USCIS Introduces New, Enhanced EADs and Certificates of Citizenship

USCIS this week announced the launch of a new, enhanced Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a redesigned Form N-560, Certificate of Citizenship. These new documents are now enhanced with new features to strengthen security and minimize the chance of fraud. New features of the EAD, according to USCIS will “better equip workers, employers and law enforcement officials to recognize the card as definitive proof of authorization to work in the United States. The new EADs were first issued on October 25; the redesigned certificates will first be issued on October 30.

“These enhanced documents are more secure than ever,” said USCIS Director Mayorkas. “They advance our efforts to safeguard against fraud and protect the integrity of the immigration system.”

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Latest Updates on FY 2012 H-1B Visa Availability – Oct. 21

On October 21, 2011, USCIS posted an update regarding the amount of applications received for standard cap-subject and master’s exemption H-1B visas for Fiscal Year 2012. According to USCIS, a total of 20,000 H-1B Master’s Exemption visas have been filed, and 46,200 standard cap visas have been filed. Each fiscal year, a total of 20,000 master’s exempt H-1B visas are available; up to 65,000 standard cap visas are available.

USCIS began accepting petitions for H-1B visas for Fiscal Year 2012 (starting on October 1, 2011) on April 1, 2011. Petitions may be filed no more than six months in advance of the requested start date. Please note that up to 6,800 visas from the 65,000 cap-subject visas are set aside each fiscal year for the H-1B1 program.

USCIS to Streamline Filing of Naturalization and Citizenship Forms

Beginning October 30, 2011, USCIS will implement a new process for the filing of naturalization and citizenship (N) forms to streamline and enhance the filing process. The new process will allow petitioners to file N-forms at a secure Lockbox location instead of a local USCIS office. The change in filing location will streamline the ways that forms are processed, will accelerate the process by which fees are collected and deposited, and will improve the consistency of the USCIS intake process.

Beginning October 30, 2011, individuals should begin filing forms affected by this change to the correct Lockbox location. All forms received between October 30 and December 2, 2011, will be forwarded to the appropriate Lockbox facility for processing. Forms received at local USCIS offices after December 2 will be returned to the individual with instructions on how to correctly file the form.

Forms N-336 (Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings), N-600 (Application for Certification of Citizenship), and N-600K (Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322) should be filed at the Phoenix Lockbox facility starting October 30.

Form N-300 (Application to File Declaration of Intention) should be filed at the Dallas Lockbox facility starting October 30.

Record Number of People Deported from U.S. in Fiscal Year 2011

Fiscal Year 2011 saw U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) break a new record for the amount of people deported from the United States. From July 2010 to June 2011, a total of 400,000 people were deported from the U.S., the largest number ever recorded by ICE. According to ICE, these numbers “underscore the administration’s focus on removing individuals … that fall into priority areas.” These priority areas include people who break laws, are threats to national security or are repeat violators.

In Fiscal Year 2011, a total of 396,906 people were removed from the U.S. Out of those 216,698 were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors. A breakdown of categories is shared below:

1,119 – homicide
5,848 – sexual offenses
44,653 – drug-related crimes
35,927 – driving under the influence

Industry Executives Call for Quick Fixes to Economic-based Immigration

While President Barack Obama continues to work toward comprehensive immigration reform, many in the technology and engineering sectors are calling on the executive branch to work instead to fix the current system of work permits and green cards for engineers, programmers and other skilled technical workers. Executives from companies including GE, Boeing and DuPont, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are asking for quick action to resolve an issue that immediately affects the U.S.’ ability to stay competitive in the challenging global market.

Even though the U.S. is facing a 9.1 percent unemployment rate, there are still thousands of job openings in the U.S. manufacturing sector. These openings are for positions for which U.S. workers don’t have the necessary skills. Leaders of industry are now asking the President to look for quick fixes to programs such as the H-1B visa program and to the permanent residency process based on employment. Currently, only 15 percent of all green cards are given for economic reasons.

California Governor Signs DREAM Act Legislation; New Law to Give Undocumented Students Access to State Grant Funds

State-based DREAM Act legislation has been signed into law in California by Gov. Jerry Brown. The new law would give undocumented immigrant students in California access to state-funded financial aid to attend college. Approximately 2,500 students are expected to be eligible to receive Cal Grants when the law goes into effect on January 1, 2013. These grants will cost the state $14.5 million, roughly 1% of overall cost of the grant program.

“Going to college is a dream that promises intellectual excitement and creative thinking,” said Brown. “The Dream Act benefits us all by giving top students a chance to improve their lives and the lives of all of us.”

Today, undocumented immigrant students in California are required to pay resident tuition rates if they graduated from a high school in California and are in the process of seeking to obtain legal immigrant status.

Latest Updates on FY 2012 H-1B Visa Availability – Sept. 23

On September 23, 2011, USCIS posted an update regarding the amount of applications received for standard cap-subject and master’s exemption H-1B visas for Fiscal Year 2012. According to USCIS, a total of 17,700 H-1B Master’s Exemption visas have been filed, and 36,300 standard cap visas have been filed. Each fiscal year, a total of 20,000 master’s exempt H-1B visas are available; up to 65,000 standard cap visas are available.

USCIS began accepting petitions for H-1B visas for Fiscal Year 2012 (starting on October 1, 2011) on April 1, 2011. Petitions may be filed no more than six months in advance of the requested start date. Please note that up to 6,800 visas from the 65,000 cap-subject visas are set aside each fiscal year for the H-1B1 program.