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1. President Obama Speaks on Immigration Reform, Senators Announce Bipartisan Agreement - President Obama spoke on his immigration reform proposal one day after a bipartisan group of senators also proposed principles for comprehensive immigration reform.
2. USCIS Updates FAQ on DACA, Releases Latest Statistics - USCIS has posted new information on the definition of DACA, accrual of unlawful presence, continuous residence requirements, the effect of traveling outside the United States, violations of status, DACA for those living in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, fee waivers, and other related issues. USCIS approved 154,404 DACA cases as of January 17, 2013.
3. USCIS Discusses New Policy Manual, Upcoming Guidelines for Precedent Decisions at Stakeholder Engagement - The manual replaces the Adjudicators' Field Manual and policy memoranda that are in place today. Also, the agency plans to publish guidelines for issuing precedent decisions soon.
4. DHS Adds Grenada to List of 59 Eligible Countries for H-2A, H-2B Programs - USCIS may approve petitions for H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant status only for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, has designated by notice published in the Federal Register. That notice is renewed each year, and countries may be added or deleted.
5. Reminder: New Fee for Permanent Residence Takes Effect February 1 - As of February 1, 2013, USCIS has begun collecting a new immigrant fee of $165 from foreign nationals seeking permanent residence in the United States.
6. New Publications and Items of Interest - New Publications and Items of Interest
7. Member News - Member News
8. Government Agency Links - Government Agency Links
 

 
 
1. President Obama Speaks on Immigration Reform, Senators Announce Bipartisan Agreement
 

President Obama spoke in Las Vegas, Nevada, on his immigration reform ideas and released a statement one day after a bipartisan group of senators proposed principles for comprehensive immigration reform, on January 28, 2013.

A fact sheet on President Obama's immigration reform proposal outlines four principles:

First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.

Among other things, President Obama's proposal includes providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs who want to start businesses in the United States and "helping the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, rather than take their skills to other countries." He also would provide a legal way for undocumented people to "earn citizenship" by passing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, "going to the back of the line," and learning English. Young people could earn citizenship more quickly by serving in the military or pursuing higher education.

The President is proposing the following measures, according to the fact sheet:

  • Mandatory, phased-in electronic employment verification. The President's proposal provides tools for employers to ensure a legal workforce by using federal government databases to verify that the people they hire are eligible to work in the United States. Penalties for hiring undocumented workers are significantly increased, and new penalties are established for committing fraud and identity theft. The new mandatory program ensures the privacy and confidentiality of all workers' personal information and includes important procedural protections. Mandatory electronic employment verification would be phased in over five years with exemptions for certain small businesses. 
  • Combat fraud and identity theft. The proposal also mandates a fraud?resistant, tamper?resistant Social Security card and requires workers to use fraud? and tamper?resistant documents to prove authorization to work in the United States. The proposal also seeks to establish a voluntary pilot program to evaluate new methods to authenticate identity and combat identity theft.
  • Protections for all workers. The President's proposal protects workers against retaliation for exercising their labor rights. It increases the penalties for employers who hire undocumented workers to skirt the workplace standards that protect all workers. And it creates a "labor law enforcement fund" to help ensure that industries that employ significant numbers of immigrant workers comply with labor laws.

The proposal also would eliminate annual country caps for employment-sponsored immigration and add visas to the system. It would allow "greater flexibility" to designate countries for participation in the Visa Waiver Program, and would "staple" green cards to advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates with master's degrees or Ph.D.'s who have found employment in the United States. The proposal would require employers to pay a fee to support education and training "to grow the next generation of American workers in STEM careers."

President Obama's proposal would permanently authorize immigrant visa opportunities for regional center (pooled investment) programs; and provide incentives for visa requestors to invest in programs that support national priorities, including economic development in rural and economically depressed regions. The proposal would create a new visa category for a limited number of highly skilled and specialized employees of federal national security science and technology laboratories who have been in the United States for two years.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) proposed the following four "basic legislative pillars":

  1. Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
  2. Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
  3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers; and
  4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation's workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

Among other things, they propose that those who have been working in the U.S. agricultural industry without legal status and who "commit to the long-term stability of our nation's agricultural industries" will be able to "earn a path to citizenship through a different process under our new agricultural worker program."

The senators also lament the "broken" U.S. immigration system that "sadly discourages the world's best and brightest citizens from coming to the United States and remaining in our country to contribute to our economy." This failure, the senators note, makes legal entry into the United States "insurmountably difficult for well-meaning immigrants" and "unarguably discourages innovation and economic growth," in addition to creating substantial visa backlogs that force families to live apart and incentivize undocumented immigration.

To address these challenges, the senators propose a "new immigration system" that recognizes the characteristics that will "help build the American economy and strengthen American families," in addition to reducing backlogs in the family and employment visa categories. Among other things, they propose permanent resident status to immigrants who have received a Ph.D. or master's degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics from a U.S. university.

The senators also recommend a m-andatory employment verification system with stiff penalties for egregious offenses.

For unauthorized workers, the senators propose legislation that would:

  • Allow employers to hire immigrants if it can be demonstrated that they were unsuccessful in recruiting an American to fill an open position and the hiring of an immigrant will not displace American workers;
  • Create a workable program to meet the needs of America's agricultural industry, including dairy to find agricultural workers when American workers are not available to fill open positions;
  • Allow more lower-skilled immigrants to come here when our economy is creating jobs, and fewer when our economy is not creating jobs;
  • Protect workers by ensuring strong labor protections; and
  • Permit workers who have succeeded in the workplace and contributed to their communities over many years to earn green cards.

President Obama's Fact Sheet

President Obama's Speech Transcript

Senators' Statement announcing their framework for immigration reform

 
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2. USCIS Updates FAQ on DACA, Releases Latest Statistics
 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently updated its FAQ on deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), and released related statistics.

The latest version of the FAQ was released on January 18, 2013. USCIS posted new information on the definition of DACA, accrual of unlawful presence, continuous residence requirements, the effect of traveling outside the United States, violations of status, DACA for those living in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, fee waivers, and other issues.

USCIS also released the latest statistics on DACA as of January 17, 2013. As of that date, USCIS had approved 154,404 cases and rejected 13,366, of a total of 407,899 received and 394,533 accepted for review.

The new updates are marked in the latest FAQ.

STATISTICS

 
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3. USCIS Discusses New Policy Manual, Upcoming Guidelines for Precedent Decisions at Stakeholder Engagement
 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) held a stakeholder engagement on January 15, 2013, at which Director Alejandro Mayorkas discussed the first volume of a comprehensive new online Policy Manual, among other things. He noted that the first volume covers Citizenship and Naturalization and that the transition to a centralized online policy resource is the result of an agency-wide review of all adjudication and customer service policies. He said the manual replaces the Adjudicators' Field Manual and policy memoranda that are in place today. During the engagement, Director Mayorkas also highlighted new citizenship and naturalization-related policies, provided updates on other issues, and took questions.

Director Mayorkas also noted that the agency plans to publish guidelines for issuing precedent decisions soon.

USCIS's notes on the engagement have not yet been released.

New Policy Manual

Announcement about the new Policy Manual

As content becomes available for each volume, USCIS will notify the public and invite comment on new or substantially changed policies. Public engagement opportunities will be announced on USCIS's Web site.

Announcement about the stakeholder engagement

 
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4. DHS Adds Grenada to List of 59 Eligible Countries for H-2A, H-2B Programs
 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has added Grenada to the list of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs for the coming year, effective January 18, 2013.

The agency explained that under DHS regulations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may approve petitions for H-2A and H-2B nonimmigrant status only for nationals of countries that the Secretary of Homeland Security, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State, has designated by notice published in the Federal Register. That notice is renewed each year, and countries may be added or deleted.

The notice announces that the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is now identifying 59 countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs for the coming year, including Grenada.

Notice, which includes the list of 59 countries

 
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5. Reminder: New Fee for Permanent Residence Takes Effect February 1
 

As of February 1, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has begun collecting a new immigrant fee of $165 from foreign nationals seeking permanent residence in the United States. This new fee was established in USCIS's final rule adjusting fees for immigration applications and petitions announced on September 24, 2010. USCIS said the fee will help to recoup costs for staff time to handle, file, and maintain the immigrant visa package, and the cost of producing and delivering the permanent resident card.

USCIS NOTICE

RELATED FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICE

 
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6. New Publications and Items of Interest
 

ICE SEVP spring 2013 conference overview. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released the "SEVP Conference Overview: Spring 2013." The publication includes updates on initial school certification and recertification; Form I-17; Form I-901 fee payment confirmations; "Study in the States"; a rule to support implementation of pending enhancements to SEVIS and expansion of enforcement capabilities for SEVP; and other issues. PUBLICATION

H-2A, H-2B Ombudsman Programs. The Department of Labor's Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) has established the H-2A and H-2B Ombudsman Programs. The programs are intended to facilitate fair and equitable resolution of concerns that arise within the H-2A and H-2B program communities, by conducting "independent and impartial" inquiries into issues related to the administration of the programs. The Ombudsman Programs also identify concerns of agricultural employers and worker advocate organizations in dealing with the OFLC and propose internal recommendations designed to continuously improve the quality of services provided by the OFLC. There is no fee for using the Ombudsman Programs. Additional information, including ways in which the Ombudsman Programs can and cannot help, is available at HERE for the H-2A program and HERE for the H-2B program.

Several ABIL members co-authored and edited the Global Business Immigration Practice Guide, recently released by LexisNexis. The Practice Guide is a one-stop resource for dealing with questions related to business immigration issues in immigration hotspots around the world.

This comprehensive guide is designed to be used by:

  • Human resources professionals and in-house attorneys who need to instruct, understand, and liaise with immigration lawyers licensed in other countries;
  • Business immigration attorneys who regularly work with multinational corporations and their employees and HR professionals; and
  • Attorneys interested in expanding their practice to include global business immigration services.

This publication provides:

  • An overview of the immigration law requirements and procedures for over 20 countries;
  • Practical information and tips for obtaining visas, work permits, resident status, naturalization, and other nonimmigrant and immigrant pathways to conducting business, investing, and working in those countries;
  • A general overview of the appropriate options for a particular employee; and
  • Information on how an employee can obtain and maintain authorization to work in a target country.

Each chapter follows a similar format, making it easy to compare practices and procedures from country to country. Useful links to additional resources and forms are included. Collected in this Practice Guide, the expertise of ABIL's attorney members across the globe will serve as an ideal starting point in your research into global business immigration issues.

Order HERE. International customers who do not want to order through the bookstore can order through Nicole Hahn at (518) 487-3004 or Nicole.hahn@lexisnexis.com.

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 has won six national awards. It was named a Nautilus book award silver medal winner, and won a silver medal in the Independent Book Publishers Association's Benjamin Franklin Award in the multicultural category. The book also won a Bronze Medal in the Independent Publisher's "IPPY" Awards and an honorable mention for the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Award. Ariana Lindquist, the photographer, won a first-place award in the National Press Photographers Association's Best of Photojournalism 2012 and was a finalist for the International Photography Awards. The writer, Saundra Amrhein, was nominated as a finalist on the short list for the 2011 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards. Green Card Stories is also featured on National Public Radio's photo blog.

For more information, e-mail Lauren Anderson at lauren@greencardstories.com or see the Green Card Stories website.

ABIL on Twitter. The Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers is now available on Twitter: @ABILImmigration. Recent ABIL member blogs are available on the ABIL blog.

 

 
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7. Member News
 

Jacqueline Bart was reappointed as President of the Immigration and Nationality Commission of the UnionInternationale Des Avocats (UIA) on October 31, 2012.

Jacqueline Bart authored the Permanent Residence Chapter 2012 Update of the Canada/US Relocation Manual (eds. Bart & Fragomen).

Charles Kuck has published several new blog entries. "Why the 'Gang of 8' Immigration Proposal Is Not Immigration Reform" "What a Good Legal Immigration Reform Bill Looks Like – Thank You Senator Hatch"

Marco Mazzeschi founded Mazzeschi s.r.l., a boutique firm specializing in corporate immigration and citizenship law, which was recently added as a member of Invitalia Business Network (Invitalia is the Government’s agency for the promotion of foreign investments).

Sharon Mehlman, Cyrus Mehta, Angelo Paparelli, and William Reich will speak at the Federal Bar Association's Immigration Law Seminar to be held May 17-18, 2013, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Angelo Paparelli was quoted in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal Newswires on January 29, 2013. He noted that it's tough to read much into the bipartisan immigration reform announcement. "There are agreed-upon principles from eight senators, but there's too much in flux at this point," he observed. The most pressing concern in his view is the requirement that undocumented people move to the end of the line for green cards and citizenship, since that process can take decades. "The end of the line might as well be the end of the rainbow. A significant number would die as temporary residents because of the wait for gren cards, which would make this path to citizenship a joke."

Angelo Paparelli was quoted in the Washington Post "Wonkblog" on January 31, 2013. He explained that despite huge demand, the U.S. government ordinarily does not give out all visas allocated in any given year. He noted that under the law, any pending visa that is not closed out in a given fiscal year is "lost" for that year and must be counted toward the next year's allocation. Democrats want those visas recaptured; by some estimates, they could number hundreds of thousands of additional visas.

Angelo Paparelli has also published several new blog entries. "The I-9 Audit Process is a Game – Alas, It Is Football, Not Soccer" "Dear Immigration Director: Let Our Dreamers Go!"

Bernard P. Wolfsdorf was selected for inclusion in the 2013 "Southern California Super Lawyers" list, along with two other lawyers in his firm. With three lawyers selected, this is more than any other Los Angeles-based immigration law firm. Only five percent of the attorneys in California are listed in Super Lawyers each year, and it is reserved for those lawyers who exhibit excellence in practice. This is the eighth consecutive year in which Mr. Wolfsdorf has been listed in Southern California Super Lawyers. Wolfsdorf Immigration Law Group

Upcoming Wolfsdorf Immigration Law free webinars include "EB-5 - $500,000/$1M Investor Green Cards - Part 4 - Setting Up a Regional Center" with Bernard Wolfsdorf on Tuesday, February 5, 2013, from 12:30 - 1:45 p.m. (PST); and "Religious Worker Visas - Ordained & Non-Ordained" with Clifford Rosenthal on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.

Stephen Yale-Loehr was interviewed on a nationally syndicated radio show about immigration reform.

Stephen Yale-Loehr was also quoted in Bloomberg News. He noted, "Immigration reform, like tax and Social Security reform, is very complex. Even if everyone wants reform, it may still take a long time to get a bill through Congress."

Stephen Yale-Loehr was quoted on NBCLatino.com in an article, "Growing Number of States Grant Lower Tuition Rates for Undocumented Students," published on January 18, 2013. Mr. Yale-Loehr noted that action at the state level may not be enough to address what is a nationwide issue. "Many of these students came at an early age and had no say in coming to the United States. As a practical matter we're never going to deport them. Congress has to address comprehensive immigration reform."

Stephen Yale-Loehr was quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education on immigration reform, published on January 28, 2013. He noted that the nation's immigration system "took 20 years to get broken; it can't be fixed overnight." He said he doubted immigration reform legislation would be enacted this year, "but I hope I'm wrong."

 
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8. 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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