This week, USCIS launched a new photoscreening tool to help employers comply with employee eligibility verification issues and to strengthen employer compliance to employment regulations. This new tool is the first step toward giving employers the ability to detect identity fraud during the employment eligibility process.
The new photoscreening tool is the first enhancement to the E-Verify program, the USCIS’s web-based system that enables program-participating employers to verify electronically the employment eligibility of new employees.
Currently, over 23,000 employers use the E-Verify program; roughly 2,000 additional join each month.
“Our current E-Verify system is not fraud-proof and was not designed to detect identity fraud,” said Emilio Gonzalez, director, USCIS. “The photo tool enhancement will give employers an additional resource to help verify identity and employment authorization status and is just one more valuable enhancement to an effective, fair and viable program.”
The photoscreening tool was pilot tested this March. The tool lets employers compare identical photos (e.g.: the photo on an employee’s EAD or green card and the image stored in the USCIS database). Employers can then use this tool to determine whether the document presented to them is a valid photo I.D.
Employers that participate in E-Verify will be trained how to use the tool through an online refresher tutorial. All new E-Verify participants will learn how to use the tool through an updated E-Verify manual, a tutorial and a memorandum of understanding.
The Department of State has posted instructions for the 2009 Diversity Lottery program (DV-2009) on its website. The program, which provides up to 55,000 Diversity Visas each year to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S., will begin accepting applications at noon EST Wednesday, October 3, 2007 and will stop accepting applications at noon EST Sunday, December 2, 2007. Applicants should use the online registration form, available at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov to apply for the visa program.
To be eligible for the DV-2009 program, you must be a native of an eligible country and you must meet the education or work experience requirement of the program (either a high school education or its equivalent or two years work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years or training or experience to conduct).
The following is a list of ineligible countries for DV-2009:
Brazil, Canada, China (Mainland-Born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom (with the exception of Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Please note that individuals born in Hong Kong Sar, Macau Sar And Taiwan are eligible to participate in DV-2009.
On September 21, Senator Durbin (D-IL) introduced, as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2007 (DREAM). This Act, if voted into law, would provide access to college for immigrant students in the U.S. and would give immigrant children who are motivated to pursue higher education or military service a path to permanent residence.
The Senate will soon vote on the DREAM Act. We will keep you posted on legislative news related to this amendment in the near future.
In response to the increased number of Americans traveling to India for business and vacation, the Indian Embassy has outsourced its visa collection and delivery processes to a U.S. firm. Visa applications at the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. and at the consulates general in Chicago, Houston, New York and San Francisco will be managed by Travisa Outsourcing, Inc., as of October 1, 2007.
The company will charge a service fee of $13 per visa application; individuals that drop off their applications can expect processing on that day. Applications received by mail will be completed by the day after receipt. In addition, there will be a 24/7 call center available for questions and concerns.
“Rapid transformation of India-US relations in recent years has been manifested in an unprecedented growth of business travelers, tourists and other US residents to India and the introduction of several non-stop and additional travel services between the two countries,” said Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen.
“With burgeoning cooperation in the economic, commercial, technological, educational, cultural and other fields and with increasing close bonds of the Indian American community with the country of origin, the demands for visa and other consular services continues to grow.”
This week, thirteen U.S. governors sent a letter to leading senators and representatives strongly urging them to take action this year to increase the amounts of available H-1B visas and permanent resident visas for skilled workforce candidates.
“If states like ours are to remain world leaders in innovation and intend to continue to see the job growth that is so vital to our economies, we must keep our employers in our states and ensure there is a skilled workforce in the country to fill their immediate needs,” wrote the governors. “While wholesale immigration reform may not be possible in the 110th Congress, we urge Congressional action this year that recognizes states’ immediate need to recruit and retain professionals in key sectors, while we continue to produce here at home the skilled workforce our companies need in the long-term.”
Signatories of the letter included: Christine O. Gregoire (WA), Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA), Mitch Daniels (IN), Bill Ritter (CO), Deval Patrick (MA), Dave Freudenthal (WY), Eliot Spitzer (NY), Janet Napolitano (AZ), Jim Doyle (WI), Kathleen Sebelius (KS), Tim Pawlenty (MN), Jim Gibbons (NV) and Rick Perry (TX).
USCIS posted an update this week advising applicants that, because of the large increase in the amounts of applications filed recently, the processing of fee payments and entering cases into their tracking system is behind schedule. Because of this, applicants should expect a delay in receiving their Notifications of Receipt. According to USCIS, as long as all other eligibility requirements are met, these delays should not affect applicants’ Changes of Status or Extensions of Stay. In addition, premium processing requests will continue to be processed within 15 business days.
As of September 7, 2007, USCIS has completed data entry and has issued Notifications of Receipt for applications/petitions received on or before the following dates:
Form Number (Date Received)
California Service Center
All Other Forms (8/28/2007)
Nebraska Service Center
I-485 Employment-based (7/29/2007)
All Other Forms (8/05/2007)
Texas Service Center
I-485 Employment-Based (7/02/2007)
All Other Forms (8/19/2007)
Vermont Service Center
All Other Forms (8/30/2007)
I-485 Family Based (8/15/2007)
USCIS announced this week that it will soon publish an interim rule to create a new nonimmigrant classification: the U nonimmigrant visa. This proposed visa would grant temporary immigration benefits to some victims of crimes who assist government officials in investigating or prosecuting that criminal activity.
Victims of criminal activity who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse because of the crime, have information regarding the crime and are willing to help the government investigate the crime may be eligible for this new, proposed visa. The crime in question must have either violated U.S. law or occurred in the U.S., or its territories and possessions.
“Many immigrant crime victims fear coming forward to assist law enforcement because they may not have legal status,” said Emilio Gonzalez, director of USCIS. “We’re confident that we have developed a rule that meets the spirit of the Act; to help curtail criminal activity, protect victims, and encourage them to fully participate in proceedings that will aid in bringing perpetrators to justice.”
Individuals who are granted U visas can stay in the U.S. for up to four years and may bring eligible family members with them (including spouses, children, parents and unmarried siblings under the age of 18). In addition, these individuals will be given referrals to nongovernmental organizations that can assist them with their varied needs; these individuals will also receive automatic employment authorization. Ten thousand U visas will be available each fiscal year; this number will not apply to eligible family members of U candidates.
USCIS has developed new forms for applicants for the U visa, including Form I-918, the Petition for U Nonimmigrant Status and Form I-918, Supplement A, the Petition for Qualifying Family Member of U-1 Recipient.
The Department of Homeland Security has published a reminder to air carriers and the public that the temporary accommodation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) that allowed U.S. citizens to travel by air within the Western Hemisphere using a proof of passport application receipt from the Department of State expired at midnight on September 30, 2007.
As of October 1, 2007, U.S. citizens traveling by air to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda are required to show a passport or other WHTI-compliant document to enter or leave the U.S.
The temporary accommodation was announced in June of this year, in response to the longer than normal wait times people were experiencing waiting for passport applications to be processed.
For more information on WHTI-compliant travel documents, please visit http://www.dhs.gov. To apply for a U.S. passport, please visit http://www.travel.state.gov.
The Department of State announced recently that it will begin accepting applications for the 2008 Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery starting at noon, EST, October 3, 2007 and will accept applications until noon, EST, December 2, 2007. To apply for the DV Lottery program, you should apply through the DOS online system, available at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov on or after October 3.
The DV Lottery program is open to individuals from countries that have sent less than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the past five years. In 2008, countries that were ineligible for the program included: Brazil, Canada, mainland China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom (including its dependent territories, except for Northern Ireland), and Vietnam. Information about eligibility for the 2009 program will be available online shortly.