New Report Details Reasons Why Unauthorized Immigrants Stay in U.S. Despite Restrictive State and Local Laws

According to a new report, state- and local-based immigration enforcement laws are not leading to unauthorized immigrants leaving the United States. Instead, the report notes, the laws are simply driving such immigrants from one area to another, rather than from the United States. The report goes on to report that these regulations additionally lead to isolate unauthorized immigrants from the communities in which they live and from local law enforcement, due to fear of retribution or punishment for their immigrant status.

The report, which was published by the Center for American Progress, delineates the main reasons that undocumented immigrants remain in the United States. According to the report authors, most undocumented immigrants have been in the U.S. for ten years or more and live in family units with children. They are well settled in the U.S.; this, they believe, is where they are making their lives. Additionally, the cost to return home is too expensive and the reasons for initially immigrating to the U.S. – a lack of economic opportunity in their home country – further strengthen these undocumented immigrants’ resolve to remain in the U .S., even in the face of ever-restrictive immigration regulations.

USCIS Provides Updated Number of Cap-subject H-2B Visas Approved for Fiscal Year 2012

USCIS has published an update of the number of cap-subject H-2B visas approved for the first and second half of Fiscal Year 2012. According to USCIS, a total of 29,779 beneficiaries have been approved for the first half of Fiscal year 2012, with 6,416 beneficiaries pending. 7,030 beneficiaries have been approved for the second half of Fiscal Year 2012, with 2,007 beneficiaries pending. These numbers were last updated on February 17, 2012.

Congressionally-based legislation limits the amount of H-2B visas provided per fiscal year to a total of 66,000, with 33,000 allocated for employment for the first half of the fiscal year and 33,000 allocated for employment for the second half of the fiscal year. Unused numbers from the first half of the fiscal year are made available for use by employers seeking H-2B workers during the second half of the year. These numbers do not, however, carry over from one fiscal year to another.

USCIS Reminds Applicants that the I-601 Provisional Waiver Is Not in Effect

USCIS is currently investigating the potential of making changes that would allow some immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to receive a provisional waiver of the unlawful presence bars before leaving the U.S. This procedural change would apply to spouses, children or parents of U.S. citizens who are able to demonstrate extreme hardship.

USCIS reminds applicants that these procedures are not yet in effect; they will not be available to potential applicants until a final rule is published in the Federal Register that specifies the specific effective date. USCIS is currently planning to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking sometime in the next few months. An open comment period will then be activated, in which the public can comment on the proposed rulemaking. Please note that any applications requesting this new process will be rejected and the application package and related fees will be returned to the applicant.

Self Check Program for Employment Eligibility Verification Now Available Nationwide

USCIS announced this month that its Self Check service will now be available nationwide. Self Check, a free online service of E-Verify, allows workers to check their own employment eligibility status. The service is now available in all 50 states as well as Washington, DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.

“We are pleased to complete, ahead of schedule, our expansion of this important tool for employees,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, USCIS. “Since our initial launch in March, approximately 67,000 people have used Self Check and we anticipate that participation will dramatically increase with service now available to individuals across the country.”

Self Check was developed by the Department of Homeland Security, in partnership with the Social Security Administration. Individuals can check their own employment eligibility status online at http://www.uscis.gov/selfcheck and can obtain guidance on how to correct their records, if mistaken. The service is offered directly to workers and is available in both English and Spanish.

US Embassy in London Urges Applicants to Apply for Visas Now for Summer Travel

The US Embassy in London, UK, has commented that visa services at that location will be limited during July and August 2012 for all nonimmigrant visa categories. This is due to the Olympics taking place in London during that time. Applicants are encouraged to apply for visas during the spring and early summer for a stronger possibility of an appointment; availability of appointments cannot be guaranteed during July and August. The Embassy has opened up its appointment calendar through the end of June to facilitate this.

Please note that travelers who plan on entering the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (by air or sea) who do not have travel authorization approval under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization are urged to register now to travel during the summer. If registration is denied, these travelers will be required to obtain visas.

Department of Labor to Publish Final Rule Regarding H-2B Worker Program

The Department of Labor (DOL) will publish its final rule regarding the non-agricultural employment of H-2B nonimmigrants on February 22, 2012. In this final rule, DOL will amend its regulations regarding the certification of employment of nonimmigrants working in temporary or seasonal non-agricultural positions in the United States, as well as the enforcement of the obligations of employers of these nonimmigrant workers.

The final rule amends the process by which employers obtain temporary labor certifications from DOL for use in petitioning the Department of Homeland Security for nonimmigrant H-2B workers. In addition, it improves the levels of protections for both U.S. and nonimmigrant workers under the H-2B program. This rule will be effective 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

DHS and TSA to Expand Pre-Screening Program for Airline Travelers

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced that they will be expanding the TSA Prev™ program, a pres-screening program, to additional airports across the U.S. The program has initially been piloted in seven locations. To date, over 336,000 passengers have been screened through TSA Prev™ lanes, enabling TSA to focus on passengers the agency knows less about, while enabling a more expedited screening process for travelers who provide information about themselves prior to flying.

“TSA Prev™ moves us closer to our goal of delivering the most effective and efficient screening by recognizing that most passengers do not pose a threat to security,” said John S. Pistole, TSA Administrator. “We are pleased to expand this important effort, in collaboration with our airline and airport partners, as we move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more intelligence-driven, risk-based transportation security system.”

The program currently operates with American Airlines at airports in Dallas, Miami, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, and with Delta Air Lines at airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis. US Airways, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines will all begin participating in the program later this year.

Through 2012, the program will be expanded to include the following airport locations:

  • Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
  • Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
  • Denver International Airport (DEN)
  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
  • Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND)
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
  • Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL)
  • Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
  • Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  • O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Orlando International Airport (MCO)
  • Philadelphia International Airport (PHL)
  • Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
  • Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
  • Portland International Airport (PDX)
  • Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
  • Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  • Tampa International Airport (TPA)
  • Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC)

USCIS Published Final Rule to Make Changes to Schedule of Fees for Consular Services

USCIS has published a final rule to make changes to the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services for a range of immigration-related fees. This final rule adopts as final changes made in an interim final rule published in the Federal Register on June 28, 2010. The rule took effect on February 2, 2012. This final rule was implemented after taking into consideration nearly 1,800 comments on the June 28, 2010 final rule.

The following fees have been established for a range of immigration categories:

  • Passport Book Application Services for Applicants Age 16 or Over (including renewals): from $55 to $70
  • Additional Passport Visa Pages: from $0 to $82
  • Passport Book Security Surcharge (Enhanced Border Security Fee): from $20 to $40
  • File Search and Verification of U.S. Citizenship: from $60 to $150
  • Application for Consular Report of Birth Abroad of a Citizen of the United States: from $65 to $100
  • Administrative Processing of Formal Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship: from $0 to $450*
  • Passport Card Application Services for Applicants Age 16 or Over (including renewals): from $20 to $30
  • Passport Card Application Services for Applicants Under Age 16: from $10 to $15
  • Making arrangements for a Deceased Non-U.S. Citizen Family Member: from a charge of Consular time spent on the service, previously $265 an hour plus expenses to $200 plus expenses
  • Immigrant Visa Application for Immediate Relative and Family Preference Applications: from $355 to $330
  • Immigrant Visa Application for Employment-Based Applications: from $355 to $720
  • Immigrant Visa Application for Other Visa Classes: from $355 to $305
  • Diversity Visa Program Fee: from $375 to $440
  • Affidavit of Support Review (only when reviewed domestically): from $70 to $88
  • Determining Returning Resident Status: from $400 to $380
  • Immigrant Visa Security Surcharge: from $45 to $74
  • Providing Notarial Service: First service (seal): from $30 to $50
  • Providing Notarial Service: Each additional seal: from $20 to $50
  • Certification of a True Copy or That No Record of an Official File Can be Located: First copy: from $30 to $50
  • Certification of a True Copy or That No Record of an Official File Can be Located: Each additional copy: from $20 to $50
  • Provision of Documents, Certified Copies of Documents, and Other Certifications by the Department of State (domestic): from $30 to $50
  • Authentications (by posts abroad): from $30 to $50
  • Processing Letters Rogatory and Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act 275 (FSIA) Judicial Assistance Cases: from $735 to $2,275
  • Scheduling/Arranging Appointments for Depositions: from $475 to $1,283
  • Attending or Taking Depositions, or Executing Commissions to Take Testimony: from $265 per hour plus expenses to $309 per hour plus expenses
  • Providing Seal and Certification of Depositions: from $70 to $415
  • Consular Time Charges: from $265 to $231

Pending Final Rule Would Enable the Issuance of L Visas Based on the Visa Reciprocity Schedule

A new pending final rule published by the Department of State would permit the issuance of L visas with validity periods based on the visa reciprocity schedule. The current rule limits such visas to the petition validity period. The validity period, which is determined by USCIS, cannot exceed three years. Petitioners are allowed to apply to USCIS for extensions of validity in two year increments; the total period of stay, however, cannot exceed five years for immigrants employed in a special knowledge capacity or seven years for immigrants employed in a managerial or executive capacity.

The pending final rule would change regulations so that the L visa validity period would be based on schedules provided to consular offices by the Department of State. These schedules would “reflect the reciprocal treatment the applicant’s country accords U.S. nationals, U.S. permanent residents or aliens granted refugee status in the United States,” reports the Department of State. Nationals from countries for which the reciprocity schedule prescribes visa validity for a longer period of time that the initial validity period indicated in the petition that was approved by the Department of Homeland Security and who have extended their stay in the U.S. would benefit from the pending rule. They would not need to re-apply for an L visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas if they travel outside the U.S. during the period specified in the relevant reciprocity schedule.