CBP to Begin Biometric Entry/Exit Testing at Otay Mesa Port of Entry

U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans to start testing new biometric technology at the Otay Mesa pedestrian crossing to enhance the identification of certain non-U.S. citizens entering and exiting the United States. CBP uses these biometric data to accurately verify who arrives in the U.S. and who leaves. This new technology is being tested to see if CBP can better match entry and exit records along the land border using it and to help protect travelers’ identities against theft.

“CBP is committed to developing a system that provides biometric exit data on non-U.S. citizens in a way that does not disrupt air, sea, or land port operations, but, rather secures and facilitates travel and trade,” said Pete Flores, San Diego Field Operations Director. “This test will help inform on next steps to developing and implementing biometric exit in the land pedestrian environment.”

USCIS Publishes Updated H-2B Visa Numbers – November 30, 2015

On November 30, 2015, USCIS provided an update of the amount of cap-subject H-2B visas received and approved by the federal agency for first half of fiscal year 2016. According to USCIS, a total of 11,520 beneficiaries have been approved for the first half of fiscal year 2016, with an additional 1,952 petitions pending. USCIS has not yet received applications for the second half of Fiscal Year 2016.

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.

USCIS Launches New Virtual Assistant to Aid in Customer Service

USCIS this week launched a new virtual assistant named “Emma” at its http://www.uscis.gov website. This new virtual assistant will assist consumers in finding accurate information. She answers questions in plain English and navigates users to relevant USCIS website pages.

The virtual assistant “Emma” is named after Emma Lazarus, whose famous words make up the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. Emma was created in response to interest in self-help and greater customer service tools. Access Emma on a desktop or laptop; she will soon be available on mobile devices and early next year will speak Spanish as well as English.

USCIS Updates Employers and Refugees on Automated I-94 Processing for Refugees

USCIS has updated employers and refugees that Customs and Border Protection has automated Form I-94 processing for refugees. A refugee will no longer receive a stamped paper form upon arrival, with the exception of limited circumstances. Refugees may obtain copies of their I-94 forms from Get I-94 Information, online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html.

Refugees are authorized to work because of their immigration status. A refugee may choose to present any applicable document from the federal Lists of Acceptable Documents. The new electronic Form I-94 for refugees does not include an admission stamp but provides the class of admission as “RE” and an admit until date as “D\S”. If a refugee presents a Form I-94 computer-generated printout for Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification, the employer must accept it as a receipt establishing both employment authorization and identity for 90 days. No later than at the end of the 90-day receipt period, the refugee is required to present an Employment Authorization Document or a combination of a List B document and an unrestricted Social Security card.

Department of State to No Longer Add Visa Pages to U.S. Passports

The Department of State will no longer add visa pages into U.S. passports, beginning January 1, 2016. U.S. passport holders have had the option to pay for the insertion of additional 24-page visa inserts when their valid passports did not have enough space for entry or exit visa stamps.

This option is being discontinued to enhance the security of the passport and to abide by international passport standards. To help limit impact on frequent travelers, the Department of State began issuing 52-page passports to applicants outside the United States for no additional cost on October 1, 2014.

USCIS Releases Spanish Language Version of Civics Practice Test

USCIS has launched an online Spanish-language version of its civics practice test. Questions in the practice test are presented in English with Spanish subtitles and focus on basic U.S. government and history topics. The goal of this practice test is to help Spanish-speaking lawful permanent residents prepare for the naturalization test and gain a firmer grasp on the English language.

The civics test is normally conducted in English. There are, however, certain instances in which an applicant may take the civics test in his or her native language. Reasons for exception may be age, time as a permanent resident or a disability.

Mexican Border-Crossing Card Holders Urged to Apply Early for Holiday Travel to U.S.

Travelers with a Mexican border-crossing card (the laser visa) who plan to make a extended visit to the United States during the upcoming holiday season are urged by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to apply early for their I-94 card to avoid expected delays at ports of entry in Arizona.

“With the holiday season just around the corner, we expect November and December to be very busy months at all ports of entry,” said Director of Field Operations William K. Brooks. “With that in mind, we suggest travelers needing permits to apply early and possibly avoid delays.”

Travelers seeking I-94 documents at ports of entry may apply at any time. This permit allows visitors crossing through Arizona borders to travel up to 75 miles from the U.S./Mexico border.