A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Friday, August 11, 2017

September 2017 Visa Bulletin: Employment Categories Advance / Family 1st Went Backward



For September, several employment visa categories advance:  EB-2 China advances 3 weeks; EB-2 India advances 1 month; EB-2 Mexico, Philippines and Other Countries advance 8 months!  EB-3 India moves forward by 3 months; EB-3 Philippines advances 5 months.

For Family 1st (unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens), China, India and Other Countries retrogress by more than 7 months to May 1, 2010, while Philippines advances 2.5 months.

This is the last Visa Bulletin of the fiscal year.  In October, a new batch of visa numbers will be available.  It is expected that certain EB-2 categories (Mexico, Philippines and Other Countries) will become current again.


AD: Dates for Final Action (Approval)
FD : Dates for Filing Applications
      Family
Other Coountries
      China
India
Mexico
Philippines
F1
AD
05/01/2010
05/01/2010
05/01/2010
02/01/1996
01/01/2007
FD
07/22/2011
07/22/2011
07/22/2011
04/01/1996
09/08/2007
F2A
AD
10/01/2015
10/01/2015
10/01/2015
09/22/2015
10/01/2015
FD
04/08/2016
04/08/2016
04/08/2016
04/08/2016
04/08/2016
F2B
AD
11/01/2010
11/01/2010
11/01/2010
07/01/1996
01/01/2007
FD
09/01/2011
09/01/2011
09/01/2011
08/08/1996
07/22/2007
F3
AD
07/08/2005
07/08/2005
07/08/2005
04/08/1995
02/15/1995
FD
12/01/2005
12/01/2005
12/01/2005
05/01/1995
03/01/1995
F4
AD
01/01/2002
01/01/2002/
01/01/2002
09/15/1997
06/01/1994
FD
11/15/2004
11/15/2004
06/22/2004
01/08/1998
02/08/1995
1st: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens (about 23,000 per year).
2A: The 2 "A" preference is for Spouses and Children (under 21 & unmarried) of LPR's.
2B: The 2 "B" Preference is for Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 or older) of LPR's.
3rd: Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens.(about 23,000 per year)
4th: Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens.(about 65,000 per year)

Employment
Other Counties
China

El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
India
Mexico
Philippines
EB1
AD
C
01/01/2012
C
  01/01/2012
C
C
FD
C
C
N/A
C
C
C
EB2
AD
01/01/2016
05/15/2013
01/01/2016
  08/22/2008
01/01/2016
01/01/2016
FD
C
10/01/2013
N/A
02/01/2009
C
C
EB3
AD
C
01/01/2012
C
10/15/2006
C
11/01/2015
FD
C
09/01/2015
N/A
01/01/2007
C
01/01/2016
Other Workers
AD
C
01/01/2004
C
10/15/2006
C
11/01/2015
FD
C
06/01/2008
N/A
01/01/2007
C
01/01/2016
EB4
AD
C
C
10/22/2015
10/22/2015
10/22/2015
C
FD
C
C
N/A
C
C
C
EB5
AD
C
06/15/2014
C
C
C
C
FD
C
09/01/2014
N/A
C
C
C
1st: Priority Workers (Extraordinary ability aliens, multinational companies executives/managers,outstanding prof./researchers)
2nd: Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability.
3rd: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers (Unskilled.)
4th: "Special Immigrants" (Religious & others)
5th: Employment Creation (Investors)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Trump Endorses Merit-Based Immigration Bill to Cut Immigration by Half


President Trump today endorsed a Senate bill that would cut legal immigration by 50%, overhauling the current system of family-based immigration. The new bill - called Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act - proposes to shift the current system to one based on merits. 

For the past half century, starting with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, family reunification has been a cornerstone of the U.S. immigration law and system.  The Immigration Act of 1990 expanded the annual visa cap of family-based immigration to 480,000, and placed an annual visa cap of 140,000 on employment-based immigration.

The current system allows approximately one million legal immigrants to enter the U.S. annually, which, according to the Senators and the President is excessive.  

The new law proposes to reduce the current level of legal immigration to 600,000 in the first year, and gradually to 500,000 in ten years. Similarly, the quota for admission of refugees will also been cut in half. Finally, the RAISE bill will also completely eliminate the Diversity Visa Program ("visa lottery"). Family-based immigration will be limited to mostly the nuclear family - spouses and children 18 or under.  

The new bill proposes a merit-based immigration system, replacing the current employment-based preference categories (EB-1, EB-2, etc.)   The annual visa cap of 140,000 will remain the same. Interested applicants may apply online by paying a $160 fee and applications are processed annually. The USCIS will place and rank all applicants in a pool for evaluation. 

Applicants will be assigned points based on their ages, education level, English proficiency, extraordinary achievement, offer of employment, investment in and active management of a new business ($1.35 million or greater), and spouse's qualifications.  A minimum of 30 points are needed to enter the pool.  Applicants are ranked based on their points.  Education level, English proficiency and age will be used as tie-breakers for applicants with equal points.  For example, doctorate degrees trump professional degrees, which rank higher than master degrees, and so on and so forth. 

Every six months, USCIS will invite a number of applicants equal to 50% of the available visa numbers to submit their applications for permanent residence. Applicants have 90 days to submit their applications with all supporting documentation and a filing fee.  

The proposed point system favors young people (closest to 25), people with STEM education and higher salaries, and those with special awards and unusual achievements. 

Applicants who enter under this merit-based system will not be eligible for public benefits for five years.   

The future of this bill is unclear.  Democrats and some Republicans have already expressed opposition to this proposal, especially in regards to the unprecedented reduction in family immigration. 



Saturday, July 29, 2017

The New Green Card Application aka Form I-485

USCIS released a newly designed Form I-485 Application to Adjust Status on June 26, 2017.  The new form is effective now but the public may continue to use the old form until August 25, 2017. The Form I-485 is used when a person applies for permanent residence status (or green card) in the United States.

The I-485 form was last updated on January 17, 2017.  The new form is significantly longer, expanding the number of pages from 6 to 18. According to USCIS, the final version is already a condensed version after incorporating the public comments.  The basic questions remain the same but in more details.

The most significant changes include the inclusion of questions regarding the applicant's biographic information such as parents' information, address information and employment history.  For many years, applicants answer these questions in the G-325A Biographic Information form.  These questions have been moved to the I-485 form, and in a more detailed format.  For example, while the G-325A form only asks for the month and year of different events, the new form asks for the exact dates of the events.  The new form also asks for the applicant's biometric information such as weight, height, eye and hair colors, etc.  

As explained by USCIS, the new form does make it easier for applicants to identify the visa category under which they are applying for their green cards.  For examples, there are boxes for family-based petitions, employment-based petitions, special immigrants, etc.  

Another significant change is the expansion of questions regarding an applicant's eligibility for permanent residence.  The new form has 80 eligibility-related questions, compared to eight questions (with sub-parts) in the old form. Under the heading of "General Eligibility and Inadmissibility Grounds," there are six sub-categories including: "Criminal Acts and Violations," "Security and Related," "Public Assistance," "Illegal Entries and Other Immigration Violations," "Removal, Unlawful Presence, or Illegal Reentry After Previous Immigration Violations" and "Miscellaneous Conduct."  

Applicants must be very careful when answering these questions, as incorrect or incomplete answers could lead to delay or denial.

The related I-485 Supplement A, required for applications filed under Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as well as the I-485 Supplement J, required for confirmation of job offer and portability under Section 204(j), have both been updated.   Again, the USCIS will only accept the revised version of I-485 (6/26/2017 edition) and Supplement A and J after August 25, 2017.  

Although the  new Form I-485 and its instructions may look different from old versions, the procedure for filing I-485 and I-485 Supplement A and I-485 Supplement J still remain the same. Applicants still need to submit their paper applications to the filing locations listed in the form instructions.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Naturalization Applicants Must be Fingerprinted; Do Not Have to Reside Permanently in the U.S.

USCIS announced two changes in its policy manual regarding naturalization.  Naturalization is a legal process through which a permanent resident may become an American citizen.  

All naturalization applicants, regardless of age, must attend a biometrics appointment during which his/her biometrics such as fingerpints will be captured for background check purposes.   Since March 1998, the fingerprint requirements have been waived for naturalization applicants age 75 or older. Under the new policy, naturalization applicants with disabilities who are unable to provide fingerprints or are unable to provide legible fingerprints may still obtain waivers of the biometrics requirements.

Separately, USCIS also amended its policy manual to confirm that naturalization applicants do not have to have the intent to live in the United States permanently.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Premium Processing Resumed for Certain Exempt H-1B Petitions

USCIS announced on 07/24/2017 that premium processing services will be resumed for some CAP exempt H-1B petitions if the H-1B petitioner is:

* An institution of higher education;
* A nonprofit related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education; or
* A nonprofit research or governmental research organization.

Premium processing will also be resumed for petitions that may also be exempt if the beneficiary will be employed at a qualifying cap-exempt institution, organization or entity.

USCIS suspended premium processing services for all H-1B petitions early this year for six months starting 04/03/2017.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

All Rejected H-1B CAP Cases Returned by USCIS

USCIS announced that as of July 19, 2017, all H-1B CAP cases for FY2018 that were not selected in the computerized random selection process have been returned to the applicants and employers. Applicants may contact USCIS National Customer Service Center (1-800-375-5283) for assistance, if they submitted an H-1B cap-subject petition between April 3 and April 7, 2017 but have not received a receipt notice or a returned petition by July 31.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Who are Studying in the United States?

Despite the recent stringent immigration policy the world hears about the United States, America continues to a magnet for foreign students.   According to a recent study, there are about 1.18 million foreign students actively studying in the United States in May of 2017, representing a two-percent increase from the previous year.  

According to SEVP (The Student and Exchange Visitor Program), a system maintained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as of May 5, 2017, there are 1,184,735 active F and M visa students studying in the U.S. in 8,774 SEVP-Certified schools; and 194,635 J-1 exchange visitors in the U.S.

Most F and M students enroll in higher education system such as colleges and universities.  Of all students, 76% enroll in bachelor's (33%),  master's (31%) or doctoral programs (12%).  As far as gender is concerned, 57% of the international students are male.

International students come from more than 231 countries and territories of the world.  Asia still sent the largest number of students (77% or 915,612) to the U.S. but South America has the largest percentage growth.  

China and India sent the most students to the United States, i.e., 362,368 and 206,698 respectively. Nepal had the highest growth rate of 18% in the number of students while Saudi Arabia's number declined 19%.  

Business is the most popular field of study among international students: 18% of students study business, management, marketing or a related field.  STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) studies are also very popular, attracting more than 43% of students.   Specifically, 39% of STEM students study engineering, 28% study computer and information sciences; and 8% biological and biomedical sciences.   

STEM degrees are particularly popular among Asian students; 49% Asian students are pursuing a STEM degree in America.  There are 173,258 India students who are pursuing STEM degrees in the U.S., the largest in both numbers and proportion.  China takes the number two spot, sending 152,002 STEM students to America.  

International students can only attend SEVP-certified schools in the United States.  Although larger universities tend to have the largest  number of foreign students, 76% of SEVP schools enroll 50 students or less.  According the studies, fewer than 1% of SEVP-certified schools host more than 5,000 international students, and only 5% of the certified schools enroll more than 5% of students.  



Friday, July 14, 2017

August 2017 Visa Bulletin: EB-2 Cutoff for All Countries; EB-3 India Advances 5 Months



In the August Visa Bulletin, EB-2 is no longer current for Mexico, Philippines and Other Countries.
These visa categories all retrogress to April 1, 2015.  This development was predicted previously by the State Department.

Since these categories will remain current before 08/01/2017, eligible applicants should submit their I-485 applications to adjust status immediately.

On the other hand, EB-3 India moves forward by 5 months to July 15, 2005.  There are no movements for EB-2 India and EB-3 China.

Family immigration categories have some moderate forward movements.  Please see the charts below for more information.

AD: Dates for Final Action (Approval)
FD : Dates for Filing Applications
      Family
Other Coountries
      China
India
Mexico
Philippines
F1
AD
12/22/2010
12/22/2010
12/22/2010
02/01/1996
10/15/2006
FD
07/22/2011
07/22/2011
07/22/2011
04/01/1996
09/08/2007
F2A
AD
09/22/2015
09/22/2015
09/22/2015
09/01/2015
09/22/2015
FD
04/08/2016
04/08/2016
04/08/2016
04/08/2016
04/08/2016
F2B
AD
11/01/2010
11/01/2010
11/01/2010
07/01/1996
12/08/2006
FD
09/1/2011
09/01/2011
09/01/2011
08/08/1996
07/22/2007
F3
AD
07/08/2005
07/08/2005
07/08/2005
04/08/1995
01/22/1995
FD
12/01/2005
12/01/2005
12/01/2005
05/01/1995
02/01/1995
F4
AD
05/08/2004
05/08/2004
09/22/2003
09/15/1997
04/08/1994
FD
11/15/2004
11/15/2004
06/22/2004
01/08/1998
02/08/1995
1st: Unmarried Sons and Daughters of Citizens (about 23,000 per year).
2A: The 2 "A" preference is for Spouses and Children (under 21 & unmarried) of LPR's.
2B: The 2 "B" Preference is for Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 or older) of LPR's.
3rd: Married Sons and Daughters of Citizens.(about 23,000 per year)
4th: Brothers and Sisters of Adult Citizens.(about 65,000 per year)

Employment
Other Counties
China

El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
India
Mexico
Philippines
EB1
AD
C
01/01/2012
C
01/01/2012
C
C
FD
C
C
N/A
C
C
C
EB2
AD
04/01/2015
04/22/2013
04/01/2015
07/22/2008
04/01/2015
04/01/2015
FD
C
10/01/2013
N/A
02/01/2009
C
C
EB3
AD
C
01/01/2012
C
07/15/2006
C
06/01/2015
FD
C
09/01/2015
N/A
01/01/2007
C
01/01/2016
Other Workers
AD
C
01/01/2004
C
07/15/2006
C
06/01/2015
FD
C
06/01/2008
N/A
01/01/2007
C
01/01/2016
EB4
AD
C
C
09/15/2015
09/15/2015
09/15/2015
C
FD
C
C
N/A
C
C
C
EB5
AD
C
06/15/2014
C
C
C
C
FD
C
09/01/2014
N/A
C
C
C
1st: Priority Workers (Extraordinary ability aliens, multinational companies executives/managers,outstanding prof./researchers)
2nd: Members of the Professions Holding Advanced Degrees or Persons of Exceptional Ability.
3rd: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers (Unskilled.)
4th: "Special Immigrants" (Religious & others)
5th: Employment Creation (Investors)