DHS Proposes New Advance Passenger Information System Requirement

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced this week a rule that proposes a pre-departure Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) requirement. The APIS requirement would enable DHS to collect passenger information for flights and cruises coming to the U.S. before these vessels leave their foreign ports. This would let DHS identify potential threats and work with the airlines and international law enforcement officials to block such people from boarding planes or remove them before the planes leave the ground. Information collected as part of the APIS requirement include: full name, gender, and the country where the passport was issued.

“Our priority is to keep terrorists out of the United States by preventing them from boarding international flights,” said Michael Chertoff, Secretary of DHS. “Receiving APIS data before a plane takes off is another layer of security that allows us to identify terrorists before they are en route to the United States. This rule will also help eliminate the inconvenience of flight diversions due to security concerns.

Two options have been posted for sea and air carriers to fulfill the APIS requirement. The APIS Quick Query, which is currently being developed for air travel, would allow international air carriers to submit their manifest information online up to 15 minutes before leaving their port. The second available option, APIS-60, would require that carriers submit their complete manifest information one hour before leaving their port. This option will be available for air and sea carriers.

A Final Rule regarding the APIS requirement will be issued after a 30-day public comment period.

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Representative Pence to Propose Restrictive Guest Worker Program

Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) has publicly stated that he will introduce the Border Integrity and Immigration Reform Act, a bill described by Pence as No Amnesty Immigration Reform. The plan outlines a four-step process, according to Pence:

  1. Secure our border.

  2. Make the decision, once and for all, to deny amnesty to people whose first act in the United States was a violation of the law.

  3. Put in place a guest worker program, without amnesty, that will efficiently provide American employers with willing guest workers who come to Americalegally.

  4. Enforce tough employer sanctions that ensure a full partnership between American business and the American government in the enforcement of our laws on immigration and guest workers.

According to Pence: “The Border Integrity and Immigration Reform Act is a bill that is tough on border security and tough on employers who hire illegal aliens, but recognizes the need for a guest worker program that operates without amnesty and without growing into a huge new government bureaucracy.”

Pence’s proposal would require all potential guest workers to self-deport themselves and come back to the U.S.legally as guest workers. Pence proposes to set up private worker placement agencies, licensed by the federal government, that would match guest workers with jobs in the U.S. that cannot be filled with American workers.

Additional limits proposed by Pence include a limited number of guest worker visas, English proficiency as a requirement for guest workers and the provision of secure identification cards for guest workers.

Pence’s proposal will be miles away from the recent Senate proposal; if it is approved by the House of Representatives, the two Houses will have their work laid out for them to search for an amicable solution to provide a meaningful and fair Guest Worker Program in the U.S.

USCIS Posts Total Received H-1B Advanced Degree Exemption Petitions

This week the USCIS posted the current cap for the H-1B U.S. Advanced Degree exemption petitions. As of the end of June, the USCIS counted a total of 13,687 received petitions, not including the additional 500 received but not yet data-entered into the system. The USCIS expects to continue to receive additional petitions until the cap is reached.

The H-1B Visa Reform Act of 2004, which took effect two months ago, made available 20,000 new H-1B visas for foreign workers with either a Master’s degree or higher from a U.S. academic institution.

Employment-Based Applications Should Now Be Submitted to the Nebraska Service Center

The USCIS, this week, announced a change in filing procedures for employment-based applications for lawful permanent resident status. As of July 24, all applicants that are filing an Application to Adjust Status or Register Permanent Residence (Form I-485), based on a pending or approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) (which is
also known as standalone filing) are required to mail their application directly to the Nebraska Service Center. In addition, all accompanying forms, including the Application for Travel Document (Form I-131) and the Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) should be submitted to this same service center.

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Homeland Security Spending Package

This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee, by a unanimous vote of 28-0, approved a $32.8 billion Homeland Security spending package for Fiscal Year 2007. This bill, which will be put to a full Senate vote on July 10, provides more than $6 billion to boost border protection. Border protection amenities would include an additional 1,000 Border Patrol Agents (not including the 1,000 provided by the FY 2006 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act).

In addition, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement would receive nearly $4 billion, which would provide an additional 1,000 detention beds (which would be a total of 5,000 new beds, when including those appropriated by the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act).

Finally, an amendment was included in the bill that would delay from January 1, 2008 to June 1, 2009 the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. This initiative requires all individuals entering the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Bermuda or Panama to have passports or other secure identification before being allowed to enter this country. This initiative was originally voted into law as part of the 2004 Intelligence Reform Bill.