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

Stopwatch 15 secs remaining.jpgThe last update from USCIS announced that the US advanced degree cap for H-1Bs has been filled.

    The regular H-1B quota has accepted 46,200 petitions leaving 18,800 slots available for new H-1B cases to be filed.

    We can expect this last batch of H-1B slots to fill up quicker since those with advanced degrees will now be making applications towards the regular H1-B quota.

The H-1B quota is still open but the H-1B advanced degree quota is nearly full. So for anyone looking to make an application, my advice is to watch the numbers carefully as the end of the year approaches.

  • 41,000 H-1B petitions have been received out of the 65,000 petitions that is subject to the regular Bachelor’s degree quota
  • 19,100 H-1B petitions have been received out of the 20,000 petitions that are exempted for applicants with US master’s or advanced degrees
  • headstones.jpgLately, the attorneys at Fong & Aquino have been fielding a number of inquiries from families about what to do when their petitioner passes away. These inquiries have been especially common from our offices in Los Angeles and Palm Springs. Clients will usually ask if there is a way that they can obtain a substitute sponsor. This is known as requesting “humanitarian reinstatement” of the petition from the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services, or USCIS.

    For example, a father became a naturalized citizen in 1996 and then immediately filed a petition for his adult son in the Philippines. Although the petition was quickly approved, the priority date would not become current for many years due to the backlog and demand for visas. This delay is due to the Priority Date system used by USCIS and Department of State to determine who is next-in-line. Unfortunately, during the waiting period, the father passed away. Under current regulations, an approved petition is automatically revoked upon the death of the petitioner. The surviving members of the family reside in the United States. Certain members of the family would be eligible to be the substitute sponsor for purposes of the affidavit of support, but the first step would be to request that USCIS reinstate the petition.

    In order to do so, USCIS considers the following factors:

    graduation.jpgOn 9 October 2011, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed the California Dream Act. This bill permits undocumented immigrants to attend California public university and community colleges, providing them access to state financial aid. Only three states in the USA permit undocumented immigrants to qualify for state financial aid for college: California, New Mexico, and Texas.

    To qualify, students must graduate from a California high school, after having attended school in California for a minimum of three years. The student must also sign a declaration that they are in the process of adjusting or legalizing his/her immigration situation. It is not yet known what exactly students will be attesting to when they say they are “in the process” of legalizing.

    Immigrants should be very clear: the California DREAM Act is for undocumented immigrant students wishing to go to university in this state. The California DREAM Act does NOT provide legal immigration status, does NOT make the student immune from removal or deportation, does NOT permit the student to work in the absence of an Employment Authorization Document from the US immigration authorities, and does NOT permit the student to travel out of the USA and to return.

    hanging onto time.jpgSeptember 30 marks the end of fiscal year for 2011. I wanted to review some statistics regarding labor certification information by the US Dept. of Labor which shows some interesting statistics about labor certification processing times and audits between October 1, 2010 and May 31, 2011.

    Labor certification audits are still taking about a year for review and out of approximately 22,000 of the cases that were pending as of May 31, 2011, only 44% of those case were pending initial analyst reviews. The rest of the 56% were either in audit, appeal, or at the sponsorship verification stage. Since DOL reported a 63% increase in applications compared to 2010, we can probably expect that audit queue to increase.

    As many of you may have noticed, prevailing wage requests are taking more than 3 months for a determination. Those who might need to file labor certifications before the end of the year in order to preserve the ability to extend an H-1B might begin thinking about leaving the US and recapturing H-1B time later if you are unable to file the initial labor certification 365 days before your anticipated H-1B expiration date. While admittedly, this isn’t the ideal scenario, it stops the H-1B clock, even if momentarily… so that you can plan for a timely extension when you’re eligible. Call the business immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino if you’d like an assessment of your labor certification or H-1B case, don’t wait another second! –ecf

    Green apple standing out.jpgToday the world mourns Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was the creator and visionary at Apple, Inc. but he is remembered as one of the world’s greatest business leaders, ranking up there with the likes of Ford and Rockefeller. Steve Jobs was credited for bringing technology and it’s benefits to the every day lives of every day people. The attorneys at Fong & Aquino want to thank Steve Jobs for changing how we think about technology, for inspiring us to think creatively in what we do as immigration attorneys.

    Fong & Aquino is proud to run our office on Apple technology. We love our Apple computers, iPhones and iPads. But more importantly, the immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino have also embraced the entrepreneurial spirit and determination which is best exemplified by Steve Job’s own words:

    Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

    Opportunity in the sky.jpgFollowing this past year’s diversity lottery fiasco, the US Department of State has announced that it will begin accepting applications for DV 2013 at noon (EDT) on October 4, 2011. The application period will close on November 4, 2011 at noon (EDT).

    It has only been a few months since Dept of State notified then revoked the winning results of 22,000 “winning” lottery applicants. In the incident, now commonly known as “22,000 tears,” the DOS reported that a computer glitch caused 90% of the DV2012 winners to be selected from applications made during the first 2 days of the 30-day application period, and that because of this, the results were not “randomized,” and hence, invalid. DOS states that it “mistakenly informed” these unfortunate 22,000 “winners,” some of whom had already started making plans and selling off assets to move to the US and begin their American Dream.

    As we look ahead, some changes have been made to the countries whose nationals can now participate in the DV 2013 lottery. Nationals of South Sudan and Poland are now eligible to submit applications and although mainland Chinese born applicants cannot participate, Hong Kong SAR, Macau, and Taiwanese applicants may still apply. While the Los Angeles visa attorneys at Fong & Aquino, wish the best of luck to all DV 2013 applicants, we also remember and sympathize with the 22,000 individuals of DV 2012. –ecf

    plant growing from pile of coins.jpg
    The EB-5 attorneys at Fong & Aquino want to report about the recent EB-5 stakeholders meeting which took place recently. Probably of most interest are the EB-5 success rates reported by USCIS. In general terms, the Department of Homeland Security reports that in Fiscal Year 2010, approximately 110 initial Regional Center proposals were submitted and approximately 36% received approvals in the initial adjudication.

    Evidencing a major increase in regional center filings, DHS reported that 176 initial regional center applications were received in the first three quarters of Fiscal Year 2011 (October 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011). Of those, 46% were approved upon initial adjudication and 23% were denied upon initial adjudication. The attorneys at Fong & Aquino are consulted regularly by investors seeking regional center certification.

    It’s been no secret that EB-5 regional center filings are on the rise and that the program which has been in existence for years is gaining popularity again. Although approval rates seems are encouraging, investors know that the program is obviously, not without enormous risk. The LA Times reported earlier this month about some of the problems still plaguing investors. Contact the business immigration attorneys at Fong & Aquino if you would like a consultation regarding regional center certification and/or the traditional EB-5 program. –ecf