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1. USCIS Institutes Direct E-Mail Communication for Regional Center Applicants - Beginning on September 13, 2011, Form I-924 applicants are able to communicate directly with USCIS adjudicators via e-mail.
2. DOL Releases H-2A Employer Filing Tips - The tips remind employers about common mistakes that may result in processing delays for temporary agricultural workers.
3. USCIS Considers Changes to Employment Authorization Policies for TPS Beneficiaries - USCIS is considering regulatory changes affecting the work authorization of temporary protected status beneficiaries and applicants.
4. SEVP Updates SEVIS Instructions, List of Approved Schools - The Student and Exchange Visitor Program has updated instructions and the list of approved schools for SEVIS.
5. U.S. Consulate in Mumbai Resumes H and L Visa Processing - The resumption in processing follows a hiatus since March due to infrastructure problems.
6. USCIS Publishes CNMI Transitional Worker Final Rule - The rule establishes a transitional worker nonimmigrant visa classification (CW) for workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
7. Immigration and Customs Training Complex Opens in Georgia - The ICE-funded project provides a central classroom location for all ICE Academy basic and specialized training programs.
8. ABIL Global: Germany Institutes New Requirements for Electronic Travel Permit - Germany Institutes New Requirements for Electronic Travel Permit
9. New Publications and Items of Interest - New Publications and Items of Interest
10. Member News - Member News
11. Government Agency Links - Government Agency Links
 

 
 
1. USCIS Institutes Direct E-Mail Communication for Regional Center Applicants
 

USCIS is implementing the first phase in a series of proposed enhancements to the EB-5 immigrant investor program. Beginning on September 13, 2011, Form I-924 (Application for Regional Center Under the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program) applicants are able to communicate directly with USCIS adjudicators via e-mail.

USCIS intends to monitor the progress of this new line of communication to assess whether changes are needed and to implement any needed changes on a "real-time basis." Feedback in response to the use of the direct line of communication for the I-924 may be e-mailed to opefeedback@uscis.dhs.gov.

USCIS said it "is eager to implement all of the proposed enhancements to the EB-5 program that it first announced on May 19, 2011." USCIS is exploring how it can accelerate the implementation of premium processing, "which customarily takes months due to the need to revise the applicable forms." USCIS said it is hiring economists and other experts who will enhance and accelerate the adjudication process and also help constitute the Decision Board that was first described on May 19.

USCIS said it will provide more information at its national stakeholder engagement on September 15.  A related Q&A is available at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=efccf0aec9262310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=facb83453d4a3210VgnVCM100000b92ca60aRCRD. Information on the proposed enhancements to EB-5 processing is available at http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Outreach/Feedback%20Opportunities/Operartional%20Proposals%20for%20Comment/EB-5-Proposal-18May11.pdf

 
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2. DOL Releases H-2A Employer Filing Tips
 

The Department of Labor's Office of Foreign Labor Certification has released "H-2A Employer Filing Tips." Based on 16 months of processing experience at the Chicago National Processing Center, the filing tips remind employers about common mistakes that may result in processing delays for temporary agricultural workers. Included are tips on pre-filing, forms, and recruitment.

The filing tips are available at http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/650090_slaughter_H-2A_filing_tips_8-29-11.pdf. A FAQ on the H-2A program is available at http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/H-2AFAQsRound3fnl.pdf.

 
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3. USCIS Considers Changes to Employment Authorization Policies for TPS Beneficiaries
 

On September 8, 2011, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Office of Policy and Strategy and Office of Public Engagement held a teleconference to discuss the employment authorization of temporary protected status (TPS) beneficiaries and applicants.

USCIS initiated a review of the current policies related to TPS in 2010. During this review, USCIS noted that 8 CFR § 244.12:

  • Allows TPS beneficiaries and applicants who have TPS withdrawn or denied to remain authorized for work until their employment authorization documents (EADs) expire, rather than upon withdrawal or denial; and
  • Extends the employment authorization of TPS beneficiaries or applicants whose TPS has been withdrawn or denied through any appeal to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) and/or a de novo determination during removal proceedings.

USCIS explained that TPS beneficiaries are authorized to work based on their status. TPS applicants who are found to be prima facie eligible for TPS may also receive employment authorization as a "temporary treatment benefit" while their TPS applications remain pending. USCIS is considering a regulatory change that would terminate their employment authorization if TPS is withdrawn or denied, rather than allow it to exist until the expiration of their EADs. Additionally, USCIS is considering:

  • Whether a person who has appealed a TPS denial or withdrawal decision to the AAO or who has sought de novo review of such a decision in removal proceedings should be permitted, in certain circumstances, to request that USCIS issue an EAD while his or her TPS request is under review; and
  • If so, what limitations, if any, should be placed on the EADs that may be issued while an AAO appeal is pending or while the TPS request is under review in removal proceedings.
The USCIS notice is available at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=ad140013f0602310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=994f81c52aa38210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD.
 
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4. SEVP Updates SEVIS Instructions, List of Approved Schools
 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) released updated instructions on September 7, 2011, for users of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). The instructions include information for new users, users with deleted SEVIS access, those deleting or terminating access, and password resets. Also, on September 1, SEVP released an updated list of approved schools, along with an approved schools map.

The updated instructions are available at http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/sevis-instructions-to-all-users-pics-access.pdf. The latest list of approved schools is available at http://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/ApprovedSchools.pdf. The map is available at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/map/approvedschoolsmap.htm.

 
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5. U.S. Consulate in Mumbai Resumes H and L Visa Processing
 
The U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai recently announced the resumption of interviews for H and L visas, after a stoppage beginning in March 2011 due to aging infrastructure. In 2010, Indian applicants received 65 percent of all H-1B visas issued worldwide. All interviews will be conducted at the Lincoln House Consulate building, located at 78, Bhulabhai Desai Road, until further notice. Visa appointments may be made online via VFS at http://www.vfs-usa.co.in/ApplnForms/SchduleMenu.aspx. The announcement is available at http://mumbai.usconsulate.gov/interviews-and-appointments.html.
 
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6. USCIS Publishes CNMI Transitional Worker Final Rule
 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a final rule on September 7, 2011, that establishes a transitional worker nonimmigrant visa classification (CW) for workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The CW classification allows employers in the CNMI to hire nonimmigrant workers who are otherwise ineligible to work.

A foreign worker may be eligible for CW status if he or she is:

  • Ineligible for a nonimmigrant or immigrant classification under the Immigration and Nationality Act;
  • Entering or staying in the CNMI to work as a needed foreign national worker to supplement the resident workforce;
  • The beneficiary of a petition filed by a legitimate employer who is doing business in the CNMI;
  • Not present in the United States, other than the CNMI;
  • Lawfully present in the CNMI or, if not present, intending to enter the CNMI with a visa; and
  • Admissible to the United States or has received any necessary waiver of a ground of inadmissibility.

An employer may be eligible to petition for a CW worker if the employer:

  • Is conducting a legitimate business, as defined in the final rule;
  • Has considered all available U.S. workers for the position;
  • Offers terms and conditions of employment consistent with the nature of the employer's business in the CNMI;
  • Is complying with federal and CNMI employment requirements;
  • Files a Form I-129CW, Petition for CNMI-Only Nonimmigrant Transitional Worker, and a CW-1 Classification Supplement with USCIS; and
  • Submits the appropriate filing fees.

In most cases, employers may file for multiple beneficiaries on the same form. The filing fees needed to obtain CW status include:

  • A $325 fee for the Form I-129CW;
  • A mandatory CNMI education funding fee of $150 per beneficiary per year; and
  • A biometric fee of $85 if the worker is located in the CNMI.

A limited number of CW visas are available each fiscal year, based on the CNMI government's estimate of nonresident workers. The numerical limitation for fiscal year (FY) 2011 is 22,417 and for FY 2012 will be 22,416. The final rule mandates that the limitation must drop annually and that the Department of Homeland Security determine the fiscal year limitation for CW workers for subsequent fiscal years beginning in FY 2013.

The CW visa classification is valid only in the CNMI and provides no basis for travel or work in any other part of the United States, except for nationals of the Philippines, who may travel between the Philippines and the CNMI through the Guam airport. The final rule also provides for the grant of derivative CW status to spouses and minor children of CW workers.

The announcement is available at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=3b0403dca1042310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD. The final rule is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-09-07/html/2011-22622.htm. A Q&A is available at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=378603dca1042310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD. For more information and announcements on immigration benefits specific to the CNMI, see http://www.uscis.gov/cnmi.

 
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7. Immigration and Customs Training Complex Opens in Georgia
 

A new training complex for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents and officers recently opened in Georgia, co-located with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). The new ICE Academy complex includes four computer labs, nine classrooms, two electronics labs, and two breakout rooms.

The ICE-funded project provides a central classroom location for all ICE Academy basic and specialized training programs. The classroom complex will house ICE's two basic training programs: ICE Enforcement and Removal Basic Law Enforcement Training and ICE Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Training. Specialized ICE programs designated for the building include technical enforcement, Spanish language, and instructor development courses.

In fiscal year 2010, the ICE Academy trained nearly 4,000 ICE employees, enrolled in more than 30 training programs. FLETC serves as an interagency law enforcement training organization for 90 federal agencies. In addition, the organization provides training to state, local, campus, tribal, and international law enforcement agencies. During FY 2010, over 65,000 students trained at the FLETC centers. Since its inception in 1970, nearly 940,000 law enforcement officers and agents have been trained at the largest law enforcement training organization in the country.

Headquartered on a 1,600-acre campus at Glynco, FLETC also operates facilities in Artesia, NM; Charleston, SC; and Cheltenham, MD. Additionally, FLETC has oversight responsibility on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security for the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) at Gaborone, Botswana; assists in the management of the ILEA in Bangkok, Thailand; and supports training at each of these ILEAs, as well as the ILEA in Budapest, Hungary, and San Salvador, El Salvador.

The announcement is available at http://www.fletc.gov/news/press-releases/fletc-opens-2.5m-state-of-the-art-ice-academy-classroom-complex.

 
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8. ABIL Global: Germany Institutes New Requirements for Electronic Travel Permit
 

Since September 1, 2011, applicants for a German electronic residence permit (elektronischer Aufenthaltstitel or eTA) must attend an in-person meeting at the foreigner's office (together with any family members). Fingerprints and biometric photographs will be taken. The conventional residence permit (adhesive label), the residence card and permanent residence card, and the replacement ID in paper form are being replaced by the electronic residence permit, which will be granted in a credit card-style format.

The electronic residence permit is equipped with a contact-free chip inside the card on which biometric features (photograph and two fingerprints), ancillary conditions (special requirements), and personal data are saved. In addition, the chip is capable of being used as an electronic identity document and qualified electronic signature. The photograph is saved on the body of the card and on the chip. Two fingerprints will also be saved on the chip for all residents of non-member states age 6 and up. For that reason, it is necessary to appear in person for the application.

Only official entities (such as the police of aliens authorities) are authorized to access the photograph and fingerprints. Ancillary conditions are saved on the chip and on a unique supplementary sheet that comes with the electronic residence permit.

Authorized service providers such as banks and official authorities may offer electronic services in which the holder identifies himself or herself electronically using the electronic residence permit. This simplifies the process of such activities as logging into Internet portals, filling out forms, and verifying one's age on the Internet or at machines. Only providers who possess state authorization will receive access to the holder's data. In addition, the holder must confirm the transfer of his or her personal data with a six-digit PIN number. The service providers are not able to read the biometric features when using the online identification function.

The electronic residence permit can also save a certificate with a qualified electronic signature. This provides electronic residence permit holders with the option of signing legally effective digital documents if desired.

The permits are not produced by the foreigner's offices and must be picked up. However, there is no need for the applicant to appear in person and it is possible to grant a power of attorney to allow another person to pick up the permit.

Finally, any permit that was granted before September 1, 2011, will remain valid until no later than April 30, 2021.

 
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9. New Publications and Items of Interest
 

Green Card Stories. The immigration debate is boiling over. Americans are losing the ability to understand and talk to one another about immigration. We must find a way to connect on a human level. Green Card Stories does just that. The book depicts 50 recent immigrants with permanent residence or citizenship in dramatic narratives, accompanied by artistic photos. If the book's profilees share a common trait, it's a mixture of talent and steely determination. Each of them overcame great challenges to come and stay in America. Green Card Stories reminds Americans of who we are: a nation of immigrants, from all walks of life and all corners of the earth, who have fueled America's success. It tells the true story of our nation: E pluribus unum--out of many, one.

Green Card Stories will be released on November 8. For more information or to order, visit http://www.abil.com/green_card.cfm.

E-Verify/Form I-9 Webinars. The Department of Homeland Security is offering free webinars on E-Verify and the Form I-9 process. Upcoming webinars include the "E-Verify Overview," to be held on Tuesday, September 27, at 2 p.m. EST, and Wednesday, September 28, at 10 a.m. EST; "E-Verify for Existing Users," to be held on Thursday, September 29, at 11 a.m. EST; "E-Verify for Federal Contractors," to be held Wednesday, September 28, at 2 p.m. EST; "Form I-9 Webinar," to be held Thursday, September 22, at 10 a.m. EST; and "E-Verify Self-Check," to be held Friday, September 16, at 2 p.m. EST, Thursday, September 22, at 2 p.m. EST, and Tuesday, September 27, at 10 a.m. EST. For more information or to register, see http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=413628ac1dc0c210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=413628ac1dc0c210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD.

GAO report on DHS ten years after 9/11. In a new report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) notes that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, led to profound changes in U.S. government agendas, policies, and structures to confront homeland security threats facing the nation. Most notably, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began operations in 2003 with key missions that included preventing terrorist attacks from occurring in the U.S., reducing the country's vulnerability to terrorism, and minimizing the damages from any attacks that may occur. DHS is now the third-largest federal department, with more than 200,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $50 billion. Since 2003, the GAO has issued over 1,000 reports on DHS's operations in such areas as border and transportation security and emergency management. The report addresses DHS's progress and challenges in implementing its homeland security missions since it began operations, and issues affecting implementation efforts.

The GAO report is available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11919t.pdf.

Enhancements to DOL enforcement website. The Department of Labor recently updated its enforcement database website. Among other things, the website provides data on Wage and Hour Division (WHD) compliance, such as all concluded WHD compliance actions since FY 2007, including whether any violations were found and the back wage amount, number of employees due back wages, and civil money penalties assessed. See http://ogesdw.dol.gov/raw_data_summary.php.

USCIS Ombudsman upcoming events. The USCIS Ombudsman's Office plans several upcoming events, including open houses on Monday, September 26, 2011 (4 to 6 p.m.) and Tuesday, September 27, 2011 (12 noon to 2 p.m.). The open houses will feature an informal discussion of the 2011 Annual Report, recent recommendations, the Ombudsman's Case Assistance Online Pilot Program, and case assistance. Also, the Ombudsman's first annual conference is scheduled for October 20, 2011. For more information, e-mail CISOmbudsman.PublicAffairs@dhs.gov or call (202) 357-8100.

 
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10. Member News
 

ABIL members and firms named to the 2012 "Best Lawyers" list include:

INDIVIDUALS

Francis Chin

Laura Danielson

Steve Garfinkel

Kehrela Hodkinson 

Mark Ivener

H. Ronald Klasko

Charles Kuck

Edward Litwin

Robert Loughran

Sharon Mehlman

Cyrus Mehta

Angelo Paparelli

Julie Pearl

William Reich

Steve Trow

Bernard Wolfsdorf

Stephen Yale-Loehr

FIRMS

Chin & Curtis, LLP

FosterQuan, LLP

Fredrikson & Byron, PA

Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm

Klasko, Rulon, Stock & Seltzer, LLP

Kuck Immigration Partners LLC

Larrabee, Mehlman, Albi & Coker LLP

Maggio + Kattar PC

Cyrus D. Mehta & Associates, PLLC

Pearl Law Group

Serotte Reich & Wilson

Trow & Rahal, P.C.

For more information, see http://www.bestlawyers.com/.

Several ABIL members were also named among the "Nation's 20 Most Powerful Immigration Attorneys" by HR Executive Magazine, including:

H. Ron Klasko

Angelo Paparelli

Julie Pearl

Bernard Wolfsdorf

For the full list, see http://www.humanresourceexecutive-digital.com/humanresourceexecutive/20110616?pg=52#pg52.

Charles Kuck appeared on Fox News on September 4, 2011, to debate immigration "amnesty" programs with Dan Stein of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Cyrus Mehta has posted several new blog entries. "Personal Reflections 10 Years After 9/11 As An Immigration Attorney" is available at http://cyrusmehta.blogspot.com/2011/09/reflecting-on-911-after-10-years-as.html. "Going Beyond the Politics of Discretion in the American Immigration System" is available at http://cyrusmehta.blogspot.com/2011/09/going-beyond-politics-of-discretion-in.html.

Angelo Paparelli has posted several new blog entries. "A Decade After 9/11: The Fear of Lax Immigration Enforcement Still Haunts America" is available at " http://bit.ly/mYzTUW. "Executive Craftsmanship: Job Creation through Existing Immigration Laws" is available at http://www.nationofimmigrators.com/immigration-reform/executive-craftsmanship-job-creation-through-existing-immigration-laws/.

Stephen Yale-Loehr was quoted in "For Illegal-Immigrant Students, New Policy on Deportations Offers Limited Relief," published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on September 1, 2011. Commenting on the Obama administration's new policy to suspend removals for low-risk undocumented students and others, Mr. Yale-Loehr said, "This policy merely continues their legal limbo." The article is available at http://chronicle.com/article/For-Illegal-Immigrant/128866/?key=T2t2d1RhaiRIZnxlajlEbzdTaXI8ZhkkMCZHbitwblpXFw%3D%3D.

Stephen Yale-Loehr and H. Ronald Klasko spoke at the Invest In the USA association meeting in Washington, DC, on September 15, 2011. Mr. Klasko spoke on current EB-5 policy and administrative issues; Mr. Yale-Loehr spoke on legislative strategy to renew the EB-5 regional center program through Congress. For more information, go to http://iiusadc915.eventbrite.com/.

 
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11. 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:

USCIS Service Center processing times online

Department of Labor processing times and information on backlogs

Department of State Visa Bulletin

Visa application wait times for any post

 
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