Earlier this month, the Department of State published a final rule titled the ‘Exchange Visitors Program – Sanctions and Terminations.’ That rule amended and modified the ways in that the Department of State can sanction a sponsor. This change would offer sanctioned sponsors of exchange visitors due process rights given by the Administrative Procedure Act. Further, the rule would have eliminated summary suspensions and modified program suspensions that would stop all activities of exchange visitor sponsors that committed acts of omission that could endanger the health, safety or welfare of an exchange visitor (or adversely affect the national security interests of the U.S.)
The final rule, however, is now being withdrawn so that it can be internally reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget. The rule may again become law in the future, but at this point, it has been withdrawn and is not currently effective.
Due to a significant increase in the amounts of applications filed this summer, USCIS has released an official advisory on processing times. According to USCIS, nearly 2.5 million applications and petitions were received in July and August of this year. Note that during these two months in 2006, only 1.2 million applications and petitions were received by USCIS. In addition, USCIS has received 1.4 million applications for naturalization this year, an increase of almost 100 percent over naturalization requests last year.
While USCIS notes that it is actively working to manage the increased workload (including hiring 1,500 new employees), individuals should expect processing times for some applications to increase in length. Naturalization applications will especially be affected by this increase in the number of applications received by USCIS. Applications submitted after June 1, 2007 may take roughly 16 to 18 months to process.
Good news for foreign students and the universities that educate them. According to the Department of State (DOS), a record number of visas have been issued to foreign nationals to study in the U.S. this year. During Fiscal Year 2007, DOS issued over 651,000 student and exchange visitors. This number is a 10% increase over 2006 and 90,000 more visas than issued in 2001.
Last week was International Education Week. During that week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated: “In this celebration of international education and exchange, the U.S. Department of State joins with the U.S. Department of Education to highlight the critical role of education in our efforts to secure a bright future based on international partnership and understanding.”
Visitors to Japan will now face new security measures upon entry to that country. A new Japanese law, that took effect on November 20, 2007, now requires the submission of personal identification information upon arrival in Japan. Under the new regulations, foreign nationals, at the arrival point in Japan will be required to allow an immigration control officer to collect fingerprints and a facial photograph of them. Any foreign nationals who refuse to comply with the new requirement will not be allowed to enter Japan.
Please note that this new requirement will affect all foreign nationals who wish to enter Japan, with the exception of: (1) special permanent residents; (2) individuals under the age of 16; (3) diplomats or officials of another country; (4) individuals invited to Japan by the head of any Japanese national administrative organization; and (5) individuals designated by the Japanese Ministry of Justice as equivalent to either diplomats/officials or those invited by heads of national administrative organizations.
USCIS just announced that, as of December 10, 2007, the agency will only accept petitions for the H-2A Visa for temporary/agricultural workers mailed or delivered to its California Service Center. Please note that the following address, as of December 10, should be used for H-2A petitions:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services California Service Center ATTN: H-2A Processing Unit P.O. BOX 10140 Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1040
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services California Service Center ATTN: H-2A Processing Unit 24000 Avila Road, Room 2312 Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
In addition, USCIS notes that it will return H-2A petitions received on or after December 10 at any other Service Center with a notice to the petitioner to send the petition to the California Service Center. Prior to this notice petitioners were able to file H-2A petitions with either the California or the Vermont Service Center.
USCIS recently announced that it has published a revised version of the I-9 Form, the Employment Eligibility Verification Form. All employers in the U.S. are now required to use this new form when completing any new hire within this country.
According to USCIS, the revised form aims to reach full compliance with document reduction requirements set out in federal legislature. Key aspects of the revised form include the removal of five documents for proof of identity and employment eligibility. These documents include Forms N-560 or N-570, the Certificate of U.S. Citizenship; Forms N-550 or N-570, the Certificate of Naturalization; Form I-151, the Alien Registration Receipt Card; Form I-327, the unexpired Reentry Permit; and Form I-571, the unexpired Refugee Travel Document.
USCIS notes that it removed these forms because they do not have sufficient features in place to deter counterfeiting, tampering and fraud.
The most recent version of Form I-766, the Employment Authorization Document, however, was added to ‘List A’ of acceptable documents of proof. The revised I-9 Form now allows the following as proof identity and employment eligibility: an unexpired or expired U.S. passport; Form I-551, the Permanent Resident Card; an unexpired foreign passport with a temporary I-551 stamp; unexpired Forms I-766, I-688, I-688A, or I-688B, the Employment Authorization Document (including a photograph); and an unexpired foreign passport with an unexpired Form I-94, the Arrival-Departure Record for nonimmigrant aliens authorized to work for a certain employer.
As of November 7, 2007, employers were only allowed to use Form I-9 with a revision date of June 5, 2007. USCIS notes, though, that a notice will soon be published in the Federal Register giving employers a 30-day notice to transition to the new form.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed last week to amend current regulations that relate to certain nonimmigrants seeking entry into the U.S. This proposed regulation would authorize the use of short-term nonimmigrant visas and temporary admission for foreign nationals who are currently not allowed to enter the U.S. solely because they are HIV positive.
In the proposed rule, on a limited basis, these individuals would be able to enter the U.S. as visitors for business or pleasure for up to thirty days, as long as they met certain requirements that would be set in place to ensure their control and departure. Any nonimmigrant who either does not meet these specific circumstances, or chooses not to consent to these levels of control, would be able to seek a particular determination of their eligibility for a waiver of the nonimmigrant visa requirements for HIV positive foreign nationals.
DHS is asking for comments to be received on or before December 6, 2007. Comments can be made at http://www.regulations.gov.