Obama Voices Support for Path to Citizenship

In an attempt to maintain support from Hispanic Americans concerned about U.S. policies toward immigration, President Obama recently commented at a town hall meeting that he has not abandoned his efforts to overhaul U.S. immigration policies. Last year, Congress failed to pass the Dream Act, which would have provided a path to citizenship for many illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as young children.

Obama publicly supported the Act at an event at a school in Washington, DC earlier this month. “We have to have a pathway for citizenship for those who are just looking for a better life and contributing to our country,” he said, “and I’ll continue to fight for that.”

The town hall event, which was held in English and translated into Spanish was sponsored by a Spanish-language TV station and is part of a larger initiative to support the importance of education funding.

Secure Communities Program Now Active in All 100 Counties in North Carolina

U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) controversial Secure Communities program is now active in all 100 counties in North Carolina, the program reported this week. North Carolina is now the tenth state to implement the program; the Obama administration hopes to have all 50 states enrolled in the Secure Communities program within the next two years.

The Secure Communities program has been the source of much debate and controversy. Supporters of the program believe it is necessary to indentify and target criminal illegal aliens; immigration rights advocates, however, believe that the program creates a deep level of distrust between immigration communities and law enforcement.

The Secure Communities program enables local law enforcement to check fingerprints of arrested individuals against the FBI criminal database and ICE’s IDENT database to find out if the person is in the U.S. legally or illegally. Undocumented persons are taken into custody by ICE, who then works to deport those persons.

According to ICE, the Secure Communities program “improves and modernizes the identification and removal of criminal aliens from the United States.”

USCIS to Accept Fiscal Year 2012 H-1B Petitions on April 1

On April 1, 2011, USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the annual cap for Fiscal Year 2012. All cases will be considered accepted on the date that USCIS receives a properly filed petition with the correct fee. The postmark date will not be considered the accepted date.

U.S. businesses that employ foreign workers engaged in specialty occupations that require technical or theoretical expertise, such as scientists, engineers and computer programmers, may use the H-1B program.

The cap for 2012 is 65,000; the first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of people with U.S. master’s degrees or higher will be exempt from this 65,000 cap.

Please note that petitions filed on behalf of a current H-1B worker who has previously been counted against an annual cap will not count toward the 2012 annual cap. USCIS states that it will continue to process petitions filed to extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the U.S., change the terms of employment for an H-1B worker; allow a current H-1B worker to change employers or allow a current H-1B worker to work concurrently in a second H-1B position in the U.S.

USCIS Publishes Update Regarding H-1B Cap Exemption for Certain Non-Profit Organizations

Earlier this week, USCIS announced that it is now reviewing its policy on H-1B cap exemptions for non-profit organizations that are related to or affiliated with institutes of higher education. USCIS is temporarily applying “interim procedures” to applications from non-profit organizations seeking an exemption from the standard H-1B cap based on their affiliation/relation to an institute of higher education.

During this interim period, which became effective immediately, USCIS will give deference to prior determinations made since June 6, 2006, that an organization is affiliated with or related to an institute of higher education, as long as no significant change in circumstances or adjudication error occurred. Such agencies will be exempt from the statutory H-1B cap. However, USCIS notes, “The burden remains on the petitioner to show that its organization previously received approvals of its request for H-1B cap exemption as a non-profit entity that is related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education.”

Evidence such as a copy of the previously approved cap-exemption petition and the previously issued applicable I-797 approval notice that was issued by USCIS since June 6, 2006, will need to be provided. Additionally, documentation submitted in support of the exemption will also need to be provided. USCIS also suggests that petitioners include a statement that attests that their organization was approved for cap-exempt status since June 6, 2006.

USCIS Previews New E-Verify Self-Check System

On March 10, USCIS previewed its new E-Verify Self Check system to interested parties. During the session, USCIS representatives provided an overview of the new system that gives U.S. workers the ability to check their eligibility to work in the Unite States.

The Self-Check system assesses a person’s eligibility by checking their data against USCIS records. Self-Check, USCIS notes, is expected to reduce the potential for employment discrimination, reduce the number of tentative nonconfirmations the E-Verify system issues and start the process of identity assurance in the E-Verify system.

Learn more by viewing the following document: http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Outreach/Public%20Engagement/National%20Engagement%20Pages/2011%20Events/March%202011/Presentation%20(Everify).pdf

Japanese Nationals Stranded in the US May Remain an Additional 30 Days, USCIS Says

USCIS has just issued an advisory for Japanese and other foreign nationals from the Pacific region who are currently stranded in the United States due to the recent natural disasters. According to USCIS, individuals who have exceeded or are about to exceed their authorized stay in the United States may be able to remain in the U.S. for an additional 30 days.

People traveling under the Visa Waiver Program: If you are at an airport, USCIS notes you should contact a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office at the airport. If you are not at an airport, you should visit a local USCIS office.

People traveling under a nonimmigrant visa: You should visit a local USCIS office. Please make sure to bring your passport, evidence that you are stranded (e.g., your itinerary for your cancelled flight home) and your I-94 departure record.

USCIS to Close Ho Chi Minh City Field Office

USCIS has announced that it will permanently close its field office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on March 31, 2011. Starting March 25, all applications and petitions that were previously accepted by the field office in Ho Chi Minh City may be filed with the US Department of State consular section in that city. In cases in which it has such authorization, that consular section will take responsibility for processing certain cases. The Consular Section will send all other applications and petitions to the USCIS Field Office in Bangkok, Thailand for processing.

Learn more about the Ho Chi Minh Field office at http://hochiminh.usconsulate.gov. Contact the USCIS Bangkok Field Office by phone at 02-205-5352 (Thailand) or 011-662-205-5352 (International) or email at bkkcis.inquiries@dhs.gov.

Contact the Bangkok Field Office by mail:

Regular Mail
c/o American Embassy
Box 12
APO AP 96546

Express Mail
Sindhorn, Tower 2, 15th Floor
130-133 Wireless Rd.
Lumpini Pathumwan
Bangkok Thailand 10330

USCIS Proposes New Rule for Management of Cap-Subject H-1B Visas

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed to change regulations regarding the governance of H-1B petitions subject to annual caps, as well as those for people with U.S. master’s or higher degrees. The proposed rule would require employers who wish to petition for H-1B workers that are subject to the annual cap to first file an electronic registration with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period.

Under the proposed rule, if USCIS believes that the H-1B cap will not be reached by the first day that such petitions may be filed, USCIS will let all registered employers know that they may petition for H-1B workers on behalf of beneficiaries named in the selected registrations. In such an instance, USCIS will continue to accept and select registrations until the annual cap is reached. However, if USCIS believes that the H-1B cap will be reached by the first day that petitions may be filed, USCIS proposes to close the registration before that date and to, instead, randomly select a sufficient number of registrations to meet the visas that are available for that fiscal year.

It is USCIS’s goal, through this proposed rule, to reduce the administrative burdens and costs associated with employer submissions of petitions.