B&W $.jpgPlease remember that fees for most filings with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will increase on 23 November 2010. Applications submitted with incorrect fees will be rejected, and such a rejection could result in the applicant falling out of status in the USA, so it’s important to be sure to file with the correct fee.

The USCIS statement about the increased fees, and the list of the increased fees, can be found here. –jcf

The US Department of Labor recently published a report on the Foreign Labor Certification program, commonly called “PERM.”

According to the report, PERM approvals and applications as a whole have been declining since 2007. In fiscal year 2008, there was a 42 percent decrease from fiscal year 2007 in cases certified. In fiscal year 2009, there were 29,502 cases certified representing a 40 percent decrease from the number of cases certified in 2008.

There are currently more than 104,000 cases pending with the US Dept. of Labor. More than 64,000 of those cases were made just last year, meaning that many of these newer cases are creating a new “backlog” of cases waiting to be adjudicated. The US Dept. of Labor also admitted that the “limited number of Federal staff available to make final adjudicatory decisions adversely impacted quarterly production the result of which was a growing “backlog” during FY 2009.”

New numbers from USCIS on the H-1B quota:

Out of 65,000 that USCIS may approve, CIS has received 44,300 cases. This is an increase of about 2,400 since the last announcement about a week ago.

As far as US advanced degree cases, where beneficiaries have received a US Master’s or high degree, CIS announced that they have received 16,200 cases. This is an increase of about 800 cases since the last announcement.

puerto-rico-flag.gifAll birth certificates issued by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico prior to 1 July 2010 have been made invalid. Persons born in Puerto Rico are US citizens, and the attorneys at Fong & Aquino are seeing more and more Puerto Ricans in Los Angeles and Palm Springs who wish to petition relatives.

The Vital Statistics and Records Office of the Commonwealth is now issuing new, more secure birth documents. On 30 September 2010, US Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped accepting Puerto Rican birth certificates issued before 1 July 2010. A birth certificate is necessary for immigration purposes to establish that the petitioner or applicant is a US citizen.

Natives of Puerto Rico may request a new birth certificate on line or through the mail. –jcf

This just in:

Regular cap count is at approximately 41, 900 and the advanced degree cap has reached approximately 15,400.

Looks like the advanced degree cap is soon to close, but perhaps the regular cap will still be available until the end of the year as it was last year. Time will tell… –ecf

Now is that unfortunate time of year where the attorneys at Fong & Aquino start receiving phone calls from H-1B applicants who have received denials of their H-1B petitions. If someone has a denied H-1B, re-filing may be an option, but a previous denial definitely presents some challenges since any applicant must reveal previous denials in subsequent applicants. As I blogged about last year, there are many reasons that USCIS can find to justify a denial, however, many of the H-1B denials that I review could have been prevented if employers and applicants had a better understanding of what makes a successful H-1B case.

H-1B is a program for professional workers, and USCIS takes a very common sense approach to determining whether a job is considered a specialty occupation. First the USCIS reviews whether the nature of the job duties would normally require at least a Bachelor’s degree level of training or knowledge, and secondly, whether requiring a Bachelor’s degree for such position is normal to the that particular industry. Finally, USCIS will consider whether the applicant’s major of study is actually applicable to the job at hand. Beyond this, USCIS relies on caselaw, statutory definitions and guidance from the US Department of Labor to determine whether your case is really H-1B caliber or not. And if so, USCIS will also make a determination whether there is a real job offer in hand and whether an applicant is qualified for such position.

At Fong & Aquino, we don’t use cookie-cutter solutions in helping H-1B employers submit their applications to USCIS. We use a individualized and highly tailored approach to understanding the job offer, the company, and the applicant’s qualifications. If you are interested in a consultation, contact us today. —ecf

Dollar Funnel.jpgThe US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced changes in their filing fees, effective 23 November 2010.

The immigration lawyers at Fong & Aquino are dismayed that the cost of immigration benefits is rising the way the costs of making Hollywood movies is going up here in Los Angeles. Many clients can scarcely afford to pay the fees already being levied. One consolation is that USCIS has decreased some fees, even as it has increased others. In addition, USCIS has expanded the situations for which a fee waiver can be requested.

Some examples:

Everyone’s been talking about immigration reform, what would it look like, when will it happen. Just this week, Senators Menendez and Leahy introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) Act of 2010 in Congress. Here are some key provisions of what is proposed in the bill:

  • Increased Border Enforcement including the hiring of 1,000 new ICE investigators each fiscal year, 250 new CBP officers at new ports of entry, and $300 million towards infrastructure improvements along the Northern and Southern borders
  • Increased Interior Enforcement aimed at the prevention of unauthorized entries and removal with fines and criminal penalties for reentry of previously removed aliens
  • Hotel.jpegParis Hilton — heiress, bon-vivant, and media magnet — was denied entry to Japan today due to her recent conviction for possession of cocaine in Las Vegas, Nevada. The immigration lawyers here at Fong & Aquino in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles often hear from immigrants and visitors who want to come to the USA after having been convicted under, or having admitted to having committed a violation of, any law or regulation relating to a controlled substance.

    Although Japan’s immigration exclusion for drug offenders is strict, the US has similar restrictions, and any alien who has committed an offense more serious than possession of ≤ 30 grams of marijuana should NOT expect an easy time of getting into the USA. A waiver is available for very, very limited cases. We cannot be very encouraging to ANYone who has a prior drug conviction or admission.

    Those who have been “cautioned” for marijuana possession in certain countries such as the UK and Australia should know that such “cautions” typically include the perpetrator’s admission of the underlying facts of the incident (e.g., the possession). Therefore, the perpetrator has admitted to having committed the violation, even if there was never a trial, a conviction, or other citation. –jcf

    Still not too late to apply for an H-1B. New quota figures as of September 10, 2010:

    Out of the 65,000 cases that can be approved for H-1B this year, 37,400 cases have been receipted by USCIS for the regular Bachelor’s degree H-1B quota. This is up from 36,600 cases which were received since September 3, 2010.

    Approximately 13,700 cases have been receipted by USCIS for the advanced degree H-1B quota, a slight increase of about 300 cases filed since September 3, 2010 when approximately 13,400 cases had been received.