June 17, 2015 U.S. Department of State Visa Systems Issues
The Bureau of Consular Affairs continues to experience technical problems with our visa systems. This is a global issue, and we are working around the clock to fix it. More than 100 computer experts from both the private and public sectors across the United States are working on this problem 24/7. That said, we do not expect the system will be online before next week. The problems stem from a hardware failure in a State Department facility in the United States on June 9. That failure is preventing the Department from processing and transmitting biometric data checks at visa-issuing embassies and consulates. We cannot bypass the legal requirements to screen visa applicants before we issue visas for travel. Each visa decision is a national security decision, and we take our obligation to protect the United States seriously.
We regret the inconvenience to travelers and recognize that this is causing hardship to those waiting for visas, and in some cases, their family members or employers in the United States. We will continue to post regular updates on our website, travel.state.gov.
Q: What caused this outage? Was it a malicious action or hack? There is no evidence the problem is cyber-security related.
Q: How long before you restore full system functionality? Public and private sector experts are working around the clock to correct the visa problem, but we do not expect the system will be online before next week. Overseas and domestic passports are being issued.
Q: How many travelers are affected by this outage? Most posts were able to handle visa interviews and some visa printing as usual through the end of last week. This week, many posts have had to reschedule visa appointments. We handle an average 50,000 applications daily worldwide. Many applicants do not have immediate travel plans and will receive visas in time for planned trips. We are prioritizing urgent medical and other humanitarian cases as well as H2A agricultural workers.
Q: Once operational, how will cases be prioritized? We are already prioritizing urgent humanitarian cases and temporary agricultural workers. Once the systems are fully operational, we will work as quickly as possible to clear the backlog of pending visa cases. We apologize to travelers and recognize that this has caused hardship to some individuals waiting for visas.
Q: What about domestic passports? Domestic passport operations are functioning, with some intermittent processing delays. While some of these issues have affected same-day service at our passport agencies, we continue to issue passports to U.S. citizens with urgent overseas travel needs.
May 2015 - USCIS Guidance on When to File an Amended H-1B Petition
USCIS provided guidance on when to file an amended H-1B petition in response to the April 9, 2015, AAO precedent decision, Matter of Simeio Solutions, LLC, which held that employers must file amended H-1B petitions when a new Labor Condition Application for Nonimmigrant Workers (LCA) is required due to a change in the H-1B worker's worksite location. See here for further information.
USCIS Posts FAQs on Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses
USCIS FAQs on employment authorization for certain H-4 dependent spouses, including information on eligibility, the application process, how USCIS will adjudicate the Form I-765, processing times, and more. See here for further information.
USCIS Completes Data Entry of Fiscal Year 2016 H-1B Cap-Subject Petitions
USCIS announced May 4, 2015, that it has completed data entry of all fiscal year 2016 H-1B cap-subject petitions selected in our computer-generated random process. USCIS will now begin returning all H-1B cap-subject petitions that were not selected. Due to the high volume of filings, the time frame for returning these petitions is uncertain. USCIS asks petitioners to not inquire about the status of submitted cap-subject petitions until they receive a receipt notice or an unselected petition is returned. USCIS will issue an announcement once all the petitions have been returned.
USCIS Publishes Filing Guidance for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses
USCIS has published information to help eligible H-4 dependent spouses who want to apply for employment authorization under the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses final rule.
You can view the information on:
Please note that you may not apply for employment authorization under this rule until May 26, 2015. Until the H-4 rule takes effect on May 26, 2015, USCIS will not accept any Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization requesting employment authorization based on your H-4 status. If you submit a Form I-765 before May 26, 2015 USCIS will reject your application and return it and the filing fee to you. You would then need to re-submit the application on or after May 26, 2015.
USCIS Temporarily Suspends Premium Processing for Extension of Stay H-1B Petitions
Starting May 26, 2015, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B Extension of Stay petitions until July 27, 2015. During this time frame, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting an extension of the stay for an H-1B nonimmigrant. USCIS will continue to premium process H-1B Extension of Stay petitions filed with Form I-907 premium requests prior to May 26, 2015.
USCIS will refund the premium processing fee if:
A petitioner filed H-1B petitions prior to May 26, 2015, using the premium processing service, and USCIS did not act on the case within the 15-calendar-day period.
Premium processing remains available for all other Form I-129 H-1B petitions, including petitions subject to the H-1B cap that are requesting a change of nonimmigrant status or consular notification.
This temporary suspension will allow USCIS to implement the the Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Spouses final rule in a timely manner and adjudicate applications for employment authorization filed by H-4 nonimmigrants under the new regulations.
March 2015 - USCIS Posts Updated L-1B Adjudications Policy for Public Feedback
"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez today announced the release of an updated policy memorandum on the L-1B nonimmigrant visa classification for workers with specialized knowledge. The memorandum, which clarifies for USCIS officers how L-1B petitioners may demonstrate that an employee has specialized knowledge, will be posted on-line for a 45-day public feedback period. The memorandum will go into effect on August 31, 2015".
Learn more here.
USCIS Completes the H-1B Cap Random Selection Process for FY 2016
The records NARA identified as permanent records are the annual disclosure data files currently located on the FLC Data Center at announced on April 7, 2015that it has received enough H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for fiscal year (FY) 2016. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption, also known as the masters cap..
USCIS received about nearly 233,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 13, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees, unless the petition is found to be a duplicate filing..
The agency conducted the selection process for the advanced degree exemption first. All unselected advanced degree petitions then became part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit..
As announced on March 12, 2015, USCIS will begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases no later than May 11, 2015..
USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap will also not be counted towards the congressionally mandated FY 2016 H-1B cap. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:
- Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States
- Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers
- Allow current H-1B workers to change employers
- Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position
U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge in fields such as science, engineering, and computer programming..
For more information, please see: http://www.uscis.gov/news/alerts/uscis-completes-h-1b-cap-random-selection-process-fy-2016.
February 24, 2015 - DHS Extends Eligibility for Employment Authorization to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants Seeking Employment-Based Lawful Permanent Residence
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez announced today that, effective May 26, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. DHS amended the regulations to allow these H-4 dependent spouses to accept employment in the United States.
Learn more here .
January 15, 2015 - Issuance of certified copies of Mexican birth certificates at Consulates of Mexico
Starting January 15th, 2015, the consulates of Mexico in the United States will issue copies of birth certificates registered in Mexico.
To obtain their certified copies, Mexican nationals should visit the nearest consulate, present an official proof of identity, fill out an application and provide their Clave Única de Registro de Población (CURP) in case they have one. The cost of each certified copy will be $13.00 dollars.
The issuance of certified copies does not carry any additional costs. Be aware of abuses and scams. Nobody can charge additional fees for this service.
Those interested in obtaining a certified copy of their birth certificate can get more information in the free application for smartphones and mobile devices MiConsulmex or at the toll free number Centro de Información y Asistencia a Mexicanos (CIAM): 1-855-463-6395.
Mexican consulates will continue offering protection and consular assistance to Mexicans regardless of their immigration status.
Expedición de copias certificadas de actas de nacimiento mexicanas en consulados de México
A partir del 15 de enero de 2015, los Consulados de México en Estados Unidos podrán emitir copias certificadas de actas de nacimiento generadas en territorio nacional.
Para obtener sus copias certificadas, los mexicanos deberán presentarse en una oficina consular, portar una identificación oficial que acredite que es el titular del acta de nacimiento, proporcionar su Clave Única de Registro de Población (si cuenta con ella), llenar una solicitud y cubrir el pago de derechos correspondientes ($13 dólares por acta).
La expedición de actas no representa costos adicionales al del pago de derechos de $13 dólares. Evite ser víctima de abusos, ninguna persona puede cobrarle más por este servicio.
Los interesados podrán obtener más información sobre este servicio en la aplicación gratuita para dispositivos móviles MiConsulmex, así como llamando al Centro de Información y Asistencia a Mexicanos (CIAM): 1-855-463-6395.
Los consulados de México seguirán ofreciendo protección y asistencia consular a los mexicanos que la requieran, sin importar su condición migratoria.
November 20, 2014 - President Obama's Immigration Executive Actions
The President’s immigration executive actions were announced November 20, 2014. Details in the form of memoranda and regulations are still being finalized, and will be released when they become available. Known as the President's Immigration Accountability Executive Actions, the plan as described today includes:.
Deferred Action Benefiting Approximately 4.4 Million Undocumented Individuals.
Two deferred action initiatives will be rolled out that are estimated to benefit 4.4 million undocumented individuals: (1) Deferred Action for Parents (DAP): Parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (of any age) who have been continuously present since January 1, 2010, and who pass background checks and pay back taxes; and (2) DACA Expansion: The age cap on DACA will be removed and the date when continuous presence must have started will be changed from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010. Both of these initiatives will provide deferred action for three years. The expanded DACA should be up and running in 90 days and deferred action for parents in 180 days. Note: no initiative specifically for parents of DACA recipients was included..
Many of the existing ICE memos on enforcement priorities and prosecutorial discretion will be replaced by a new memo with three priorities: (1) Suspected terrorists, convicted felons (including aggravated felonies), convicted gang members, and persons apprehended on the border; (2) Persons convicted of serious or multiple misdemeanors and very recent border crossers (those who entered after January 1, 2014); and (3) Those who, after January 1, 2014, failed to leave under a removal order or returned after removal. The memo will contain strong language on the use of prosecutorial discretion. .
State and Local Enforcement.
The controversial Secure Communities program will be discontinued and replaced with a new initiative, the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). Details are still forthcoming on what PEP will entail, but in certain circumstances, detainers may be replaced by requests for notification to ICE when a law enforcement entity is about to release an individual. .
Business Immigration Changes .
A number of business immigration improvements are to be announced. For example, certain investors will be eligible for parole into the U.S., or for parole-in-place, and national interest waivers could be available for entrepreneurs, researchers, inventors, and founders. Also, the term "same or similar" for AC-21 purposes will be clarified, L-1B guidance will be released, the H-4 EAD regulation will be finalized, and the length of time permitted on OPT for STEM graduates will be expanded. Additionally, the rulemaking process will be undertaken to modernize the PERM labor certification program and may include a harmless error provision. .
I-601A Waiver Expansion .
The I-601A provisional waiver will be expanded to include spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. An expansion and clarification of the definition of "extreme hardship" is also expected. .
Parole-in-place will be expanded to include families of individuals trying to enlist in the armed forces, as some branches of the military ban applicants who have undocumented family members. .
Timing of Filing for Adjustment of Status.
The ability of individuals with an approved employment-based immigrant petition who are caught in the quota backlogs to file for adjustment of status will be advanced to permit them to obtain the benefits of a pending adjustment. This is expected to impact about 410,000 people. This will be done by regulation..
There will be a Presidential Memorandum directing the various immigration-related agencies to consider way to modernize the visa system, with a view to making optimal use of the numbers of visas available under law. Issues such as whether derivatives should be counted towards the visa quota and whether past unused visa numbers can be recaptured are expected to be included in this effort. .
November 10, 2014 - Change in Office of Foreign Labor Certification Leadership
The DOL Liaison Committee has learned that Office of Foreign Labor Certification Administrator Dr. William L. Carlson has been reassigned. Assuming the position of administrator is Bill Thompson, a long-time DOL official..
October 17, 2014 - H-1B Legacy records no longer available
On July 8, 2013, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) approved OFLC's revised retention schedule following a 30-day period of public notice and review. As part of its review and approval process, NARA determined employer applications for labor certification and supporting documentation, whether retained in paper and electronic form, are temporary records and subject to destruction in accordance with an approved disposition schedule. The OFLC-approved disposition schedule authorizes the retention of records for a period of 5 years following the date a final determination letter is issued or final action occurs, such as a withdrawn application, subject to an active investigation or litigation hold.
The records NARA identified as permanent records are the annual disclosure data files currently located on the FLC Data Center at http://www.flcdatacenter.com, as well as the quarterly disclosure data files and the OFLC Annual Reports located on the OFLC Performance page at http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/performancedata.cfm.
Labor Condition Applications (LCA) retained in the LCA Online System are all beyond the retention period of 5 years from a date of final determination or final action. Therefore, effective October 17, 2014, the LCA Online System located at http://www.lca.doleta.gov has been decommissioned.
The OFLC will no longer respond to inquiries to search for records in response to FOIA requests, or provide information for requests for duplicate certifications for LCA applications processed in the LCA Online System, in keeping with the OFLC records schedule.
October 3, 2014 - Duplicate Biometrics Appointment Notices
Recently USCIS erroneously scheduled some customers for more than one Application Support Center (ASC) biometric appointment (Form I-797C).
If you have already attended an ASC biometric appointment, and received a second appointment notice from the same application type, please call the National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 to confirm that you do not need to return to the ASC to have biometrics collected again..
If you have not yet attended your ASC appointment and received more than one ASC appointment notice, you should attend just one appointment and take both ASC notices to that appointment..
We regret the inconvenience and thank you in advance for your patience as we address the issue.
September 24, 2014 - Diversity Immigrant Visa Program for Fiscal Year 2016
The U.S. Department of State has released instructions for the Fiscal Year 2016 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which include eligibility requirements, instructions for completing the electronic entry form, and FAQs. Entries must be submitted electronically between noon (EDT) on October 1, 2014, and noon (EST) on November 3, 2014. .
Please click for instructions .
June 25, 2014 - USCIS recently announced new policy changes regarding Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
USCIS recently announced new policy changes regarding Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. Starting June 1, 2014, USCIS limits the validity period for all Forms I-693 to one year from the date that USCIS receives the form. As outlined in policy alert PA-2014-005, this updated policy applies to any Form I-693 supporting a benefit application that USCIS adjudicates on or after June 1, 2014..
If you are applying for adjustment of status, you may submit Form I-693 in one of the following ways:
Submit Form I-693 by mail, together with your Form I-485, Application to Register for Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to the location specified for your Form I-485 (see Direct Filing Addresses for form I-485).
Submit Form I-693 in person at an interview in a USCIS field office (if an interview is required).
To ensure that your medical examination is still valid at the time USCIS adjudicates your application, you should schedule the medical examination as close as possible to the time you file for adjustment of status, respond to a Request for Evidence, or attend an interview (if applicable).
For additional information, please visit www.uscis.gov/i-693 or see the USCIS Policy Manual Volume 8, Part B, Chapter 4.
June 4, 2014 - U.S. Consulates in Canada Temporarily Suspend Third Country National (TCN) Visa Processing for Summer
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) has informed the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) on that, due to increasingly heavy demand by Canada-based visa applicants, the seven U.S. visa processing posts in Canada are extremely limited in their ability to accept TCN cases during the peak demand period of June, July, and August. Canadian posts encourage such applicants to seek appointments elsewhere in the world, such as in the applicant’s home country. Canadian posts offer increased appointment availability for TCNs during non-peak processing times, such as October and November, and January through May. Emergency cases may seek consideration for scheduling an interview at a Canada post by visiting http://canada.usembassy.gov/.
April 28, 2014 - Business Community Dialogue with USCIS on Administrative Site Visit Program May 1, 2014 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is hosting a business community conversation with the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency conducts administrative site visits regarding about 15,000 H-1B petitions each year, and is now expanding to L-1 petitions as well. We will be having a dialogue with: Sarah Kendall, Associate Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The agenda for the meeting is for the business community to explain concerns and make recommendations and hear USCIS views regarding:
(1) the scope of questions asked by FDNS auditors and the process utilized by FDNS auditors in scheduling site visits and following up with USCIS examiners
(2) the selection process for site visits and especially the multiple site visits experienced by many employers
(3) the need to protect commercially private information of the employer and personally identifying information of the employee during the site visit process
In addition, USCIS will provide further information regarding the new L-1 site visit program, following up from the public stakeholder phone call of April 24.
Please join us to provide feedback to USCIS regarding process and procedure for the administrative site visit and verification program and hear about the new expansion to L-1 site visits. In-person participation encouraged, but individuals will be able to listen in by phone.
This event is open to the public so feel free to share this invite with others (but note that the event is not open to the press.
If you would like to listen in by phone register here. (You provide your name and organization name, and then will be provided a confirmation number and call-in information
In order to comply with lobby security in the U.S. Chamber building, if you are attending in person you must rsvp to David Alim Email and provide your name and organization. If attending in person come to: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street, NW, Washington, DC (Briefing Center).
April 16, 2014 - USCIS Stakeholder Teleconference
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) invites you to participate in a stakeholder
teleconference on Thursday, April 24, 2014, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Eastern) to discuss the
extension of the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program (ASVVP) to L1 visas.
USCIS news release
April 10, 2014 - USCIS Reaches FY 2015 H-1B Cap
USCIS announced on April 7 that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 visas for fiscal year (FY) 2015. USCIS has also received more than the limit of 20,000 H-1B petitions filed under the advanced degree exemption.
USCIS received about 172,500 H-1B petitions during the filing period which began April 1, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 10, 2014, USCIS completed a computer-generated random selection process, or lottery, to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and 20,000 cap under the advanced degree exemption. For cap-subject petitions not randomly selected, USCIS will reject and return the petition with filing fees, unless it is found to be a duplicate filing.
USCIS news release
USCIS to Accept H-1B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2015 Beginning April 1, 2014