|Other Immigration News This Week|
United States: DHS Inspector General Report Issues Report on USCIS Adjudication Policies and Fraud Detection - The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security has issued a report recommending that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services increase its efforts to detect and prevent fraud in immigration benefits applications and, controversially, asserting that some immigration officers allegedly feel pressured by senior officials and outside parties to approve applications and petitions. The report – prepared at the request of Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), a longtime critic of immigration programs – has garnered significant media attention.
Critics of the report charge that it presents a distorted picture of immigration adjudications today, based on very little or flawed data. Only a very small percentage of the agency’s total adjudications staff participated in the study and of that group, only a fraction expressed concerns about pressure to approve filings. The report itself admits that USCIS does not face systemic problems in its ability to detect fraud. Elsewhere, the agency has disclosed that, of the thousands of cases reviewed by the agency’s Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate in a given year, only a small fraction – less than 200 in fiscal 2010 – are referred for formal fraud investigations.
Despite the report’s flaws, it has already prompted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) to call for hearings to investigate the allegations in the report.
United States: USCIS Announces Provisional Waiver of Unlawful Presence for Immediate Relative of U.S. Citizens – USCIS plans to change the way that certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are considered for waivers of unlawful presence in the United States, it was announced this week.
Under existing rules, immediate relatives who entered the United States without being inspected by an immigration officer are ineligible to adjust status to permanent residence, but can apply for an immigrant visa abroad. However, if they have been unlawfully present for more than 180 days, leaving the United States to apply for the visa triggers a 3- or 10-year bar against reentry. Though current law allows them to apply for a waiver, they can only do so from abroad and may have to wait for long periods before the waiver application is decided.
To alleviate this problem, USCIS intends to allow certain affected foreign nationals to apply for a provisional waiver before they leave the United States. The provisional waiver will be available to immediate relatives whose U.S. citizen spouse or parent would suffer extreme hardship if the bar to reentry is not waived – i.e., spouses and children under 21. The waiver will not be available to family members of lawful permanent residents or those whose qualifying relative for the waiver is not a U.S. citizen spouse or parent.
United States: DOL Updates PERM Processing Times - The Department of Labor (DOL) has updated its estimated processing times for PERM applications for labor certification. As of January 4, 2012, DOL is processing to completion non-audited PERM cases that were filed in October 2011. The Department is still processing audited cases that were filed in April 2011 and is processing appeals that were filed in April 2010. Government error appeal cases are current. Updated processing times are available on DOL's iCERT homepage.
United States: USCIS to Extend TPS for El Salvador - USCIS is extending the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador for an additional 18 months, through September 9, 2013 from the current expiration date of March 9, 2012, according to a notice published in the January 11, 2012 edition of the Federal Register.
El Salvador nationals who are current TPS registrants must re-register during a 60-day period that began on January 9. Individuals who timely file for re-registration and apply for a USCIS employment authorization document (EAD) will be issued a new EAD with an expiration date of September 9, 2013. Because some applicants for re-registration may not receive a new EAD until after their current EAD expires on March 9, their existing EADs will be automatically extended for six months, through September 9, 2012, provided that these applicants have not had their TPS withdrawn or denied.
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 January 7, 2012, USCIS had received filings on behalf of 20,207 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.
Israel: Authorities Implement Moderate Increase in Filing Fees - Effective January 1, 2012, the government fee for Israeli work permit applications is NIS 1,170 (approximately US$ 303), up from NIS 1,140. The annual government fee employers must pay for each foreign employee is now NIS 9,290 (approximately US$ 2,411), up from up from NIS 9,060. Fragomen worked closely with Kan-Tor & Acco Law Firm (Israel) to prepare this update.
Global Immigration News Links
- In a move intended to re-ignite interest in the debate over U.S. immigration policy, the White House has appointed senior aide Celia Munoz to head a major office responsible in part for promulgating immigration reform policy. “Obama Taps Celia Munoz to Head Domestic Policy Council.”
- In contrast to many state efforts to aggressively combat the presence of illegal immigrants, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, has voiced the need to attract high-skilled, advanced-degree bearing foreign nationals and allow U.S.-trained foreign graduates to work in the United States, in order to boost the state and national economy. “Republican Snyder Woos Immigrants to Refill Depopulated Michigan.”
- With the rate of illegal immigration dwindling, U.S. immigration policy must shift its efforts away from border control towards better assimilating immigrants into American society, a New York Times op-ed argues, in part by investing more government funds into improving immigrant education programs. "The Next Immigration Challenge."