March 2009 Archives

March 24, 2009

H-1B Lottery: Random Selection Process Anticipated for H-1B Quota

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) published a confirmation of how the H-1B lottery will be conducted this year.  It is anticipated that the quota will fill up in the first few days after the initial filing date of April 1, 2009.  CIS has confirmed that if the agency receives enough cases to fill the cap within the first 5 business days in April, then the "lottery" will based on all applications that were received between April 1 through April 7.

CIS has also indicated that those cases selected in the lottery will have the same receipt date.  This means that there should be no difference in how your H-1B case will be considered as long as your case is submitted on or before April 7, 2009.  

If the CIS receives an insufficient number of H-1B applications within the first 5 business days of April, CIS will continue to accept petitions until the day which the agency determines that enough applications ahve finally been received.  If that is the case, then CIS will conduct a lottery for those cases that are received on the last receipt date.  

It is certainly going to be interesting to find out when the quota will be filled this year.  Many are making predictions that the cap will be reached on April 1.  I'm going to be silent on the issue but let's not take chances.  Get your application in by April 7 if at all possible!
--ecf
March 20, 2009

NON-MINISTER RELIGIOUS WORKERS SUNSET EXTENDED

President Obama has signed the extension of the Religious Workers program allowing non-ministers to submit applications for permanent residency.  Commonly known as the "religious workers sunset," the provision allows non-ministerial religious workers such as nuns, brothers, cantors, religious school teachers to apply for permanent residency.  The extension is set to sunset again on September 29, 2009.

The non-minister category is a different category than the one providing for the immigration of ordained minsters and requires extensions of its validity every two years.  For the past year however, Congress has extended the program twice, each time for a period of 6 months.  In years past, extensions were granted for 2 years at a time.   

The Religious Worker Visa Program became law in 1990 and was originally enacted with a sunset provision, meaning that the non-minister category would und unless extended by Congress.  It has always enjoyed broad, bipartisan support and reauthorized many times since its the program began.


March 16, 2009

Lost Passport or Lost "Green" Card

Whether you are a US citizen, a US Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), or a foreign national visiting the USA, the immigration law office of Fong & Chun in Los Angeles recommends that anyone who loses a passport or an LPR card report that loss to local law enforcement.

US Passport.jpg

A lost US passport is serious business.  Report the loss or theft to local police and to the US Department of State immediately.  You should bring the report with you when you apply for your new passport.  Although getting a replacement from the US Department of State is a relatively simple matter, border guards will likely pull you aside the next couple of times you enter the USA at a Port of Entry (POE) to verify your identity.  They may also ask you about the circumstances under which you lost the passport.  Remember: the circumstances regarding the loss or theft of your passport will be in the computer at the checkpoint.

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A lost LPR card is almost as serious.  A replacement is possible.  US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will charge you (at present writing) $355 to replace the card using Form I-90.  They will ask you about the circumstances under which the card was lost or stolen; they may also ask for a copy of the police report.  To process the replacement card, you will be sent an appointment for fingerprinting and identity verification.  Until you get the replacement card, travel and job seeking will be awkward.  After the I-90 is filed, use InfoPass to obtain a stamp in your passport to permit you to work and travel.

If you lose your foreign passport, you should report the loss to local police and also to your country's consulate or embassy.  Also, you should apply to the DHS for a replacement of your I-94 Arrival-Departure Control Card.

If you have questions, please contact us.  --jcf

March 9, 2009

ESTA Approval is No Guarantee of Entry to the USA

The immigration law office of Fong & Chun in Los Angeles receives many inquiries from travellers from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program.  The ESTA program is ONLY for citizens of countries who do NOT need actual visas to enter the USA.  If you are a citizen of another country, you should not register with ESTA.

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ESTA registration is for citizens of Visa Waiver countries who wish to enter the USA using the Visa Waiver.  If the traveller is using another visa, such as F-1, H-1b, L-1, E-2, or any other nonimmigrant visa, ESTA registration is not required.

ESTA was put into place to allow the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to pre-screen travellers coming to the USA who are citizens of countries who do not need visas to enter the USA: the so-called Visa Waiver Countries. The entire application process is conducted online and operated by DHS.

This pre-screening allows DHS to check to see if the traveller is on a security watchlist, has a criminal record, has a warrant for his/her arrest, or is the subject of some other concern.

An ESTA registration is NOT a visa or "electronic visa," NOT a guarantee that the traveler will be admitted upon arrival in the USA, and NOT an assurance that border guards will not hassle you at the immigration checkpoint. Remember: Even if your ESTA registration is "accepted" by the DHS computer, you have NO assurance of admission -- or even civil treatment at the border -- to the USA.

There are a number of for-profit websites who claim to be able to help you with an ESTA registration.  These sites imply that by using their services, you will somehow have an easier time of entering the USA.  This is NOT true.

If you have any ESTA questions, please contact us.  --jcf