Newsletter 12; August 2012

Newsletter 12; August 2012

Dear Friends of the Firm:

It’s hard to believe that September has arrived! Whether you’re looking forward to cooler temperatures or sneaking in one last trip to the beach, here are some important immigration updates to keep you informed.


Green Card Lottery Opens October 2, 2012

The U.S. Government is once again accepting entries for the annual Diversity Visa Lottery beginning Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 12:00 noon, EDT. This program makes available thousands of immigrant visas each year to foreign-nationals from countries deemed to have low rates of immigration to the United States. Citizens of some countries are ineligible for the lottery, though in some circumstances, an individual may be eligible instead based on his/her spouse’s or parents’ country of birth.

Unless an individual is undocumented, I generally recommend entering the lottery (after all, there’s no filing fee!). Registration instructions will be available soon on the government’s website: http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1318.html . Carefully read all directions and follow the rigid guidelines when applying—each year thousands of applicants are disqualified for failure to follow the directions exactly.

Lottery winners can apply for green cards or immigrant visas if they meet certain criteria. Even if an individual does win the lottery, s/he may still not be eligible for a green card. We recommend that you hire a lawyer only after you are chosen as a lucky winner to help navigate the complex application process. Nevertheless, we are available if you would like to schedule a consultation regarding the lottery application process.

The government will accept lottery entries until November 3, 2010 at 12:00 noon, EDT. Good luck to you or your employees!


Good News for Intracompany Transferees with L-1 Visas

L-1 visas for international travel are now being issued from U.S. consulates in 5-year increments. An L-1 employee is still only authorized to live and work in the U.S. for 3 year increments. However, once L-1 status is renewed from within the U.S., the employee can continue to use the same, valid visa to reenter the U.S. without having to renew it at the U.S. consulate. This should save L-1 visa holders (and their employers) considerable time and expense.


Update on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Information about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has flooded the internet, with sources ranging from informed and helpful to dangerously inaccurate. An experienced immigration attorney can evaluate the details of your case and determine a strategy that works for your specific immigration situation. Other tips to keep in mind:

  • DACA does not allow applicants to appeal the government’s decision to deny a petition—make sure that your one and only chance to file a DACA application is a strong one.
  • Misrepresentations or failure to disclose information on a DACA application can have serious consequences. According to the Department of Homeland Security, applicants who make these mistakes “will be treated as an immigration enforcement priority to the fullest extent permitted by law, and be subject to criminal prosecution and/or removal from the United States.” Make sure your DACA application is squeaky clean!
  • There are both the short- and long-term consequences of filing a DACA application. Fortunately, information regarding a DACA applicant’s family members is kept confidential and in most cases will not be used to deport the family member.
  • The strategy for when to submit a DACA application can be important. For example, under existing immigration laws, qualified individuals could avoid future legal problems by submitting their requests prior to their 18th birthday and receiving approval no later than 180 days after their 18th birthday.
  • During the processing of your application, the government will contact you directly about any problems with the application. However, if you are represented by a licensed attorney, the government will contact your attorney instead of you.
  • Be smart and think about your comprehensive immigration strategy for the future—not just one DACA application.

I-94 Data Entry Delays Interrupt Work Authorization, Driver’s Licenses, and Social Security Cards

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported delays of 30 days or more in the current processing time for entering foreign visitors’ travel information into the I-94 database after an entry into the country. USCIS’s E-Verify program uses this information to confirm work authorization. Government agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the Department of Motor Vehicles also use this information to determine eligibility for government benefits.

As a result of the delays, employers may notice an increase in Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNC) when confirming a Foreign National’s employment authorization through E-Verify. Foreign Nationals may experience difficulties when applying for driver’s licenses, social security cards, and other benefits.
The good news: CBP has explained that the delays are the result of their ongoing initiative to automate Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Records. This means that speedier data entry could be on the horizon.


On the Campaign Trail: LGBT Immigration Benefits Now Part of the Democratic Party’s Platform

This morning, the Democratic National Committee unveiled an historic party platform that, for the first time, includes immigration benefits for same-sex couples. The platform would aid foreign-national families threatened with deportation and allow individuals to seek immigration benefits for their same-sex life partners.


Change in Government Processing Could Inconvenience Students

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is no longer stamping Forms I-20 for foreign-national students when they enter the United States. This change could cause problems in the short-term for students applying for certain government benefits because many government agencies look to the I-20 stamp to determine eligibility. USCIS is reaching out to agencies to inform them of the new “no-stamping” policy and ensure that driver’s licenses, social security cards, and other benefits will be issued to students without delay. In the meantime, if a government agency rejects your I-20 we recommend that you or your designated school official email USCIS at: Public.Engagement@uscis.dhs.gov.


Certain Iranian Students Face New Immigration Hurdles

The United States has enacted the Iran Nuclear Threat Reduction Bill, which directs Immigration Officers to deny petitions and exclude from the United States any Iranian citizens seeking higher education to prepare for a career in Iran’s energy, nuclear science and nuclear engineering sectors, as well as related fields. Beginning August 10, 2012, immigration offices and consular posts will deny student visa applications from Iranian applicants wishing to pursue post-secondary studies in the proscribed fields. It is unclear how the government will interpret the phrase “related fields,” and how this policy will impact Iranian students applying for extensions of status to continue their current studies or for post-graduation employment. We will be watching carefully for updates!


Scam Alert: Fraudulent Callers Target Immigrants

Reports have surfaced regarding a new scam potentially victimizing immigrants. According to one report, immigrants may receive calls purporting to be from a USCIS officer, who will have certain correct information including the individual’s name and address. The caller will claim that there is a discrepancy in USCIS records, and ask for confirmation of personal data such as I-94 number, “A” number, or visa control number. The caller may then demand a sum of money to be sent via Western Union as a “penalty for not clearing up the discrepancy.”

If you receive a suspicious call from an individual claiming to be an Immigration Officer, contact your attorney immediately to verify the source of the call. Fraudulent calls should be reported to appropriate law enforcement authorities, including the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Together we can shut down these fraudsters!


Immigration Law in Brief

  • I-9: USCIS is currently in the process of updating Form I-9. Until the update is available, employers should continue to use the current version of Form I-9, even though it expired on August 31, 2012.
  • Managers and Executives: USCIS has confirmed that Premium Processing for Immigrant Visa petitions filed on behalf of executives and managers will become available by October 1, 2012. Premium Processing guarantees that USCIS will respond to an Immigrant Visa petition within 15 calendar days. Executives and managers interested in upgrading their pending Immigrant Visa applications to Premium Processing should contact our office.
  • Israeli Investors: President Obama has signed legislation that would add Israel to the list of countries eligible for investor visas (E-2) in the United States. Visas will become available once the terms and conditions of the final agreement are determined between the two countries. So far, no timeline for the implementation of this visa category has been promised.
  • Russian Visitors: The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has announced that, effective September 9, 2012, an agreement to facilitate travel and establish stronger ties between Russia and the United States will benefit applicants for business and visitor visas. The benefits of the agreement include:
    • Russian and American travelers will be eligible to receive visas valid for multiple entries during a period of 36 months.
    • Travelers from both countries will enjoy simplified visa processing and accelerated processing times.
    • The United States will reduce the visa reciprocity fee charged to Russians from $100 to $20.
    • Russia will lift the previous restriction limiting Americans’ stays in Russia to 90 days within any given 180-day period.

Note: This publication serves only as general information and is not a substitute for consultation with an attorney who can assess the specifics of your case and inform you of the constant changes in law and policy. No attorney-client relationship is formed by the transmission of this information until a legal service contract has been signed by both of us.