Additional countries to participate in H2A and H2B programs

USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Department of State, has added the Czech Republic, Denmark, Madagascar, Portugal, and Sweden to the list of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B Visa programs for the coming year. The notice listing the 68 eligible countries published on Dec. 16, 2014 in the Federal Register.

The H-2A and H-2B Visa programs allow U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and nonagricultural jobs, respectively. USCIS only approves H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries the Secretary of Homeland Security has designated as eligible to participate in the programs. USCIS may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries not on the list if it is determined to be in the interest of the United States.

USCIS Approves 10,000 U Visas for 6th Straight Fiscal Year

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved the statutory maximum of 10,000 petitions for U-1 nonimmigrant status (U visas) for fiscal year 2015. This marks the sixth straight year that USCIS has reached the statutory maximum since it began issuing U visas in 2008.

Each year, 10,000 U visas are available for victims of certain qualifying crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to help law enforcement authorities investigate or prosecute those crimes. A U visa petition requires certification that the victim has been helpful to law enforcement.

Although USCIS has reached the statutory cap of 10,000 U visas, it will continue to review pending petitions for eligibility. For eligible petitioners who cannot be granted a U-1 visas solely because of the cap, USCIS will send a letter notifying them that they are on a waiting list to receive a U visa when visas become available again. The letter will also inform the petitioners of options available to them while they are on the waiting list. Petitioners and qualifying family members must continue to meet eligibility requirements at the time the U visa is issued.

USCIS will resume issuing U visas on Oct. 1, 2015, the first day of fiscal year 2016, when visas become available again.

Congress created the U visa program to strengthen the law enforcement community’s ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes, while also offering protection to victims. More than 116,471 victims and their family members have received U visas since the program began in 2008.

Executive Action on Immigration

On November 20, 2014, the President announced a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

These initiatives include:

– Expanding the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to young people who came to this country before turning 16 years old and have been present since January 1, 2010, and extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years
– Allowing parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been present in the country since January 1, 2010, to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, in a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, provided they pass required background checks
– Expanding the use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence to include the spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens

USCIS and other agencies and offices are responsible for implementing these initiatives as soon as possible. Some initiatives will be implemented over the next several months and some will take longer.

Over the coming months, USCIS will produce detailed explanations, instructions, regulations and forms as necessary. While USCIS is not accepting requests or applications at this time, if you believe you may be eligible for one of the initiatives listed above, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish factors such as your:

– Identity;
– Relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident; and
– Continuous residence in the United States over the last five years or more.

For more information, contact us at 978-905-9992.

Immigration Reform Possible This Week

Various credible sources are citing that President Barack Obama may pass an executive order this week, bypassing Congress, to provide a pathway for residency for millions of eligible undocumented aliens in the U.S. The President has expressed his desire to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill since the beginning of his second term, but due to political failings, has been unable to. The President has remained steadfast in his stance and hopes to achieve the following: “Our immigration system should reward anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules. For the sake of our economy and our security, legal immigration should be simple and efficient. The President’s proposal attracts the best minds to America by providing visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here 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. The President’s proposal will also reunite families in a timely and humane manner.”

Visa Bulletin – September 2014

This bulletin summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers during September. Consular officers are required to report to the Department of State documentarily qualified applicants for numerically limited visas; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security reports applicants for adjustment of status. To learn more, click here.

DHS Announces 18-Month Extension of Temporary Protected Status for Sudan

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Sudan for an additional 18 months, effective Nov. 3, 2014, through May 2, 2016.

Current Sudanese beneficiaries seeking to extend their TPS status must re-register during a 60-day period that runs from Sept. 2, 2014, through Nov. 3, 2014. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible once the 60-day period begins. USCIS will not accept applications before Sept. 2, 2014.

The extension of TPS for Sudan is based on ongoing armed conflict in that region and the continuation of extraordinary and temporary conditions that led to the country’s most recent TPS designation in 2013. Secretary Johnson determined that extending the designation is warranted based on Department of Homeland Security and Department of State reviews of country conditions conducted during the past year.

The 18-month extension also allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Eligible Sudan TPS beneficiaries who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of May 2, 2016. USCIS recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EADs until after their current EADs expire. Therefore, USCIS is automatically extending current TPS Sudan EADs bearing a Nov. 2, 2014, expiration date for an additional six months. These existing EADs are now valid through May 2, 2015.

DHS anticipates that there are approximately 600 individuals who will be eligible to re-register for TPS under the existing designation of Sudan.

Individuals re-registering for TPS must submit:

Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status;
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, regardless of whether they want an EAD;
The Form I-765 application fee, but only if they want an EAD (All individuals re-registering for TPS who want an EAD must pay the I-765 fee, regardless of their age); and
The biometric services fee if they are age 14 or older.
Individuals who still have a pending initial TPS application under TPS Sudan do not need to submit a new Form I-821. However, if such individuals currently have a TPS-related EAD and want a new EAD, they should submit:

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization;
The Form I-765 application fee, regardless of their age; and
A copy of the receipt notice for the initial Form I-821 that is still pending.
Applicants may request that USCIS waive any or all fees based on inability to pay by filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, or by submitting a written request. Fee-waiver requests must be accompanied by supporting documentation. USCIS will reject the TPS application of any applicant who fails to submit the required filing fees or a properly documented fee-waiver request.

601A Guidance

Per recent USCIS guidance, USCIS will no longer deny a provisional waiver application based on a reason to believe that an applicant may be inadmissible due to a CIMT if the evidence shows that the applicant’s criminal offense: (1) falls within the petty offense or youthful offender exception; or (2) it is not a CIMT. This is a good change in policy that should encourage more eligible aliens to apply. Those who are eligible should take advantage of this favorable policy before USCIS decides to change it again in response to unforeseen problems. However, applicants should not be satisfied with submitting complete evidence and expect USCIS to figure out the applicable exceptions. It is the applicant’s duty to explain clearly why exceptions apply or why the offense is not a CIMT.

USCIS New Delivery Option for Applicants

USCIS customers can use the overnight delivery or courier service of their choice to receive certain documents. This option provides greater customer service by allowing you to select your preferred delivery service provider to receive documents such as approval and denial notices, requests for evidence, and most travel documents.

To ensure your overnight delivery requests are not delayed, please remember to:

Include a prepaid air bill when you submit your application, petition, or response to a request for evidence. The best way to avoid delivery errors is to provide a prepaid shipping label obtained directly from the delivery service. This will avoid the need to write in an account number. Enter your name in both the “to” and “from” fields on the air bill.
Never list USCIS as the sender and do not mark “bill to sender.”
Pay all delivery costs in advance and include the prepaid air bill with your submission.
If the delivery costs are not paid in full, USCIS will send the documents to you by regular U.S. mail. For additional information on using a delivery or courier service, please visit our website.

Afghan SIV Update

According to the U.S. Department of State, Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) to Afghan nationals under section 602(b) of the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, as amended, is limited to 3,000 visas for Afghan principal applicants in Fiscal Year 2014. The DOS expects that these visas will all be issued by August 2014.

More than 9,000 Afghans who have worked for the United States in
Afghanistan (and their family members) have benefited from Special Immigrant
Visa programs. Of these, more than 70% served as translators with the vast
majority serving our nation’s military forces in their mission in Afghanistan. After all 3,000 visas have been issued, the DOS will immediately restart processing if Congress extends this program.
The Department of State supports extension of the Afghan SIV program, as explained in this L.A Times editorial by Secretary of State John Kerry.

To learn more, contact us at 978-905-9992.

NYT Q&A – Children at the Border

By HAEYOUN PARK JULY 15, 2014

More than 52,000 children have been caught crossing the United States border alone since October — double last year’s number. President Obama has called the surge an “urgent humanitarian situation,” and lawmakers have called for hearings on the crisis.

Q. Where are the migrant children coming from?
More than three-quarters of unaccompanied minors are from mostly poor and violent towns in three countries: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Children from Mexico, once the largest group, now make up less than a quarter of the total. A small number come from 43 other countries.

Read more here: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/07/15/us/100000003001471.mobile.html