FOLLOW-UP MESSAGE: USCIS ANNOUNCES NEW ADDRESS CHANGE PROCEDURES FOR ABC CLASS MEMBERS

Washington, D.C. – On November 30, 2005, USCIS officially closed the ABC Project Post Office Box. On August 5, 2005, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) notified class members of American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh (ABC) through publication of a notice in the Federal Register that the ABC Project Post Office box in Washington, D.C will close. The change was to take effect on October 5, 2005, sixty days after publication in the Federal Register. With the ABC Project Post Office Box is closed, USCIS will no longer accept change of address forms sent to the ABC Project Post Office box address.

Class members must notify USCIS of any change of address by submitting Form AR-11 (Alien’s Change of Address Card) to the address listed on the Form within 10 days after an address change, which is the standard procedure for all USCIS change-of-address notifications. If a class member has an application pending with a USCIS Asylum Office, the class member should also notify that office of the address change submitting a copy of completed Form AR-11 or a signed and dated letter containing the address change.

The ABC Project Post Office box was established in Washington, D.C. more than ten years ago to provide a central location for the approximately 240,000 ABC class members to submit change of address forms. This centralized location simplified the process for those ABC class members who were eligible to seek benefits of the settlement agreement but had not yet applied for asylum or any other benefit with the former INS. However, the deadline for submitting applications for asylum in order to retain benefits of the settlement agreement has long passed, and the specialized post office box is no longer necessary.

Many ABC class members currently have applications pending with USCIS under the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). As a result, many of these class members are already required to follow standard procedures for submitting change of address notifications to USCIS.

Also, USCIS will discontinue use of Form I-855, ABC Change of Address Form, with the effective closing of the ABC Project Post Office Box.

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USCIS ANNOUNCES INTERIM RELIEF FOR FOREIGN STUDENTS ADVERSELY IMPACTED BY HURRICANE KATRINA

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced specific interim relief today for the approximately 5,500 foreign academic students adversely impacted by Hurricane Katrina. The Notice, which was published in the Federal Register , will allow Katrina-impacted foreign academic students (F-1 visa holders) to:

• Apply for immediate, short-term employment authorization;
• Work additional hours on-campus, or work off-campus if granted employment authorization; and
• Reduce normal course load requirements if granted employment authorization.

The interim relief will remain in effect until February 1, 2006. Foreign vocational students (M-1 visa holders) and foreign exchange students (J-1 visa holders) are not eligible for this interim relief. DHS will continue to monitor the adverse impact of Hurricane Katrina in the affected areas to determine if modification of the interim relief is warranted and will announce any modifications in the Federal Register.

Eligible foreign academic students wishing to work additional hours on-campus must obtain approval from their designated school official. Eligible foreign academic students wishing to work off-campus must file an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) directly with the Texas Service Center at:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Texas Service Center,
P.O. Box 853062, Mesquite, TX 75815-3062 .

Applicants should mark the front of the envelope on the bottom right-hand side with the phrase, “HURRICANE KATRINA SPECIAL STUDENT RELIEF.” Applicants who are unable to pay the Form I-756 filing fee may request a fee waiver . Read our Frequently Asked Questions .

Katrina-impacted foreign academic students not covered by the Notice and their dependents (F-2 visa holders) may request deferred action and apply for employment authorization based on economic necessity. A grant of deferred action in this context means that, during the period that the grant of deferred action remains in effect, DHS will not seek the removal of the foreign academic student or his or her qualified dependents based upon the fact that the failure to maintain status is directly due to Hurricane Katrina. Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. USCIS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. A grant of deferred action does not provide an individual any legal immigration status in the United States. Therefore, in order to resume their nonimmigrant status, foreign academic students who are granted deferred action must apply for reinstatement following the period of deferred action, which shall expire no later than February 1, 2006.

Eligible foreign academic students and their qualified dependents wishing to request deferred action and apply for employment authorization based on economic necessity must submit a letter, substantiating their need for deferred action, and file an Application for Employment Authorization ( Form I-765 ) directly with the Texas Service Center at the address above. Applicants should mark the front of the envelope on the bottom right-hand side with the phrase, “HURRICANE KATRINA SPECIAL STUDENT RELIEF.” Applicants who are unable to pay the Form I-756 filing fee may request a fee waiver.

For additional information, please refer to the Federal Register Notice or visit the USCIS website athttp://uscis.gov/ .

US Consulate selects Hyderabad (India) for visa center

The US Consulate has decided to set up its visa processing centre in Hyderabad instead of Bangalore, putting an end to some hard lobbying by both the cities.

The Consulate’s existing facility in Chennai receives nearly 90,000 visa applications each year, of which over 50,000 come from Andhra Pradesh, mainly from software professionals.

“We have identified Hyderabad as our preferred location. There is a heavy concentration of visa applications in Andhra Pradesh,” said David T Cooper, Consul General, USA.

The decision to select Hyderabad has little to do with the recent infrastructure woes of Bangalore, but it is sure to provide ammunition to those who think the Garden City is losing out.

On its part, Hyderabad is sure to showcase the triumph to prove that it is one up in the battle of the two cities.

Advocates Call for Temporary Protected Status for Pakistani Nationals

Many South Asian advocacy organizations are currently suggesting to Congress and President Bush that the U.S. provide extended stay to Pakistani citizens currently in the United States. These advocates are suggesting that Pakistanis with expiring visas be provided “Temporary Protected Status” until the recovery from the earthquake of last month is fully underway.

A bill was recently introduced in Congress by Representative Al Green (D-TX) that would create this designation. “Pakistan’s being an ally and helping the United States, we ought to show Pakistan that we are appreciative for the help that’s been extended,” said Green.

The proposed Temporary Protected Status would allow an extension of stay for Pakistani nationals that would be in danger if sent back to their home nation or would put an extreme strain on Pakistan’s infrastructure. While much of Pakistan is still functioning, the regions where the October 8 earthquake hit have been devastated by the natural disaster, with the death toll reaching 80,000.

According to USCIS, however, the key factor in considering creating such a status for Pakistani nationals is a request from that nation. According to an embassy official, Pakistan does not intend to make such a request; to do so would imply that there are numerous Pakistani nationals currently residing illegally in the U.S.

Nevertheless, there are surely many Pakistani nationals with expired visas that need some form of immigration relief; the devastation in their home country is immense and they would face drastic hardship if forced to return home.

Only a few nations are currently on the Temporary Protected Status list. They include Honduras, Nicaragua and Sudan.

USCIS REMINDS APPLICANTS FOR ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS TO OBTAIN ADVANCE PAROLE BEFORE HOLIDAY TRAVEL ABROAD

U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) reminds individuals with an application for adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident, an application for relief under section 203 of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA 203), or an asylum application, that they must obtain Advance Parole by filing Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (available online at www.uscis.gov), with USCIS before traveling abroad.

Advance Parole is permission to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad in order to continue processing for adjustment of status. Individuals must be approved for Advance Parole before leaving the United States. Individuals who have been granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) must also apply for advance parole if they want to travel abroad. Travel outside of the United States without Advance Parole has severe consequences and individuals who violate this law may be unable to return to the United States and their applications may be denied.

Applicants can apply for Advance Parole at a local USCIS district office or a USCIS Service Center. Processing time for Service Centers ranges from 90-150 days while local district offices vary from district to district. Applicants planning travel abroad should plan ahead due to the busy holiday travel season. For more information on Advance Parole see the USCIS Travel Advisory Questions and Answers Fact Sheet.

Note:
Under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, aliens who depart the United States after being unlawfully present in the United States for certain periods can be barred from admission to lawful permanent resident status, even if they have obtained Advance Parole. Those aliens who have been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days, but less than one year are inadmissible for three years; those who have been unlawfully present for a year or more are inadmissible for 10 years. Aliens who are unlawfully present, depart the U.S. and subsequently reenter under a grant of parole, may nevertheless be ineligible to adjust their status.

USCIS urges all aliens with pending applications for adjustment of status, relief under NACARA 203 or asylum to consult an immigration attorney, immigration assistance organization accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals, the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283, or the USCIS web site: www.uscis.gov before making any foreign travel plans.

CHERTOFF ANNOUNCES NEW PLAN TO MINIMIZE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION AT THE U.S./MEXICO BORDER

Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, this week outlined the federal government’s new play to minimize illegal immigration. According to Chertoff, reducing the amount of illegal immigration into the U.S. has become a major priority for the U.S. government after the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The government has increased its security measures at points of entry throughout the U.S., but illegal immigration has not been maximally affected, according to Chertoff. In Fiscal Year 2005, for example, 1.1 million people were arrested along the U.S./Mexico border.

Chertoff’s new plan includes the following:

Adding an additional 1,500 Border Patrol agents to the current total of 11,000 agents;

Building additional fences and other physical boundaries. A 14-mile wall near San Diego has been approved for creation (against the outcry of environmental activists who believe the wall will create major ecological concerns in the area); and

Putting an end to the “catch and release policy” that enables tens of thousands of illegal aliens from nations other than Mexico to remain in the U.S. (In FY 2005, roughly 160,000 non-Mexican illegal aliens were caught. Due to limited detention space, 120,000 of these aliens were released. The majority of these released individuals did not appear for their court date

Interesting to note in Chertoff’s announcement is the quietude related to President Bush’s Guest-Worker program, a major portion of the federal government’s immigration reform plan. The program has received mixed responses from Congress and will not be considered until next year. The Guest-Worker program, which would enable undocumented workers (who had U.S. company sponsorship) to legally remain in theU.S. for a portioned period of time.

UPDATE ON U.S. ARMY POLICY REGARDING NON-CITIZEN/LEGAL RESIDENT ENLISTED SOLDIERS

While the U.S. Army’s official policy is to only enlist citizens and legal residents of the U.S., military policies during times of military conflict, according to an Army spokesperson, are flexible and somewhat lenient. Individual commanders are responsible for determining what actions should be taken regarding soldiers who enlisted in the army using fraudulent paperwork. Commanders are guided to take into consideration the soldier’s service and other criteria when deciding how to respond to such situations. In some cases, these soldiers will be dismissed from the Army; however, there may very well be cases were a commander can recommend an exception to traditional Army policy when a soldier has served the U.S. military with distinction.

In addition, President Bush, in 2002, announced the Expedited Naturalization Executive Order, which offered to soldiers (who are not currently U.S. citizens) who served in the military in international locations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, Kosovo and Kuwait, the ability to apply for an expedited process to obtain U.S. citizenship, regardless of whether that solder had been admitted into the U.S. for permanent residence.