USCIS REACHES 2019 H-1B Cap and COMPLETES RANDOM SELECTION
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on April 6 that it has reached the congressionally mandated 65,000 visas for the H-1B cap for fiscal year (FY) 2019. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the U.S. advanced degree exemption. The selection process was also completed on April 12. Premium processing for selected cap Petitions remains suspended.
EB-5 REGIONAL CENTER PILOT PROGRAM TO BE EXTENDED
President Trump is expected to sign an extension to the program until September 30, 2017. In the meantime, a reform bill will likely pass in the next few months to enhance anti-fraud measures and increase minimum investment amounts.
USCIS REVISES FORM I-9 EMPLOYMENT ELIGIBILITY VERIFICATION
Effective January 22, 2017, employers will be required to use the new version of the I-9 form. The form contains several changes and is also easier to complete on a computer.
CBP LAUNCHES ELECTRONIC VISA UPDATE SYSTEM FOR CHINESE NATIONALS
As of November 29, 2016, Chinese nationals holding a 10-year B//B2 visa will be required to have a valid "EVUS" enrollment when traveling to the U.S. EVUS is an online system which will facilitate travel. Enrollment will be valid for two years. Currently there is no fee for enrollment and no other participating countries.
CBP CLARIFIES E-PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS FOR VISA WAIVER PROGRAM
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers coming to the United States with an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) must have an e-Passport as of April 1, 2016. Travelers from VWP countries are still eligible to travel to the United States without an e-Passport if they have a valid nonimmigrant visa, for which they can apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate. CBP encourages travelers to check their passports and their current ESTA status to make sure that they are in compliance with this requirement. If a traveler has acquired a new passport, he or she must submit a new ESTA application.
NEW DHS STEM OPT RULE FOR QUALIFYING F-1 STUDENTS NOW IN EFFECT
DHS's new rule allows certain F-1 STEM students who have elected to pursue 12 months of optional practical training (OPT) in the United States to extend the OPT period by 24 months. The final rule took effect May 10, 2016.
CHANGES TO VISA BULLETIN
On September 9th, the State Department (DOS) and USCIS jointly announced new procedures that will allow individuals stuck in the family-based and employment-based immigrant visa backlogs to begin filing their immigrant visa or adjustment of status applications before their priority dates become current. As of October 1, 2015, there will be two important dates listed on the DOS Visa Bulletin: the "filing date," which determines when individuals can submit their permanent residence applications, and the "final action" date, which determines when the Department of State or USCIS can make a decision on the applications.
If the immigrant has a "priority date" earlier than the listed "filing date" for their particular visa category and country, they will be able to file their applications for permanent residence earlier than they would have been allowed under the old process. However, they will still have to wait for the "final action" date to become current before permanent residence can be approved.
USCIS announes Half a Million Companies are Participating in E-Verify
As of January 23, 2014, more than 500,000 companies now use E-Verify, a free online service that allows U.S. employers to confirm new hires eligibility to work. USCIS also released a new video titled “E-Verify for Business Leaders” and updated it’s E-Verify website at www.uscis.gov/E-Verify
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Held Unconstitutional
On June 26, 2013, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the heart of a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The discriminatory law denied thousands of legally married same-sex couples many important federal benefits, including immigration benefits. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano stated, "Working with our federal partners, including the Department of Justice, we will implement today's decision so that all married couples will be treated equally and fairly in the administration of our immigration laws."
USCIS Revised Form I-9
All employers are required to complete a Form I-9 for each new employee hired in the United States. In May 2013, a new Form I-9 was released and remains in effect through 2016 however a new edition of this form is coming soon.
CBP Begins Automation of Form I-94 at Air and Sea Ports
As of April 30, 2013, foreign travelers will no longer receive a paper entry form at the point of entry. Travelers will be able to access and print out their electronic Form I-94 by visiting www.cbp.gov/I94.
USCIS Announces Provisional Waiver Application Process
Beginning March 4, 2103, certain immigrant visa applicants who are the spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens (immediate relatives), and have been unlawfully present in the United States, can start applying for provisional unlawful presence waivers through a new process. They can now apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver while in the United States and before departing for their immigrant visa interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
On August 29, 2016, the provisional unlawful presence waiver process was expanded to all individuals statutorily eligible for an immigrant visa and a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence in the United States based on "extreme hardship" to a U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident spouse or parent.
The new process is expected to shorten the time U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives while those family members go through the process of becoming lawful permanent residents of the United States. For eligibility details and information on the process, please visit: http://www.uscis.gov/provisionalwaiver
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
On June 15, 2012, Department of Homeland Security announced a NEW program granting deferred action for two years to certain young people who came to the U.S. as children and meet other eligibility criteria. Individuals who receive deferred action will not be placed into removal proceedings or removed from the U.S. for the duration of the grant. Individuals in removal proceedings, those with final orders, and those who have never been in removal proceedings will be able to affirmatively request deferred action from USCIS.
An individual who meets the following criteria may apply for deferred action
- Was under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
- Came to the U.S. before reaching his/her 16th birthday;
- Has continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
- Was physically present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012, and at the time of application to USCIS;
- Entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012;
- Is currently in school, has graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, has obtained a GED, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. Armed Forces; and
- Has not been convicted of a felony, a "significant misdemeanor," three or more other misdemeanors, or does not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
Change of Address Notification
The USCIS requires all foreign nationals over the age of fourteen who remain in the U.S. for more than thirty days to notify the USCIS of any change in their address, and provide the new address within ten days of moving. Applicants can now change their address online at: https://egov.immigration.gov/crisgwi/go?action=coa
Beginning Jan. 12, 2009, all visitors from qualifying Visa Waiver countries must apply for and receive an approved travel authorization via ESTA prior to traveling to the United States. ESTA is a free program. For additional information about the new ESTA requirement, please visit http://www.cbp.gov/esta.
DHS AND DOS ADVISE THAT ALL VWP TRAVELERS TO THE U.S. MUST POSSESS MACHINE READABLE PASSPORTS
Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participants must have a machine-readable passport to enter the United States without a visa. Transportation carriers will be fined for transporting any VWP traveler to the United States without a machine-readable passport.