Bill Gates on Immigration Reform

In a column published in this Sunday’s Washington Post, Bill Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft Corporation, called for reform in the nation’s employment-based immigration policies. “American competitiveness … requires immigration reforms that reflect the importance of highly skilled foreign-born employees,” said Gates. “Demand for specialized technical skills has long exceeded the supply of native-born workers with advanced degrees, and scientists and engineers from other countries fill this gap.”

In the guest column, Gates laid out a series of steps he believes is necessary for the United States to remain competitive in the global business and technology markets.

  • Loosen regulations that require nonimmigrant workers to remain in one job while they wait for their green card.
  • Allow U.S. companies to use the H-1B visa program to hire foreign-born scientists and engineers whenever they can not find American talent.
  • Encourage foreign students to remain in the U.S. after they complete their education.

“During the past 30 years,” said Gates, “U.S. innovation has been the catalyst for the digital information revolution. If the United States is to remain a global economic leader, we must foster an environment that enables a new generation to dream up innovations, regardless of where they were born.”

ETA Issues 2007 Minimum Wage Requirements for H-2A Agricultural Workers

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA), yesterday, issued a notice announcing the 2007 minimum wage rates, the Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs) for employers who wish to hire temporary or seasonal immigrant workers to conduct agricultural labor or services under the H-2A visa category or logging under the H-2 Logging Worker category. The AEWRs also provide allowable charges that employers may place upon their workers when they offer them three meals a day, along with the maximum travel subsistence reimbursement that a worker who provides receipts may claim in 2007.

The 2007 state AEWR rates are as follows:

Alabama — 8.51

Arizona — 8.27

Arkansas — 8.01

California — 9.20

Colorado — 8.64

Connecticut — 9.50

Delaware — 9.29

Florida — 8.56

Georgia — 8.51

Hawaii — 10.32

Idaho — 8.76

Illinois — 9.88

Indiana — 9.88

Iowa — 9.95

Kansas — 9.55

Kentucky — 8.65

Louisiana — 8.01

Maine — 9.50

Maryland — 9.29

Massachusetts — 9.50

Michigan — 9.65

Minnesota — 9.65

Mississippi — 8.01

Missouri — 9.95

Montana — 8.76

Nebraska — 9.55

Nevada — 8.64

New Hampshire — 9.50

New Jersey — 9.29

New Mexico — 8.27

New York — 9.50

North Carolina — 9.02

North Dakota — 9.55

Ohio — 9.88

Oklahoma — 8.66

Oregon — 9.77

Pennsylvania — 9.29

Rhode Island — 9.50

South Carolina — 8.51

South Dakota — 9.55

Tennessee — 8.65

Texas — 8.66

Utah — 8.64

Vermont — 9.50

Virginia — 9.02

Washington — 9.77

West Virginia — 8.65

Wisconsin — 9.65

Wyoming — 8.76

USCIS Releases New Form for Employment Authorization

The USCIS recently revised Form I-765, the Application for Employment Authorization. The revised form includes means to obtain supplemental evidence from international physicians with National Interest Waivers. This new form also reduces the amount of options that applicants must fill.

In this revised form, NIW physicians must provide additional evidence to ensure that they are not simply using a pending adjustment of status application as the method to legally work in areas outside of medical services in underserved areas. While applications on previous Forms I-765 will not be accepted, USCIS will accept all of those forms as long as they were submitted prior to the date of release of this new form, February 21, 2007.

USCIS Pilot Tests New Citizenship Test

A new citizenship test, to be ready for mass release in 2008, was recently tested in a small population of immigrants. The new test, according to USCIS, is designed to make immigrants think more about American concepts, as opposed to just memorizing basic facts. Current pilot tests are taking place in ten cities and aim to expose the new test to up to 6,000 people. The pilot test includes reading and writing portions and is quite different from the current test. Currently, applicants are required to orally correctly answer six of ten questions, pulled from 140 possible questions.

“I want to make sure that people understand this is certainly not to make the test more difficult,” said Maria Elena Garcia-Upson. “We just want to make sure that when they’re giving the oath of allegiance, raising their right hand at the time of the ceremony, that they understand our process here in this country and what our forefathers stood for.”

There is no penalty for failing the pilot test; those that do fail it may simply take the current, oral test instead. Cities currently involved in this pilot test include: San Antonia and El Paso, TX; Albany, NY; Boston, MA; Charleston, SC; Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Miami, FL; Tucson, AZ; and Yakima, WA.

USCIS Informs Prospective Adoptive Parents of New Chinese Regulations on Adoption

In an effort to ensure that prospective adoptive parents understand new rules for intercountry adoptions from China that will be effective May 1, 2007, the USCIS has issued a memo of clarification.

These new rules, implemented by the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA) will significantly impact and control the actions of parents interested in adopting a child from China. The new rules include requirements related to age, marital status, length of marriage, health status and financial status.

Because prospective parents who filed Form I-600A, the Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, prior to the CCAA’s announcement on December 21, 2006, were unaware of these proposed changes, the USCIS will work hard to help these individuals out in the processing of their visa application.

In addition, USCIS offices will allow prospective adoptive parents to file a new Form I-600A, with the correct filing fee, if their current approval notice, on either Form I-171H or Form I-797C, expires prior to May 1, 2007. USCIS is dedicated to work toward expediting adjudication of all these relevant applications in order to meet China’s May 1 deadline.

Preliminary new rules have been provided by CCAA and are available online at the following url:

If you need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact your local USCIS office. Special adoptions email addresses have been created for each district office. Find these addresses at the following url:

I-130 Petitions for Immediate Relative Immigrant Visas Should Be Filed with USCIS

Recent immigration legislations have led to changes in the way that American citizens living abroad should follow if they choose to sponsor an immediate relative (e.g., spouse, parent, minor child) for an immigrant visa. As of early February 2007, petition I-130, the immediate relative petition, should be filed directly with the USCIS office that is responsible for the American citizen’s place of residence.

Consular offices abroad will no longer be accepting the I-130 petition; however, they will continue to guide American citizen petitioners and their family members in the processes of applying for immigrant status.

Senate Passes Amendment to Minimum Wage Bill Affecting Employers of Undocumented Immigrants

Last week, the Senate unanimously voted in favor of an amendment to the minimum wage bill that would, in effect, bar any company that employed undocumented immigrants from receiving a government contract for seven years. If that company held a government contract at the time of the offense, they would be banned from receiving government contracts for a ten-year period. This amendment, though, would exempt all employers who voluntarily participate in the Basic Pilot Program, an internet-based employee verification system (available online at:

Bush Voices Support for Increasing H-1B Quota

President Bush, in late January, voiced his support for an increase in the H-1B visa quota and is urging Congress to take action toward an expansion of the current limiting quotas for this essential work visa. In a meeting with DuPont employees last week, Bush said, “I understand that we need to make sure that when a smart person from overseas wants to come and work in DuPont, it’s in our interests to allow him or her to do so. We’ve got to expand what’s called H1B visas.” Bush went on to say that he looks forward to working with Congress to enact this change.

USCIS Proposes to Raise Citizenship Fee

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has proposed to increase immigration filing fees by roughly 66 percent, according to a public notice released by the federal organization. According to USCIS, “these fees are used to fund the full cost of processing immigration and naturalization benefit applications and petitions, biometric services, and associated support services.” The fees, according to USCIS, also help cover the costs of providing certain services to asylum and refugee applicants, along with other immigrants, who receive these services at no charge.

The fees for the immigration and naturalization benefit application and petition fee are scheduled to rise from an average fee of $264 to $438. In addition, fees for certain applications would be merged so that applicants would pay a single fee, as opposed to paying multiple fees for various services.

Over the past 12 years, there has been a fourfold increase in the cost of applying for citizenship to the United States. The proposed fee hike would make that a sevenfold increase. IN 1994, the cost to apply for citizenship to the United States was only $95; with the proposed fee, these costs would be $675.