the case is adjudicated.

President Bush Authorizes Use of Up To $22 Million for Refugee Assistance in the Middle East

In a statement signed March 20, 2003, President Bush authorized the use of up to $22 million for use in refugee assistance in the Middle East. These funds, made available from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund, are to be used, according to the President, “to meet unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs that are anticipated in the event of a future humanitarian emergency in the Middle East.”

The President’s use of the term “humanitarian emergency” specifically applies to the current situation in Iraq. In his statement published in the Federal Register, Bush also specified use of these funds for contributions to international, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, along with administrative expenses accrued by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration related to the dispersal of these funds.

BCIS Clarifies Work Status of Asylees and Refugees

The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) recently mailed a memorandum to their regional directors clarifying the employment authorization status of asylees and refugees in the United States. According to the BCIS, there has been some confusion regarding employment authorization status for these cases. While employment authorization regulations seem to state that asylees and refugees must apply for employment authorization (EAD, Forms I-766 or I-688B) prior to being eligible to work in the U.S., the law states otherwise. Asylees and refugees do not need an EAD to be eligible to work in the U.S.; aliens who have been granted asylum or refugee status are authorized to work in the U.S. upon receipt of that status.

According to William Yates, Acting Associate Director, Operations, BCIS, “Once an individual receives asylee [or refugee] status, by regulation, that asylee is authorized to work as of the date of the grant. This is true regardless of whether the Service has issued the asylee an EAD.”

There are, however, certain instances, where asylees and refugees may wish to seek an EAD from the BCIS, according to Yates. These include “to satisfy the identity and employment authorization documentation requirements of the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification form, the registration requirements of INA 264(e), or the requirements of a state benefits or licensing agency.” It is important to note, however, that failure to obtain an EAD from the BCIS in no way affects employment authorization for asylees or refugees.