USCIS Updates Forms I-360 and I-485; Both Forms Now Require New Filing Locations

This week, USCIS announced new filing locations for two forms that have now been revised and updated. The new Form I-360, the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, was posted yesterday and is dated 12/30/09. No previous versions of this form will be accepted 30 days after publication. The new Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, was also posted yesterday and is dated 12/03/09.

Starting February 25, 2010, applicants filing a Form I-360 should submit the form either with the Vermont Service Center, the Nebraska Service Center or a USCIS Lockbox facility. If applicable, USCIS will forward incorrectly filed forms to the correct location until March 29, 2010. After that date, incorrectly filed forms may be returned to the petitioner with instructions to send the form to the correct location. Previous versions of this form will be accepted until March 29, 2010. After that date, previous versions will be rejected.

Starting February 25, 2010, the majority of applicants filing Form I-485 should submit the form to a USCIS Lockbox facility, based on the eligibility category under which they are filing (more information regarding this is available in the revised form’s instructions). USCIS will forward all incorrectly filed forms up to March 29, 2010. After that date, incorrectly filed forms will be returned to the petitioner with instructions to send the form to the correct location. Previous versions of this form will be accepted until March 29, 2010. After that date, previous versions will be rejected.

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USCIS Announces a Change of Filing Location for Form I-102, the Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Departure Document

Yesterday, USCIS announced revised filing instructions and addresses for applicants that are filing Form I-102, the Application for Replacement/Initial Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Document. The new form, which is dated January 13, 2010, is part of a greater USCIS initiative to centralize form and fee intakes to USCIS Lockbox facilities.

Starting February 22, 2010, applicants separately filing Form I-201 should mail their application to either the Phoenix or Dallas Lockbox facility, based on their location. Additional guidance is included in the revised instructions of Form I-102. Applicants that are submitting Form I-102 with another form should submit both forms to the location specified in the filing instructions of the other form.

Please note that NATO and Partnership for Peace under SOFA Military Members that are seeking an initial Form I-94 should submit their application through their foreign commander or designee to the following address:

NATO/Headquarters
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation at NATO/HQ SACT
7857 Blandy Road. Suite 100
ATTN: Legal Affairs
Norfolk, VA 23551-2490

Service Centers that receive any Form I-102 will forward the form to the correct USCIS Lockbox facility up to March 24, 2010. After that date, applications filed incorrectly will be returned to the applicant, with guidance to send the form to the correct location.

Please note that applicants filing this form at a USCIS Lockbox facility may request to receive an email or text message letting them know that USCIS has accepted their application. Applicants interested in receiving this message should additionally complete Form G-1145, the E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, and attach it to the first page of their application.

USCIS Announces Revised Filing Instructions/Addresses for Form I-824

Earlier this week, USCIS announced revised filing instructions and addresses for applicants that are filing Form I-824, the Application for Action on an Approved Application or Petition. The new form, which is dated 12.11/09, includes a series of changes that are a part of an overall effort to move from accepting benefit forms at USCIS local offices and Service Centers to USCIS Lockbox facilities.

Starting February 19, 2010, applicants should file Form I-824 with a USCIS Lockbox facility, based on which Service Center or USCIS local office approved their original petition or application. Further clarification is provided in the instructions included with Form I-824. For the next 30 days, USCIS will forward all Form I-824 applications to the lockbox facility.

Please note that applicants filing this form at a USCIS Lockbox facility may request to receive an email or text message letting them know that USCIS has accepted their application. Applicants interested in receiving this message should additionally complete Form G-1145, the E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, and attach it to the first page of their application.

Board of Immigration Appeals Extends Grace Period for Certain Filings Due to Extreme Weather

Due to extreme weather conditions in the Washington, D.C. area, the Board of Immigration Appeals was closed from February 5-11, 2010. Because of this, the Board has decided to apply a temporary grace period for filings that were due anytime between February 5, 2010 and February 18, 2010 and were received on or before February 19, 2010.

This grace period takes effect automatically and no requests or documentation need to be provided to the Board.

Please note that any filing that arrives after February 19, 2010 will be subject to normal filing deadlines.

Final Rule Regarding H-2A Program Is Published in Federal Register

Today, the Department of Labor published a final rule in the Federal Register regarding the labor certification process under the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker program. The goal of this final rule is to strengthen protections for both U.S. and foreign workers and to ensure the integrity of the H-2A visa program. This new rule takes effect March 15, 2010.

“This new rule will make it possible for all workers who are working hard on American soil to receive fair pay while at the same time expand opportunities for U.S. workers,” said Hilda L. Solis, U.S. Secretary of Labor. “The actions that we have taken through this rulemaking also will enable us to detect and remedy different forms of worker violations.”

This final rule will ensure that U.S. workers engaged in the same occupation and for the same employer as a foreign H-2A worker should not receive a lesser wage than the foreign worker, regardless of the date of hire, according to the Department of Labor. Additionally, it will create a national electronic job registry where job orders will be posted through half of the relevant H-2A contract period. Finally, the final rule creates new safety measures to ensure that employers do not shift recruitment fees, visa fees, border crossing fees and other fees required by the U.S. government to the H-2A worker.

DHS Reports a Decrease in the Number of Illegal Immigrants Living in the United States

According to new data provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there are now less illegal immigrants living in the U.S. than there were two years ago. In the estimates provided by DHS, roughly 10.8 million illegal immigrants lived in the U.S. in January of this year; in 2007, that number was just about 12 million.

While there are doubts about the accuracy of the data provided by DHS, most experts agree that the number of illegal immigrants has indeed dropped. Some believe this is due to less undocumented persons entering the U.S.; others contest that the reason for this drop is because more illegal immigrants are leaving the U.S. Two causes for this decrease in numbers were cited: first, the current economic has led to less economic opportunity in this country for illegal immigrants, and second, an increase in enforcement has limited the amount of undocumented persons entering and remaining in the U.S.

USCIS Issues Additional Guidance Regarding EAWA to Employers Filing H-1B Petitions

Earlier this week USCIS published additional guidance regarding the Employ American Workers Act (EAWA) for employers wishing to file H-1B petitions on behalf of skilled workers. EAWA was passed to make sure that companies that received federal funds under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) (or section 13 under the Federal Reserve Act) did not engage in hiring that would displace U.S. workers. Under EAWA, companies that received federal funding and wish to hire a new H-1B worker are categorized as “H-1B dependent employers,” and must make additional statements to the U.S. Department of Labor regarding their attempts to recruit U.S. workers in their Labor Certification Applications.

After the enactment of EAWA, USCIS revised Form I-129, the Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, to include a question specifically asking employers if they received funding from TARP or section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act.

It should be noted that EAWA only applies to new H-1B hires and not to H-1B petitions for the changing of status of an employee currently working for an employer under another visa category. Additionally, EAWA does not apply to H-1B petitions seeking extensions of H-1B status for an employee to continue working for the same employer.