Individuals with HIV Still Limited from Entering the U.S.

On July 30, 2008, President Bush signed into law an act that would no longer require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to designate HIV as a communicable disease of public health significance. However, HHS has, to this date, not yet removed HIV from its designation as this type of communicable disease.

Because of this lack of action on HHS’s part, individuals with HIV infection, as diagnosed by a civil surgeon or panel physician, are still required to file Form I-601, the Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. Refugees and Asylee applicants, are required to use Form I-602, the Application by Refugee for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability.

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USCIS Revises Filing Instructions for Form I-751

Earlier this week, USCIS announced that it had revised the filing instructions for Form I-751, the Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. Effective August 25, 2008, all petitioners filing this form must file with either the California or the Vermont Service Center, depending upon their state of residence.

Residents of the following states should file their Form I-751 with the California Service Center:

Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

USCIS California Service Center
P.O. Box 10751
Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1075

Residents of the following states should file their Form I-751 with the California Service Center:

Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, and West Virginia

USCIS Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden St.
P.O. Box 200
St. Albans, VT 05479-0001

On September 24, 2008, USCIS will only accept the revised form that is dated August 25, 2008; all previous versions of the form and all petitions filed with the wrong Service Center will be rejected.

USCIS Withdraws Proposed Rule Amending the H-2B Visa Program

USCIS has just withdrawn a proposed rule that would amend H-2B regulations. The proposed rule, Petitions for Aliens to Perform Nonagricultural Temporary Services or Labor (H-2B), was published in late January of 2005. It proposed changes to USCIS regulations that aimed to increase the effectiveness of the H-2B program and provide additional protection for U.S. workers.

The proposed rule would have established a process for U.S. employers wishing to hire temporary H-2B workers to petition for those workers in a one-step process. With the rule, employers would have no longer needed to apply for labor certification from the Department of Labor and would have eliminated the use of agents as petitioners of H-2B visas. In addition, it would have required electronic filing of Form I-129, the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, within 60 days of the requested employment start date.

Based on public comments regarding the proposed rule, USCIS has withdrawn it and will soon publish a new, revised proposed rule regarding these new restrictions and policies.

Ice Provides Update on Scheduled Departure Program

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has provided an update to the public on its Scheduled Departure program, currently being piloted in five U.S. cities. The pilot program, which runs until August 22, is a way to enforce orders of removal without having to arrest and detain non-criminal fugitive aliens.

Immigration fugitives interested in participating in this pilot program can call ICE at 1-866-880-6344 to see if they qualify for the program. Representatives will be available to answer questions in both English and Spanish.

The program, which takes place between August 5 and August 22, is being piloted in the following five cities: Charlotte, NC, Chicago, IL, Santa Ana, CA, Phoenix, AZ and San Diego, CA.

For more information, please visit: http://www.ice.gov/scheduled-departure/index.htm.

CDC Posts Shortage of Zoster Vaccine

On August 14, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated USCIS that they currently do not have any Zoster vaccines due to manufacturer shipping delays. The Zoster vaccine was added to the list of required vaccinations for international applicants age 60 and older that was updated on Form I-693, the Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination record. This vaccine was required of these individuals on July 1 of this year.

Please note that, until CDC provides additional notices, Form I-693 may be accepted, even if it is missing the Zoster Vaccine. Civil Surgeons should note on the form the following statement: “Vaccine not available.”

Homeland Security Opens Electronic System for Travel Authorization for Volunteer Participation

The Department of Homeland Security will be introducing the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) on a voluntary basis for individuals entering the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

The Department of Homeland Security has informed the public that they will be introducing the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) on a voluntary basis for individuals entering the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The new system will be mandatory in January 2009 and will then require VWP travelers to use the online program to receive advance approval (at least 72 hours in advance of their travels) before entering the U.S. VWP travelers that use the ESTA program will be allowed to board transportation to travel to the U.S.; they will still pass through inspection at a U.S. port of entry.

This new program, which, again, is voluntary until January 2009, asks VWP travelers to visithttps://esta.cbp.dhs.gov, where they will provide their biographical and passport information, their VWP eligibility information and data regarding arrest records, communicable diseases and historical visa denials, if applicable. Currently, VWP travelers provide this information at a U.S. port of entry. ESTA data, once submitted, will be reviewed against relevant U.S. databases. The ESTA system should provide real-time eligibility determination for the VWP traveler.

House Subcommittee on Immigration Approves Three New Bills

Last week, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration reviewed a series of proposed immigration-related legislation and approved the following three bills to go to the full House Judiciary Committee for review.

The first bill, H.R. 6020, was sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and would amend the Immigration and Naturalization Act to enable soldiers who served in the military in the support of contingency operations to be eligible for naturalization. The bill passed the subcommittee by a vote of 6-3.

The second bill, H.R. 5882, also sponsored by Lofgren, proposes to recapture employment- and family-based immigrant visas that were unused due to bureaucratic delays so that these visas are not lost again in the future. This bill passed by a vote of 8-1.

The final bill, H.R. 5924, sponsored by Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL) proposes to make available 20,000 employment-based visas each year for three years for nurses wishing to provide allied healthcare in the United States. This bill passed the subcommittee by a vote of 7-2.