February 2013 Newsletter
In This Issue
President Obama Speaks on Immigration Reform, Senators Announce Bipartisan Agreement
President Obama spoke in Las Vegas, Nevada, on his immigration reform ideas and released a statement one day after a bipartisan group of senators proposed principles for comprehensive immigration reform, on January 28, 2013.
A fact sheet on President Obama's immigration reform proposal outlines four principles:
First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.Among other things, President Obama's proposal includes providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs who want to start businesses in the United States and "helping the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take their skills to other countries." He also would provide a legal way for undocumented people to "earn citizenship" by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, "going to the back of the line," and learning English. Young people could earn citizenship more quickly by serving in the military or pursuing higher education.
The President is proposing the following measures, according to the fact sheet:
President Obama's proposal would permanently authorize immigrant visa opportunities for regional center (pooled investment) programs; and provide incentives for visa requestors to invest in programs that support national priorities, including economic development in rural and economically depressed regions. The proposal would create a new visa category for a limited number of highly skilled and specialized employees of federal national security science and technology laboratories who have been in the United States for two years.
Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) proposed the following four "basic legislative pillars":
The senators also lament the "broken" U.S. immigration system that "sadly discourages the world's best and brightest citizens from coming to the United States and remaining in our country to contribute to our economy." This failure, the senators note, makes legal entry into the United States "insurmountably difficult for well-meaning immigrants" and "unarguably discourages innovation and economic growth," in addition to creating substantial visa backlogs that force families to live apart and incentivize undocumented immigration.
To address these challenges, the senators propose a "new immigration system" that recognizes the characteristics that will "help build the American economy and strengthen American families," in addition to reducing backlogs in the family and employment visa categories. Among other things, they propose permanent resident status to immigrants who have received a Ph.D. or master's degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics from a U.S. university.
The senators also recommend a mandatory employment verification system with stiff penalties for egregious offenses.
For unauthorized workers, the senators propose legislation that would:
His speech transcript is available here..
The senators' statement announcing their framework for immigration reform is available here.
New Fee for Permanent Residence Takes Effect February 1
As of February 1, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun collecting a new immigrant 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. USCIS said the fee will help to recoup costs for staff time to handle, file, and maintain the immigrant visa package, and the cost of producing and delivering the permanent resident card.
The USCIS notice is available here.
The related Federal Register notice is available here.
Calculate Visa Processing & Interview Wait Times with DOS Online Tool
This State Department online resource allows users to select a U.S. embassy or consulate by city to obtain the latest estimated wait times for visa interview appointments and visa processing.
H-1B Visa Petitions for Fiscal Year 2014
USCIS will start accepting H-1B visa petitions for Fiscal Year 2014 on April 1, 2013. Though petitions will continue to be accepted after this date, Congress has placed a numerical “cap” on H-1B visas. As a result of overall economic conditions improving over the past year, we expect the H-1B cap to be reached as early as the first week of April. For FY 2014, the limit is 65,000 cap-subject H-1B visas, with an additional 20,000 visas available for individuals who have earned a master’s degree or higher from an accredited US educational institution. Once the H-1B cap has been reached, employers will be unable to file new cap-subject H-1B petitions until April 1, 2014. As soon as possible, we encourage you to identify any employees who may require H-1B sponsorship.
I-130 Processing Times – USCIS, London
Processing times for I-130 immigrant petitions filed with USCIS in London continue to fall. As of February 5, the USCIS Field Office in London was processing I-130’s filed on January 14.
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.
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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