USCIS Introduces New Photo Matching Tool in E-Verify

This week, USCIS announced that it will expand the photo matching portion of the E-Verify program to include U.S. passports and driver’s license data. This change will be effective this September and will give companies and organizations that use E-Verify the capability of comparing photos from an individual’s U.S. passport with that stored in the government’s online database during the I-9 verification process.

Currently, the capability to photo match only appears for foreign nationals who show a recent version of their permanent resident card (Form I-551) or Employment Authorization Document during the I-9 review process. This new change will not be mandatory for E-Verify participating employers.

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New Electronic System for Travel Authorization Fee for Visa Waiver Program Travelers Takes Effect September 8

The Department of State (DOS) has just posted a cable providing clarification on the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (TPA), a new rule that would require travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries to pay operational and travel promotion fees when applying for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The interim final rule, which goes into effect September 8, 2010, will include these fees in the ESTA program, which total $14. The fees, matched by private sector contributions, will be used to fund the Corporation for Travel Promotion.

Payment of the new $14 fee is required through credit or debit card payments. The ESTA form that is currently in use provides detailed information to aid in the payment process.

The goal of the TPA is to attract international visitors to the United States. DOS will work with the Corporation for Travel Promotion to provide comprehensive and up-to-date information to international visitors about travel documents and various requirements for entry into the United States.

Utah Legislator Introduces Restrictive Immigration Enforcement Legislation

A conservative Utah state legislator has proposed a new restrictive immigration regulation similar to Arizona’s controversial immigration enforcement bill. The bill, introduced by State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom (R), had its first hearing this week and contains a number of provisions similar to those in the Arizona legislation that were blocked by a federal judge earlier this month.

Included in Sandstrom’s bill is the requirement that police, when stopping individuals for other violations, question people’s immigration status if they have reasonable suspicion that the person is in the U.S. illegally.

A group of Utah legislators had traveled to Arizona this summer to obtain guidance on how to draft such a law. Similar groups from Tennessee and Colorado have also recently traveled to Arizona for the same purpose.

USCIS Posts Reminder to Eligible El Salvadoran Nationals to Re-Register for Temporary Protected Status

USCIS has posted a reminder to nationals of El Salvador, as well as people with no nationality who last habitually lived in El Salvador, who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), to file their re-registration applications for this status before the re-registration period ends on September 7, 2010. The 18-month extension of this status for El Salvadorans will be effective until March 9, 2010.

USCIS notes that people who have previously received TPS must now re-register for this status during this re-registration period. If you do not re-register during this period (without a good reason), your TPS benefits will be withdrawn. This includes employment authorization and protection from removal from the U.S.

To re-register, a TPS beneficiary should file both the Application for Temporary Protected Status on Form I-821 and the Application for Employment Authorization on Form I-765, with the required fees (or fee waiver request). If you are not requesting employment authorization or an extension of employment authorization, Form I-765 is still required, but the accompanying fee is not required.

New DHS Rule Extends Employment Authorization for Dependents of Foreign Officials

In the August 9 Federal Register, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended regulations regarding employment authorization for dependents of foreign officials (those classified as A-1, A-2, G-1, G-3 and G-4 nonimmigrants). The new final rule will expand the list of dependents who are eligible to work in the U.S. from spouses, children and qualifying sons and daughters of A & G foreign officials to additional include any foreign family member who is categorized by the Department of State as qualifying.

This change to regulations will give the Department of State more flexibility when they are entering into agreements with other nations and those agreements include provisions to extend employment authorization to immediate family members of foreign officials.

This rule became effective on August 9, 2010

DOS Publishes Final Rule Related to Exchange Visitor Program

In the August 11 Federal Register, the Department of State (DOS) published a final rule related to the Exchange Visitor Program. In June of 2007, DOS had published an interim final rule that would amend portions of the Exchange Visitor Program that related to trainees and interns. The interim rule would remove the distinction between “non-specialty occupations” and “specialty occupations,” establish a new internship program and amend the selection criteria for participation in a training program.

This final rule includes some changes to the interim final rule, including the permission to use telephone interviews to screen potential participants for eligibility in a training program, removing the requirement that sponsors obtain a Dun & Bradstreet report of companies for whom participants would be placed. The final rule also clarifies regulations related to verification of Worker’s Compensation coverage for participants and the use of an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to find out if a third-party training host organization is a viable business entity. Additionally, the final rule clarifies that trainees and interns may repeat training and internship programs, in certain cases.

This final rule will be effective September 10, 2010

Senate Approves Increase to Certain H-1B Application Fees

This week, the U.S. Senate approved a new increase to the cost to apply for an H-1B visa. This increase will help the federal government recover funds it lost due to a $600 million emergency package used to improve security along the U.S.-Mexican border.

This fee increase will help pay for 1,000 new border patrol agents and unmanned aircrafts along the border, and will assist in funding a range of agencies and prisons. The new measure would increase the cost to apply for an H-1B visa by $2,000 per applications for companies with 50% or more of their employees under this visa category. The fee increase will also affect certain L-1 visas.