Welcome to the June 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.
BREAKING NEWS :
According to the U.S. State Department’s July Visa Bulletin, relief is on the horizon from the severe backlogs in employment-based (EB) immigrant visa categories. Beginning July 1, 2007, visa numbers will be available for applicants from any country in all EB categories except for unskilled workers, making them eligible to file their Adjustment of Status applications (i.e., the last step in the Green Card process). As it is difficult to predict how long these visa numbers will remain “current,” it is important to file Adjustment of Status applications as soon as possible (and prior to the upcoming USCIS fee increase) to take advantage of the visa number availability.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Update:
Immigration filing fees are set to increase beginning July 30, 2007. The average application fee will increase by approximately 66%, so file your applications before July 30, 2007, if possible. Be sure to double-check fee amounts before filing applications with the USCIS to avoid unnecessary delays in processing or application rejection.
The USCIS has advised that it has completed mailing all receipt notices for H-1B cap cases chosen in the recent lottery. While new H-1B visa numbers are no longer available, 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. Consult your immigration counsel to discuss alternative planning for your foreign workers and student interns.
The USCIS California Service Center reports that it is aware that approval notices were not properly mailed to applicants for a number of recently approved cases and that it is working to correct the error by re-printing and mailing notices for the affected cases.
While employers can continue to file R-1 Petitions on behalf of religious workers, the USCIS has extended until Dec. 18, 2007 its temporary suspension of Premium Processing Service (i.e., expedited 15 day application processing upon payment of a $1000 government filing fee) for these applications, as the USCIS re-evaluates R-1 Petitions eligibility for Premium Processing.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has been extended until Jan. 5, 2009 for nationals of Honduras and Nicaragua. Qualified individuals must re-register with the USCIS prior to July 30, 2007.
Department of State (DOS) Update:
The DOS has announced that U.S. citizens who have applied for, but not yet obtained, passports will be able to continue to travel by air between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda with DOS-issued proof of passport application receipt and government-issued photo identification, through Sept. 30, 2007. Due to the recent increase in U.S. passport applications prompted by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requirements, the DOS is experiencing a backlog in processing these applications.
Department of Labor (DOL) Update:
New DOL regulations impacting the PERM labor certification application process will go into effect on July 16, 2007. Among the biggest changes to the current system: substitution of foreign national beneficiaries on approved labor certification applications will no longer be allowed; and employers will have to file the I-140 Immigrant Petition with the USCIS within 180 calendar days of labor certification application approval or forfeit use of the approved application. Contact your immigration counsel to discuss permanent immigration options for your foreign workers.