December 2012 Newsletter
In This Issue
House Passes STEM Bill; 'Achieve Act' Introduced in Senate, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Reacts; Obama Dems Advocate Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6429, the "STEM Jobs Act of 2012," by a 245-139 vote on November 30, 2012. The bill would allocate 55,000 immigrant visas for certain foreign graduates of advanced degree programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It would exclude students with degrees in biological and biomedical fields. Among other things, it also would eliminate the diversity visa (DV) program so that there would be no overall increase in the level of immigration.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), said, "We should staple a green card to [foreign STEM graduates'] diplomas." Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cal.), who also voted in favor of the bill, said,"We need to break up the elephant into bite-size pieces. I want to break this up into passable bill by passable bill."
H.R. 6429 is considered unlikely to pass in the Senate. Democrats said they support STEM visas but did not think the DV program should be eliminated and believe that STEM legislation should be part of a larger immigration reform package. Similarly, the Obama administration said in a statement that it "strongly supports" legislation to attract and retain foreign students who graduate with advanced STEM degrees, to establish a start-up visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs "to start businesses and create jobs," and to "reform the employment-based immigration system to better meet the needs of the U.S. economy." However, the administration said it does not support "narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the President's long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform." The statement advocated an approach that would "provide for attracting and retaining highly skilled immigrants and uniting Americans with their family members more quickly, as well as other important priorities such as establishing a pathway for undocumented individuals to earn their citizenship, holding employers accountable for breaking the law, and continuing efforts to strengthen the Nation's robust enforcement system."
Also, on November 27, 2012, Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) introduced the "Achieve Act," S. 3639, which would allow certain undocumented youth to attain a visa. They would have to apply for employment authorization after they have completed higher education or served in the military. "We have to get this ball rolling ... and this particular part of immigration reform seemed a logical place to begin," Sen. Kyl said. The bill is more restrictive than the previously proposed DREAM Act and would limit eligibility to those who entered the United States under the age of 14, among other things. Sen. Hutchison also noted that the bill "doesn't allow them to cut in line [for U.S. citizenship] in front of people who have come and abided by the rules of our laws today. It doesn't keep them from applying under the rules today, but it doesn't give them a special preference." The Achieve Act is also considered unlikely to pass in the Senate.
U.S. Mission in India Expands Interview Waiver Program
The U.S. Mission in India has announced expansion of the Interview Waiver Program (IWP), launched in March 2012, which allows qualified individuals to apply for additional classes of visas without being interviewed in person by a U.S. consular officer. The U.S. embassy in New Delhi expects this expansion to affect thousands of visa applicants in India.
Under the current IWP, Indian visa applicants who are renewing visas that are still valid or expired within the past 48 months may submit their applications for consideration for streamlined processing, including waiver of a personal interview, within the following visa categories:
Not all applications will be accepted for streamlined processing. As always, consular officers may interview any visa applicant in any category. Applicants who are renewing their visas may still need an appointment for biometrics (fingerprint and photograph) collection. All applicants must submit all required fees and the DS-160 application form.
The U.S. embassy in New Delhi said that this is "one of many steps the Department of State is taking to meet increased visa demand in India." The embassy explained that in 2011, consular officers in India processed nearly 700,000 nonimmigrant visa applications, an increase of more than 11 percent over the previous year. Currently, applicants generally wait fewer than 10 days for visa interview appointments and spend less than one hour at U.S. consular facilities in India. In September 2012, the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to India implemented a new visa processing system throughout India that further standardizes procedures and simplifies fee payment and appointment scheduling through a new website at www.ustraveldocs.com/in.
For more details about procedures for submitting a renewal application, click here.
USCIS Expands e-Request Services
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has expanded the services available via its e-Request system. The Web-based tool allows users to ask about applications and petitions submitted to USCIS. Users can now:
The USCIS notice is available at here.
USCIS Holds Teleconference on I-601 Waivers
On November 13, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) held a teleconference to discuss the transition to centralized Lockbox filing of Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, filed by applicants outside the United States.
As background, on June 4, 2012, USCIS phased in a new requirement that I-601s and associated Forms I-212 and I-290B be filed and adjudicated in the United States. An exception was made for applications filed at the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, for six months. Beginning December 5, 2012, I-601s and associated forms must be filed in the United States unless the applicant meets criteria allowing him or her to file at an international USCIS office. The criteria include circumstances such as applicants residing in Cuba, or applicants facing urgent issues such as a medical emergency, a threat to personal safety, being close to aging out of visa eligibility, or having adopted a child locally and needing to depart the country imminently.
The teleconference notice, which includes a link to international USCIS offices, is available here.
The memo listing the exceptions is available at here.
This new process is separate from the notice of proposed rulemaking that was announced on March 30, 2012, outlining a proposed process for provisional unlawful presence waivers. A USCIS announcement concerning that notice is available here.
State Dept. projects Visa Numbers; Cut-Off Date Likely for China Employment Fifth Preference Later in FY 2013
The Department of State's Visa Office released projections for the next several months in its Visa Bulletin for December 2012.
Among other things, it appears likely that a cut-off date will need to be established for the China employment fifth preference category during the second half of fiscal year 2013, the Visa Office said, noting that "such action would
be delayed as long as possible, since while number use may be excessive over a 1 to 5 month period, it could average out to an acceptable level over a longer (e.g., 4 to 9 month) period." This would be the first time a cut-off date
has been established in this category, the Visa Office noted, explaining that this is why "readers are being provided with the maximum amount of advance notice regarding the possibility." The Visa Office noted that this advisory is
based strictly on the current demand situation, and that demand patterns can change over time. Therefore, "this should be considered a worst case scenario at this point," the Visa Office said.
The Visa Office said that categories with a "Current" projection "will remain so for the foreseeable future," with the possible exception of the China employment fifth preference category mentioned above.
The following is the projected monthly forward progress for the employment-based categories (monthly):
New Publications and Items of Interest
Online resource center launched for USCIS Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched a new online resource center, "Entrepreneur Pathways," for the agency's Entrepreneurs in Residence initiative. The resource center provides "an intuitive way to navigate the immigration process," and information on "future opportunities for engagement with the entrepreneurial community." It currently contains three sections: Getting Started, Visa Guide, and Outreach. An article on the resource center is available on the White House blog at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/11/29/new-front-door-immigrant-entrepreneurs. The USCIS blog's announcement is available here.
Study on international mobility of foreign recipients of U.S. doctorates. The National Science Foundation released the results of a study in October 2012, "International Mobility and Employment Characteristics Among Recent Recipients of U.S. Doctorates." The study noted, among other things, that overall, 20.4% of foreign-citizen graduates with U.S. doctoral degrees reported working or living in their country of origin in 2008, whereas 96.6% of U.S. citizen graduates reported working or living in the United States. Among foreign graduates who did not return to their country of origin, the United States was the most popular destination, with 88.9% reporting living in the United States. For this group, the European Union was the second most popular destination (3.7%), and Asia and Canada tied for third (2.7% and 2.6%, respectively). The 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:
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