I am delighted to introduce my readers to Kehrela Hodkinson, the acclaimed Principal of Hodkinson Law Group, who has kindly prepared this guest blog post for Employment Law Update.
Hodkinson Law Group : September 2012
In This Issue
- Global Entry Program Expands to Ireland’s Shannon and Dublin Airports
- EB-5 Immigrant Investor Update
- H-1B Visas Cap Met
- USCIS Releases Guidance on Accommodating Religious Beliefs When Capturing Photographs and Fingerprints
- State Dept. Announces Numerical Limits for Immigrants in FY 2012
- CBP Warns I-94 Processing May Be Delayed
- Groups of Travelers Can Now Submit Multiple ESTA Applications
- New Publications and Items of Interest
- Government Links
- Hodkinson Law Group News
Welcome to ‘US Immigration Update.’ We hope you will find our articles useful and informative.
Global Entry Program Expands to Ireland’s Shannon and Dublin Airports
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that Global Entry kiosks are now available in CBP preclearance facilities at Ireland’s Shannon and Dublin airports. The Global Entry program allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Current Global Entry members can begin using these new kiosks immediately.
The Global Entry program is now available at 38 U.S. and preclearance airports. Over the last four years, CBP has enrolled more than 378,000 members in Global Entry, with more than 1.1 million travelers receiving Global Entry benefits. Travelers have used the kiosks more than 2.7 million times.
Travelers who use Global Entry kiosks on average experience reduced wait times of 70 percent over travelers going through traditional passport inspection, and more than 75 percent of travelers using Global Entry are processed in under five minutes, according to CBP.
The program is available to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and pre-approved Mexican nationals. In addition, citizens of the Netherlands may apply under a special reciprocal arrangement that links Global Entry with the Dutch Privium program. In a recently implemented arrangement, the Republic of Korea’s Smart Entry Service program has been linked to Global Entry, allowing Korean citizens to participate in Global Entry. Canadian citizens and residents may participate in Global Entry through membership in the NEXUS program.
Applications for Global Entry must be submitted online using the CBP Global Online Enrollment System (GOES). A non-refundable fee of $100 is also collected via the website for a five-year membership in Global Entry. CBP will review the applicant’s information and conduct a background investigation. The applicant must complete an in-person interview at a CBP enrollment center, at which time fingerprints are collected.
GOES is available at The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Web site.
EB-5 Immigrant Investor Update
USCIS reports that it has approved over 3,000 I-526 (Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur) petitions so far this year, and that the number of I-829 (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions) filings has decreased. USCIS expects to see more filed in the fourth quarter.
According to the latest EB-5 program statistics based on preliminary data for the third quarter of FY 2012, USCIS received 4,156 I-526 (Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur) petitions and had approved 3,002 and denied 775 so far. This was a 79 percent approval rating, compared to an 81 percent approval rating for all of FY 2011 and an 89 percent approval rating for all of FY 2010. As of the third quarter of FY 2012, USCIS had received 546 I-829 (Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions) petitions and had approved 639 and denied 42 so far. This was a 94 percent approval rating, nearly matching a 96 percent approval rating for all of FY 2011 and exceeding an 83 percent approval rating for FY 2010.
USCIS approved 209 regional centers as of the third quarter. The full list of RCs by state is available here.
H-1B Visas Cap Met
With the H-1B cap having been reached in June, and no H-1B visas available until Oct. 2013, we have been busy advising clients about alternative strategies for employing professional foreign workers. If you would like to discuss your current/future needs, please contact us.
USCIS Releases Guidance on Accommodating Religious Beliefs When Capturing Photographs and Fingerprints
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently released policy guidance on accommodating religious beliefs during fingerprint and photograph capture. Among other things, the guidance notes that USCIS will accommodate an individual who wears headwear as part of his or her religious practices. Religious headwear may be worn if a reasonable likeness can be obtained from an individual, the full face is visible, and the religious headwear does not cast a shadow on the face. If removal of headwear or adjustments are needed, such as a same-gender photographer or fingerprint-taker, USCIS will offer a private or screened area, if available. If such an area is not available, USCIS will offer to reschedule the appointment.
The notice is available at http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Laws/Memoranda/2012/August%202012/Accommodating%20Religious%20Beliefs%20PM.pdf.
State Dept. Announces Numerical Limits for Immigrants in FY 2012
The Department of State determines worldwide numerical limitations on visa issuances, based in part on data provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). On August 8, 2012, USCIS provided the required data to the Department’s Visa Office. The Department has determined that the worldwide employment-based preference limit for fiscal year 2012 is 144,951, and the family-sponsored preference limit is 226,000. The per-country limit is fixed at 7 percent of the family and employment annual limits; for FY 2012, the per-country limit is 25,967. The dependent area annual limit is 2 percent, or 7,419.
The Visa Bulletin for September 2012, which includes the cut-off dates for employment-based and family-based visa numbers, is available at http://www.travel.state.gov/visa/bulletin/bulletin_5759.html.
CBP Warns I-94 Processing May Be Delayed
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is automating traveler arrival records to streamline passenger processing. The current processing time for entering foreign visitors’ travel information into the I-94 database is 30 days or more. This does not affect the majority of foreign travelers visiting for business or leisure and will not affect any visitor’s record of departure, CBP said.
Visitors may need to prove their legal-visitor status within the first 30-45 days of their U.S. stay to:
- motor vehicle registration or drivers’ licensing agencies;
- the Social Security Administration;
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; or
- universities and schools.
If visitors need to provide evidence of legal status during this time frame, they should include:
- an unexpired foreign passport;
- the country of citizenship; and
- CBP Arrival/Departure Record, Form I-94 (if issued)
The announcement is available at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/i-94_instructions/i94_data_entry.xml.
Groups of Travelers Can Now Submit Multiple ESTA Applications
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on August 9, 2012, that multiple applications may be submitted and paid for in one transaction via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The new online application is available beginning on Wednesday, August 15.
Applicants must enter biographic data and an e-mail address to create a Group ID that will allow a family or group the ability to input up to 50 ESTA applications and complete the transaction in a single credit card payment. All payments for ESTA applications must be made by credit card or debit card when applying or renewing. Applications will not be submitted for processing until all payment information is received.
ESTA is an electronic travel authorization that all nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries must obtain before boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. This travel authorization has been mandatory since January 12, 2009. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time before travel, although CBP recommends applying at least 72 hours before departure. Once approved, authorizations are generally valid for multiple entries into the U.S. for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires or other specific circumstances give rise to a need to reapply, whichever comes first.
The Department of Homeland Security administers the VWP. The program enables eligible nationals of 36 VWP designated countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Additional information regarding the VWP is available at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/business_pleasure/vwp/.
Frequently asked questions about the VWP and ESTA are available at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/business_pleasure/vwp/faq_vwp.xml.
New Publications and Items of Interest
Foreign labor certification statistics. The Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) has posted updated program fact sheets presenting selected Fiscal Year 2012 statistics for the permanent labor certification, prevailing wage determination, H-1B temporary visa, H-2A temporary agricultural visa, and H-2B temporary nonagricultural visa programs. Also, the OFLC has created a web page from which users can access performance data, including Annual Reports, Selected Statistics by Program, and Disclosure Data. The fact sheets and web page link are available at http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov. USCIS multilingual resources.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched an online Multilingual Resource Center, which provides a central location for USCIS resources in a variety of languages, including Haitian Creole, Polish, and Vietnamese. Materials are available in 22 languages, including information on USCIS application processes and frequently asked questions. The site includes a new Spanish translation of The Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9. Another feature of the new site is the introduction of 13 newly translated How Do I… guides in Chinese. The announcement is available here. The Multilingual Resource Center is available at www.uscis.gov/multilingual.
Green Card Stories. The immigration debate is boiling over. Americans are losing the ability to understand and talk to one another about immigration. We must find a way to connect on a human level. Green Card Stories does just that. The book depicts 50 recent immigrants with permanent residence or citizenship in dramatic narratives, accompanied by artistic photos. If the book’s profilees share a common trait, it’s a mixture of talent and steely determination. Each of them overcame great challenges to come and stay in America. Green Card Stories reminds Americans of who we are: a nation of immigrants, from all walks of life and all corners of the earth, who have fueled America’s success. It tells the true story of our nation: E pluribus unum–out of many, one. For more information or to order, visit www.greencardstories.com.
Government Agency Links
Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS Service Centers and the Department of Labor, or the Department of State’s latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates for visa numbers:
- USCIS Service Center processing times online
- Department of Labor processing times and information on backlogs
- Department of State Visa Bulletin
- Visa application wait times for any post
Hodkinson Law Group News
|Kehrela Hodkinson has once again been acclaimed in ‘Who’s Who Legal, Corporate Immigration 2012.’ Her “boutique firm” is described as “the cream of the crop.” She is listed among the top 10 most highly regarded corporate immigration lawyers worldwide.
Kehrela continues to be active on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Department of State Liaison Committee, as well as being actively involved in the AILA Rome District Chapter and the newly formed Mexico City Chapter.
She will be participating as Discussion Leader on an AILA audio seminar on 11th September 2012 entitled CBP/Consular Processing Issues.
For American immigration advice drop Kehrela a line on the contact details below, and let her know that you heard about her practice on Phil Henson’s Employment Law Update blog.
Hodkinson Law Group 3rd Floor 87-89 Baker Street London W1U 6RJ United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7299 2490 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7299 2499 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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