November 16, 2010

Reminder: USCIS fees increase on 23 November 2010

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

October 28, 2010

H-1B Quota Update: October 28, 2010

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.

If you are interested in filing an H-1B case before the quota is filled, please call (323) 769-8187 and ask for a free consultation with one of the attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong. ---ecf

October 21, 2010

Puerto Rico Birth Certificates No Longer Valid for US Immigration

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 the Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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

October 13, 2010

H-1B Quota Update - October 8, 2010

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

October 7, 2010

H-1B Denial? H-1B Quota - Still Open, How About Re-filing?

Now is that unfortunate time of year where the attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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 Law Offices of J Craig Fong, 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 free consultation, contact us today. ---ecf

October 5, 2010

USCIS Fees to Increase on 23 November 2010

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

The immigration lawyers at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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:

I-90 App to Replace Green Card: now $290, increases to $365
I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e): now $455, decreases to $340
I-130 Petition for Alien Relative: now $355, increases to $420
I-140 Petition for Alien Worker: now $475, increases to $580
I-485 Application for Registry or Adjust Status: now $930, increases to $985
I-601 Application for Waiver: now $545, increases to $585
I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence: now $465, increases to $505
N-400 Application for Naturalization: now $595 -- no change
N-600 Application for Citizenship Certificate: now $460, increases to $600
Biometrics: now $80, increases to $85

The full list of fee changes is available from USCIS here. --jcf

October 2, 2010

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill Introduced

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

  • Worksite Enforcement creating a mandatory employment verification system within 5 years and within 2 years, the creation of fraud-resistant, tamper resistant, and wear-resistant social security cards

  • Reform of America's Overall Immigration System establishing a new worker program through a standing commission on immigration, labor markets and the national interest and for family immigration reform aimed at reducing backlogs and fully incorporating the United American Families Act for equal treatment for permanent partners

  • Legalization of Undocumented Individuals: creating a provisional legal status for those present in the US as of September 30, 2010 , who have never committed a crime and are otherwise admissible to the United States

  • This version of CIR has yet to be debated in Congress. Check back soon for developments on CIR 2010. --ecf

    September 22, 2010

    Paris Hilton Barred from Japan for Drug Offense

    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 the Law Offices of J Craig Fong 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

    September 16, 2010

    September 2010 Update on H-1B Quota

    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.

    October 1, 2010 is around the corner. People with newly approved H-1Bs will soon be able to begin employment. First time applicants can still continue to submit applications for H-1B status until the entire H-1B quota is exhausted. I'll keep you updated on the cap count, so check back soon. ---ecf

    September 9, 2010

    Relatives of Permanent Residents Visa Numbers Moving Quickly

    177934_bus_queue_v.jpgMajor news for relatives of legal permanent residents who have been patiently waiting for their petitions to become current. The Department of State reported in the September 2010 visa bulletin that applicants who are spouses or children of greencard holders (filed as late as January 1, 2010) can now be processed for greencards. This is true for applicants from all countries except Mexico and the Dominican Republic, whose priority dates aren't far behind either: January 1, 2009.

    What is a a "priority date," you ask? A "priority date" is a legal term of art that can be exceedingly hard to explain (especially in a blog), but I'll try. Let's start with basics. There is a quota on how many immigrants can come legally to the country per year. Imagine the quota like it is a long line of people lining up for a greencard. The people at the front of the line are those whose relative petitions were filed earliest, ie those with the earliest "priority date." A priority date is established on the date that your petition is received by the USCIS. Of course, the earlier your priority date, the sooner you can later ask for greencard status. Generally, priority dates always move forward, but these dates can also go backwards, and if applications aren't received by USCIS before this "retrogression" happens, applicants are back to the waiting game.

    In the past month, the (F2A) priority date in the the family-based second preference category (ie for spouses and children of greencard holders) advanced from March 2009 to January 2010! This has made an incredible difference to those who have been waiting to be reunited with their spouses and children, rather than expecting a year or more of wait, this category of new immigrants can now start processing their greencard applications. If you would like assistance in making sure that your application can be made as quickly as possible, contact the attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong before those dates start floating backwards again. --ecf

    August 31, 2010

    H-1B Quota: Slow and Steady Usage

    Yet another update to the H-1B quota, also known as the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 H-1B cap.

    Approximately 34,900 cases have been receipted by USCIS for the regular Bachelor's degree H-1B quota.

    Approximately 13,000 cases have been receipted by USCIS for the advanced degree H-1B quota open to applicants who have earned Master's or higher degrees from US colleges and universities.

    Good luck to all H-1B applicants! ---ecf

    August 25, 2010

    Elin Nordegren: Her Side of the Story

    Elin Nordegren broke her silence today and gave her side of the story today telling the world how shocked and embarrassed she was by Tiger's infidelity. She also defended the marriage, saying that the marriage was real, not orchestrated for the cameras and sponsors.

    In our practice at Law Offices of J Craig Fong, we have seen many marriages, like Elin and Tiger's which were entered into for love, completely genuine marriages and yet within years (sometimes a lot sooner), the marriage goes awry. For those immigrants whose conditional greencards were based on marriages to US citizens, these men and women find themselves in a situation like Elin, telling their stories to the USCIS, actually defending themselves from deportation, that even though their marriage didn't survive the test of time, it was not a marriage of convenience for immigration purposes.

    If a marriage fails anytime before someone naturalizes, a person who immigrated through marriage will later be summoned by the USCIS for an intense and very uncomfortable interview in order to maintain their permanent residency - even at the time of applying for citizenship. Such interviews can even occur years after the marriage and divorce, so recounting the facts of a relationship and providing the documentation to verify the facts of the courtship, the wedding or civil ceremony, then detailing the timeline of marriage, separation and divorce is more than just burdensome, it's sometimes impossible. attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong have defended clients in such interviews, which can take several hours! Not to mention the legal briefing and the administrative review that can take months to years in the most complicated cases.

    We have counseled couples and immigrants who face this difficult situation, sometimes their marriages have ended because they had to escape physical or emotional abuse, other times, the marriage failed because of infidelity or even financial distress. If you need help telling your side of the story to USCIS, call the attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong for a free consultation. Maybe we can help. --ecf

    August 23, 2010

    Naturalization - Yet Another Reason to Seek Citizenship

    The attorneys at Law Offices of J Craig Fong have helped hundreds of legal immigrants seek citizenship over the years. Whether we have worked with you at a naturalization drive, through labor unions, or in our own offices, citizenship is the ultimate goal of most immigrants. Today, the government announced that cash assistance to elderly and disabled immigrants who were granted entry based on humanitarian reasons may lose benefits unless they have naturalization applications pending. Many of those affected are people who were granted asylum or refugee status.

    Most immigrants are eligible for naturalization after a 3 or 5 year period after their initial residency period begins. Many immigrants delay applying for naturalization because they fear the English or history exams. While the naturalization exam can seem daunting, the government allows for applicants to re-take their exams if they fail the first time. Some immigrants who are long term residents may even take the examination in their native language, but many immigrants simply put off the naturalization process because it has become intimidating or costly. However, in most cases, an immigrant who truly desires to naturalize and is eligible to do so can make an application and be successful with the right type of support and preparation. Today's announcement by the administration poses yet another reason for immigrants who have been putting off their citizenship application to call and find a qualified immigration attorney to help them with the process. The Law Offices of J Craig Fong encourages those eligible for naturalization make an application and realize their dreams of finally becoming US citizens. ---ecf

    August 10, 2010

    H-1B Quota Update - Little Change

    As of August 6, 2010, approximately 28,500 regular H-1B cap cases have been receipted by USCIS and approximately 11,900 advanced degree cases. Keeping in mind that H-1B extensions and changes of employer petitions don't count against the cap, initial H-1B applicants are in good shape this fiscal year since the quota is far from being exhausted. ---ecf

    July 28, 2010

    Arizona Law, Ruling by Judge

    Although the controversial Arizona immigration law will still go into effect tomorrow, portions of the law have been blocked by the Federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton. Judge Bolton has issued a preliminary injunction to "put on hold" the proposed part of the law that would require Arizona law enforcement to determine whether a person is here in the country legally or not. Mistaken arrests of US citizens have already been made since the law's proposal.

    The Court ruled in favor of the preliminary injunction primarily on federal preemption grounds, as our nation's immigration law is a matter of federal jurisdiction. This means that immigration law is governed and enforced by the federal government, not by individual states in the union. It is expected that Arizona will appeal, allowing the Ninth Circuit to review the issue as the nation's debate over immigration continues to roar. --ecf