DOJ and DHS Publish Final Rules Related to U.S./Canada Alien Treaties

The Department of Justice has adopted a proposed rule that would implement an agreement signed between the U.S. and Canada in late 2002. This agreement restricts certain aliens who arrive in Canada or are in transit during removal from Canada to apply for asylum and related protections in the U.S. This rule will be effective December 29, 2004.

In related news, the Department of Homeland Security has published a similar final rule that permits the U.S. and Canada to decide which nation will manage certain aliens’ requests for protection from persecution or torture based on domestic translations of international treaties. This rule gives USCIS asylum officers the ability to determine the applicability of this agreement in particular contexts.

Congress Passes Bill that Would Allow 20,000 More Aliens to Work in U.S.

Congress has passed a bill that would let employers in the U.S. hire 20,000 more foreign high-tech workers than currently allowed under the H-1B visa program. The H-1B program reached its annual ceiling on the first day of the government’s fiscal year and employers immediately voiced concerns that they would not be able to recruit and hire talented employees to competitors overseas.

The $388 billion spending bill was passed this weekend and is awaiting President Bush’s signature. It will exempt from the H-1B cap about 20,000 foreign students with master’s or higher degrees received from U.S. universities.

The coalition that lobbied for this change includes leading corporations such as Microsoft, Texas Instruments and Motorola.

In addition to the above-stated exemption, Congress has doubled the H-1B visa application fees from $1,000 to $2,000 and has expanded the authority of the Labor Department to investigate employers.

Congress Passes Legislation to Extend and Modify the J Waiver Program

Last week, Congress passed legislation that would extend and modify the J waiver program for foreign-born physicians. This measure has already been passed by the Senate and is now en route to President Bush for his signature (which is most likely). The legislation will extend the waiver program for an additional two years, until June 1, 2006.

Under the J Waiver Program, aliens who participate in medical residency programs in the U.S. under the J visa category, are exempted from the standard two-year foreign residence requirement if they agree to practice medicine for three years in an area with a shortage of health care professionals.

In addition to extending the J waiver program, this bill also makes the following changes/modifications:

Doctors sponsored for a waiver by either a federal or state agency will be exempt from the H-1B cap;

1. Each state will be able to give 5 waivers to doctors who practice medicine in areas that are not considered to have a shortage of health care professionals, as long as those doctors practice medicine in facilities that serve patients that live in areas with a shortage of health care professionals;

2. This measure also allows doctors to receive the J waiver in either primary care or specialty medicine (previous to this legislation, only state agencies and the VA were allowed to sponsor specialists).

2006 Diversity Visa Program (DV-2006) is Now Open

State Department Web site for the 2006 Diversity Visa Program (DV-2006) is now open. The application submission period for DV-2006 is from 12:00PM EST (GMT -5) on November 5, 2004 to 12:00PM EST (GMT -5) on January 7, 2005. The application form will only be available for submission during this period and this period only. Applications will not be accepted through the U.S. Postal Service.

Application Instructions

Please read the DV-2006 Application Instructions carefully. Applicants may be disqualified for not completing the application form correctly or by submitting more that one application. Use the link below to view the instructions.

Click here for DV-2006 Instructions

Note, as of November 1, 2004, there has been a change in the instructions.Click here to see the change.

New Regulations Speed the Processing of Citizenship Documents for Adopted Children

A new citizenship act for adopted children that passed in January of this year has effectively sped the process of citizenship for adopted children. The Child Citizenship Act Project speeds the processing and mailing of important documents (like social security cards and passports) to adopted children while eliminating additional paperwork for parents.

While a 2000 law (the 2000 Child Citizenship Act) successfully made all foreign-born children U.S. citizens at the time of their adoption, parents were still required to apply for citizenship documents and wait up to 1.5 years for the paperwork to be processed. This new regulation automatically delivers citizenship documents to adopted children within 45 days of their arrival in the U.S.

More than 10,000 citizenships have been processed via the Child Citizenship Act this year. Americans average roughly 20,000 adoptions from other countries per year. “Before, the process was fragmented throughout the country in a way that we were having inconsistent delivery of documentation,” said Eduardo Aguirre, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Parents are concerned about the meticulous little things, about documentation, background, et cetera,” Aguirre said. “So if a document takes 45 days or 90 days it’s a huge difference.”