January 2013 Newsletter
In This Issue
USCIS to Implement New Immigrant Visa Fee February 1
On February 1, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin collecting a new fee of $165 from foreign nationals seeking permanent residence in the United States. This new fee was established in USCIS’s final rule adjusting fees for immigration applications and petitions announced on September 24, 2010.
The agency said it has worked closely with the Department of State (DOS) to implement the new fee, which will allow USCIS to recover the costs of processing immigrant visas in the United States after immigrant visa-holders receive their visa packages from DOS. This includes staff handling and the cost of producing and delivering the permanent resident card.
Applicants will pay online through the USCIS website after they receive their visa packages from DOS and before they leave for the United States. DOS will provide applicants with information on how to submit the payment when they attend their consular interviews. The new fee is in addition to fees charged by DOS associated with an individual's immigrant visa application.
USCIS processes approximately 36,000 immigrant visa packages each month.
A press release announcing the new fee is available here.
USCIS Issues Operational Guidance or EB-5 Cases Involving Tenant Occupancy
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released long-awaited operational guidance for EB-5 cases involving tenant occupancy on December 20, 2012. USCIS said the memorandum is intended to facilitate adjudication of cases involving issues related to the "tenant-occupancy" methodology for establishing job creation in EB-5 cases. The agency noted that the guidance "has been formulated following careful internal deliberation [and] consultation with sister government agencies," along with a "review of responses to requests for evidence (RFEs) issued in February 2012 to a number of outstanding Regional Center applicants who relied on the tenant-occupancy methodology." USCIS will apply the guidance to pending cases and cases filed on or after December 20, 2012, that rely on the tenant-occupancy methodology. The guidance does not rescind or supersede other EB-5 guidance.
USCIS noted that among the issues raised in the February 2012 RFEs, USCIS sought evidence that the projected jobs attributable to prospective tenants (which would occupy the commercial space created by the EB-5 capital) would represent newly created jobs, not jobs that the tenant had merely relocated. The agency said that such determinations are necessary to assess whether there is a "reasonable causal link" between the EB-5 enterprise and the job creation that would allow for the attribution of the tenant jobs to the EB-5 enterprise. The RFEs "suggested the types of evidence applicants could submit to make this showing."
In regional center cases that rely on tenant occupancy models, USCIS requires evidence that the claimed jobs result, directly or indirectly, from the economic activity of the EB-5 commercial enterprise. With respect to indirect job creation, applicants and petitioners must project the number of newly created jobs that would not have been created but for the economic activity of the EB-5 commercial enterprise. "In making that projection, they are to use economically and statistically valid forecasting tools," USCIS noted.
The agency said that whether an applicant or petitioner has demonstrated that an EB-5 enterprise caused the creation of indirect tenant jobs requires case-by-case determinations and generally also requires an evaluation of the verifiable detail provided and the overall reasonableness of the methodology as presented. The guidance memo gives additional details about the types of evidence and approaches applicants and petitioners may use, and discusses the appropriate language in approval notices regarding the assumptions underlying the approval.
USCIS said it will issue separate guidance on crediting jobs when more than one EB-5 entity may be seeking credit for an identical position.
The memo is available here.
Department of State has introduced an online "Visa Status Check"
Department of State (DOS) has introduced an online "Visa Status Check," allowing visa applicants – both immigrant and non-immigrant – to check the status of their cases at the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC).
Click here for more information.
U.S., Canada Sign Visa and Immigration Info-Sharing Agreement
The United States and Canada signed the U.S.-Canada Visa and Immigration Information-Sharing Agreement on December 13, 2012. The agreement will enable Canada and the United States to share information from third-country nationals who apply for a visa or permit to travel to either country. The Department of State said the agreement is intended to help both countries confirm applicants' identities and identify risks and inadmissible persons at the earliest opportunity. The agreement authorizes development of arrangements under which the United States may send an automated request for data to Canada, such as when a third-country national applies to the United States for a visa or claims asylum. Such a request would contain limited information, such as the name and date of birth in the case of biographic sharing, or an anonymous fingerprint in the case of biometric sharing. If the identity matches that of a previous application, immigration information may be shared, such as whether the person previously was refused a visa or removed from the other country. The same process would apply in reverse when a third-country national applies to Canada for a visa or claims asylum. Biographic immigration-information sharing is set to begin in 2013, and biometric sharing in 2014. Under the agreement, information will not be shared regarding U.S. or Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Click here for the announcement.
The American Citizen Services Section of the U.S. Embassy, London is changing renunciation of U.S. Citizenship Procedures
In an effort to improve and speed up renunciation appointments, American Citizen Services Section at U.S. Embassy, London will cease scheduling a separate informal appointment as long as applicants confirm that they have read the updated information packet and completed the additional Informal Renunciation Acknowledgment form. If you have any questions regarding renunciation of U.S. citizenship or the new procedures, please contact email@example.com.
USCIS has announced that Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers of Inadmissibility Process will become effective on March 4, 2013
USCIS has announced that Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers of Inadmissibility Process will become effective on March 4, 2013. Under the amended regulation, spouses, parents and children under age 21 of U.S. citizens who are physically present in the United States will be allowed to request provisional waivers prior to departing from the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visa applications. Currently the applicants for immigrant visas must depart from the United States and request waivers of inadmissibility during the overseas immigrant visa process, often causing U.S. citizens to be separated for extended periods from their relatives who are otherwise eligible for an immigrant visa and admission for lawful permanent residence.
If USCIS approves the provisional waiver application, USCIS will notify the applicant and the Department of State of the approval. Please note that denials cannot be appealed and applicants for waivers will not have the right to seek motions to reopen or reconsider USCIS's decision. Applicants whose provisional waiver requests are denied may still apply for a waiver through the current I-601 process. USCIS will reserve the right to reconsider on its own motion an approval or a denial of a provisional waiver application at any time. Finally, please note that an approved provisional waiver will not become effective until the applicant departs for his or her immigration visa interview and is found admissible and otherwise eligible for the immigration visa by the Department of State.
The notice can be found at 78FR536 (01/03/2013)
New Publications and Items of Interest
Immigration of temporary lower-skilled workers. The Congressional Research Service published "Immigration of Temporary Lower-Skilled Workers: Current Policy and Related Issues" on December 13, 2012. The report discusses current guest worker programs, focusing on the H-2A and H-2B visas. It also covers the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program, the largest of several programs under the J-1 visa for participants in work- and study-based exchange visitor programs. The report notes that the SWT program is particularly relevant because participants work largely in unskilled jobs, including H-2B-like seasonal jobs at resorts and amusement parks.
The report is available here.
New SEVP brochure. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released a new brochure on the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The brochure provides information for schools and students on school certification and recertification, SEVIS, the SEVP Response Center and Help Desk, Study in the States, ICE.gov, stakeholder conferences, the SEVP Analysis and Operations Center, and the SEVP Policy Team.
The brochure is available here.
Foreign Labor Certification Annual Report for FY 2011. The Department of Labor has released the 2011 Foreign Labor Certification Annual Report, which presents information on the prevailing wage determination process, permanent labor certification, and temporary non-immigrant labor certification for FY 2011. The report also contains state employment-based labor certification profiles, information on STEM-related occupations in the labor certification programs, H-2A agricultural certification statistics, and employment-based immigration profiles by country.
The Annual Report is available here.
Government Agency Links
Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS Service Centers and the Department of Labor, or the Department of State's latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates for visa numbers:
Hodkinson Law Group News
Tasha Wiesman has joined Hodkinson Law Group as our newest lawyer. Tasha is a member of the Illinois State Bar and will be assisting in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications of waivers of grounds of inadmissibility.
We also welcome Charis Hall, our new Business Administrator who will assist in the smooth and efficient administration of Hodkinson Law Group.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank our clients and colleagues for their continuing loyalty and support and to wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013.