October 2014 Newsletter

In This Issue
  • State Dept. Releases Instructions on Applying for DV-2016 Program
  • Visa appointments at the American Embassy London in December
  • New Customs Form
  • USCIS Announces New Secure Blue Ink for Many Stamps
  • CBP Designates POEs for First-Time Canadian TN, L Applicants Seeking U.S. Entry Under NAFTA
  • Practitioners Warn About Immigration Scams
  • USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on H-3 Nonimmigrant Trainees
  • Government Agency Links
  • Hodkinson Law Group News

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:
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Parole Stamp
  • Temporary I-551 Alien Documentary Identification and Telecommunication (ADIT) Stamp
  • Refugee Stamp (Section 207)
  • Asylum Stamp (Section 208)
  • Initial/Replacement Form I-94 Stamp
USCIS said employers should be aware of this recent change in secure ink colour when examining acceptable documents presented by employees during the Form I-9 employment eligibility verification process. Please see the guidelines here.

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:
  • Scammers targeting people based on foreign-sounding names or based on information gathered about companies hiring many H-1Bs. The scammers can get a lot of information from various websites, labor condition application listings from the Department of Labor, LinkedIn, social media, and other sources. Scammers are able to collect information in a variety of ways and use it to convince unwitting victims of their purported authenticity.
  • Scammers claiming to be from the Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. They call and state that the victim's paperwork has problems and threaten to deport the victim or to send authorities to the person's home if he or she does not cooperate. They then order the person to go to the nearest convenience store, obtain merchant cards or vouchers for a certain amount of money, and provide the voucher numbers over the phone. Once the scammers obtain the voucher numbers, they disconnect the call and disappear with the victim's money.
  • Scammers claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service, who state that the victim owes back taxes and ordering them to provide merchant card or voucher numbers, then disappearing with the victim's money.
  • Scammers who use "Caller ID spoofing" to display a telephone number that is not really their own, and that may appear to be from a legitimate government agency.
  • Scammers who send e-mails claiming that the recipient is a Diversity Visa lottery winner and must send in a fee. The Department of State does not send e-mails to applicants.
  • Scammers who claim faster processing times or guarantee visas, work authorizations, or green cards, for a fee.
US government agencies never conduct business in this manner. A call demanding money and threatening negative consequences if it's not coughed up immediately is a scam, and those receiving such calls should hang up immediately and not provide any information. USCIS notes, "USCIS will not call you to ask for any form of payment over the phone. Don't give payment over the phone to anyone who claims to be a USCIS official."

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:

  • Deals in generalities with no fixed schedule, objectives, or means of evaluation;
  • Is incompatible with the nature of the petitioner's business or enterprise;
  • Is on behalf of a trainee who already possesses substantial training and expertise in the proposed field of training;
  • Is in a field in which it is unlikely that the knowledge or skill will be used outside the United States;
  • Will result in productive employment beyond that which is incidental and necessary to the training;
  • Is designed to recruit and train non-immigrants for the ultimate staffing of domestic operations in the United States;
  • Does not establish that the petitioner has the physical plant and sufficiently trained workforce to provide the training specified; or
  • Is designed to extend the total allowable period of practical training previously authorized a nonimmigrant student.
The announcement is available here. The policy guidance 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

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.

Kehrela Hodkinson continues to be active in the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). She has once again been acclaimed in 'Who's Who Legal, Corporate Immigration 2014 as one of the top 15 corporate immigrations lawyers worldwide.

Allison Ouvryhas practiced law since 1996, concentrating in the field of business immigration since 2000. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas and the New York Bar, and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the American Women Lawyers in London group, and the London Library.

Tasha Wiesman is a member of the Illinois State Bar and assists in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications of waivers of grounds of inadmissibility.
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Kehrela Hodkinson has again been acclaimed as one of the top 15 most highly regarded immigration lawyers worldwide in 'Who's Who Legal, Corporate Immigration 2014'.

Allison Ouvry has practiced law since 1996, concentrating in the field of business immigration since 2000.

Tasha Wiesman assists in the preparation and filing of non-immigrant and immigrant visa petitions and applications for waivers of inadmissibility.
Hodkinson Law Group | www.usvisalawgroup.com | +44 (0) 20 7299 2490
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