1. Senate Committee Begins Markup of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill – Additional markup dates are scheduled; the process is expected to be lengthy and involve numerous amendments.
2. DHS Orders Verification of Student Visas in Wake of Boston Bombings – Border agents are to use flight manifest information to verify student visa status, and check any for which that information is not available against a DHS database.
3. Employment-Based Third Preference Visa Numbers Advance Significantly – The employment-based third preference category cut-off date for most countries advanced significantly for the second month in a row, but this rapid rate is not expected to continue.
4. USCIS Seeks New Private-Sector Experts for Entrepreneur Initiative – USCIS seeks experts in performing arts, health care, and information technology.
5. DHS Changes US-VISIT Name – The US-VISIT program is now called the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM).
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
On May 9 and 14, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee began marking up S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” which is comprehensive immigration reform legislation developed by the “Gang of Eight” bipartisan group of senators and introduced on April 17. The Gang of Eight includes Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.); John McCain (R-Ariz.); Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.); Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Robert Menendez (D-NJ); Michael Bennet (D-Colo.); and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)
Among other things, the bill would offer a pathway to legalization for an estimated 11 million undocumented persons, introduce a new W visa for lower-skilled immigrants, and clear up the backlogs in the employment and family preferences. It also would create a startup visa for entrepreneurs. Future measures to be considered in the markup sessions include an increase in visas for both high- and low-skilled workers.
The May 9 markup of the 844-page bill included a 7½-hour hearing during which the committee considered more than 32 proposed changes, mainly related to border security. The committee rejected such proposals as building 700 miles of double-layer fencing along the southern border. Twenty-one amendments were adopted; eight of the successful amendments were by Republicans and 13 by Democrats. Among other things, the adopted amendments require that the U.S. government apprehend 90 percent of those attempting to cross the southwest border without authorization. Some Republican senators wanted to tie border control measures to allowing undocumented persons to attain legal status. However, a related amendment by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) was defeated.
Day 2 of the markup on May 14 focused on temporary visas. The senators approved 15 of the 29 amendments considered. Among other things, they adopted an amendment to make nationals of countries benefiting from the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act eligible for E nonimmigrant visas, and rejected an amendment to limit the number of legal immigrants to 33 million over 10 years. Amendments were adopted to require a pilot program to conduct interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants using secure remote conferencing technology, and to increase the labor certification fee from $500 to $1,000 and use the money to fund STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and training in the United States. The committee also passed an amendment to require that data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System be transmitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection databases used by officers at ports of entry. An amendment to increase the H-1B visa cap to 325,000 after fiscal year 2013 was defeated.
A primary concern is how the bill would deal with the shortage of H-1B visa numbers. For FY 2014, which begins on October 1, 2013, the H-1B cap was reached on April 5, 2013. S. 744 would increase the H-1B cap, but this increase would be accompanied by changes to the H-1B and L visa programs that may make it more difficult to obtain H-1B and L visas quickly. For example, in exchange for an increase in H-1B visas to 110,000 with further adjustments using a market-based formula, the bill would significantly restrict access to the H-1B visa for all employers, as well as L-1 visas for some employers. The bill also would increase the period within which a complaint may be brought against an H-1B employer, from 12 to 24 months.
Subsequent markup dates are scheduled for May 16 and 20, and additional dates will be added as needed. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said that up to 300 amendments are expected. He said he hoped that debating the amendments would not become a delay tactic. The process is expected to take weeks, and Sen. Leahy said he wants to send the bill to the full Senate in June.
The New York Times published an editorial on April 21, 2013, arguing that although the bill needs some improvements, it would make the United States more hospitable to skilled immigrants while toughening rules to prevent abuse of temporary work visas.
The first amendment to the bill was the “SPONSORS AMENDMENT”
The Department of Homeland Security reportedly has ordered U.S. border agents to verify the validity of student visas for every international student arriving in the United States, effective immediately. Border agents are to use flight manifest information to verify student visa status, and check any for which that information is not available against a DHS database, according to the Associated Press, which obtained a copy of an internal memo circulated by David J. Murphy, of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, on May 3, 2013.
The order follows news that one of the students accused of hiding evidence after the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, Azamat Tazhayakov, had returned to the United States in January without a valid visa. Reportedly, the border agent at the airport in New York where Mr. Tazhayakov entered the United States on January 20 did not have access to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and didn’t send Mr. Tazhayakov to secondary inspection where SEVIS information would have been available. All border agents will now be able to access SEVIS. One of the bombers, Tamarlan Tsarnaev, was a U.S. permanent resident and the other, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, was a U.S. citizen. Tamarlan is dead and Dzokhar is in custody.
Delays are expected at ports of entry for international students as a result of the new order.
The employment-based third preference category cut-off date for most countries advanced significantly for the second month in a row, as reflected in the June 2013 Visa Bulletin.
The Department of State’s Visa Office said this recent rate of movement is not expected to continue in the future. Rapid forward movement of cut-off dates is often followed by a dramatic increase in demand for numbers within three to six months, the Visa Bulletin explains. Once such demand begins to materialize, the cut-off date movement will begin to slow or will even stop for a period of time.
For June, the employment-based third preference cut-off date for China is September 1, 2008; for India, January 8, 2003; for Mexico, September 1, 2008; and for Philippines, September 22, 2006. For all other chargeability areas, the date is September 1, 2008. The dates for the “Other Workers” categories in June are the same, except for China-mainland born, which is October 22, 2003.
In May, the corresponding cut-off dates were December 1, 2007 (China, Mexico, and All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed); December 22, 2002 (India); and September 15, 2006 (Philippines).
For June, the employment-based first preference is Current. Second preference is also Current except for China-mainland born, which is July 15, 2008; and India, which is September 1, 2004.
For its “Entrepreneurs in Residence” initiative, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is now seeking new private sector experts, using the Department of Homeland Security’s Loaned Executive Program, in the areas of performing arts, health care, and information technology. USCIS said the introduction of expert views in these areas will help the agency gain additional insights and strengthen its policies and practices in areas critical to economic growth.
USCIS has also enhanced its online resource center for entrepreneurs, Entrepreneur Pathways. Over the past year, there have been nearly 30,000 visits to the site, USCIS reported. The site provides entrepreneurs seeking to start a business in the United States a way to navigate the immigration process.
USCIS said three aims are key to the initiative: “producing clear public materials to help entrepreneurs understand relevant visa categories; equipping USCIS staff with the right tools to adjudicate cases in today’s complex business environment; and streamlining USCIS policies to better reflect the realities faced by foreign entrepreneurs and startup businesses.”
The US-VISIT (United States Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology) program is now called the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) explained that OBIM provides biometric identification services that help federal, state, and local government decision-makers accurately identify people and determine whether they pose a risk to the United States. OBIM supplies the technology for collecting and storing biometric data, provides analysis, updates its watchlist, and ensures data integrity.
DHS created OBIM in March 2013.
Policy briefs on new immigration bill and H-1B visas. The National Foundation for American Policy has published several policy briefs. The May 2013 brief, “H-1B Visas Essential to Attracting and Retaining Talent in America.” The April 2013 brief, “Analysis: Senate Bill’s H-1B and L-1 Visa Provisions Are a Reversal of Fortune for American Competitiveness.”
USCIS Ombudsman’s conference. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Ombudsman’s third annual conference will be held on October 24, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Washington, DC. Information on registration will be released in September. OMBUDSMAN’S WEBSITE
Resource guide on new automated I-94 process. NAFSA: Association of International Educators has published a resource guide to help prepare schools and students for the rollout of the new automated Form I-94 process. Following automation, if students need information from their I-94 Arrival/Departure Record to verify immigration status or employment authorization, the record number and other admission information will be available at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) webpage. NAFSA said it is in close contact with CBP to make sure up-to-date information is posted. Resources, including meeting minutes. A related CBP news release.
Several ABIL members co-authored and edited the Global Business Immigration Practice Guide, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 five 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.
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.
Several ABIL members were listed in Who’s Who Legal for Corporate Immigration Law 2013:
MOST HIGHLY REGARDED INDIVIDUALS:
ALSO LISTED (all other members):
Robert Loughran also was selected for the 2013 Texas Super Lawyers list.
Cyrus Mehta has co-authored several new blog entries. ” Do We Still Need PERM Labor Certification? An Analysis Of The Merits-Based Points System In BSEOIMA” “Workable or Unworkable? The H-1B and L-1 Visa Provisions in BSEOIMA, S. 744”
Angelo Paparelli has published several new blog entries. “No Time for Rich-Whining, CIR Advocates Must Stay Focused on the Senate” “Memo to GCs: If Ever There Is a Time for Immigration Portfolio Management, It’s Now”
Stephen Yale-Loehr will give a media briefing for journalists at 10:30 a.m. on May 17, 2013, at the Hall of States, 444 North Capitol Street, NW, Room 331, Washington, DC. He will analyze the changes being made to the immigration bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee markup and predict the chances that Congress will enact significant immigration reform this year. To reserve a place at the briefing, RSVP to Joe Schwartz at the Cornell Media Relations Office: (607) 254-6235 or Joe.Schwartz@cornell.edu.
Mr. Yale-Loehr was quoted in the May 9, 2013, edition of the Arizona Republic, in an article on the immigration reform bill being marked up in the Senate. He noted: “Nobody likes the entire bill. There are liberals who hate certain provisions just as much as conservatives hate others. It will be a true test of Congress to see if they can thread the needle and get something passed.”
Mr. Yale-Loehr was quoted in Politifact on May 7, 2013. Commenting on the U.S. government’s lawsuit filed in 2010 against Arizona’s law granting police authority to check the immigration status of people they stop, Mr. Yale-Loehr noted, “They went after Arizona on a constitutional principle that the federal government is in charge of immigration and it’s the federal government that should be making immigration laws, not Arizona.”
Mr. Yale-Loehr was quoted in the Wall Street Journal on May 3, 2013. Commenting on the renewed scrutiny of those entering the United States on student visas in the wake of the Boston bombing, Mr. Yale-Loehr said, “It’s not unusual for students re-entering the United States to have some ambiguity that needs to be cleared up. But it’s difficult to make any formal determination right at the port of entry.”
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: