Welcome to the May 2007 issue of Gardere’s Monthly Immigration Alert. This is a complimentary service to clients and friends of the Firm to keep you informed of pertinent developments in immigration law that may affect you and/or your employees. Please feel free to contact Irina B. Plumlee at (214) 999-4862 or Julie S. Wade at (214) 999-4916 with your comments and questions.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Update:

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has completed its lottery of H-1B visa numbers for Fiscal Year 2008 (i.e., the fiscal year starting on October 1, 2007) and is now returning H-1B petitions that were not selected for processing, and forwarding receipt notices for the selected petitions. The USCIS recently has acknowledged its backlog with regard to receipt notices provision for the H-1B petitions accepted for processing. Majority of the USCIS Service Centers expect to provide receipts for the H-1B petitions accepted by them by early June. However, the USCIS California Service Center may come into receipting compliance only by June 15.

As of May 1, 2007, H-1B visa numbers are no longer available for foreign nationals with graduate degrees from U.S. institutions either. However, H-1B petitions not subject to the cap, such as H-1B Extensions and Changes of Employer, as well as E, L, and O petitions, continue to be accepted by the USCIS. Depending on your company’s needs and personal and professional circumstances of a given foreign worker, there may be H-1B visa alternatives and you should discuss them with your immigration counsel as soon as possible.

The USCIS plans to issue a proposed rule to revise the current religious worker nonimmigrant and immigrant visa regulations. The proposed rule is expected to change the current R-1 (religious worker) filing jurisdiction from U.S. Consulates abroad to the USCIS in the U.S.; the initial period of authorized R-1 employment would be reduced from three (3) years to one (1) year, with extensions in two year increments; the USCIS would be authorized to perform on-site inspections of R-1 petitioning organizations; and the immigrant petition two year work experience requirement would be expanded to include work experience in a position other than the job offered by the immigrant petition sponsor. Stay tuned for further updates.

Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) Update:

ICE recently has detained an individual on charges related to schemes to defraud immigrants for immigration filings that they were not eligible for. ICE states that the arrested individual prepared “legalization” applications under a non-existent government program and on bogus application forms. On each count, the accused faces a maximum prison term of 20 years and a substantial fine; restitution to victims may be required as well.

Department of State (DOS) Update:

The DOS’s consular offices abroad are again starting to accept Form I-130 Immigrant Petitions, which, as of January 2007, were moved to the USCIS Service Centers’ jurisdiction. Eligibility to file Form I-130 Petitions at U.S. consulates abroad is limited to U.S. citizens residing abroad; U.S. citizens and permanent residents residing in the U.S. still have to file their Form I-130 Petitions for relatives with the USCIS offices in the U.S.