U.S. Embassy Service Charge Increases Now Active for Indian visa petitioners

As of April 20, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India have raised VFS service charges for nonimmigrant visa, immigrant visa, and U.S. passport services. This increase in fees is due to the recently enacted 2006 Indian Finance Bill which increased tax rates applicable to taxable services.

Please note the new service charges:

• Nonimmigrant visa service charge – Rs. 281

• Immigrant visa service charge – Rs. 337

• U.S. passport service charge – Rs. 141

Nepalis Seeking Visas to U.S. Should Schedule Appointments at New Delhi Embassy

The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal has been closed for visa services due to recent changes in the political climate in that nation. Until the U.S. embassy in Kathmandu is able to resume its visa services, applications to travel to the U.S. for citizens and residents of Nepal will be handled at the New Delhi, India embassy.

Applicants for nonimmigrant, immigrant and diversity visa interviews should contact the embassy at nepalivisas@state.gov to schedule a required appointment in New Delhi.

Nonimmigrant visa appointment requests: Because there is a high demand for nonimmigrant and temporary visa appointments by residents in the New Delhi area, many interested Nepalis should be prepared to wait up to four months for an appointment. However, the embassy does note that priority appointments are available (within three weeks of contact) for those that must travel to the U.S. for urgent reasons.

These priority appointments are reserved for those needing to travel for the following reasons:

• To obtain emergency medical care, or to accompany a relative or employer for emergency medical care;

• To attend the funeral of an immediate family member (mother, father, brother, sister, child, grandparent or grandchild);

• To attend to an urgent business matter where the travel requirement could not be predicted in advance;

• Students or exchange visitors who are within 30 days of their start date of a valid program and who have not been refused a visa within the last six months;

• H and L visa renewals for applicants who are already working in the U.S and are returning to their jobs.

USCIS Releases Fact Sheet on Immigration Security Checks

In an effort to ease the concerns of the individuals whose immigration processing times have been exorbitantly delayed by immigration security checks, the USCIS has released a fact sheet on the topic. According to the USCIS fact sheet, the organization conducts security checks for all cases that involve either a petition or application for an immigration service or benefit. These checks are conducted to enhance national security and ensure that the immigration process is conducted with a prime focus on integrity. Security checks have again and again ruled out applicants who were involved in violent crimes, sex crimes against adults and children, drug trafficking and terrorism. While the checks do take longer than many immigrants would like them to, the USCIS reiterates the importance of the processes. For the full text of the fact sheet, visit the publication online athttp://www.uscis.gov/graphics/publicaffairs/factsheets/ security_checks_42506.pdf.

DHS Completes International “e-Passport” Live Test

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson announced important progress in the development of biometrically-enabled technologies to prevent the use of fraudulent or stolen international travel documents. DHS is testing e-Passports and e-Passport readers in anticipation of an upcoming deadline requiring all Visa Waiver travelers issued a passport after October 26, 2006, to present an e-Passport to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

The use of the new e-Passports and deployment of e-Passport readers to U.S. ports of entry will help to ensure the authenticity of international travel documents and provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers with another invaluable tool for use in the border inspection process.

“We are adopting biometric, electronically-based, and secure travel documents that are tamper resistant, yet provide a very convenient way to move back and forth across our borders,” said Deputy Secretary Jackson. “We have now successfully completed e-Passport technology testing in a live environment. Working with Visa Waiver countries, we will begin to deploy these important security enhancements this year.”

The U.S. anticipates the deployment of e-Passport readers for processing VWP visitors by October 26, 2006. Recently, US-VISIT conducted a successful test of e Passports and e-Passport readers with Basic Access Control (BAC) at San Francisco International Airport. BAC enhances the security of the document and protects the privacy of the traveler by preventing the unauthorized reading, or “skimming,” of information.

The test, which was conducted between January 15, 2006, and April 15, 2006, evaluated the operational impact of reading and verifying information embedded in the e-Passports on the border inspection process. This test was a collaborative effort between the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. A total of 1,938 e-Passports were successfully processed during the test in San Francisco. A similar test was conducted in 2005 at Los Angeles International Airport.

E-Passports contain an individual’s biographic information and a digital photograph on a contactless chip embedded in the document. DHS requires that any passport issued after the October 26 deadline, and used for VWP travel to the United States, must be an e-Passport. In addition, DHS will have the capability to read and authenticate these e-Passports. The U.S. Department of State has begun issuing diplomatic e-Passports and expects to begin issuance of regular e-Passports this summer to U.S. citizens.

Travelers applying for admission under the VWP are allowed to enter the United States for up to 90 days for business or pleasure without obtaining a non-immigrant visa. Those VWP travelers that are issued a passport after October 26, 2006, must present an e-Passport. The 27 countries participating in the VWP include: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Approximately 15 million VWP travelers visit the United States annually.

NBC Corrects Requests for Evidence Forms Related to Affidavits of Support

The National Benefit Center (NBC) has issued numerous Requests for Evidence (RFEs) on Affidavits of Support (I-864) in cases where the sponsored immigrant’s income was utilized to officially meet the family’s income requirement. In these RFEs, the NBC mistakenly stated that income earned while the sponsored immigrant was not employment-authorized will not be eligible to be included on the I-864, even if that income was reported on a tax return.

Please note that these RFEs were not correct and the NBC is requesting individuals inform them of how these RFEs were received. However, the NBC does suggest that you answer the RFE (even though it is incorrect) to ensure your case is not automatically denied for abandonment.

Medical Examination Form (I-163) Is Available Online

We’d like to inform our clients that the USCIS has added a link on their website to Form I-693, the Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status Form. The form is available at the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The full link to the form is as follows:


DHS Announces New Plan to Enforce Immigration Regulations in the U.S

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a new, comprehensive immigration enforcement strategy for the nation’s interior. This new strategy is the second phase of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI), the DHS’s multi-year plan to “secure America’s borders and reduce illegal migration.”

The first phase of the SBI is focused on operation aspects of controlling the nation’s borders through the addition of new personnel and technology, and the restructuring of the detention and removal system to ensure that illegal immigrants are removed from the U.S. in a quick and efficient manner.

This second phase, which was introduced this week by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), will be focused on targeting employers of illegal immigrants and immigration violators within the U.S. The primary goal of this second phase of the operation is to reverse the “tolerance of illegal employment and illegal immigration in the United States,” according to DHS.

DHS has established three primary goals to be carried out simultaneously:

• DHS will identify and remove criminal aliens, immigration fugitives and other immigration violators from the U.S.;

• DHS will work to build strong worksite enforcement and compliance programs to minimize illegal employment in country; and

• DHS will work to dismantle the criminal infrastructure that supports illegal immigration in the U.S. and throughout the world.

“Illegal immigration poses an increasing threat to our security and public safety, and hard-hitting interior enforcement will reinforce the strong stance we are taking at our borders,” said Chertoff. “With the interior enforcement strategy of the Secure Border Initiative, we will aggressively target the growing support systems that make it easier for aliens to enter the country and find work outside of the law. This department will counter the unscrupulous tactics of employers with intelligence-driven worksite enforcement actions and combat exploitation by dangerous smuggling organizations with the full force of the law.”

USCIS Publishes Final Rule Establishing Subcategory for Some International Broadcasters

The USCIS has published a final rule to establish procedures under which the International Broadcasting Bureau of the United States Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), or a grantee organization, can file immigration visa petitions for foreign language alien broadcasters. This rule delineates the requirements that these broadcasters must meet in order to be eligible for such a visa.

In 2000, President Clinton had signed the Special Immigrant Status For Certain United States International Broadcasting Employees Act (IBE Act); section 1 of that act added content that established a special fourth preference employment-based immigrant category for immigrants seeking to enter the U.S. to work as broadcasters with the BBG or a grantee of the BBG.

According to the USCIS: “By creating a new special EB-4 subcategory, the IBE Act allows the BBG and its grantees to directly petition for alien broadcasters. Being able to offer immigrant status to an alien broadcaster and his or her spouse and children may assist the BBG in fulfilling its obligation as the international broadcasting conduit for the United States Government.”

Great American Boycott Planned for May 1

The recent massive demonstrations throughout the country have empowered immigrants and undocumented workers in this country and these populations have promised to held more rallies in the near future.

Monday’s “National Day of Action” saw hundreds of thousands of protesters in cities throughout the United States from individuals that have traditionally stayed silent and hidden in the shadows of American culture.

Organizers are currently planning a “Great American Boycott” for May 1, in which illegal immigrants show their economic power. All protesters and supporters are urged by the organizers to not shop, go to school or work on that day.

Javier Rodriguez is the spokesperson for the May 1 boycott: “We are expecting that with this national boycott we will be able to further gain some respect, dignity, and improve the lot of the immigrant community,” said Rodriguez. “The undocumented community (are) the people that take care of their children, the people that care of the elderly, and the sick, who serve their food, who pick their fruit and their vegetables. We are rebuilding New Orleans. … We are everywhere.”

Republicans in House and Senate Respond to Monday’s Rallies

In response to major protests throughout the U.S. this Monday, Republicans collectively decided to possibly change two major portions of the House of Representatives’ proposed immigration bill.

The House of Representatives’ bill would have turned all illegal immigrants into felons and would have made providing help to these illegal immigrants a crime. Republicans now state that neither of these were their original intent.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R- TN) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) issued a joint statement Tuesday that said: “It remains our intent to produce a strong border security bill that will not make unlawful presence in the United States a felony.” Republicans then said that their original intent was to make illegal presence in the U.S. a misdemeanor, but Democrats in the House had shifted the punishment to a felony. In addition, Republicans blamed Democrats for the stalling of a compromise bill in the Senate.

However, in response to these accusations, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) said, “Actions speak louder than words, and there’s no running away from the fact that the Republican House passed a bill and Senator Frist offered one that criminalizes immigrants …. Millions of people have made their voices heard in support of a comprehensive immigration reform plan and now it is time for action, not empty rhetoric.”

The protests and rallies held throughout the country this Monday are a reminder of the importance of real and meaningful immigration reform that respects the dignity of all our fellow global citizens. Hopefully, the Republicans and Democrats can move past in-fighting and start moving toward a real solution in the coming weeks.