July 15, 2011

This week in U.S. immigration news, Indian and Chinese nationals in the second employment-based permanent residence preference category saw continued advancement in priority date cut-offs, though the pace of advancement has slowed. In global news, the Vietnamese government has expanded work permit exemptions to include new occupations, but has increased compliance responsibilities for employers. In South Korea, foreign nationals applying for alien registration cards will soon be required to provide fingerprints with their applications. These items and other news from the United States and Israel follow in this week’s Fragomen Immigration Update.

Remember that the Immigration Update is available through both e-mail and Web version by clicking on "View as Web Page" above.


Important Updates in Immigration This Week

July 12, 2011

United States
EB-2 Advancement Continues But Slows for India and China in August

In August, immigrant visa priority date cut-offs in the second employment-based preference category (EB-2) will advance by just over five weeks for China and India, to April 15, 2007.

To view entire article, click here.
July 11, 2011

Additional Occupations Qualify for Work Permit Exemptions As New Restrictions on Employing Foreign Workers Are Imposed

Chief representatives, heads of project offices, and intracompany transferees working for entities operating in service industries covered by Vietnam’s commitments under the World Trade Organization will be exempt from work permit requirements starting August 1, 2011. However, several new restrictions on hiring foreign workers will also take effect on that date.

To view entire article, click here.
July 11, 2011

South Korea
Biometric Data Now Required for Alien Registration Cards

First-time Alien Registration Card applicants must now submit fingerprints with their applications. Renewal applicants will be required to submit fingerprints starting January 1, 2012.

To view entire article, click here.

Other Immigration News This Week

United States: USCIS Amended H-1B Count - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has amended its count of FY 2012 H-1B cap filings for July 1, 2011. As of July 1, USCIS had received 19,000 filings against the standard H-1B cap of 65,000, and 12,200 filings against the cap exemption of 20,000 for holders of U.S. advanced degrees. The amended count reflects an additional 600 standard cases and 300 advanced-degree cases. 

United States: State Department Announces U.S.-Russian Agreement on Visa Issuance - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have announced an agreement on the issuance of nonimmigrant business, tourist, private and humanitarian visas to the Russian Federation, and for business and tourist visas to the United States. Under the agreement, business travelers and tourists, traveling both as individuals and in groups, will generally be granted multiple-entry visas valid for 36 months on a reciprocal basis. The agreement also streamlines the visa issuance process by reducing the documentation required. The agreement will take effect after diplomatic notes are exchanged in Moscow.

United States: DOS Issues Statistics on Demand for Employment-Based Immigrant Visas - The State Department has released detailed statistics used to gauge demand for employment-based immigrant visas in each preference category for the August 2011 Visa Bulletin.

United States: USCIS Increases Response Times for Requests for Evidence – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has issued an interim policy that extends the time for petitioners and applicants to respond to agency requests for evidence (RFEs). For most cases, applicants and petitioners will have up to 84 days to respond, with a 30-day response time for RFEs on Form I-539 requests for changes or extensions of status. There is additional response time for petitioners and applicants located abroad. Agency officers may reduce these standard response times but only with the approval of a supervisor. USCIS is accepting public comments on the interim memo through July 27, 2011.

United States: Tennessee Enacts E-Verify Law - A new Tennessee law (the Tennessee Lawful Employment Act) will require employers to either enroll and participate in E-Verify or obtain and copy "lawful resident verification information" from new hires that is consistent with federal law. The exact list of acceptable documents is specified in the new law, however it is not necessarily the same documentation an employee might offer in support of a Form I-9. The use of E-Verify provides employers with a safe harbor against a charge of knowingly hiring an unauthorized worker, while an employer cannot prevail against such a charge if the sole evidence the employer presents is that it complied with the documentation requirement. The new law will be implemented in stages, beginning on January 1, 2012.

Israel: Significant Work Permit Processing Delays - Foreign nationals and their employers are currently experiencing work permit processing delays of several weeks, due to heavy workload at the Ministry of Interior's Semech Unit. These delays affect applications for both the B-1 foreign experts work permit, used to work in Israel for up to one year, and the STEP work permit for work of up to three months. The processing situation is fluid and it remains unclear when processing times may return to normal. In the mean time, employers should consider the longer processing times when planning assignments and proposed start dates. In preparing this update, Fragomen worked closely with Kan-Tor & Acco Law Firm (Israel).

Global Immigration News Links
  • The New York Times reports on the effects a Form I-9 audit can have on an employer, focusing on a nursery in California that was audited in 2009 resulting in a nearly %25 reduction in its workforce. "As Immigration Audits Increase, Some Employers Pay a High Price."
  • Alabama's recently enacted immigration law became the subject of a lawsuit filed by organized labor, civil rights and social services groups. "Immigration Law Challenged in Federal Court." 
  • The economist reports on how improved economic and living conditions in Mexico have led to a reduction in the flow of immigrants to the United States and contends that the best way to reduce unauthorized immigration from Mexico would be to further integrate its economy with our own. "Now Let Us Praise Labor-market Integration."
  • An editorial in the New York Times questions Representative Lamar Smith's (R-TX) criticism of a recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) memo that provides guidance to ICE officers on when they should exercise their discretion and not prosecute a deportation case. The editorial discusses how in 1999, Rep. Smith was one of several members of Congress who wrote the attorney general and the head of the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service to request officers exercise their discretion and not seek deportation for otherwise law-abiding immigrants who had jobs, family and close citizen relatives. "The Forgetful Mr. Smith."

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