Newsletter 13: October 2012

Newsletter 13: October 2012

Dear Friends of the Firm:

I hope you are all enjoying the beautiful colors of the fall season. The following are some important immigration updates for you.

Election Day Is Coming: Republican and Democratic Proposals for Immigration

The Republican and Democratic Parties released their official 2012 Party Platforms. A nonpartisan organization,
AILA, has compiled this helpful list of the major points of each Party’s platform that relate to immigration proposals. We provide this list below for your information:

Democratic Party Platform on Immigration

  • Supports comprehensive immigration reform to create a system that meets the nation’s economic needs, keeps families together, and enforces the law.
  • Supports the DREAM Act and continuing to provide deferred action to undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children.
  • Plans to hold employers accountable for whom they hire.
  • Prioritizes enforcement against criminals who endanger communities instead of immigrants who do not pose a safety threat.
  • Supports family reunification as a priority. Supports the current administration’s streamlining of the process of legal immigration for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and the enhanced opportunities for English-language learning and immigrant integration.
  • Supports continued litigation to oppose state enforcement laws that interfere with federal immigration law.
  • Supports inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender relationships in the definition of family in immigration policy to protect bi-national families threatened with deportation.
  • Asserts that the southwest border is more secure than at any time in the past twenty years, unlawful crossings are at a 40-year low, and that the Border Patrol is better staffed than at any time in its history.

The Republican Party Platform on Immigration

  • Opposes any form of amnesty.
  • Opposes the current administration’s 2012 policy of granting deferred action to certain individuals who came to the U.S. as children.
  • Top priority is security at borders and ports of entry to prevent drug trafficking, illegal immigration, and terrorism. Calls for completion of the double-layered fencing on the southern border.
  • Supports “humane procedures to encourage illegal immigrants” to leave the U.S. Supports increased enforcement against overstays.
  • Supports the use of local police to enforce federal immigration laws.
  • Supports states in passing their own state-by-state immigration laws
  • Supports tougher penalties for ID theft, human trafficking and for those who deal in fraudulent documents.
  • Supports long-term detention of those who cannot be deported to their country of nationality.
  • Calls for denying federal funding to “sanctuary cities” and to universities that offer in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants.
  • Supports making E-verify mandatory nationwide. Supports state immigration enforcement efforts in the workplace.
  • Supports making the SAVE program mandatory. SAVE verifies the lawful presence of applicants for State or federal government entitlements or IRS refunds.
  • Calls for English as the nation’s official language.
  • Supports granting more visas to holders of advanced degrees in science technology, engineering and math fields.
  • Willing to consider a guest worker program to meet labor needs.

I-94 Information for Travelers with Temporary Visas

The holidays are approaching and many of our clients are preparing to visit their families abroad. To protect you upon your return to the U.S., please review the following important reminders regarding international travel and Forms I-94:

  • Don’t be fooled by its unassuming appearance—the white card stapled in your passport, Form I-94, is an important immigration document that determines the length of a foreign national’s lawful immigration status in the United States. After presenting yourself for inspection and admission at a U.S. Port of Entry, check (and double check!) your Form I-94 to make sure all the information listed is correct, especially the expiration date. The expiration date should match the earlier date of either your passport expiration date or your I-797 Approval Notice expiration date. If you think your Form I-94 was issued incorrectly, tell the officer immediately or contact our office for assistance.
  • Immigration officers at the airport are paying more attention to the expiration date in your passport. Generally, an individual in nonimmigrant status must present a passport that is valid for the entire duration of their stay in the United States (and it must be valid for an extra 6 months for individuals from certain countries). Make sure passports are valid as described above to avoid the authorized period of stay being cut short by an earlier passport expiration date. (Some countries might not renew passports far enough in advance; in such case ask us for additional advice.)

A Little Protection for Long-Term, Same-Sex Partners

New guidance clarifies that “family relationships” includes long-term, same-sex partners for the purposes of prosecutorial discretion. This means that the government can consider the hardship to a foreign national’s U.S. Citizen same-sex partner and family when deciding whether to initiate deportation proceedings or other immigration enforcement action. This important guidance will help keep families together and bring relief to many bi-national same-sex couples whose relationships are not otherwise recognized under federal immigration laws. Significantly, this announcement does not change the prohibition against US citizens sponsoring their life partners for green cards.

Priority Dates for Indian Nationals Expected to Advance Slowly Next Year

Unfortunately, long delays will continue for Indian nationals waiting for an EB-2 visa number to apply for a green card. This is due in part to increased EB-1 visa number usage which results in fewer EB-1 visa numbers being left over for the EB-2 category. Fortunately, with the proper immigration strategy, at least these deserving employees can continue in H-1B status beyond the six year maximum until an EB-2 visa number does become available for them.

Immigration Law in Brief

  • Time May Be Running Out for Childhood Arrivals: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is still available for certain young people who came to the United States as children. Eligible applicants may request deferred action for a period of two years and will be eligible for work authorization and (in some states) driver’s licenses. DACA was created by executive order of President Obama, who has promised to continue the program and allow Deferred Action recipients to renew their applications every 2 years if he is re-elected in November. Governor Romney has stated that he will honor deferred action approvals issued by the Obama administration, but would not accept new applications after taking office if he is elected President. We encourage any interested potential applicants should take advantage of this window of opportunity and file their DACA applications as soon as possible!
  • Green Card Lottery: As a reminder, the U.S. Government is once again accepting entries for the annual Diversity Visa Lottery. Lottery winners can apply for a green cards or immigrant visas if they meet certain other criteria. Unless an individual is undocumented, I generally recommend entering the lottery (after all, there’s no filing fee!). To enter the lottery, visit Entries are accepted until November 3, 2012. Good luck to you or your employees!
  • Taiwanese Visitors: Taiwan is to join 36 other countries as a participant in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)—which permits visa-free travel to the United States for eligible individuals visiting the United States for short business trips or tourism. Eligible Taiwanese citizens will apply for advanced travel authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a web-based system. In 2011, 243,186 visitors from Taiwan traveled to the United States.
  • Driver’s Licenses and Social Security Cards: Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reported continued delays of 60 days or more in the current processing time for entering foreign visitors’ travel information into the government database after an entry into the United States. Foreign nationals may continue to experience delays when applying for driver’s licenses/social security cards and demonstrating work authorization to their employers.

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.