USCIS Suspends Premium Processing for Form I-140 Petitions

USCIS just announced that, effective July 2, 2007, the government organization will temporarily suspend premium processing for Form I-140, the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. USCIS stated that they expect there will be a substantial increase in the amount of employers petitioning for premium processing of Form I-140 because of the demand for preference visa categories available. Information about these available categories are published in the Department of State’s July 2007 Visa Bulletin. USCIS expects to receive more requests for premium processing than they can provide.

The USCIS Premium Processing Service guarantees that petitions will be duly adjudicated within 15 days of receipt. Adjudication in this case means either the issuance of an approval notice, a notice of intent to deny, a request for evidence or the opening of an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation.

This suspension of premium processing will be active for a period of thirty days, starting July 2, 2007 and ending August 1, 2007. During this period of time, USCIS will determine whether it can process cases within 15 calendar days of receipt. If USCIS can do so, the Premium Processing Service will be reinstated for Form I-140 petitions.

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USCIS Announces Revision in Direct Filing Instructions for Various Forms

Last week, USCIS announced new direct filing procedures for a range of immigration forms that, last year, were transitioned into the Bi-Specialization initiative. ‘Direct filing’ means that applicants would be required to file their petitions and applications with the service center that will be processing their cases, based on the location of their place of temporary employment or residence. That service center would also generate the receipt notice and complete all aspects of the adjudication of their application/petition.

These direct filing instructions refer to Forms I-129F, I-131, I-140, I-360, I-485, I-765 and I-907.

On and after July 30, 2007, petitioners should file all Forms I-140 (and, at the same time, I-907, if seeking premium processing), along with I-485 (and the related forms I-131 and I-765) with either the Nebraska Service Center or the Texas Service Center. The previous instructions called for all of these forms to be filed solely to the Nebraska Service Center. Please note that the location to file a Form I-907 to upgrade a currently pending Form I-140 to premium processing will not change. That form should be filed to the location where the Form I-140 is currently pending adjudication.

Petitioners should file Form -129F with either the Vermont Service Center or the California Service Center, depending on the residential location of the petitioner. It does not matter whether the form is filed for a K-1 fiancée visa or a K-3 spouse visa. Current filing procedures call for the filing of K-1 petitioners to all four Service Centers and the filing of K-3 petitions to the Chicago Lock Box.

USCIS will soon release new forms that include these updated filing procedures. Please note that USCIS will accept all of these forms, if they are submitted to the new locations prior to July 30, as long as all other aspects of the forms are correct.

An Update on the Revalidation Process for Certain Visas

According to government sources, applicants abroad who have a U.S. visa that expired within the last year and who are now applying for that same visa category do not need to take part in a visa interview. While these applicants are still required to appear for scanning of their fingerprints, they may simply drop off their documents with the consulate. In addition, if these individuals are seeking an employment-based visas, their visa need not be for the same employer.

Below are some examples of eligible applicants:

1) A person seeking an H-1B visa in July 2007, whose H-1B expired in late 2006.

2) An individual with an H-4 visa that expired in mid-2006 seeking a new H-4 visa.

3) An individual with a B1 or B2 visa that expired in early 2007, seeking a new B-1 or B2 visa.

Applicants eligible for this process will simply need to appear at an outside screening facility for scanning off their fingerprints. After their documents have been collected, they may leave. If their visa is approved, they will receive notice within two weeks. If there are concerns with their application, the consulate will contact them shortly after this initial meeting.

Department of State Provides More Strict Measures for Proof of Passport Application

The Department of State has strengthened standards of security for individuals who are using proof that they have applied for passports to enter and re-enter the U.S. from countries in the Western Hemisphere. According to the Department of State, the “locator number” will no longer function as a sole proof of application.

To get the required proof that you have a pending passport application, you should visit travel.state.gov and provide your last name, date of birth and the last four digits of your social security number. You will then receive official proof that you have applied for a passport. This temporary solution will remain in effect until September 30, 2007. The Department of State comments that they will continue to process all passport applications received as soon as possible.

Senate Brings Immigration Overhaul Bill Back to the Table

Last night, leaders in the Senate, after receiving large doses of pressure from pro-immigration organizations and President Bush, agreed to again begin the discussion of how to overhaul U.S. immigration regulations.

The bipartisan group looked through the series of more than 100 amendments and narrowed them down to 11 amendments introduced by Republicans and 11 amendments introduced by Democrats. This compromised bill was then introduced to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), earlier in the day, commented that he believed he would be able to garner support from enough Republicans to get a total of 60 or more votes; this amount would enable the bill to return to the floor for a final vote.

President Bush was quite happy with the return to discussion of immigration reform, especially after the bill was pulled from the Senate floor five days ago. “We are encouraged by the announcement from Senate leaders that comprehensive immigration reform will be brought back up for consideration,” said Scott Stanzel, White House spokesman. “We look forward to working with senators as the process moves forward.”

However, Senators across the board are still concerned about what will happen to the bill when it officially returns to the Senate floor. “I’m sure senators on both sides of the aisle are being pounded by these talk-radio people who don’t even know what’s in the bill,” said Lott. “Leadership will have to be prepared to do what needs to be done.”

DOS and DHS Allow for Temporary Travel Flexibility for U.S. Citizens in the Western Hemisphere

A joint announcement was released by the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on June 8, 2007 regarding U.S. citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. These individuals who have applied for passports, but not yet received them, according to the two departments, will be temporarily allowed to enter and leave the U.S. by air with a government-issued photo identification and with official proof that they have applied for passports through September 30, 2007.

The two departments are allowing for this exception to the rule because of the longer than expected processing times for passports. The departments have received record-breaking amounts of requests for passports this year.

Student Interns Added to Proposed Rule Regarding Exchange Visitor Program

The Department of State, this week, revised their proposed rule regarding the Exchange Visitor program. The proposed rule now includes a new subcategory of the College and University Student category, the “Student Intern” subcategory. Foreign students who are enrolled and engaged in full-time studies at a post-secondary educational institution outside the U.S. may participate in the Exchange Visitor program under this proposed subcategory. Student interns would be able to participate in a student internship program inside the U.S. for a period of up to 12 months at each degree level.