USCIS Announces Filing Location Changes for Form I-601, the Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility

USCIS announced this week a series of revisions to Form I-601, the Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility. As of January 4, 2010, persons with HIV infection are no longer inadmissible to the United States and are no longer required to file Form I-601 because of their HIV status. Any references to HIV infection have been removed from the revised form.

Additionally, USCIS has announced revised filing instructions and addresses for the filing of Form I-601. In an effort to centralize form processing, USCIS is changing the filing location for this form. As of January 27, 2010, the following filing locations took effect:

Applicants with an approved Form I-360, based as a self-petitioning spouse or child of an abusive U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident or T nonimmigrants wishing to seek adjustment of status, should file their application at the USCIS Vermont Service Center at the following address:

USCIS Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden Street
St. Albans, VT 05479-0001

Applicants who are filing Form I-601 with Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, should file both forms at the filing location specified in the instructions of Form I-485.

Applicants with a pending Form I-485 should file Form I-601 with a US Lockbox facility based on the first three letters in their application receipt number. More detailed instructions on lockbox location can be found in the instructions of Form I-601. Please note that you should include in your mailing a copy of the I-797C, Notice of Action, to provide assurance that your I-485 Form was accepted.

Applicants for Temporary Protected Status should file Form I-601, along with Form I-821, the Application for Temporary Protected Status. Please use the relevant Federal Register notice for guidance regarding where these forms should be filed.

Persons currently in removal proceedings are required to file Form I-601 with the Executive Office for Immigration Review that has jurisdiction over your case. Instructions are provided to you in court regarding this location for filing.

Please note that USCIS will forward all incorrectly filed I-601 applications to the correct USCIS Lockbox facility for 30 days. After February 27, 2010, however, incorrectly filed applications will be returned to the applicant with guidance to resubmit to the correct location.

USCIS Issues Reminder of Process to Request a Waiver of Fees for Temporary Protected Status Applicants

Just after designating Haiti for temporary protected status, USCIS has issued a reminder of the requirements and methods to request waivers of fees for temporary protected status applicants. In certain cases, some persons can not afford to cover the cost of filing applications and petitions or biometrics fees and in certain cases, USCIS will waive the fees for application.

Certain eligible persons may request a fee waiver for the Application for Temporary Protected Status (Form I-821), Application for Employment Authorization (Form-I765), Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility (Form I-601), and the biometric fee. Please note that the fee for the Application for Travel Document (Form I-131) is not open for a waiver request.

To apply for a waiver of fees, you should submit a written statement (under oath or affirmation) in which you state “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct,” and provide detailed reasons why you are not able to pay the filing fees. Supporting documentation should also be submitted with your application for a fee waiver.

Customs and Border Protection Reminds VWP Travelers of the ESTA requirement

It’s been one year since the implementation of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued a reminder to travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries of the requirement to comply with ESTA. Starting January 20, 2010, the agency will start a 60-day transition toward enforcing ESTA compliance for all air carriers. Any person from a Visa Waiver Program country that does not have an approved ESTA may not be able to board an airplane that is traveling to the U.S.

ESTA is an electronic travel authorization required for all citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. This authorization has been required since January 12, 2009, but should not affect U.S. citizens returning from overseas or Visa Waiver Program citizens traveling to the U.S. under a valid U.S. visa.

Department of Homeland Security Designates Haiti for Temporary Protected Status

The Department of Homeland Security has just announced that Haiti has been designated for temporary protected status (TPS) for 18 months. TPS is granted to nationals from certain countries that are experiencing ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster or some other extraordinary, temporary condition.

Haitian nationals who have been physically present in the United States since January 12, 2010 and who remain to reside in the U.S from the notice’s effective date may now apply for TPS within the 180-day registration period of TPS. These nationals may also apply for employment authorization and for permission to leave and return to the U.S.

SSA Reports Problems Using E-Verify Employee Eligibility Program

According to a report just released by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the federal agency did not use the E-Verify program to confirm the identity and employment eligibility of nearly 20 percent of their new hires. While E-Verify is required for all federal workers and federal contractors and subcontractors, this report lends to the idea that E-Verify may not be ready for full implementation at a national level.

Much has been published about concerns about the validity of the E-Verify program and the SSA’s admittance to its own internal conflicts with the system further solidify those earlier concerns. In addition to SSA’s inability to use E-Verify in nearly 20 percent of their new hires, the federal agency also improperly ran verification checks on nearly 170 volunteers and persons not yet hired, actions that were in violation of federal law. In 2008, a survey conducted with workers in Arizona, where mandatory laws requiring the use of E-Verify were active at the time, revealed that just over 33 percent of 376 immigrant workers had been fired due to errors in the E-Verify database and not one of those fired workers were informed that they could have appealed those incorrect findings.

USCIS Realigns Its Organizational Structure

Early this year, USCIS realigned its organizational structure in order to “achieve greater efficiency and to more ably accomplish our mission,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, Director of USCIS. Of the multiple changes as part of this realignment are three key changes. These include the following:

The creation of a Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate, which will bring a greater focus on anti-fraud and national security initiatives.

The creation of a Customer Service Directorate, which will aid in USCIS’s overarching goal to increase its provisions of customer service.

The splitting of the Domestic Operations Directorate into two directorates, the Service Center Operations Directorate and the Field Operations Directorate, which will, according to USCIS, provide for more innovation and greater efficiency in the provision of immigration services.

The new organizational chart is online and available for viewing at the following Web address:

Secure Communities Initiative Implemented in Two New California Counties

The Secure Communities Initiative has just been deployed in two new counties, both in California. Beginning last Tuesday, law enforcement agencies in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties became a part of the initiative, that gives them access to electronic booking machines that check the digital fingerprints of arrested persons against the FBI criminal history records and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) immigration records. If there is a match to DHS data, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is informed and, when needed, will become involved to ensure that criminal aliens are not released back into the public.

“Secure Communities provides local law enforcement with an effective tool to identify dangerous criminal aliens,” said Marc Rapp, Acting Secure Communities Executive Director. “Enhancing public safety is at the core of ICE’s mission. Our goal with Secure Communities is to use information sharing to prevent criminal aliens from being released back into the community, with little or no additional burden on our law enforcement partners.”

More than 108 regions in 15 states currently participate in the Secure Communities initiative. ICE plans to implement the initiative nationwide by 2013.

Chafee Rescinds Federal Requirement that Rhode Island Collaborate with Federal Officials on Immigration Enforcement

Earlier this week, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee rescinded the federal law that requires state police to collaborate with federal officials in immigration enforcement. The executive order, released in 2008, was the cause of much debate, with many questioning the federal requirement that state agencies and vendors that do business with a state use the E-Verify system to check the employment eligibility of new hires. Controversy also surrounded the requirement that state police collaborate with federal officials by giving state troopers access to an electronic immigration database to check if detainees are in the U.S. illegally.

In his public announcement, Chafee, who was sworn in earlier this week, stated his belief that immigration enforcement should be dealt with at a federal level and not at the state level. “My view is that Rhode Island can grow economically by being a tolerant place to do business,” said Chafee. “The immigrant-rich areas, I want to see them prosper, and they need it.”

USCIS Publishes Notice Regarding Changes to SEVIS Program

USCIS has just announced that it will be modifying the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to include changes to the types of personal information collected and maintained for individuals. With the launch of the new SEVIS application, SEVIS II, USCIS proposes to collect additional information on students, exchange visitors and their dependants that enter the United States under the F, M or J visa categories, and the designated sponsors of these nonimmigrants.

Similar to the original SEVIS program, SEVIS II will track and monitor F, M and J nonimmigrants throughout their stay in the U.S. educational system or an exchange visitor program. With SEVIS II, there will be updated categories of individuals, records, system purposes, and routine uses. Additionally, SEVIS II will include new policies and practices for storing, retrieving, accessing, retaining and disposing of records in the SEVIS system, along with new procedures to access records.

Finally, this notice includes changes that intend to simplify the formatting and text of the previously published notice.

Comments regarding this notice, which is available in the January 5, 2010 Federal Register, will be accepted on or before February 4, 2010.