USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) announced that its filing fee increase will take effect for petitions post-marked or filed on December 23, 2016. The increase affects fiancé(e) and relative petitions, employment petitions and applications for adjustment of status and naturalization, among others. There is still time to contact us to determine whether you are eligible for immigration relief and can file your petition before the fee hike. Here is a link to the full list of fee increases.
On Wednesday, April 16, 2013, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill, titled “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.” The Senate Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing on the new proposed legislation for April 22, 2013. Tune in at the Committee’s website to listen to the webcast. The bill will go through a markup procedure where any Senator on the Committee can offer amendments. If the bill secures the majority of the votes on the Committee, it will move on to the Senate floor. It is anticipated that the bill will be subject to a prolonged and heated debate.
Here are some of the major provisions of this bill, as introduced.
Legalization for unlawfully present citizens. Those who were in the U.S. without immigration status before December 31, 2011, would be able to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status; they would have work authorization and be able to travel. After ten years in RPI status, they would be able to get a green card and, after another three years, become U.S. citizens.
Family-based immigration. Currently, spouses, children and unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents are not considered “immediate relatives,” which means they are subject to numeric visa limitations when applying for a green card and have to wait years to get to the front of the line. The bill would change this category of individuals to “immediate relative” category allowing families to avoid separation and apply for adjustment of status immediately. The bill caps the age of unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens at 31 and eliminates the fourth category (brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens). The bill also brings back the V visa (visas for children and spouses of lawful permanent residents).
Employment-based immigration. Increases quotas for H-1B visas to a floor of $110,000 and a ceiling of 180,000, allows employment for spouses of H-1B workers and allows a 60-day grace period if the employee has been terminated from the job. EB-1 immigrants, persons with doctoral degrees, and physicians who have completed the foreign residency requirements would be exempt from quota. The bill would also create a new category of visas for certain entrepreneurs and a set of new visas for less skilled and agricultural workers.
These are only a few highlights of the proposed 844-page comprehensive bill. We will continue to post updates on this bill and will provide in-depth analysis of the final provisions if and when it passes.
Those of you that have ever entered the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa remember that you were a given that little white card that went inside your passport and was the paper proof that you entered the country legally, and you had to surrender the card to the airline or border patrol when you left the country. Those days are soon over as the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol rolls out an electronic process that will substitute the old I-94 card. Starting this month, those arriving by sea or air, will not be given an I-94 card. The information will be entered by a CBP agent electronically. If you need the information later, you can access it online at CBP.gov/I94. The implementation of this new program will begin on April 30, 2013, and will take a couple of months to get established at all ports of entry. In the meantime, if you still get the paper I-94, do not discard it. More information about the new process is available online at CBP’s official website.
An H-1B visa is utilized by U.S. businesses that employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. The U.S. Government sets aside 65,000 numbers of H-1B visas issued per fiscal year and an additional 20,000 for persons who have earned a masters degree or higher from a U.S. institution of higher education. This year’s H-1B visas have been long used up, but the time to file for the next year (employment dates effective October 1, 2013), is coming up on April 1, 2013. Thousands of petitions for H-1B visas are expected to be filed on this day and will be quickly used up. By way of example, last year’s cap was reached on June 11, 2012. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service expects to see an increased amount of applications this year, and the cap is expected to be reached on April 5, 2013, much sooner than that previous year. However, it is not too late to apply! Contact us for more information.