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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

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Last weekend, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the launch of a new USCIS website for students looking to study in the US. The website’s name? Yup, “Study in the States.” The new website which will be of use to F-1 and M-1 hopefuls, is aimed at disseminating information to foreign students, as well as serving as an interagency resource hub between DHS and it’s partner organizations. Information pertaining to J-1 exchange visitors and trainees is still relegated to the US Department of State.

Study in the States provides information on how prospective students should utilize the current version of SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System program. It also tells us what we can expect with the highly anticipated “paperless” SEVIS II, which may launch “in the near future.”

There’s also general information useful to new immigrants such as how to obtain a social security number, how to enroll your children in Kindergarten through 12th grade, and how to get a driver’s license. The attorneys at Fong & Aquino applaud the launch of this user-friendly website and what we hope is not only USCIS acknowledgment that foreign students coming to pursue degrees in the United States represent some of the best and the brightest talents in the world…but that these are the students who can and will someday continue to drive the innovation, entrepreneurship, and values known throughout generations as, the American Dream. –ecf

Wooden mannequins waiting in line.jpgJust when you thought you were close to the front of the line, US Department of State announced yesterday that no further employment based preference cases (the so called EB cases) can be allotted toward the fiscal year 2011 quota.

Translation: No more employment based approvals of I-485s for now. Remember that October 1, 2011 will mark the first day of the USCIS Fiscal Year 2012, so EB greencard cases will resume in October.

USCIS has been directed to continue adjudicating EB cases but those cases will be placed “on hold” until October 3 when all cases which are “pending demand” (for I-485 approval) between September 15 – September 30, 2011 can receive final adjudication.

In the last month, usage of H-1B numbers have continued to crawl upwards:

  • The regular H-1B cap has seen an increase from 25,300 petitions received to 32,200 as of September 9, 2011
  • The advanced degree cap has moved toward the 20,000 cap from 14,700 petitions received to 16,700 received as of September 9, 2011
  • chocolate.jpgRecently, the news — local Pennsylvania news, the Associated Press, and even The New York Times — has been filled with a story about foreign students who came to the USA to participate in an “exchange program,” who ended up working under allegedly harsh conditions at the Hershey chocolate factory in Pennsylvania. Here at Fong & Aquino, we began to get calls from people around Los Angeles, as well as throughout the Coachella Valley (Palm Springs and Palm Desert), about these exchange visitor visas.

    Essentially, the J visa program was created as a foreign-policy tool to encourage international understanding, to provide a way for foreigners to get to know American life and work. It also allows a freer exchange of information, permitting professors and researchers to continue their studies and presentations in the USA. The visa is for a:

    * professor or research scholar,

    handshake.jpgFong & Aquino serves the entire Los Angeles area, including Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, Long Beach, and indeed, clients all around the United States. We handle family visas, business and investor visas, and removal / deportation cases. Our attorneys frequently encounter people who come in and say that they have been working with an “immigration service” or “immigration consultant” or “notario” or “notary public” for the processing of their paperwork. In the vast majority of these cases, the results obtained by these so-called service-providers have been devastating.

    The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a nationwide program to target non-attorney notaries and others who are advising and preparing paperwork for clients. The immigration system is complex, and although DHS often views attorneys as a hinderance to its work, DHS also understands that the only way an immigrant gets proper representation, a fair hearing, is through a competent, licensed attorney.

    This is a difficult subject, because those of us at Fong & Aquino have met and seen the work of a few excellent, conscientious, knowledgeable notaries. However, to be frank, these are a great exception. In truth, notaries have no legal training and have no requirement to stay up-to-date in their knowledge. Attorneys do.

    It has been a while since I have posted H-1B quota numbers but here is the most recent update from USCIS as of August 12, 2011:

  • Approximately 25,300 petitions received for the regular H-1B quota.
  • Approximately 14,700 petitions received for the advanced degree H1B quota.

    H-1B processing times remain the same: slow. Cases that were filed in May can still be pending if an RFE has been issued. Those who were planning on beginning work on October 1, 2011 can still request premium processing on pending cases if petitioners wish to have an approval notice in hand on that date. If your H-1B case is still pending and is outside processing and you wish to inquire about the status of your case, petitioners can use the USCIS 1-800 customer service center number and ask for a status inquiry. —ecf

  • Job Search Handwritten note.pngAnd so the saga continues. I have received a lot of phone calls from H-1B hopefuls, many in the same situation: highly qualified individuals with marketable skills with either no job offer in hand or a tenuous job offer from an employer not willing and able to withstand the challenges of submitting an H-1b petition. It’s no wonder that the quota numbers are extremely low.

    The most recently updated H-1B cap numbers as of July 13, 2011:

    Approximately 19,000 petitions received for the regular H1B quota.

    man running against time.png H-1B cap numbers as of July 1, 2011:

    Steady usage of the Bachelor’s degree H1b quota with about 1,000 more petitions received since last count, resulting in 18,400 cases received as of July 1, 2011.

    The H1B advanced degree cap has advanced by about 600 cases resulting in 11,900 H-1B petitions received as of July 1, 2011.

    Mind the Gap.pngWhat is the H-1B cap gap?? F-1 students seeking first-time H-1B status are often in some period of OPT (optional practical training) when submitting an H-1B petition. “H1B Cap gap” is the term that USCIS refers to as an extension of either the F-1 student’s status and/or the student’s OPT period before October 1 of each year.

    Here are some nuggets of useful information for students seeking clarification of how OPT can be properly utilized and extended with the H-1B cap gap:

  • If a cap gap H-1B applicant receives an H-1B denial at anytime (before or after October 1), s/he cannot continue working but is still allowed the 60-day grace period to depart the US as long as the H-1B was not denied or revoked due to fraud or misrepresentation