May 2014 Newsletter
In This Issue
Retrieval of I-94 Arrival/Departure Records
On May 1, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) updated its webpage for retrieving I-94 arrival/departure records. Now visitors to the US can access a history of their arrival/departure dates and points of entry/exit (if known) going back five years from the request date. This information will be a helpful resource to visa applicants completing the details of their five most recent US trips on their DS-160 visa application forms.
USCIS holds Stakeholder Call on L-1A Site Visits
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) held a stakeholder call on April 24, 2014, on the implementation of L-1A site visits for intracompany transferee managers and executives. The following are highlights from the call:
USCIS said that site visits are randomly selected and not based on suspected fraud or tips received. All L-1A extensions are included in the pool, not just new offices. The trigger is the filing of a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with USCIS. The agency noted that at the moment, there does not seem to be a method for including petitions filed at the border by Canadians or petitions filed at consulates based on a blanket L-1, but USCIS is trying to figure out how to include them as well.
The inspection program is being phased in and may be extended to initial petitions and/or L-1B specialized knowledge employees in the future, USCIS said. Inspection officers do not have authority to withdraw, approve, deny, or re-adjudicate a petition. Also, they do not have the authority to make a finding of fraud, but they can forward the results of the inspection to the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) for further investigation. The inspection report assesses compliance with the L regulations and the result is either "verified" or "unverified." A supervisor reviews all inspection findings.
Attorneys may be present, but officers may not wait for them to show up. Participation in the inspection is voluntary, USCIS noted. The petitioner may at any time request that the inspection be stopped, and the inspection officer will stop and create the report based on the information obtained up to that point and through other methods (e.g., Internet, telephone, email, conversations with neighbours). Stopping the investigation will not necessarily result in an "unverified" conclusion, USCIS said.
Employers should be prepared to present all documents submitted with the original L-1A petition. One caller noted that employers are not required to maintain public access files in the L context and therefore may have difficulty immediately producing these documents. USCIS replied that the production expectation is the same for Ls as it is for Hs, but they will be allowed to follow up with the officer after the inspection to clarify and/or provide requested documents that were not readily available at the time of the inspection.
According to USCIS, each inspection will touch on issues easily addressed in many cases by information contained in the L-1A petition. Some of those issues noted on the call include:
USCIS H-1B Premium Processing has begun for FY 2015 Petitions
On April 28, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began premium processing for H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2015 cap, including H-1B petitions seeking an exemption from the cap for individuals who have earned a U.S. master's degree or higher. The annual cap is 65,000 H-1B visas, with an exemption for the first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of those with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.
USCIS provides premium processing service for certain employment-based petitions and guarantees a 15-calendar-day processing time.
The announcements are available here and here.
State Dept. Updates Visa Reciprocity Table for Ukraine
The Department of State has updated the visa reciprocity table for Ukraine: B visa validity was updated from 60 months to 120 months.
Recent updates are listed here.
Mobile phones deleted from list of prohibited items at US Embassy London
Individuals who attend interviews at the American Embassy, London, are now permitted to keep their mobile phones with them while inside the Embassy. All other electronic devices, including iPads, notebook and tablet computers, laptops, Kindles etc. are not permitted inside the Embassy.
New Publications and Items of Interest
I-94 FAQ. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has released frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. The FAQ provides responses to questions on what records can be accessed, how SEVIS records are documented, how automation of the I-94 affects the I-9 employment verification process, and other issues. The FAQ 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
With only a week to go before her Coast to Coast challenge, Kehrela is incredibly excited about undertaking the 190 miles from St. Bees, Cumbria to Robin Hood Bay in North Yorkshire. She will be walking to raise funds for Hospice in the Weald, a local charity. A number of clients and colleagues have requested information regarding sponsoring Kehrela on her walk. For those interested in making a donation, please go to the fundraising page here.
Tasha Wiesman will participate in the Edinburgh Half Marathon which will take place on 25 May 2014. Go Tasha!
Our whole team will Run the Race for Life in support of Cancer Research. This fitness bug is contagious, as is the desire to help others.