August 2010

What's Missing From Immigration Debate?

What is missing from today's immigration debate? A simple concept that should not be foreign to anyone's human experience; empathy. A perfect example of this deficit is the cold debate surrounding the Dream Act, a bill composed of uncontroversial humanistic policies.

USCIS Implements Fee Increase for Certain H-1B and L-1 Petitions

On Aug. 13, 2010, President Obama signed into law a fee increase for certain H-1B and L-1 petitions. As a result, affected petitioners, will have to submit an additional fee of $2,000 for H-1B petitions and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petition. This fee increase is to remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2014.

These fees apply to employers with “50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A, L-1B and L-2) nonimmigrant status.” USCIS Update, USCIS Implements H-1B and L-1 Fee Increase According to Public Law 111-230, August 19, 2010.

The H-1B petition is for employees in a "specialty occupation," required to have at least a bachelor's degree. The L-1 petition is for those with a parent company abroad seeking to transfer to an affiliate in the United States.

If you are considering petitioning for, or benefitting from, one of these petitions, contact an experienced immigration attorney to discuss the effect of the filing fees and the new application requirements.

In This Issue

Newsletter Issues

More Permanent Residency Visas Become Available!

There is some good news in the oft-dreaded quota system of immigration. Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and spouses and children of Lawful Permanent residents have moved up in the queue for their Immigrant Visas.

Some Background: While a beneficiary of a visa petition is not subject to a quota if he or she is a spouse or unmarried child (under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen petitioner, other categories of relatives are subject to a quota. So for example, if a U.S. citizen petitions for a son or daughter who is already over 21 years of age or married, then the visa would fall under the first preference quota system. (A quota is a limitation on the number of visas that can be issued each year for that category.) Also, spouses, and unmarried children of lawful permanent residents, falling in the second preference, are also subject to a quota.

For the first preference, there is a current limitation of 23,400 visas that can be issued annually. For the second preference, there is a numerical limitation of 114,200 visas that can be issued each year.

The Good News: In the last couple of months, visa numbers have leaped forward in these categories. For the first preference category (unmarried sons or daughters of U.S. Citizens over the age of 21), the U.S. Department of State is issuing visas for the petitions filed in January of 2006. This is a marked improvement since July of this year, when the petitions filed in April 2005 were being processed. Also, for the second preference category, the Department of State is issuing visas for spouses and children under 21 years of age, for petitions filed in January 2010. By contrast, in July, visas were being issued for petitions filed back in July of 2008.

There has also been some progress in visas available in other categories, such as that of brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, which remains backlogged for several years; and also some progress in visas available for unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents.

Therefore, our readers who are beneficiaries of a visa petition filed on their behalf, and subject to a quota, are encouraged to contact their immigration attorney and confirm whether a Permanent Residency Visa has become available to them.

--Please note that the above is based on the general chargeability areas, and there are some countries of citizenship that remain further backlogged.--

Update on the Visa Waiver Program

Nonimmigrants who wish to come to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must obtain an electronic travel authorization through “ESTA,” the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This authorization is issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and must be obtained prior to departing to the United States. The applicant must pay a fee of $14.00.

By way of background, the Visa Waiver Program, permits nationals of the member countries to enter the U.S. to visit for business or pleasure up to 90 days. Following is a list of the countries covered under this program: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

H-1B Update

As of June 11, 2010, USCIS has received an estimated number of 29,700 H-1B petitions toward the general cap of 65,000 and 12,300 toward the 20,000 cap for individuals with advanced degrees. These numbers are for the fiscal year 2011.

Thus, anyone with an offer of employment for a "specialty occupation," requiring a bachelor's degree or higher, may be eligible for this valuable H-1B employment visa. If you are looking for an employment-based visa in order to remain in the U.S., immediately contact an experienced immigration attorney from our Law Firm.

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