2012 calendar.jpgFiscal year 2012 began on October 1, 2011 and as expected, we saw some movement in the visa bulletin. Here is a brief summary of what the US Visa Office reports seeing in terms of usage in the first 3 months of the FY 2012.

Employment-based usage has been quite slow, but we can still expect to see some advances in the EB bulletin. There are still some EB-2 cases from 2007 in the USCIS pipeline, so we will probably see EB-2 hover around that date until cases are cleared out before forward movement is consistent.

There has been a severe slowdown in the usage of EB-1 numbers, with some speculation that recent USCIS interpretation and clarification with regard to the standard for extraordinary ability cases has created a stricter standard and perhaps has dissuaded some applicants from filing cases.

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It’s H-1B season again. The beginning of a new year and less than 3 months from the first date that USCIS will accept new H-1B petitions on April 1, 2012. It’s time to prepare your H-1B.

The immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino have been receiving many phone calls from potential H-1B employers and H-1B job seekers in preparation of filing H-1B petitions in April and early summer. Let’s review some of the H-1B basics:

  • The job offer must be for a position which requires specialized knowledge in a certain field.

Twitter.jpgFor 2012, the attorneys at the law offices of Fong & Aquino, have decided to make use of Twitter to notify interested followers of immigration news. Whether you are in the fast-lane of Los Angeles business or the laid-back Desert life in Palm Springs, rapid access to news in this field is important.

Getting “breaking news” on the complex, fast-moving issues surrounding immigration is vital, whether you are a family member who wants to sponsor a relative, an employer who hires immigrants, a spouse being sponsored by an American, an investor wanting an E-2 visa to open a business in the USA, an O-1 extraordinary ability actor who is seeking a big break in the Industry, or any other visa hopeful.

To be sure, immigration laws and regulations do not always change daily, so we will not be Tweeting daily. However, whenever there is an interesting development, we will raise the issue on on Twitter, as well as point you to blogs or articles for more information.

Yes No.jpgImmigration law clients of Fong & Aquino have been calling us at both our Los Angeles and Palm Springs offices to inquire whether they can travel in and out of the USA using documents scanned onto their iPads, iPhones, and other smart devices.

In the first week of January, articles appeared on NBC, ABCNews, and DigitalJournal, and other sites about a Canadian man who was attempting to cross the land border to deliver Christmas gifts to family and friends in Vermont, USA. He had apparently forgotten his passport at his home in Montréal, Québec. When he got to the US Port of Entry (POE), so goes the story, he pulled out his iPad and showed the border guard his scanned Canadian Passport. (The man carries scanned documents, in case he should lose his documents while traveling.) According to the story, the border guard considered the matter and finally let the man cross the border.

It would be nice to think that border crossing cards, passports, visas, and other paperwork can now be scanned and put on our smart devices in lieu of carrying them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

changes ahead.jpgThe Obama Administration has proposed a change in immigration regulations which would potentially change the lives of undocumented immigrants in the USA.

Maybe the most common problem we see as immigration lawyers is the person who entered the USA with no documentation, or who had a visa but overstayed — the so-called “undocumented alien.” This problem is enormous and affects our clients throughout the nation, not only those at our Fong & Aquino offices in Los Angeles or Palm Springs.

This is very complicated, so please read carefully:

Matches.jpgThe recent Los Angeles arson situation brings to mind many people who have consulted the attorneys at Fong & Aquino in our Los Angeles and Palm Springs offices. They have a valid visa or legal permanent residence (green card), and they have been convicted of a crime. Sometimes it is a serious crime; sometimes it is something minor. In some of these cases, the conviction has virtually unfixable immigration consequences.

In 1990, Congress created the concept of “aggravated felonies,” crimes that are considered so bad that an alien might not even qualify for the typical defenses to deportation (removal), such as asylum, cancellation of removal, or withholding of removal. In other words, the Congress has simply decided that someone who has committed an “aggravated felony” should just be deported (removed) regardless of the defenses s/he might try to use.

The name “aggrevated felony” is misleading. “Aggravated felony” includes such obviously serious crimes as murder, rape, or arson; we can all agree that these crimes are quite serious. However, “aggravated felony” can also include some less- obviously terrible crimes, such as attempted possession of stolen property, attempted robbery, petty theft, trespass, unauthorized use of a vehicle. Even if a crime was charged as a misdemeanor in the legal system, it can still be considered an “aggravated felony” for immigration purposes.

Today, the USCIS Service Center Operations released a statement that all properly filed H-1Bs applications received on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 will be accepted under the FY 2012 H-1B cap. USCIS SCOPS also confirmed that there will be no lottery for petitions properly filed and received on November 22.

Those who are awaiting receipt notices for H-1B petitions received on November 22, should be able to rest easy knowing that their cases made it under the cap on the last day of the quota. However, be aware that until you receive a receipt notice, nothing is official. Many petitions get returned due to these typical errors: the filing fees are given in the wrong amounts, boxes on the I-129 Data Collection page are not checked correctly, and for missing signatures. If a petition is returned for an error, it may well take a few weeks for it be mailed back to you. —ecf

empty_gas_tank.pngThe day has come. The fiscal year 2012 H-1B quota was reached yesterday, Tuesday, November 22, 2011. While this comes as no surprise to those who’ve been following our blog, it is remarkable that the final 15,800 applications were received by USCIS in just the last three weeks.

So what does this mean for those who didn’t make the cap this year? Most of my clients, who did not make the quota this year are fortunately in F-1 status, with most of having some time left on their OPT period of stay. FY 2013 H-1B hopefuls will now have to make a decision of whether to return to their home countries and enter next fall on an H-1B filed next Spring or perhaps extend their F-1 study.

Many students are calling their campus international student officers to see about extending their I-20s so they can continue their studies. As long as a student is a bona fide, full-time student, s/he can remain in lawful F-1 status. But remember, while staying in the US on an extended I-20 is lawful, keep in mind that anyone wishing to travel will still need to check whether their F-1 visas are still valid.

DOMA Letters.pngFong & Aquino has a very long history of serving the gay and lesbian community, and communities with non-traditional family structures. At our offices in Los Angeles and in Palm Springs, we are constantly asked about whether the US citizen in a married, same-sex couple can petition the alien spouse. Alas, as of today, the answer is still NO, based on the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which is still the law of the land.

The good news is that the Judiciary Committee of the US Senate today began a debate that is a first step in an attempt to repeal DOMA. After today’s hearings, many people with experience on Capitol Hill believe the votes are there on the committee to send the bill to overturn DOMA to the Senate floor. However, in the Senate, there must be 60 senators — the so-called “supermajority” — willing to bring the question to the floor, before the measure can actually be voted on. Finally, if it passes the Senate, most experts feel the measure would die a quiet death on a committee in the House of Representatives.

There is movement in the Congress. It is important for all those for whom this is an important issue — for their own families, for their friends, or for a fundamental fairness principle — to contact their US Senators and Representatives to voice their support for the repeal of DOMA! –jcf

USCIS has released updated H-1B quota numbers as of October 28, 2011:

  • 49,200 petitions have been receipted out of the 65,000 petitions allotted for the regular cap

The advanced degree cap has been met. Those seeking to file during this last phase of the H-1B season should move quickly. Call the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino if you would like a consultation on an H-1B application. –ecf