Newsletter. TPS RE-REGISTRATION FOR NATIONALS OF HONDURAS AND NICARAGUA p.8. Topics: Issue 8, May 2016 USCIS IS SET TO INCREASE FILING FEES

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1 IMMIGRATION SOLUTIONS LLC MAY 2016 Newsletter TPS RE-REGISTRATION FOR NATIONALS OF HONDURAS AND NICARAGUA p.8 Issue 8, May 2016 Topics: P. 2 P. 3 P. 3 P. 6 E-APPROVAL OF H2B SEASON WORKER VISA RELIEF FOR NATURAL DISASTER VICTIMS OF ECUADOR, JAPAN & BURMA RELIEF FOR WORK VISA PENDING FOR MORE THAN 210 DAYS PAROLE PROGRAM FOR ELIGIBLE FILIPINOS USCIS IS SET TO INCREASE FILING FEES Just when employers in the United States were raising concerns about the steep increase in the statutory fees for certain H-1B and L-1 petitions (to say nothing about continued complaints regarding the lengthy delays in adjudicating petitions), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) threw another curve ball. Putting into practice the Full Cost Recovery theory, DHS has proposed to raise USCIS filing fees by a weighted average of 21 percent and to impose a stiff new fee on the Regional Centers with regard to EB-5 processing in an effort to fully recover costs for its services. The proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register and is open for public comments until July 5, USCIS is primarily funded by immigration and naturalization benefit request fees charged to applicants and petitioners. Fees collected from individuals and entities filing immigration benefit requests are deposited into the Immigration Examinations Fee Account (IEFA) and are used to fund the cost of processing immigration benefit requests. CONTINUED on p. 4. ESTA TRAVELERS The Department of Homeland Security clarifies the E-Passport Requirement for travels under the Visa Waiver Program. p. 9

2 1 2 Immigration Solutions LLC May 2016 USCIS & THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE LAUNCH E-APPROVAL FOR H2B SEASONAL WORKERS PETITIONS USCIS and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) announced the launch of USCIS/DOS eapproval for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, for the H-2A (temporary agricultural worker) classification. Beginning Wednesday, May 11, 2016, this new electronic process will allow USCIS to send approval information for H-2A petitions to DOS by the end of the next business day. DOS will accept this electronic information in place of a Form I-797 approval notice and allow its consular posts to proceed with processing an H-2A nonimmigrant visa application, including conducting any required interview. Employers will not be charged any additional fees for the USCIS/DOS e-approval process. The goal of the USCIS/DOS eapproval process is to: Reduce delays for U.S. employers that wish to employ H-2A agricultural workers; Reduce the amount of paperwork between USCIS and DOS; Replace the current paper-based USCIS/DOS notification process with a electronic process. Provide greater efficiency and consistency in transmitting information to DOS consular posts. 2

3 1 2 3 Immigration Solutions LLC May 2016 NEW RELIEF FOR PEOPLE AFFECTED BY NATURAL DISASTERS IN ECUADOR, JAPAN AND BURMA USCIS offers immigration relief measures for people affected by natural disasters, such as the severe earthquakes that recently occurred in Ecuador, Japan and Burma. Citizens of these countries may be eligible for the following measures: * Change or extension of nonimmigrant status if you are currently in the United States, even if the request is filed after your authorized period of admission has expired; * Re-parole, if you were previously granted parole by USCIS; * Expedited processing of requests for advance parole documents; * Expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship; * Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate; * Consideration of fee waivers due to an inability to pay; * Assistance if you received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny but were unable to appear for an interview, submit evidence or respond in a timely manner because of the natural disaster; * Replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card). IF YOUR WORK VISA HAS BEEN PENDING MORE THAN 210 DAYS On April 21, 2016, USCIS began allowing petitioners who filed Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting an extension of status or change of employer to submit an inquiry after their petition has been pending for 210 days or more. This inquiry may be based on the petition being outside of normal processing times. 3

4 1 2 3 Immigration Solutions LLC May 2016 USCIS TO INCREASE FILING FEES Continued from p. 1 Biometrics fees will remain the same at $85 per individual. The average fee increase is 30%, with the lowest being 7% and the highest 225% USCIS calculates its fees to recover the full cost of USCIS operations, which do not include the limited appropriated funds provided by Congress. USCIS anticipates that if it continues to operate at current fee levels, it will experience an average annual shortfall of $560 million. This projected shortfall poses a risk of degrading USCIS operations. The proposed rule would eliminate this risk by ensuring full cost recovery. As such, DHS is proposing to adjust fees by a weighted average increase of 21 percent (%). Some the major highlights of the proposed rule include, but are not limited to: EB-5 (IMMIGRANT INVESTOR) VISAS: NEW FEE FOR THE ANNUAL CERTIFICATION OF REGIONAL CENTER, FORM I-924A. In order to recover the full cost of processing, DHS is proposing to establish a new fee of $3, for the Annual Certification of Regional Center, Form I-924A, pertaining to the EB-5 Regional Center investor visa program benefit. As many are aware, Form I-924A is used by Regional Centers to demonstrate continued eligibility for their designation. Although approved regional centers are required to file the Form I924A annually, there is currently no filing fee and the processing cost is borne by other individuals paying fees for immigration benefits. Until now USCIS was using its adjudicative resources to handle Form I-924A without charging any fee for approximately 800 currently approved Regional Centers. This annual subsidy provided to the EB-5 Regional Center is soon going to end. Note that the rule also proposes to change the title of Form I- 924A from Supplement to Form I-924 to Annual Certification of Regional Centers. Further, the proposed fee for processing the Form I526, Immigrant Petition by Alien Entrepreneur, will increase by 145 % to $3,675 (from the current fee of $1,500.00). The good news is that the fee for processing Form I-829, Petition by Entrepreneur to Remove Conditions, is going to remain the same at level of $3, THREE-LEVEL FEE STRUCTURE FOR THE APPLICATION FOR NATURALIZATION, N-400. DHS is proposing to establish a 4

5 Immigration Solutions LLC May 2016 Continued three-level fee for the Application for Naturalization, Form N-400. First, DHS would increase the standard fee for Form N-400 from $595 to $640. Second, DHS would continue to charge no fee to an applicant who meets the requirements of sections 328 or 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) with respect to military service and applicants with approved fee waivers. Third, DHS would charge a reduced fee of $320 for naturalization applicants with family income greater than 150 percent and not more than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. DHS is proposing this change to increase access to United States citizenship. USCIS WILL NOT BEGIN PROCESSING THE REQUESTED IMMIGRATION BENEFIT UNTIL THE FILING FEE AND/OR BIOMETRICS FEE PAYMENT GETS CLEARED. Current regulations provide that when a check or other financial instrument used to pay a filing fee is subsequently returned as not payable, the remitter is notified and requested to pay the filing fee and associated service charge within 14 calendar days, without extension. Further, if a benefit request is received by DHS without the correct biometric service fee, DHS notifies the applicant of the deficiency and takes no further action until payment is received. In accordance with these provisions, when a payment is returned as non-payable, USCIS places the immigration benefit request on hold and suspends adjudication. If a check is dishonored or payment otherwise fails, USCIS assesses a $30.00 charge and pursues the unpaid fee and penalty using administrative debt collection procedures. If the biometrics services fee was required and is missing, USCIS generally provides the filer 30 days to correct the payment. If payment is made within the allotted time, USCIS resumes processing the benefit request. If the filer does not correct the payment, USCIS rejects the filing. If the biometric fee is not paid, USCIS considers the benefit request as abandoned. DHS is proposing to eliminate the above-mentioned rules requiring that cases be held while deficient payments are corrected. USCIS clears payment checks through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) by converting checks to electronic payments. Because USCIS converts checks into ACH payments, there is currently no or very little delay before USCIS knows whether the check is valueless. DHS is proposing that USCIS will not begin processing the benefit request until the payment has cleared. DHS anticipates that the proposed change would reduce the USCIS administrative costs for holding and tracking immigration benefit requests with rejected payments. This change would streamline USCIS process for handling immigration benefit requests when payments are returned as not payable or do not include the required biometric services fee. REFUNDS DHS is proposing a minor change in the provision regarding USCIS fee refunds. In general, except for a premium processing fee, USCIS does not refund a fee regardless of the decision on the immigration benefit request. Going forward, USCIS will refund a fee if the agency determines that an administrative error occurred resulting in the incorrect collection of a fee. Examples of USCIS errors include: Unnecessary filings: Cases in which USCIS erroneously requests that an individual file an unnecessary form along with the associated fee; and Accidental payments: Cases in which an individual pays a required fee more than once or otherwise pays a fee in excess of the amount due and USCIS (or the DOS in the case of an immigration benefit request filed overseas) erroneously accepts the erroneous fee. 5

6 Immigration Solutions LLC May 2016 USCIS TO IMPLEMENT FILIPINO WORLD WAR II VETERANS PROGRAM On June 8, 2016 USCIS will allow certain Filipino World War II veteran family members, who are beneficiaries of approved family-based immigrant visa petitions, an opportunity to receive a discretionary grant of parole on a case-by-case basis, in order to come to the United States. This will allow them to wait for their immigrant visa to become available while in the US. This parole policy was initially announced in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century, issued in July An estimated 2,000 to 6,000 Filipino- American World War II veterans are living in the United States today. Among other things, this policy will enable many eligible individuals to provide support and care to their aging veteran family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. The Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program honors the thousands of Filipinos who bravely enlisted to fight for the United States during World War II, USCIS Director León Rodríguez said. This policy will allow certain Filipino-American family members awaiting immigrantvisa issuance to come to the United States and be with their loved ones. For many, it will also allow them to provide support and care for elderly veterans or their surviving spouses. With the exception of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the number of family-sponsored immigrant visas available by country of origin in any given year is limited by statute. These limits result in long waiting periods before family members may join petitioning U.S. citizens or permanent residents in the United States and become permanent residents themselves. For some Filipino-American families, this wait can exceed 20 years. Under the policy, certain family members of Filipino World War II veterans may be eligible to receive a discretionary grant of parole to come to the United States before their visa becomes available. In limited cases, certain eligible relatives will be able to seek parole on their own behalf when their Filipino World War II veteran and his or her spouse are both deceased. Under the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program, USCIS will review each case individually to determine whether authorizing parole is appropriate. When each individual arrives at a U.S. port of entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will also review each case to determine whether to parole the appropriate individual. USCIS strongly encourages eligible individuals interested in requesting parole under the FWVP Program do so within 5 years. 6

7 Immigration Solutions LLC May 2016 JUNE 2016 VISA BULLETIN ANNOUNCES SIGNIFICANT RETROGRESSION FOR INDIA AND CHINA The Department of State s June 2016 Visa Bulletin has announced major retrogression in the Final Action cut-off dates for India and China. Specifically, in June 2016, the India EB-2 Final Action cut-off date will retrogress to October 1, 2004 for the final issuance of immigrant visas. The India EB-2 Final Action cut-off date stood at November 22, 2008 in the May 2016 visa bulletin. Thus, India EB-2 Final Action cut-off date will retrogress by more than four (4) years in June India EB-3 will continue to move at the snail s pace. The Final Action cut-off date for EB-3 India will move from September 1, 2004 to September 22, Similar to India, EB-2 Final Action cutoff for China will retrogress by 20 months to January 1, 2010 in June Like EB-2, in June 2016, the EB-3 China Final Action cut-off will also retrogress from current August 15, 2013, to January 1, The DOS has cited extremely high levels of Employment-based demand for adjustment of status cases filed with USCIS during past two (2) months as the reason for the retrogression of the EB- 2 preference Final Action cut-off dates for India and China. The June 2016 Visa Bulletin does not project a bullish forward movement in the immediate future for both India and China EB-2 and EB-3 preference categories. EB-2 India Final Action cut-off date is expected to advance slowly, at a pace consistent with that of the India EB-3 preference cut-off date, during the last three (3) months of the fiscal year. The projection is much worse for Chinese nationals as the retrogressed Final Action cut-off is not likely to advance either in the EB-2 or EB-3 category. Like the EB-2 preference category, the Final Action cut-off date for the FB-4 category for both India and China will also retrogress in June India FB-4 Final Action cut-off will backward from present July 22, 2003, to January 1, Likewise, China FB-4 will retrogress from July 22, 2003, to January 1, While DOS is not in a position to project whether or not the China FB-4 will advance until the end of current fiscal year, it is almost certain that India FB-4 will not advance during the last quarter. 7

8 Immigration Solutions LLC May 2016 ARE YOU A NATIONAL OF HONDURAS OR NICARAGUA? On May 16, 2016, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson extended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for eligible nationals of Honduras and Nicaragua (and those without nationality who last habitually resided in Honduras or Nicaragua) for an additional 18 months, effective July 6, 2016, through January 5, Current TPS Honduras beneficiaries who want to extend their TPS must re-register during the 60-day re-registration period that runs from May 16, 2016 through July 15, USCIS encourages beneficiaries to re-register as soon as possible once the 60-day re-registration period begins. Employment Authorization: The 18-month extension allows TPS reregistrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Those who re-register during the 60-day period and request a new EAD will receive one with an expiration date of January 5, USCIS recognizes that some re-registrants may not receive their new EAD until after their current work permits expire. Therefore, USCIS is automatically extending current TPS Honduras EADs with a July 5, 2016 expiration date for six months. Thus, the existing EADs are now valid through January 5,

9 Immigration Solutions LLC May 2016 CLARIFYING THE E-PASSPORT REQUIREMENT FOR VISA WAIVER PROGRAM TRAVELERS As part of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers traveling to the United States with an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) must have an e-passport as of April 1, This requirement was initially announced in August 2015 and the Department of Homeland Security has been making a concerted effort to notify travelers since November Travelers from VWP countries are still eligible to travel to the United States without an e- Passport if they have a valid nonimmigrant visa. Travelers can apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encourages travelers to check their passports and their current ESTA status to make sure they are in compliance with the requirement. As a reminder, if a traveler has acquired a new passport, they must submit a new ESTA application. An e-passport is an enhanced secure passport with an embedded electronic chip. E-Passports are issued by the proper passport issuing authority and must meet international standards for securing and storing information corresponding to the passport and the passport bearer. ESTA is an automated system that assists in determining a traveler s eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk. Upon completion of an ESTA application, a traveler is notified of his or her eligibility to travel to the United States under VWP. If an ESTA application is denied, the traveler will be required to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The State Department website has more information about visa application procedures. 9

10 IMMIGRATION SOLUTIONS LLC May 2016 For more information, or if you believe that you, a friend or colleague may be able to benefit from these recent announcements, please contact: IMMIGRATION SOLUTIONS LLC at or by at

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