USCIS Extends Medical Certifications For Some Adjustment Of Status Applicants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a memorandum that extends the validity of civil surgeon endorsements on Form I-693 for some adjustment of status applicants. Due to a continuing backlog of applications for adjustment of status, the USCIS has extended the validity of this endorsement, when filed along with Form I-485, until January 1, 2005. This extension does not apply to any individual certified with a Class A or Class B medical condition.

These civil surgeon endorsements are typically valid for a period of one year. However, it appears that some adjustment of status applications remain pending for periods longer than one year. This extension, valid until January 1, 2005, is an attempt to address this situation.

The majority of applicants for adjustment of status are required by the USCIS to have a medical examination. This examination must be conducted by a civil surgeon, designated by the USCIS for this role. Form I-693, the Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status, is utilized to document this examination.

DHS Extends Religious Worker Classification/Visa for Five Years

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a notice informing its Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) staff that the Special Immigrant Religious Visa Classification has been extended for an additional five years. The clause that allowed for “special immigrants” to enter the United States to work in a religious vocation or occupation sunset in September 2003. However, this sunset date did not apply to those individuals coming to the United States to solely practice as a minister of a religious denomination.

The DHS notice clarifies that an Act signed into law October 15, 2003 extended the special immigrant religious worker classification for an additional five years, until September 30, 2008.

In addition, the notice clarifies the regulations regarding nonprofit status for religious organizations. In order for an individual to be applicable for a Form I-360 Special Immigrant Religious Worker petition or a Form I-129 Non-immigrant Religious Worker petition, the religious organization they are intending to work with must be classified as nonprofit and must prove this status with certain documentation.

The following must be submitted to establish the nonprofit status of a religious organization:

1. A signed letter from the IRS that shows the organization is indeed exempt from taxation based on its religious status, as stated in section 501(c)(3) of the IRC; or

2. A signed letter that establishes the religious organization as tax exempt under a group tax exemption as stated in section 509(a)(1) of the IRC, and that the religious group’s tax exemption status accords with section 501(c)(3) of the IRC; or

3. Documentation that establishes the religious organization’s eligibility for tax exemption as stated in section 501(c)(3) of the IRC; and

4. Documentation that establishes the religious nature and purpose of the organization. This documentation must include, at least, the following:

a. A completed IRS Form 1023;

b. A completed Schedule A supplement, if applicable;

c. One copy of the organizing instrument of the religious organization containing the necessary dissolution clause required by the IRS that specifies the purpose(s) of the religious organization;

d. Brochures, calendars, flyers and other miscellaneous literature that describes the religious purpose and nature of the religious organization.

Homeland Security Implements US-VISIT Program

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched US-VISIT earlier this month. US-VISIT is a new program that will enhance U.S. border security by using biometrics, physical characteristics unique to each individual. This new program is being touted as the beginning of a new chapter in immigration management in the U.S. “US-VISIT is an important new element in the global war against terrorism and will serve as a catalyst in the growing international use of biometrics to expedite processing of travelers,” said Tom Ridge, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

US-VISIT requires that most travelers visiting the U.S. on a visa have their two index fingers scanned, along with a digital photograph taken, at the port of entry to ensure their identity. These individuals will have had the same biometrics taken at the U.S. consular office where they applied for their visa. These biometric identifiers will be scanned to ensure the individual’s identity and to ensure that the traveler is not on the U.S.’s database of known or suspected criminals or terrorists.

“US-VISIT represents the greatest improvement in border inspection in more than three decades, and is a shining example of what we can achieve when government works together,” said Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary of Border and Transportation Security of the Department of Homeland Security. “US-VISIT is actually a continuum of security measures that begins overseas, at the U.S. consular offices issuing visas, where biometrics will be collected to determine if the applicant is on a database of known or suspected criminals or terrorists. When the visitor gets to our border, we use the same biometrics – these digital “fingerscans” – to verify that the person at our port is the same person who received the visa or to see if we have learned new information about any involvement in terrorism or crime. This type of identity verification helps our Customs and Border Protection Officers make better admissibility decisions and enhances the overall integrity of our immigration system.”

The US-VISIT program has been pilot tested since mid-November at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The pilot test revealed that the new procedures added only 15 seconds per inspection. More than 20,000 individuals participating in the voluntary test, which verified the efficacy of the US-VISIT program.

Bush Proposes Sweeping Changes In Immigration Policy

President George Bush announced a new immigration program that would revolutionize the status of immigration policy in the U.S. and would give millions of illegal immigrants the opportunity to become legal residents in the U.S. The new Guest Worker Program will offer legal status as temporary workers to nearly eight million illegal immigrants currently working in the U.S. or wishing to enter the U.S. to participate in the program.

The Guest Worker Program, which still needs Congressional approval, will enable illegal immigrants currently holding jobs for which American workers are not available to change to legal status and work temporarily in the U.S. for a period of three years. These Guest Workers will then be able to apply for permanent residency, like any other nonimmigrant in the U.S.

Illegal immigrants currently in and outside of the U.S. can participate in this program if they can find an employer in the U.S. for a position for which an American worker is not available. Illegal immigrants in the U.S. will be required to pay a small fee for this program.

“Out of common sense and fairness, our laws should allow willing workers to enter our country and fill jobs that Americans are not filling,” said Bush, regarding these proposed changes in immigration policy. “Workers who seek only to earn a living end up in the shadows of American life –fearful, often abused and exploited. When they are victimized by crime, they are afraid to call the police, or seek recourse in the legal system …. We must make our immigration laws more rational, and more humane. And I believe we can do so without jeopardizing the lives of American citizens.”