DV-2011 Registration Period Begins October 2

The online registration period for entering the 2011 Diversity Visa lottery begins at noon, Eastern Daylight Time, Friday, October 2 and ends at noon, Eastern Standard Time, Monday, November 30. Individuals interested in applying for the DV-2011 program and being considered for permanent residency in the U.S. through the program should apply for the lottery on Form DS-5501, the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form, during this open registration period. The form can be accessed online at http://www.dvlottery.state.gov. Paper entries will not be allowed.

The Diversity Visa program makes available visas to people that meet the program’s simple requirements for eligibility, including being a native of a country whose natives qualify for the program and meeting either the education or work experience requirement of the lottery program (a high school education or its equivalent OR two years of work experience within the past five years in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience to perform).

A maximum of 55,000 visas will be distributed among six geographic regions, with more visas going to regions with lower rates of immigration. Visas are not available to nationals of any country that has sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. over the last five years. Further, within each geographic region, no one country can receive more than seven percent of the available visas in any one year.

For the 2011 Diversity Visa lottery program, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply:

Brazil, Canada, China (Mainland-Born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Korea, United Kingdom (Except Northern Ireland) and its Dependent Territories, and Vietnam.

Please note that people born in Hong Kong Sar, Macau Sar ad Taiwan are eligible for this year’s program.

USCIS May Increase Fees for Immigration Services

Earlier this week, on a visit to Los Angeles, Alejandro Mayorkas, the new Director of USCIS, stated that the federal agency may have to raise fees and cut the budget for immigration services next year. According to Mayorkas, financial challenges have led to the agency considering to raise fees for immigration services. Currently, USCIS is looking at generating $118 million less in revenue this year, due to a smaller amount of individuals and employers applying for citizenship and visas.

The number of individuals applying for citizenship declined greatly last year; many believe that decrease was due, in large part, to a 2007 increase in fees for citizenship applications. Advocates of immigrants believe that any further fee increases will lead to even more drastic reductions in citizenship applications in the years to come.

According to Mayorkas, USCIS is required to be a self-supporting agency. While USCIS is seeking an increase in federal funding – recently, they requested just over $206 million in funds from Congress – it is possible, Mayorkas says, that immigration services fees will increase again in the near future.

U.S. Government Launches New Web-Based Immigration Alert System for Applicants

Yesterday, the U.S. government started a new web-based program that lets immigration applicants check the status of their cases through text messages and emails. This new program is another way to minimize red tape through technological innovation, according to administration officials. The government is also currently developing a new way for individuals in the U.S. to receive emergency info from the government, along with consumer product recalls and other important alerts, through electronic means. The new immigration tracking method and the proposed emergency alert system are both part of a method to fundamentally change the way the government communicates with those residing in the U.S.

These efforts are “fundamentally changing the default of the public sector,” said Vivek Kundra, the government’s Chief Information Officer. “You’re seeing a result of a transparent and open government the president talked about.”

The new immigration alert system will, among other things, remind applicants if portions of their application are not complete (e.g., digital fingerprints not recorded successfully). Instead of applicants having to contact the government for information, this information will now be outbound through the new e-alert system.

Federal Funds to Aid Organizations Will Help Immigrants Become Citizens

A number of resource organizations for immigrants has just received $1.2 million dollars in federal funding to help legal residents become U.S. citizens. Thirteen organizations around the U.S. received up to $100,000 each to help increase the amount of green card holders they are able to help increase English skills, learn about U.S. history and government and ready themselves for the U.S. naturalization test.

These funds, given to Dallas’ Catholic Charities Immigration and Legal Services, San Francisco’s Jewish Family and Children’s Services, North Carolina’s Lutheran Family Services, Rhode Island’s Progreso Latino and other organizations, are, according to the federal government only to be used to provide direct services to legal residents of the U.S. The announcement was made on Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

2011 Diversity Immigration Visa Program Open for Entries Starting October 2

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has just released an update that the online entry registration period for the 2011 Diversity Immigrant Visa program will be October 2 until November 30. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program enables up to 50,000 diversity visas to be available annually. These visas are drawn randomly from all entries received from individuals that have met the specific requirements of the program and are from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.

The entry period for the DV-2010 program ended on December 1, 2008. Information about selected individuals is now available and individuals that entered the lottery through the program’s official website (www.dvlottery.state.gov) can check the status of their lottery entry at that same website address.

USCIS Changes Filing Address for Orphan/Adoption Petitions

USCIS announced last week the changing of filing locations for a series of forms. First, Form I-600, the Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative, and Form I-600A, the Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, should now be sent to the following address:

Regular Mail: USCIS, P.O. Box 299027, Lewisville, TX 75029

Express Mail/Courier Service: USCIS, ATTN: Adoption, 2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business, Suite 400, Lewisville, TX 75067

This change took place on October 6; however, applicants will have a 30-day transition period before USCIS returns incorrectly filed I-600 and I-600A petitions.

Second, USCIS announced the change in filing location for Form I-800, the Petition to Classify Convention Adoptee as an Immediate Relative, and Form I-800A, the Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country, both related to the Hague Adoption Convention. The new mailing address for these petitions are:

Regular Mail: USCIS, P.O. Box 299008, Lewisville, TX 75029

Express Mail/Courier Service: USCIS, ATTN: Hague, 2501 S. State Hwy. 121 Business, Suite 400, Lewisville, TX 75067

This change also took place on October 6. As was the case with Form I-600 and I-600A, there will be a 30-day transition period before USCIS returns incorrectly filed I-800 and I-800A petitions.

Study Find that Less Immigrants Applied for U.S. Citizenship Last Year

The number of immigrants that applied to become U.S. citizens shrunk 62 percent last year, due to the rise in costs associated with naturalization. In 2007, the costs for naturalization increased from $330 to $595 (with an additional $80 fingerprinting fee). Prior to that rate increase nearly 1.4 million people filed applications in 2007. This created a backlog that almost tripled the time it took to process these applications.

Last year, however, only 525,786 people applied for naturalization, the lowest number since 2003. In a report released by the National Council of La Raza, a well-known Latino advocacy group, it is stated that “eligible applicants face mounting economic pressures that threaten to place naturalization out of reach.”

The Council suggests that the government should look for ways to minimize the cost of processing these applications for those with economic hardship.

E-Verify Now Required by Law for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors; USCIS Publishes Supplemental Guide on the Program

USCIS has just published a supplemental guide for federal contractors on the E-Verify system. The guide, published on September 8, 2009, is available online at: http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/E-Verify/Federal%20Contractors/Supplemental%20Guidance%20for%20Federal%20Contractors%20082709%20FINAL.pdf

USCIS’ rule that all federal contractors and subcontractors are required to use E-Verify, the government’s online portal to confirm the identity and employment authorization of employees, went into effect on September 8. The 22-page supplemental guide provides guidance on a range of topics for contractors, including background information on E-Verify and federal legislation related to the program, detailed instructions for verifying new and existing employees, instructions for how to verify your workforce, information on contracts, exemptions and exceptions, and information for subcontractors and independent contractors and affiliates.

The E-Verify program and legislation related to it have been fraught with problems. Many groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other national trade organizations, have been quite vocal in their opposition to the program. The program, however, is now active and required for use by all federal contractors and subcontractors, with the exception of a few exempt groups.

US and Mexico Work Together to Create New Cross Border Communications Network

Earlier this week, the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and State (DOS) announced that senior officials of the United States-Mexico High-Level Consultative Commission on Telecommunications (HLCC) have just signed a bilateral agreement that will support the creation of a new cross-border communications network for law enforcement and public safety officials to use to strengthen border security.

This agreement, signed on September 2, established a bilateral working group in which DHS and Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Security (SSP) will coordinate the installation and operation of the communications network. Participating safety and law enforcement officers will be able to coordinate cross-border collaboration on incident response and other aspects of law enforcement through voice, data and video means.

Federal Contractors and Subcontractors Required to Use E-Verify As of September 8

After a number of legal hold-ups, the E-Verify system is soon going to be a required system for the verification of employee eligibility verification for federal contractors and subcontractors. Effective September 8, 2009, all companies with contracts with the federal government and their subcontractors will be required to use E-Verify to verify the employment eligibility of their employees. E-Verify compares information entered into the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form against data in federal government databases.

The E-Verify system is free to use and was created by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration.

Legislation requiring the use of E-Verify extends the use of the E-Verify system to “covered federal contractors and subcontractors.” This includes all contractors that have received funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. All companies that receive federal contracts after September 8 will be required to enroll in the E-Verify system within 30 days of the contract award date. All new hires, regardless of whether these employees will work on the federal contract(s), will need to have their eligibility confirmed by the E-Verify System.