DHS Testing the Use of Eye Scanners in Texas

The Department of Homeland Security has begun testing eye-reading machines at one border crossing. The machines, which scan people’s irises, is being tested in a two- to eight-week trial in McAllen, Texas as part of a Homeland Security assessment of the new technology. The goal of the testing is to see how the scanners work in an actual Customs and Border protection setting.

“This is a preliminary test of how the technology performs,” said Amy Kudwa, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security. “We have no specific plans for acquiring or deploying this type of technology at this point.”

The U.S. Department of Defense currently uses similar scanners at military locations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The newer versions of these eye-reading devices, however, are able to identify multiple people at one time from a distance of up to 30 feet.

Department of State Posts FY 2012 Diversity Visa Lottery Guidelines

Rules and guidelines for the 2012 Diversity Immigrant Visa program have just been published by the U.S. Department of State. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, a total of 50,000 Diversity Visas will be made available to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.

The annual DV Lottery program gives permanent visas to people that meet a few simple eligibility requirements. These requirements include:

1) Applicants must be natives of a country whose natives qualify.
2) Applicants must have either a high school education (or its equivalent) or two years of work experience within the past five years that requires at least two years of training or experience.

For FY 2012, natives of the following countries are not eligible for the lottery program, because these countries have sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the U.S. in the past five years:


Please note that people born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible. Learn more online at: http://bit.ly/aoHduH

Department of State Issues Updated Travel Warning for US Citizens Traveling to Mexico

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated travel warning to U.S. citizens planning to travel to and live in Mexico. According to the Department of State, while most victims of criminal violence in Mexico are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the current situation poses serious risks to U.S. citizens in the region as well.

As of September 10, the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey has removed all minor dependents of U.S. government personnel and family members in other areas of northern Medico had also been previously authorized to depart.

While millions of U.S. citizens do safely visit Mexico each year, the Department of State does strongly urge U.S. citizens to understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico, how to best avoid dangerous situations and who to contact if they become a victim of crime or violence.

ICE Serves Hundreds of Notices of Inspection to U.S. Companies

This week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) served hundreds of Notices of Inspection (NOI) to U.S. companies. These NOIs were served as part of the Obama administration’s campaign to target the employers of illegal immigrants. The NOIs give employers three days to submit their I-9 documentation for inspection. In certain cases, an extension may be granted.

So far this year, 147 employers have been either criminally convicted or cited with worksite violations. Fines for knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant can be from $1,100 to $16,000 per unauthorized worker, making it pertinent that employers follow regulations and ensure proper validation of employees in their organizations.

Relief Offered to Certain Haitian F-1 Students

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has just announced a new special relief program for some F-1 Haitian students who have been the victims of severe economic hardship because of the January earthquake in Haiti. This new relief applies to students who were lawfully present in the U.S. at the time of the January earthquake and are enrolling in an educational institution that is listed as certified by ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor program (SEVIS)

The new relief program will allow eligible Haitian F-1 students to work in the U.S., work an increased number of hours during their school term and reduce their course load, if necessary, while still maintaining F-1 status.

“We want to ensure that students from Haiti, who were here at the time of January’s tragic events, are able to concentrate on their studies without the worry of financial burdens created by the devastation of the earthquake,” said Louis Farrell, director, SEVIS. “These students have the full support of SEVP and designated school officials for assistance.”

How Puerto Rico’s New, More Secure Birth Certificates Will Affect the I-9 Process

On July 1, 2010, the Vital Statistics Office of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico started issue new certified copies of birth certificates to U.S. citizens born in Puerto Rico. This process began due to a change in Puerto Rico’s birth certificate law and enabled a higher level of security in the issuance process of birth certificates.

As of September 30, 2010, all certified copies of birth certificates issued before July 1, 2010 will be invalid, stated USCIS in an official memo. Please note, however, that this new regulation should not affect citizenship status of people born in Puerto Rico; it only affects whether or not a certified copy of a birth certificate is considered valid.

All forms of certified copies of Puerto Rico-issued birth certificates will be acceptable on the Form I-9 up to September 30. However, after that date, only Puerto Rico birth certificates issued on or after July 1 will be acceptable as proof of identity on the I-9 form.

New DHS Proposed Repository Pulls Together Information on Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Applications

The Department of Homeland Security has just proposed to establish a new system of records, the DHS U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 012 Citizenship and Immigration Data Repository System of Records. This repository is a mirror image of USCIS’s immigrant and non-immigrant benefits databases, combined in a single location. The repository is presented in a single interface that is updated and easily searchable (within its classified network).

The new repository system, which takes and recompiles existing USCIS data, fulfills three purposes for the federal agency: (1) It reviews USCIS application information for potential immigration fraud and national security concerns; (2) It detects potential fraud and misuse of immigration information by USCIS employees; and (3) it enables a method to respond to requests for information from the Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis and members of the law enforcement community that can have access to that classified information.

US Consular Services Transitions Services for Canadians Applying for Visas

US consulate services in Canada is currently in the transition process to a new appointment service for applicants applying for visas to enter the United States. As of September 1, 2010, all services will be provided to applicants at no cost. This includes calling for information and scheduling an appointment; applicants will not be required to pay phone charges or obtain PIN numbers to access services.

Effective September 1, applicants can visit the CSC Visa Information Services website at http://canada.usvisa-info.com/ to obtain information about these changes online, or call the consulate to learn more about how to begin the process of obtaining an application for a visa to enter the United States.

Applicants who have already scheduled an appointment through NVARS should have paid their MRV fee prior to September 1, 2010 and should bring their Scotiabank receipt with them to their appointment.

As of September 1, applicants were required to pay their MRV fee prior to scheduling an appointment. Applicants who have not yet started their application process can now pay their fee and schedule an appointment under this new, cost-free service.

USCIS Updates Number of H-1B Petitions Received for FY 2011

According to USCIS, there are still a number of cap-subject H-1B visas available for Fiscal Year 2011. As of August 27, 2010, a total of 34,900 cap-subject H-1B petitions have been filed with USCIS and 13,000 H-1B petitions have been received for aliens with master’s degrees or higher. These current rates are close to the rates seen for the FY 2010 H-1B program, both of which are much lower than those seen in previous years.

The H-1B standard annual cap is 65,000; the H-1B master’s exemption cap is 20,000. This year’s filing period opened on April 1, 2010. Petitions that are subject to the FY 2011 cap must request an employment start date of October 1, 2010 or after. Any petitions that request start dates prior to October 1, 2010 will be rejected by USCIS.