June 3. 2011

Republican High Tech Agenda Includes Support for Skilled Immigration

The House Republican Technology Working Group on Thursday unveiled its priorities for the 112th Congress, which included a section on the importance of ensuring that U.S. companies have access to the talent they need to compete in the global economy. Led by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Working Group Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the group suggested that it would be examining current immigration laws and working to facilitate the ability of U.S. businesses “to attract and retain the best and brightest minds from around the world.”

While the declaration of priorities did not go into specifics, we expect that skilled worker legislation will be introduced in the coming weeks, including a proposal from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) to make more H-1B visas available to the high technology industry. Legislation is expected to include new streamlined processes for some prospective workers, but could also include restrictions similar to those proposed in past Congresses.

Fragomen and the American Council on International Personnel are closely monitoring the Republican proposals and will issue further updates as they progress.

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Important Updates in Immigration This Week

May 27, 2011

New Biometric Residence Permit Causes Processing Delays; Changes to Social Security Program for Foreign Nationals

Foreign nationals applying for residence permits are experiencing slight processing delays due to the introduction of a new biometric permit. In other news, the validity of foreign employees’ social security booklets has been extended, and employers are no longer required to stamp the booklets to document social security contributions.

To view entire article, click here.

Immigration News This Week

United States: USCIS Updates H-1B and H-2B Statistics - U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continues to accept H-1B petitions against the cap for Fiscal Year 2012 at a rate consistent with previous weeks. As of May 26, 2011, USCIS had received 13,100 filings against the standard H-1B cap of 65,000 and 9,000 filings against the cap exemption of 20,000 for holders of U.S. advanced degrees. This is an increase of 800 standard cases and 500 advanced-degree cases since last week. 

H-2B numbers for temporary non-agricultural workers continue to be available for employment in the second half of FY 2011. As of June 1, USCIS had received filings on behalf of 28,201 beneficiaries, against a target of 47,000, for employment in the second half of FY 2011. 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: USCIS Updates Statistics on Pending Employment-Based Adjustments - USCIS has updated its data on the inventory of pending employment-based applications for adjustment of status to permanent residence. As of June 2011, there were a total of 177,906 pending employment-related I-485s cases at agency Service Centers.

United States: USCIS Suspends VIBE for H-2A Petitions - USCIS has suspended the use of the Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE) in the adjudication of H-2A temporary agricultural worker petitions. VIBE is an internal USCIS program that uses Dun & Bradstreet databases to verify the business information of petitioning employers. USCIS noted that a recent increase in VIBE-related Requests for Evidence (RFEs) has caused considerable H-2A processing delays. In addition to the VIBE suspension, USCIS has released new guidance documents to help speed H-2A petition adjudications and plans to hold public engagements in the near future to discuss best filing practices for the H-2A program. The use of VIBE for H-2A petitions will resume on July 18, 2011.

United States: New Exchange Visitor Informational Website - The State Department has unveiled a new website dedicated to the J-1 exchange visitor program for use by J visa applicants and program sponsors, among others.

United States: U.S. Embassy in Kabul Returns to Full Visa Services - The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has resumed full visa services for the first time in twenty years. Applicants for immigrant visas and employment-based nonimmigrant visas will now be able to schedule interviews in Kabul.

Canada: Labor Market Opinion Confirmation Letters No Longer Include Beneficiary Names – Employers should be aware that Canada's labor authorities have stopped printing the names of foreign national beneficiaries on labor market ppinion (LMO) confirmation letters, with the exception of arranged employment opinions and LMOs for live-in caregivers. Because Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) already confirms the issuance of an LMO with labor authorities, the confirmation letters do not need to have the foreign nationals' names printed on them; inclusion of names had raised a number of privacy concerns.

Global Immigration News Links
  • House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) liken E-Verify to an "easy button" for employers seeking to comply with federal immigration laws, and argue that the United States should work to expand usage of the program. "The Supreme Court Gets It Right on E-Verify, Now It's Time for It to Expand Across the USA."
  • The Illinois legislature has approved its own "DREAM Act," a state statute that would create a fund supported by private donations to provide financial assistance to unauthorized immigrant students seeking to attend college in Illinois. The bill has been presented to Governor Pat Quinn for signature. "Lawmakers send Illinois Dream Act bill to Quinn."
  • The New York Times reports on the long-term effects of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a federal screening program that was recently terminated by the Department of Homeland Security. Many individuals who reported for NSEERS registration were subsequently placed in removal proceedings that in some cases have outlasted the NSEERS program itself. "A Post-9/11 Registration Effort Ends, but Not Its Effects."
  • The shift to employers in the Obama administration’s worksite enforcement strategy has resulted in indictments, convictions, exponentially increased fines and jail sentences. In addition, recent federal indictments of employers in Arizona include allegations of the federal tax code violations, which carry severe penalties "A Crackdown on Employing Illegal Workers."
  • The proposed addition of driver's license data to the E-Verify system worries the American Civil Liberties Union, which asserts that the new data would make the system a "honey pot for identity thieves." "E-Verify: Driver's Data May be Used to Check Workers' Status."
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo has suspended New York's participation in Secure Communities, a federal program that seeks to identify criminal foreign nationals through information-sharing between local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security. "Cuomo Ends State's Role in Checking Immigrants."

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