August 28, 2009

DHS to Continue Border Inspection of Electronic Devices

eye.jpgOn 18 August 2009, the Obama Administration issued new directives about the inspection, search, and even seizure of electronic media belonging to travelers passing through border checkpoints. This set of policies and practices has concerned immigration lawyers, constitutional attorneys, and other civil rights advocates, including the immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles.

All electronic media devices are susceptible to search: computers, hard drives, thumb-nail drives, mp3 players, iPods, mobile phones, CDs, DVDs, Blackberrys, etc.

This practice of inspecting, detaining, and even copying travelers' electronic media -- without a warrant or even suspicion -- began before the Bush Administration's so-called "war on terrorism." Given the amount personal information that people keep on their digital devices, attorneys and constitutional advocates have worried that such searches and seizures can be potentially more intrusive than having a border guard riffling through one's luggage.

In some cases, victims of these searches have suspected that the border guards had cracked password-protected files and were copying and keeping information from these devices, which were detained for periods of time ranging from minutes to weeks.
data disks.jpg
The new directives continue the Bush Administration practices, with some (in this author's view, small) degree of oversight:

- Supervisors must be present during the search,
- Border guards may still keep your electronic media device, but only if there is "probable cause" that it is connected to some illegal activity,
- If there is no reason to hold the information, it must be destroyed within 7 days,
- The traveler may ask to be in the room when the search takes place,
- Border guards are expected to consult Homeland Security attorneys if they wish to view voyagers' medical, legal, or medical records, or journalists' work, and
- there is a 30-day limit for the detention of media and devices.

If you would like to read the directive for yourself, it can be found here. --jcf

August 27, 2009

The Law Offices of J Craig Fong Salutes Senator Edward Kennedy

The Los Angeles immigration law offices of J Craig Fong would like to acknowledge the passing on 25 August 2009 of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, US Senator for the State of Massachusetts.

Not merely the scion of a famous family, Senator Kennedy was a champion on issues close to the hearts of many immigrants: immigration reform, education, union representation, and health care. Deeply aware of his own background and immigrant roots, Senator Kennedy helped craft the Diversity Visa, the so-called "green card lottery," that has permitted so many people from different nations to immigrate to the USA when no other avenue was available to them.

His voice will be missed. --jcf

August 24, 2009

Immigration Reform Set for 2010

Because the debates about Health Care Reform are taking so much of the Congress' energy, the Obama Administration believes that Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) will not be considered by the Congress until the beginning of 2010. The immigration law offices of J Craig Fong has many clients in Los Angeles, CA and throughout the nation who would benefit from the passage of CIR. In a recent article, President Obama restated his commitment to humane immigration law reform.

Two of the most anticipated provisions of CIR would be the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act) and the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).

The DREAM Act would allow the normalization of the immigration status of certain undocument students who were brought prior to age 16 to the United States by their parents or guardians. These students have lived and been educated in the USA, and it would be fundamentally unfair to deny them immigration status, when they did not come to the USA through their own decision, and when the USA is often the only country these students have ever really known.

UAFA would correct a long-standing inequity under immigration law and would permit US Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents to petition for and bring their permanent partners to the USA on the same footing and subject to the same conditions as traditional married couples.

Although CIR will not be debated in Congress until the beginning of 2010, we are still urging Americans to be ready to write both of their Senators and their Congressional Representative in support of CIR. Further, we are also asking Americans also to write their state governors and full city councils, encouraging them to contact Washington to urge passage of CIR.

For more information about CIR, also see the Fong and Chun blogs of
29 June 2009
26 June 2009
--jcf

August 19, 2009

H-1B Quota Newest Update August 14, 2009

H-1B quota update...what's going on with the H-1B cap? Just updated today, the USCIS now reports that as of August 14, 2009, about 45,000 cap-subject cases have been received. So that's about 100 more than what USCIS reported a week ago.

Based on what USCIS has reported in the last 4 months, this seems to be a pattern. Up by 100, down by 100. Whatever the reason, H-1B season remains open! At some point, cases already counted in the queue can also be denied, so that might keep the quota open longer.

As for the advanced degree cap, commonly called the "advanced degree quota," USCIS tells us in their most recent H-1B quota update that they have collected approximately 20,000 applications. However, the USCIS reports that they will still continue to accept master's (advanced) degree cases until the quota has been filled.

Something that I counsel clients about is that there are also cap-exempt cases that can be filed. However, the only quota-exempt cases that are accepted are those filed by employers that are bona fide non-profit organizations, which have a documentable relationship with US colleges or universities. Granted this is a small exception, many clients have found this to be useful when working around the quota. Plus, filing fees are cheaper! --ecf

August 18, 2009

Religious Workers Should File Adjustments by August 31, 2009

As a direct result of the Ruiz-Diaz religious worker litigation, the USCIS announced this week that religious workers should file their I-485 applications for adjustment of status by the end of this month.

The USCIS issued this statement to remind religious workers to file for adjustment of status if they have pending or approved I-360s. The reason for this comes from the fact that the employment-based fourth preference category will become unavailable beginning September 1, 2009. The USCIS will only accept adjustment of status applications from those ministers or non-minister religious workers if they have a pending or approved I-360.

Filing an adjustment of status application will toll or protect the worker from accruing unlawful presence. Religious workers or religious organizations that have questions regarding this should call Law Offices of J Craig Fong as soon as possible to ensure that they protect their workers and/or their organization from employer sanctions or other immigration penalties. --ecf

August 11, 2009

H-1B Quota Update on the Numbers - Quota Still Open - Reprise

Breaking news. Just posted today are the H-1B quota numbers. It is the same as my previous posts. Cap count is approximately 44,900. Roughly two weeks ago, USCIS reported the cap count was approximately 44,900. So no difference in the quota count to report.

USCIS is still accepting regular H-1B cap cases. USCIS is still accepting US Master's degree H-1B cases, also known as advanced degree cap cases. Nothing much new here. But check back in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we'll continue to post other topics of immigration interest and intrigue! ---ecf

July 25, 2009

H-1B Quota Update on the Numbers - Quota Still Open!

The H-1B quota has been hovering around the 45,000 mark since April when the H-1B filing period first opened. I have been giving updates every few weeks when the USCIS releases new counts on the number of H-1B cap-subject petitions that have been filed.

We have watched the FY 2010 H-1B numbers yo-yo back and forth from 44,400, 44,900 and 45,000 since June 12, 2009 to present. On July 10, the USCIS announced that it had received approximately 44,900 petitions, about 100 less than the approximately 45,000 reported received on July 3.

What is the reason for the up and down in numbers? Denials, lay offs, less jobs being offered. Sometimes, cases aren't filed properly, something as simple as a typo on the filing check can result in a rejection, though not a denial. Those types of cases can be re-filed, assuming that the quota is still open as it remains today.

Other cases, which could have been marginal, will get denied. Sometimes, employers file for H-1Bs without knowing how to present a properly certified LCA, other times, a job description does not meet the criteria for a specialty occupation. Lots of things can go wrong in filing for an H-1B. And finally, the USCIS makes mistakes too, denying cases, perhaps by applying the wrong standard as they did recently in the case of health care specialty occupations. Wow, USCIS makes mistakes. Imagine that!?!

July 23, 2009

Religious Workers Premium Processing Available

Premium processing is now available again for religious worker petitions. After a long hiatus which caused many delays in religious worker processing, the USCIS is once again accepting premium processing (Form I-907) on R-1 petitions for religious workers, ordained ministers, nuns, monks, priests, religious education teachers, cantors, etc.

The premium processing service in which employers or workers will get a response in 15 calendar days is however, only available to religious organizations that have already passed a site visit or Benefit Fraud Assessment (BFA) by the USCIS Office of Fraud Detection and National Security.

The availability of the premium processing service will alleviate the long waiting times and delays caused by the new regulations in procedures for bringing in R-1 workers. Wait times for an I-129R adjudication without premium processing can be months. However, religious organizations which have already attained a positive BFA can utilize the premium processing service and avoid those costly delays. If you or your employer are awaiting a BFA or are awaiting the results of a site visit, you can call Law Offices of J Craig Fong to see if there is any way to take advantage of the premium processing service or request that the final results of the BFA be issued without further delay. ---ecf

July 21, 2009

International "Support" Office Opens in California

USCIS has recently opened an "International Adjudications Support Branch" in Anaheim, California. This purpose of this office is to help process some of the applications and petitions received from international USCIS offices. The office is meant to help overseas USCIS offices handle periodic fluctuations in work. We at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles have noticed that some of our immigration law clients' forms are being processed at this new office.

The office is located in the same facility as the Los Angeles Asylum Office, and it does not handle or accept inquiries, appointments, or walk-ins.

Currently, this support branch is handling I-601 Waiver cases -- except health-related waivers -- from the US Consulate-General in Ciudad Juárez, México. It is not yet known what other cases will be assigned to this office. --jcf

July 15, 2009

Update - Delays in LPR Card Production

At the end of June 2009, we noticed that our Los Angeles immigration clients were experiencing delays in receiving their Legal Permanent Resident cards (LPR card, the so-called "green" card). This delay was apparently due to USCIS updating its card production equipment. As immigration lawyers, The Law Offices of J Craig Fong are always concerned when USCIS delays the production of LPR cards, because such a delay creates enormous difficulties for clients.

We have recently noticed that our clients have received their LPR cards within one month of approval.

Whether the card production delay is over, or whether the California Service Center (where the majority of our clients's card are processed) has already had its equipment upgrade, we do not know. --jcf

July 1, 2009

Trying to Save the EB-5 Employment Creation Visa

Because we are a law firm devoted exclusively to the practice of immigration law, Law Offices of J Craig Fong of Los Angeles gets calls frequently about the so-called "millionaire green card." The more accurate name for this would be the EB-5 Employment Creation Immigrant Visa, or just "EB-5." This sometimes controversial visa provides for conditional legal permanent resident status for persons who, after November 1990, invest $1 million (or in some cases $500,000) in a new business that employs ten US citizens (or certain other authorized workers) full-time and engage in that business through day-to-day management.

There has been much criticism of the EB-5 visa; however, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials declared in February 2009 their firm commitment to the success of the EB-5 program, acknowledging the value of the program to the US economy. The USCIS Ombudsman's office has made the following recommendations for the EB-5 program:

1. Quickly finalize the Special Legislative Regulations, to alleviate the so-called "stuck" EB-5 investors who have been in limbo since 1995. Improperly documented cases can drag on for years.

2. Adjudicators should be instructed not to continually readjudicate or re-examine the validity of previously approved economic methodologies and reports. Additionally, USCIS should strive for consistency in and among adjudicators for the EB-5 cases, so that outcomes can be more predictable.

3. USCIS should issue more EB-5 published decisions, to provide guidance and predictability for attorneys and investors.

4. Better rulemaking is critical, so that rules that have been developed to date can be memorialized.

5. There should be an advisory panel to discuss issues affecting the EB-5 program. Participants should include representatives from Departments of Commerce, Treasury, State, Labor, and possibly the Small Business Administration.

6. USCIS should create and offer an operationally-sound special handling option, similar to premium processing.

7. USCIS should prioritize processing of Regional Center filings. Due to the amplified economic benefit of pooled investments for the Regional Center cases, an expedited track could be important during this economic downturn.

8. There should be more active promotion of the EB-5 program.

The EB-5 employment creation visa is a complex animal. If you are interested in applying for the EB-5 visa, please contact our office. --jcf

July 1, 2009

Immigration Crackdown at Work Places

A recent story by Associated Press reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun a crackdown in all states, checking employers large and small to verify that employees are legally authorized to work. The immigration law offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles represents companies as well as individuals.

Most employers and even some individuals are required to maintain Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification on all regular employees. If a company does not maintain its I-9s properly, the company can be fined. If a company is in doubt about whether its I-9s are properly completed and maintained, the company should contact reliable immigration law counsel to arrange for a review of the files. --jcf

June 30, 2009

Delays in LPR Card Production

I-551.jpgThe immigration law offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles has recently received quite a number of phone calls from people who are waiting for issuance, re-issuance, or replacement of their US Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) cards. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been experiencing delays of 2 - 3 months due to an upgrade being made in the card-production equipment.

If you have not yet had your immigration or adjustment of status interview, please remember to bring your passport with you to the interview. If your application is approved at the interview, the officer should place "the I-551 stamp" in the passport. The I-551 stamp will temporarily allow you to travel in and out of the USA and work legally, until you receive your LPR card.

If you do not have a passport, you can bring two passport-type photos with you, plus your driver license (or other government-issued I.D.), and the officer can issue you temporary proof of your status.

For those who have an LPR application approved after the interview, or if your case did not have an interview, you should bring your passport, I.D., and passport photos to a USCIS InfoPass appointment, so that USCIS can put the I-551 stamp in your passport. --jcf

June 29, 2009

Update on Immigration Reform: 29 June 2009

Immigration law firm The Law Offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles has always urged that US immigration laws (and officials) treat immigrants fairly. As part of our advocacy, we have urged US citizens and US Legal Permanent Residents ("green" card holders) to write elected officials and express their views about humane immigration reform, especially with regard to the immigration of same-sex partners and undocumented youth who were brought here as children.

US Capitol.jpgSome people have asked for recommendations about the officials to whom they should write. Firstly, because immigration is a Federal matter, you should write to President Obama, both your state's US senators, and your Congressperson to the US House of Representatives.


at the Law Offices of J Craig Fong, we believe in a more comprehensive approach. Most of the upcoming CIR battle will take place on Capitol Hill, but there are everyday people who need to learn about CIR. mainstreet.jpgLocal officials and community leaders can be powerful advocates for the immigrant community. We think you should also write your state and local representatives, and encourage them to write to Congress and push for change. In other words, it is good to write directly to Congress, and representatives love to hear from you. But they listen even more keenly when local mayors, councils, and state officials write. Therefore, consider writing also to:

- your mayor
- your city council
- your governor
- your state senator
- your state assemblyperson
- your local board of education
- your local chamber of commerce

Even if you believe your elected officials support immigration law reform, please write to them anyway, because the elected official needs your backing -- political cover, if you will -- if s/he is going to support something that is a hot-potato issue. --jcf

June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson's Concerts in Britain

Microphone.jpgThe immigration law offices of J Craig Fong in Los Angeles has received several calls about artists who have been involved in the preparations for the series of Michael Jackson concerts which were scheduled to take place in London beginning this summer. The performer's recent death has thrown arrangements for those concerts into chaos.

Although the Jackson concerts were to take place in the United Kingdom, extensive preparations were taking place both in the UK and in the United States. In preparation for any big rehearsal, event, performance, or concert, teams of make-up artists, costume designers, hair stylists, choreographers, dancers, back-up vocalists, special effects personnel, music arrangers, musicians, lighting engineers, etc. etc. come together to create the shows that so many enjoy. The number of people involved with a complex series of high-tech, music and dance spectaculars can be upwards of 50 -100 people, not all of them American.

Renowned performers and artists can qualify for the O-1 visa ("extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics) to enter the USA. However, when something catastrophic happens -- like the death of a performer -- the performance or concert on which the O-1 visa is based is cancelled, the performer or artist risks falling out of legal immigration status.

For individuals who have visas which are predicated on a set of facts -- an individual employer, a detailed job description, a specific person, a particular school or academic program, etc., -- it is vital to consult a knowledgeable immigration attorney if there has been any substantial change, in order to preserve visa status. --jcf