USCIS Updates Form for Temporary Protected Status Applicants

USCIS reported this week that it has revised Form I-821, the Application for Temporary Protected Status. The new, revised form will be effective on June 27, 2008. Form I-821 is used by nationals of countries designated with Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. People applying for TPS for the first time and people applying to re-register for TPS use this form. The new form will include additional questions that will help USCIS better determine an applicant’s eligibility for TPS.

Previous editions of Form I-821 will be accepted through June 26, 2008. On and after June 27, only the revised form (with an October 17, 2007 revision date) will be accepted; all other versions of the form will be rejected.

TPS is a temporary immigrant status given to eligible nationals of certain countries who are temporarily unable to safely return to their home country due to either armed conflict, an environmental disaster or another extraordinary, temporary situation. Beneficiaries of this status may stay and work in the U.S. as long as their country of origin remains under TPS.

USCIS Updates Employment Authorization Document

USCIS has updated Form I-765, the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). The revised form must be used by all applicants as of May 27, 2008. The form has been changed to include recent changes to F-1 visa holders seeking Optional Practical Training (OPT). Please note that Form I-765 has gone through multiple changes recently; it is essential that you verify the form you are using has a Revision Date of May 27, 2008. All applicants submitting Form I-765, regardless of whether or not they are F-1 visa holders seeking OPT, must use this new form.

Customs and Border Protection Issued Misnumbered I-94 Cards at Ports of Entry in 2008

Customs and Border Protection (CBP), early this year, apparently received roughly 1 million I-94 Arrival-Departure cards that were missing the first digit. These misnumbered cards were used by CBP and issued to individuals arriving through various ports of entry into the U.S. The misprints on these cards have led to the Social Security Administration’s refusal or delay of issuance of social security numbers to applicants who would have otherwise been eligible to receive these numbers. CBP has publicly noted that the misnumbered cards have been recalled and replaced. According to CBP, the cards were issued by Canada’s Calgary Airport; however additional cards may have been issued at other ports of entry.

Individuals who have misnumbered I-94 cards can request a new card directly from CBP either through a Deferred Inspection Site or at a port of entry. If you received an I-94 card from a port of entry in 2008, we recommend you verify that your card is printed with an 11-digit number (and not a 10-digit misprinted number). The card should display 9 digits, followed by a dash and then two additional numbers.

Proposed Rule Would Make Changes to H-2B Program for Non-Agricultural Workers and Nurses

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employment and Training Administration has proposed a series of changes to the H-2B visa program. The proposed rule would change the process in which employers requested entry into the U.S. for temporary nonagricultural-based and nursing workers under the H-2B program. The proposed rule would re-engineer the application filing and review process by centralizing processing and by letting employers conduct pre-filing U.S. worker recruitment activities. The rule would also enhance the integrity of the program by introducing post-adjudication audits and penalizations for employers who fail to meet the requirements of the visa program.

This rule would also implement certain technical changes to the H-1B and permanent labor certification regulations. While DOL does not have authority to enforce the following of H-2B regulations, there is the possibility that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and DOL could work out an agreement by which DHS could allow for DOL to enforce certain portions of the H-2B program.

New Immigration-Related Amendments Added to War Supplemental Bill

Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee added a range of amendments to the war supplemental bill. A number of these amendments were related to immigration. These amendments include a smaller-scale version of AgJobs, introduced by Senators Craig (R-ID) and Feinstein (D-CA); a three-year returning worker extension for the H-2B temporary worker, program, introduced by Senator Mikulski (D-MD); an amendment that proposes to recapture employment-based immigrants visas and provide for early adjustment filing, introduced by Senators Gregg (R-NH) and Murray (D-WA); reauthorization of the EB-5 investor visa program, introduced by Senator Leahy (D-VT); and a funding program for border security, introduced by Senator Hutchison (R-TX).

Pundits note that many of these introduced amendments may not make it past a full debate in the Senate. However, the introduction of these various measures shows the Appropriations Committee’s interest in reformulating a range of immigration legislations.

USCIS Announces Enhancements to Data Verification in the E-Verify Program

USCIS announced on May 5 a series of improvements to the E-Verify employment authorization program that will reduce mismatch rates and streamline and increase program effectiveness. This announcement relates the first two of three enhancement phases of the program aimed at decreasing mismatch rates for naturalized citizens.

As of May 5, E-Verify will include naturalization data that will instantly help confirm the citizenship status of naturalized U.S. citizens hired by employers that utilize the electronic employment authorization verification program. Currently, naturalized citizens who haven’t yet updated their records with the Social Security Administration face more mismatches than any other group in E-Verify. E-Verify will, however, now include real time arrival data from the Integrated Border Inspection system; this will greatly reduce the number of immigration status-related mismatches for individuals who have legally entered the U.S.

“Less than one percent of all work-authorized employees receive a tentative nonconfirmation through E-Verify,” said Jonathan Scharfen, acting director of USCIS. “While this is a very small percentage, we believe every employee who is authorized to work in the United States should be instantly authorized by the program. We’re confident that the enhancements we’re launching today will help us achieve that goal.”

USCIS Settles Class Action Lawsuit; Certain SSI Beneficiaries Can Request Expedited Green Card & Naturalization Processing

Earlier this week, USCIS settled a class action lawsuit initiated by non-U.S. citizens who had either lost or were about to lose their eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to a seven-year limit and could not become U.S. citizens prior to losing their benefits. The lawsuit titled Kaplan, et al. v. Chertoff, et al. has led to a settlement agreement that took place on May 5 and will remain in effect until February 5, 2011.

As part of the settlement agreement, USCIS will now expedite Form I-485s (Applications to Register Permanent Status or Adjust Status) and Form N-400s (Applications for Naturalization) for current and former SSI beneficiaries in cases where applications have been pending with USCIS for more than 6 months. This expedited process will include an accelerated FBI name check and the prioritization of certain USCIS-related events, such as scheduling interviews. Cases for individuals who have I-482 or N-400s pending with USCIS for more than 6 months and have lost or will lose their SSI benefits will be expedited, even if applicants have not yet requested expedited processing.

Three New Immigration-Related Bills Introduced in the House of Representatives

In late April three new immigration-related bills were introduced in the House of Representatives. The first bill, introduced on 4/23/2008, proposes to recapture employment-based immigrant visas that were lost due to bureaucratic delays. The bill, titled H.R. 5882, was introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and aims to prevent future losses of family- and employment-based immigrant visas.

The second bill, also introduced by Representative Lofgren, was proposed on 4/29/2008. This bill, H.R. 5921, would eliminate the ‘per country level’ for employment based immigrants. The bill, according to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, proposes to “end the spill-over of unused immigrant visa numbers between employment-based and family-sponsored categories.”

H.R. 5924, introduced on 4/29/2008 by Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL), would provide much needed relief for the current shortage of nurses in the United States.