DHS to Provide Grants to Help States Prepare for REAL ID Act

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced that they will offer nearly $80 million in grant funding to help states improve the security of state-issued driver’s licenses and identification documents, as part of the new REAL ID requirements. Every state that requested funding for Fiscal Year 2008 will receive a portion of the grant funding.

The funding will help support projects such as improving the security of licenses, upgrading the security of facilities and updating document imaging and storing capacities. In addition, the funding will provide support for the development and testing of a verification hub that will let states send query requests to federal and non-federal institutions that issue identification documents to verify applicant source documents.

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Modern Day Immigrants Assimilate Faster than Immigrants of Previous Generations

A new study sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, a New York-based think tank, shows that immigrants of the past 25 years have assimilated in the U.S. at a much faster rate than immigrants of previous generations. According to the report, current immigrants come to the U.S. with less ability to speak English and lower earning power than their immigrant forbearers, take on native-born traits at a greater speed than seen previously.

The study, which measured assimilation by investigating rates of U.S. citizenship and military service, economic factors such as salary rates and home ownership, and cultural factors such as the ability to speak English and intermarrying rates, shows that the level of immigration has consistently increased, with a distinct raise in assimilation rates seen since the early 1990s.

Study investigators purport that this increase in assimilation rates may be due to the economic expansion of the 1990s that created more job opportunities at all economic levels. Many new immigrants started economically at a very low level, enabling a faster increase in assimilation as they improved their personal economies. However, the investigators do note that assimilation rates seen in ethnic populations with high levels of undocumented residents, such as Mexicans, are much lower than those of ethnic populations with lower levels of undocumented residents; this, the investigators state, is most likely due to the fact that a large portion of the ways to assimilate are cut off and unavailable to those that are in the country illegally.

USCIS Will Close Field Offices in Tijuana and Hong Kong

On June 18, USCIS announced that it will close its field offices in Tijuana, Mexico and Hong Kong. The Tijuana office will close on July 3 and the Hong Kong office will close on August 29. In preparation of these closings, each field office will stop accepting the following applications and transfer responsibility for these forms on the dates here listed:

Tijuana

Form I-130, the Petition to Classify Alien as an Immediate Relative: June 20. Applications will be forwarded to the Mexico City District office for processing.

Form I-407, the Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status: July 1. Applications will be processed by the U.S. State Departments and the form and documents will be forwarded to the Mexico City District office for destruction and system updates.

Form I-600, the Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative: June 20. Applications will be forwarded to the Ciudad Juarez Field office for processing.

Form I-600A/I-800A, the Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition: June 20. Applications will be forwarded to the Ciudad Juarez Field office for processing.

Hong Kong

Form I-130, the Petition to Classify Alien as an Immediate Relative: September 2. Applications will be managed and processed by the U.S. State Department Consular Section.

Form I-407, the Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status: June 23. Applications will be managed and processed by the U.S. State Department Consular Section.

Form I-600, the Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative: September 2. Applications will be managed and processed by the U.S. State Department Consular Section.

Form I-600A/I-800A, the Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition: September 2. Applications will be received by the U.S. State Department Consular Section and forwarded to the USCIS Bangkok District office for processing.

Re-Entry Permits sent to Hong Kong for Collection: September 2. Permits will be distributed by the U.S. State Department Consular Section.

Application for Boarding Letters (also known as Transportation Letters): September 2. These documents will be processing by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

USCIS Update on FY 2009 H-1B Visa Selection

USCIS has informed the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the leading association for immigration lawyers, about various issues related to the Fiscal Year 2009 H-1B visa cap. According to a USCIS representative, with the exception of cases currently being reviewed as possible duplicate filings, all receipts have been issued for applications selected in the random H-1B lottery. Data entry was completed on May 23 and all receipts were mailed on May 24. Potential duplicate entry cases are current being reviewed by USCIS. There are currently 500 cases classified as potential duplicates. Each of these cases will be reviewed and decisions will be made on their status and classification. Finally, USCIS has commented that the number of petitions they selected during the random selection process was enough to reach the cap limit. USCIS will not need to use any reserves to reach the FY 2009 cap. Rejection letters are being mailed out this week.

All Federal Contractors Will Be Required to Use E-Verify

On June 9, the Department of Homeland Security announced that all federal contractors will be required to use E-Verify, the government’s electronic employment eligibility verification system, to verify the legal status of their new hires.

“A large part of our success in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws hinges on equipping employers with the tools to determine quickly and effectively if a worker is legal or illegal,” said Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. “E-Verify is a proven tool that helps employers immediately verify the legal working status for all new hires.”

An executive order had been amended by President George W. Bush ordering all federal departments and agencies to require their contractors to agree to use the electronic eligibility verification system; in response to this executive order, Chertoff designated E-Verify as a required system of use for all companies choosing to work with the federal government. Comments regarding this new requirement will be accepted for 60 days.

Validity for Some Employment Authorization Document to be Extended to Two Years

In a recent speech during the State of Immigration Address, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that the federal organization will be extending the validity period of employment authorization documents given to people waiting to adjust their status to lawful permanent residents. Currently, individuals seeking adjustment of status are given employment authorization documents with a one-year maximum validity period. In late June, these documents will be issued with a two-year validity period for individuals waiting for an adjustment of status if their applications are expected to be pending for more than one year.

“This … is eliminating a persistent source of frustration for workers who are here, who have a pending adjustment application but have to go and renew their employment documents every single year,” said Chertoff. “It’s going to cut the paperwork there.”

USCIS Posts Three New Updates

USCIS announced this week that it has centralized the processing of all naturalization applications to its National Benefits Center in Missouri. Forms N-400, the Application for Naturalization, should now be sent to the organization’s Missouri Benefits Center. USCIS also announced this week that it intends to issue new cards for the Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection program. These new cards will include certain enhanced security features that will allow U.S. citizens to be in compliance with the requirements of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. A final change announced by USCIS this week is an address change of the organization’s lockbox to a new address in Chicago in late May. USCIS notes that the post office address will remain the same; however, mail delivered via private courier has change to:

USCIS:
Attn:
131 South Dearborn, 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

Please note that courier services have agreed to forward packages to the new address for 90 days, up to August 2008. USCIS has also noted that they will accept and process without delay cases that are otherwise properly filed.