November 11, 2011

H-1B Usage Continues at a Rapid Pace

USCIS announced earlier this week that as of November 2, it had received 50,800 H-1B cases counting against the standard quota of 65,000 for Fiscal Year 2012. Usage has increased at an accelerated pace the past few weeks, with over 8,000 new filings reported since mid-October. The 20,000 limit on cap exempt cases for U.S. advanced degree graduates was reached at the end of October. Filings are expected to continue at a quick pace given the award of degrees in December and a modest improvement in the U.S. economic outlook.

The Department of State figured prominently in this week's U.S. immigration news, most notably with its publication of the December Visa Bulletin announcing that EB-2 priority dates will move ahead by four and a half months. On an unrelated note, the State Department announced that it is reviewing the Summer Work Travel program and is not approving any new designated SWT J-1 visa sponsor applications for the time being, and freezing future enrollment numbers at 2011 levels.

In global news, immigration reforms that took effect in June of this year are complicating the entry of foreign workers and making the transfer of foreign talent unpredictable. The South African Department of Home Affairs suspended work permit processing to focus on reducing backlogs in student and visitor visa applications. In the United Arab Emirates, all residents, including foreign and Emirati nationals, must obtain the new national identification card within the next six months or be subject to penalties.

These and other news items from the United States, Canada and Azerbaijan 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

November 10, 2011

United States
December 2011 Visa Bulletin: Significant Advancement in India/China EB-2 Priority Dates, While EB-3 Shows Continued Modest Advancement

EB-2 priority dates for India and China will advance four and one-half months, to March 15, 2008. EB-3 priority dates for professionals and skilled workers will advance 10 days for India, to August 1, 2002, and 17 days for China, to September 8, 2004, with an advancement of 24 days for all other countries, to January 15, 2006.

To view entire article, click here.
November 8, 2011

United States
State Department Places Additional Limits on Summer Work Travel Program

As the State Department conducts an ongoing review of the J-1 visa Summer Work Travel program, no designated sponsor applications will be accepted until further notice and participating employers must limit future enrollment to 2011 levels.

To view entire article, click here.
November 10, 2011

Government to Reduce Backlog of Pending Parent and Grandparent Cases

In 2012, Canada will sharply increase the number of sponsored parents and grandparents it admits, and as of November 5, it stopped accepting new permanent residence applications for these relatives for a two-year period. It will introduce a new ten-year, multi-entry visitor visa for parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

To view entire article, click here.
November 8, 2011

New Regulations Cause Processing Difficulties for Employers

Spanish authorities continue to provide new official interpretations of the immigration reforms that took effect in June of this year, which is complicating the entry of foreign workers and making the transfer of foreign talent unpredictable.

To view entire article, click here.
November 4, 2011

South Africa
Government to Temporarily Suspend Work Permit Processing

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) will temporarily suspend work permit processing through at least the end of next week to focus on reducing backlogs in student and visitor visa applications. This, coupled with a relocation of DHA's head office, is likely to prolong work permit processing delays.

To view entire article, click here.
November 3, 2011

United Arab Emirates
Emirates ID Card Update: Compliance Deadlines Announced, Consolidation with Residence Permit Application Continues

All UAE residents, including foreign and Emirati nationals, must obtain the new national identification card within the next six months or be subject to penalties. The ID card application is now consolidated with the resident permit process in some jurisdictions, which has increased processing times for residence permits.

To view entire article, click here.

Other Immigration News This Week

United States: FY 2012 H-2B Cap Numbers Updated - H-2B numbers for temporary non-agricultural workers continue to be available for employment in the first half of FY 2012. As of November 2, USCIS had received filings on behalf of 8,188 beneficiaries. Though the cap for each half-year is 33,000, USCIS accepts filings in excess of the cap (up to the beneficiary target) because some cases will be denied or withdrawn and because employers may ultimately employ fewer H-2B beneficiaries than reflected in their petitions.

United States: DOS Releases Visa Demand Data Used to Set Employment Preference Cut-off Dates - The U.S. Department of State has released some of the statistical data that it used to determine the employment preference cut-off dates set forth in the December 2011 Visa Bulletin.

United States: Congress Passes Bill Implementing Pre-clearance Program for APEC Business Travel - Congress has passed a bill authorizing DHS to issue Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Cards, which would allow qualifying foreign nationals from APEC member countries traveling on business to benefit from pre-clearance for short-term entry at participating major airports. Generally under the APEC program, card holders may enter and exit via designated APEC lanes. The President has yet to sign the bill, and specific details regarding the program's implementation remain unclear. APEC member countries include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

United States: Government Seeks Public Input on revising EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program - USCIS is seeking stakeholder input in drafting a memorandum to address certain foundational issues of the EB-5 Program. The draft memorandum addresses, among other issues, the evidentiary standard that is applied to EB-5 applicants; the elementary requirements to warrant the Immigrant Investor classification; the type of evidence required to successfully show investment in a qualifying commercial enterprise; and procedural issues.

United States: DOS Fact Sheet on Worldwide Growth in Visa Demand - A DOS fact sheet addressing global demand for U.S. visa classifications indicates that tremendous growth has occurred in the demand for visas, with many applicants originating from some of the world's fastest-growing economies. According to the State Department fact sheet, during the past five years, visa issuances have increased 234 percent in Brazil, 124 percent in China, 51 percent in India, and 24 percent in Mexico; and that in fiscal year 2011, consular officers processed more than one million visas in China, an increase of more than 35 percent over last year.

Azerbaijan: New Medical Certification Requirements May Cause Work Permit Processing Delays - In addition to obtaining an ordinary medical certificate issued by an Azerbaijan hospitals and clinics, foreign nationals applying for a Work Permit in Azerbaijan must now obtain five additional medical certificates. Under previous policy, only a single general medical certificate issued by a local clinic was required as part of the Work Permit application, which could be obtained in as little as two days' time. The new certificate requirements may cause Work Permit processing delays, as some of the certifying institutions may be unfamiliar with the certification and issuance process, as well as the process of obtaining all five certificates can be quite lengthy due their processing time and the limited list of medical institutions authorized to issue such certificates. The five certificates now required are: (1) a "Hemorrhagic virus diseases" certificate from the Anti-Plague Station; (2) a Yellow Fever certificate from the Anti-Plague Station; (3) an HIV infection certificate from the AIDS Prevention Center; (4) a Heaptitis B and C virus certificate from the Republic Clinic Hospital named after M. Mirgasimov; and (5) a "psychoneurological reference" certificate from one of the local polyclinics of the Ministry of Health.

Global Immigration News Links
  • An Arlington, VA-based policy research group reports a precipitous drop in the number of L-1 visas issued at U.S. consular posts in India, with L-1 visa approvals decreasing as well. "L-1 Visa Approvals Decline Significantly at U.S. Posts in India in 2011."
  • Several Alabama business groups are conducting seminars to train employers having concerns over bringing their hiring policies into compliance with a new state law mandating the use of E-Verify. "Alabama Bosses Going to School to Learn Immigration Law." 
  • Sixteen Latin American and Caribbean countries have requested to join the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit challenging a South Carolina immigration law requiring state law enforcement to notify federal authorities of any suspicion that an individual lacks lawful immigration status, pursuant to a traffic stop. "South Carolina: 16 Countries Seek to Join Suit."
  • Many foreign students at France's top universities are returning to their home countries after graduation, since the country tightened work permit requirements for foreign graduates earlier this year. Analysts predict the trend may eventually benefit countries in North Africa, the place of origin for many foreign nationals studying in France, but will aggravate unemployment in the short term. "France Is Sending North African Graduates Home."

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