A Message from Our Chairman
On behalf of the KILP family, it is my pleasure to extend my holiday greetings to our clients and friends. Our loyal and devoted staff all appreciate the opportunity to have been of service to you in 2011. We very much look forward to continue to provide the most responsive and highest quality immigration legal services in the new year.
Our wish to you is that you experience
State Dept. Announces Forward Movement in China-Mainland Born and India EB-2 Categories
The Department of State’s Visa Bulletin for January 2012 notes that the China and India employment second preference cut-off date has advanced at a rapid rate in recent months. The current priority date of Eb-2 India and China is now January 1, 2009. Individuals with priority dates on or before January 1, 2009 can now file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with USCIS.
The bulletin says this action was intended to generate significant levels of new filings for adjustment of status at USCIS offices. The bulletin notes that USCIS has reported that the rate of new filings “is currently far below that which they had anticipated, prompting an even more aggressive movement of the cut-off date for January and possibly beyond.” While this action increases the potential for an eventual retrogression of the cut-off at some point during the year, it also provides the best opportunity to use all numbers available under the annual limit, the bulletin says.
USCIS Changes Stand-Alone I-130 Filing Locations
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that effective January 1, 2012, it has changed the filing locations for Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. Domestic petitioners should mail their stand-alone I-130 applications to either the Chicago Lockbox or the Phoenix Lockbox, depending on where they reside in the United States.
There will be no change in filing locations when submitting an I-130 along with Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Individuals filing these forms together should continue to mail them to the Chicago Lockbox facility. Petitioners filing from overseas addresses in countries without USCIS offices should also continue to file at the Chicago Lockbox facility. Petitioners residing in a country with a USCIS office may send their I-130s to the Chicago Lockbox, or may file their I-130s at the international USCIS office having jurisdiction over the area where they live.
Those who submit their I-130 packages to the incorrect Lockbox location may experience a delay in processing. The new filing locations are available on the Form I-130 Direct Filing Locations webpage at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=6583ecb23683a210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=fe529c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD.
State Dept. Implements Fee Increases for Certain Consular Services
As a reminder, on December 6, 2011, the Department of State implemented changes to the Schedule of Fees for Consular Services. Affected services include nonimmigrant visas and border crossing cards.
The final rule on fees changes from $131 to $140 the fee charged for most non-petition-based nonimmigrant visas (Machine-Readable Visas or MRVs) and adult Border Crossing Cards (BCCs). The rule also provides new tiers of the application fee for certain categories of petition-based nonimmigrant visas and treaty trader and investor visas. Finally, the rule increases the BCC fee charged to Mexican citizens under age 15 who apply in Mexico and whose parent or guardian already has a BCC or is applying for one, from $13 to $14.
Sen. Grassley Puts ‘Hold’ on Per-Country Limits Legislation
Despite the fact that on November 29, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 389-15 in favor of ending per-country numerical limits (caps) on employment-based visas and the Senate was expected to take action also, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has placed a hold on the bill.
Sen. Grassley said that he has “concerns about the impact of this bill on future immigration flows, and am concerned that it does nothing to better protect Americans at home who seek high-skilled jobs during this time of record high unemployment.” The bill would eliminate a current provision stating that employment-based visas issued cannot exceed seven percent of the total for any one country. The measure was expected to benefit skilled Indian and Chinese workers and high-tech companies in the United States.
A hold is an informal practice and the majority leader need not follow it, but a hold indicates that the opposing senator may filibuster any motion to proceed.
For the text of the House-passed bill, H.R. 3012, see http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr3012rh/pdf/BILLS-112hr3012rh.pdf. The companion Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), is S. 1857.
Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearing on EB-5 Regional Center Program
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on December 7, 2011, on “Reauthorizing the EB-5 Regional Center Program: Promoting Job Creation and Economic Development in American Communities.” Witnesses included Bill Stenger, President and CEO, Jay Peak Resort; David North, Fellow, Center for Immigration Studies; and Robert C. Divine, Shareholder, Baker, Donelson, Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, P.C. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) issued related statements.
Sen. Leahy noted that current authorization for the EB-5 regional center pilot program, which has been in existence for 18 years, expires at the end of September 2012. He advocated enactment of permanent authorization legislation that he introduced in March 2011 (S. 642). Sen. Leahy noted that in 2011, the EB-5 program is expected to have created an estimated 25,000 jobs and provided direct investments in U.S. communities of $1.25 billion. He said that if the full number of visas allocated to the program are used, based on investment and job creation requirements, the program “has the potential to create or preserve 100,000 jobs per year, with contributions of $5 billion in foreign capital investment. And these benefits come at no cost to American taxpayers.”
Sen. Leahy noted that in addition to administrative efforts by USCIS, he has been working for months with interested parties and USCIS “to put together a legislative framework to make significant improvements to the overall program.” He said the framework would “provide USCIS with additional authorities to ensure that this important program maintains the highest level of integrity and efficiency.” He added, “It is time for a permanent authorization to provide investors with the certainty and predictability they need to invest and conduct business with confidence.”
Sen. Schumer outlined several examples of USCIS-approved “job-creating” regional center projects in New York:
- Steiner Studios, a film production studio in Brooklyn, which received $65 million in EB-5 funding to assist with expansion;
- Global Vascular Institute, on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where EB-5 funding helped support development of the new institute, creating jobs and improving health care access for the people of Buffalo;
- Acadia Realty Trust, which received $200 million in EB-5 funding to assist with the construction of the City Point project in downtown Brooklyn;
- SJM Company, which received $72 million in EB-5 funding to assist with the redevelopment of the George Washington Bridge Bus Station; and
- Dermot Company and Harry’s Restaurant, which received $96 million in EB-5 funding to assist with the redevelopment of the Battery Maritime Building and Pier A in Lower Manhattan.
Sen. Schumer said he was proud to co-sponsor S. 642 with Sen. Leahy to permanently authorize the program.
Mr. Stenger testified that the region where Jay Peak Resort is located has the most significant unemployment and economic challenge of any region in Vermont. He said that since 2005, Jay Peak has developed several EB-5 projects, creating over 2,000 jobs in the region, and that the EB-5 investments are expected to create that many jobs again over the next two years. “We are seeing this employment creation at Jay Peak and our surrounding communities in this terribly troubled economy solely because of the EB-5 foreign investor program,” he said.
The statements of Sens. Leahy and Schumer, along with the witnesses’ written testimony, are available at http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/testimony.cfm?id=9b6937d5e931a0b792d258d9b365f21d&wit_id=9b6937d5e931a0b792d258d9b365f21d-0-5.
White House Announces U.S.-Canada ‘Beyond the Border’ and ‘Regulatory Cooperation Council’ Action Plans
On December 7, 2011, the White House announced details of the Beyond the Border (BTB) and Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Action Plans. The BTB Action plan sets joint priorities between the United States and Canada for achieving a new long-term security partnership, including (1) addressing threats early; (2) promoting trade facilitation, economic growth, and jobs; (3) strengthening cross-border law enforcement; and (4) protecting shared critical infrastructure.
The BTB Executive Steering Committee (ESC) will hold annual meetings to advance shared border management efforts and identify areas for further progress. To ensure continued transparency and accountability, the BTB ESC will generate a joint, public “Beyond the Border Implementation Report” to summarize BTB cooperation annually. Implementation of the BTB Action Plan will be carried out in close consultation with interested stakeholders through appropriate lead agencies and will be subject to normal regulatory, legislative, and appropriations processes.
The BTB Action Plan includes, among other things, developing harmonized commercial passenger and cargo screening processes that will expedite the secure passage of people and goods; enhancing trusted traveler and trader programs “by aligning requirements, enhancing member benefits, and providing applicants with the opportunity to submit one application to be enrolled in multiple programs.” The White House said the U.S. and Canada “strive to facilitate business travel across our border, provide a single “window” for importers to submit information needed to comply with customs and other regulations, promote supply chain connectivity by harmonizing low-value shipment processes, and increase public transparency regarding application of border fees, with a view to providing greater accountability for costs to businesses and promoting trade competitiveness.”
The White House also said it “will enhance and expand the work of the twenty land border Binational Port Operations Committees established in 2011, coordinate our border infrastructure investment at key border crossings and at small and remote ports of entry to, where possible, align hours of operation and co-manage facilities.”
Regarding the RCC Action Plan, the White House said that “greater alignment and better mutual reliance on our regulatory approaches will lead to lower costs for consumers and businesses, create more efficient supply chains, increase trade and investment, generate new export opportunities, and create jobs on both sides of the border.”
California Steel Foundry Fires a Third of Its Workers after I-9 Audit
Pacific Steel Casting Company, based in Berkeley, California, has fired about a third of its workers after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted an I-9 work authorization audit in February 2011 and identified about 200 employees allegedly working without legal status.
Elisabeth Jewel, a Pacific Steel spokesperson, said, “It’s terribly disruptive. We have highly trained employees and to lose them is very damaging.” In some cases, the workers had been with the company for decades and have children in local schools who are growing up in the United States.
The Berkeley City Council passed a resolution in June noting that the targeted workers are skilled and “inject hundreds of thousands of dollars into our local economy each month and support other businesses and families. The company and the workers pay taxes that support local schools and services.” The council noted that Pacific Steel’s suppliers could also be harmed by the action, and that the audit and consequent firing of the workers will force them “into an underground economy where illegal wages and conditions are prevalent.” Pacific Steel is the fourth largest foundry in the United States.
In a related action, the American Civil Liberties Union and several unions filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in September 2011 seeking records relating to I-9 audits and “silent raids” such as the one ICE conducted on Pacific Steel. An ICE spokesperson reportedly said that in fiscal year 2011, ICE criminally charged 221 owners, employers, managers, or supervisors; conducted more than 2,496 I-9 audits; and initiated 3,291 worksite enforcement investigations, all up from 2010 numbers.
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: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/ptimes.jsp
- Department of Labor processing times and information on backlogs: http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/times.cfm
- Department of State Visa Bulletin: http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/bulletin/bulletin_1360.html
Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP, is pleased to announce that Matthew T. Galati and Nataliya Rymer have recently joined the Firm.
Matthew T. Galati (Matt), an associate in the Firm’s Philadelphia office, practices in both business and family-based immigration. Matt is currently admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Matt received his law degree from The George Washington University Law School (J.D., with Honors, 2010) and his Bachelor of Arts in Politics and History from The University of Virginia (2007). During law school, Matt was an Associate of The George Washington University International Law Review. Prior to joining the Firm, Matt practiced in a civil litigation firm in the Washington, DC area.
Nataliya Rymer, an Associate in the Firm’s Philadelphia office, focuses her practice on employment-based and family-based immigration. Nataliya received her law degrees from Temple University (J.D., 2005; LL.M., Transnational Law, 2006) and her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Boston College (2000). Nataliya is currently admitted to practice law in New York. She is also admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and she is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Prior to entering law school, Nataliya worked in the field of Human Resources in Boston, Massachusetts. While in law school, Nataliya studied law abroad in Greece and Japan, and she interned at the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General Corps in Yokosuka, Japan. Prior to joining the Firm, Nataliya practiced with an immigration law firm in New York City.
Jennifer A. Hermansky (Jen) and Matt were sworn in to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on December 1, 2011.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
Elise A. Fialkowski will be speaking at the 10th Washington International Education Conference in Washington, DC on Tuesday, January 24, a conference sponsored by the Washington International Education Council. Elise will speak to embassy officials, university administrators and DSOs about student visa applications, recertification, as well as site visits, audits and inspections of student and scholar programs. For more information, write to Elise at email@example.com.
- Ronald Klasko (Ron) will give a presentation at Carnegie Mellon University on February 6.
Ron will serve as a panelist for two sessions at the South Florida AILA CLE on February 9 &10, 2012 in Miami, Florida. Ron will be a panel member on “When can your client use the B-1 visa” and “EB-5-Where are We Now?” For more information on either of these topics, write to Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron will be speaking at the Los Angeles County Bar Association CLE on EB-5 on February 11.
William A. Stock (Bill) will be a guest presenter at Duke University on February 9, 2012.
Recent Speaking Engagements
Elise presented at a CLE Employment Law seminar sponsored by Sterling Education Services, Inc. on December 15 in Wilmington, DE. The presentation entitled “Employment Law Beyond the Basics” included such topics as employment based immigration, E-Verify, I-9 Forms and SSN mismatch/no match.
Disclaimer/Reminder: This newsletter does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed. Copyright © 2011 Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers and Klasko Immigration Law Partners, LLP. All rights reserved.
- January 2012 Newsletter (PDF)