October 2014 Newsletter
In This Issue
State Dept. Releases Instructions on Applying for DV-2016 Program
On September 24, 2014, the Department of State (DOS) released instructions on how to apply for the diversity visa (DV) 2016 program. Entries for the DV-2016 DV program must be submitted electronically here by noon EST (GMT-5), Monday, November 3, 2014.
The agency warned: "Do not wait until the last week of the registration period to enter, as heavy demand may result in Web site delays. No late entries or paper entries will be accepted." DOS also noted that the law allows only one entry by or for each person during each registration period. DOS said it "uses sophisticated technology to detect multiple entries. Individuals with more than one entry will be disqualified."
For fiscal year 2016, 50,000 diversity visas will be available. There is no cost to register for the DV Program. There are no changes in eligibility this year. For DV-2016, natives of the following countries are not eligible to apply because more than 50,000 natives of these countries immigrated to the United States in the previous five years: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.
Persons born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan are eligible.
The DOS notice states that based on the allocations of available visas in each region and country, individuals will be randomly selected by computer from among qualified entries. All DV-2016 entrants will be required to go to Entrant Status Check using the unique confirmation number saved from their DV-2016 online entry registration to find out whether their entries have been selected in the DV program. Entrant Status Check will be available here starting May 5, 2015, through at least June 30, 2016.
Those whose entries are selected will be directed to a confirmation page that will provide further instructions, including information on fees connected with immigration to the United States. Entrant Status Check will be the only means by which selectees will be notified of their selection for DV-2016. The Department of State will not mail out notification letters or notify selectees by email. U.S. embassies and consulates will not provide a list of selectees. DOS noted, "You are strongly encouraged to access Entrant Status Check yourself and not to rely on someone else to check and inform you."
To receive a DV to immigrate to the United States, those who are selected still must meet all eligibility requirements. "These requirements may significantly increase the level of scrutiny required and time necessary for processing for natives of some countries listed in this notice including, but not limited to, countries identified as state sponsors of terrorism," the DOS notice states.
The Federal Register notice with full details is available here.
Visa appointments at the American Embassy London in December
The US Embassy, London will be closed on December 25th and 26th and January 1st. The E Visa Office at the American Embassy, London has indicated that the last E visa interview date for 2014 will be December 19th. We recommend that clients schedule their non-immigrant visa interview during the first two weeks in December or the first week in January to avoid processing delays caused by staff shortages at the Embassy over the holiday period.
New Customs Form
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has issued a new customs declaration form which travellers will be required to present to CBP when they arrive in the US from abroad. Travellers will have the choice of completing the hard-copy form on the airplane or completing the form online before they travel and then presenting the printed version to CBP when entering the US. It is important to read the instructions on the form, as CBP has expanded the definition of family members and clarified the definition of domestic relationship.
USCIS Announces New Secure Blue Ink for Many Stamps
On July 1, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began using a new secure blue ink for many of its secure stamps. The older secure red ink was retired and is no longer used by USCIS. The following list of stamps are now being done with secure blue ink:
Lists of acceptable documents appear on the last page of the I-9 form. USCIS noted that employers cannot reject an unexpired acceptable document presented by a worker or specify which documents they will accept. The agency reminded employers that they must accept the documents presented by a worker when completing the I-9 as long as those documents appear genuine on their face and relate to the person presenting them.
A bulletin from U.S. Customs and Border Protection with examples of the new stamps is available here. Detailed USCIS guidance on how to examine documents for I-9 verification purposes is available here. USCIS information on acceptable documents is available here.
CBP Designates POEs for First-Time Canadian TN, L Applicants Seeking U.S. Entry Under NAFTA
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is optimizing processing for first-time Canadian TN (Trade NAFTA) and L applicants seeking entry into the United States under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). CBP has designated ports of entry (POEs) that will ensure a more efficient approach to processing the high volume of TN and L applicants. CBP explained that such applicants may continue to go to any POE along the Canadian border for processing, but the agency is encouraging such applicants to go to one of the designated POEs "where you will receive optimized processing."
The designated POEs include locations in Canada, Vermont, New York, Michigan, Washington, and Montana. They are listed here.
Practitioners Warn About Immigration Scams
Immigration practitioners are warning each other, companies, and employees to avoid immigration-related scams. Types of scams reported recently include:
Scams can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission. See also USCIS's scam information page here to learn where to report scams. USCIS lists common immigration-related scams here. Contact your ABIL attorney for more information or help in particular cases.
USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on H-3 Nonimmigrant Trainees
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on September 9, 2014, that it is issuing comprehensive policy guidance on H-3 non-immigrant trainees in the USCIS Policy Manual. The new guidance consolidates all previous H-3 guidance addressing circumstances under which a temporary worker may come to the United States as a trainee or as a participant in a special education program.
The new guidance provides information on the background, purpose, and legal authority for the H-3 program and discusses program requirements, descriptions, restrictions, and forms and documents that must be submitted with an H-3 visa petition.
Among other things, the guidance notes that a training program for a trainee may not be approved if it:
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
We've all been 'pounding the pavement' this month, while enjoying our late summer glorious weather. Tasha Wiesman completed the Bacchus Half Marathon in fancy dress and loved the fact that wine was served (along with water!) at the pit stops. Charis Hall successfully completed the Tonbridge Half Marathon and Kehrela Hodkinson participated in the Shine Night Walk Marathon in support of Cancer Research. Louisa Spall & Shauna Maguire have caught the 'running bug' and are finding time to fit in several pre or post work runs each week.