Posted On: February 23, 2010

USCIS Issues Information Collection for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued information collection for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker until April 9, 2010.

During this period, USCIS will be evaluating whether to revise Form I-129.

The purpose of this form is for employers to petition for an alien to come to the United States temporarily to perform services or labor, or to receive training, as an H-1B, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, H-3, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-1S, P-2, P-2S, P-3, P-3S, Q-1 or R-1 nonimmigrant worker. Employers may also use this form to request an extension of stay or change of status for an alien as an E-1, E-2, or TN nonimmigrant.

Members of the public are encouraged to submit comments and/or suggestions to USCIS, especially comments regarding the estimated public burden and associated response time.

Written comments and suggestions from the public and affected agencies should address one or more of the following four points:

(1) Evaluate whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility;

(2) Evaluate the accuracy of the agency's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used;

(3) Enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and

(4) Minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who are to respond, including through the use of appropriate automated, electronic, mechanical, or other technological collection techniques or other forms of information technology, e.g., permitting electronic submission of responses.

Comments may be submitted to:
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), USCIS,
Chief, Regulatory Products Division, Clearance Office,
111 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 3008
Washington, DC 20529-2210.

Comments may also be submitted to DHS via facsimile to 202-272-8352 or via e-mail at rfs.regs@dhs.gov.

**When submitting comments by e-mail, please make sure to add OMB Control No. 1615-0009 in the subject box.

Posted On: February 22, 2010

Updated List: SEVP Approved Schools

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently updated their list of Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) approved schools. The schools listed have all been certified to participate in the program.

The program allows foreign students interested in obtaining an education in the United States to complete a visa petition, pay the required fee, and attend a U.S. College or University.

Interested Foreign students: There is a process in obtaining a student visa, but it is not a difficult one. The student must first obtain Form I-20 from the U.S. College or University from which he/she intends to enroll, pay the required visa fee (Form I-901) and contact a local U.S. Consulate/Embassy to schedule an interview. The SEVP procedures differ among U.S. Consulates/Embassies; contact your U.S. Consulate/Embassy NOW to determine its particular procedure on applying for a visa before planning for the interview.

Interested Schools: There is a separate process to obtain F & M Certification. Authorized school officials must obtain and complete Form I-17. An overview of the SEVP Certification process can be found on the ICE website . If approved, the school will be certified and allowed to issue Form I-20 to qualifying foreign students.

If you need assistance or an explanation of the SEVP, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.

Posted On: February 19, 2010

Updated Service Center Processing Times

Processing Time reports for all of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) Service Centers were released on February 17, 2010 with processing dates as of December 31, 2009.

If you filed a petition with one of the Service Centers, please review the links below to determine the applicable processing time associated with your particular case.

California Service Center
National Benefits Center
Nebraska Service Center
Texas Service Center
Vermont Service Center

If your petition is out-side of the normal range listed, contact USCIS. (1-800-375-5283)
If you are a client of the MVP Law Group and would like our assistance please contact our office.

Posted On: February 18, 2010

Updated Administrative Appeals Office Processing Times

The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) Processing Times were released on February 17, 2010 with processing dates as of February 1, 2010.

If you filed an appeal, please review the links below to determine the applicable processing time associated with your particular case.

Administrative Appeals Office

The current processing time for an I-129 H-1B Appeal is 14 months. The current processing time for an I-140 EB2 Appeal for an Advanced Degree Professional is 25 months; for an I-140EB3 Appeal for a Skilled or Professional Worker is 23 months. Most other cases are within USCIS's processing time goal of 6 months or less.

Posted On: February 12, 2010

BALCA vacates denial of Labor Certification – Fundamental Fairness requires Employer be given a Second Opportunity to Produce the Relevant Document

The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) recently vacated and remanded the final determination of a Certifying Officer (CO) denying labor certification (LC) for an alien worker for the Professional position of “Photographer."

The employer filed a LC which was accepted for processing on May 21, 2007. ETA Form 9089 indicated that the State Workforce Agency (SWA) determined the prevailing wage to be $7.31 per hour, and the skill level, “Professional.” Additionally, the employer did not provide a name or date of the second newspaper or professional journal advertisement. The Employer had attached several documents to ETA Form 9089, including documents showing the Alien’s qualifications and visa status; a March 2007 job order placed with the NY State Department of Labor; a print out of a www.flcdatacenter.com web page showing the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) wages for a photographer in the Middleton, NY area; tear sheets from one newspaper advertisement; and resume and interview notes for a couple of the rejected job applicants. The CO thereafter issued a letter denying certification based on the fact that the Employer had not selected a proper Skill Level, and did not provide the name of the second advertisement or professional journal. The employer then requested reconsideration by submitting a copy of the OES print out indicating that no skill level was set for the position of Photographer, and provided evidence of several additional newspaper advertisements. The record indicates that the Employer was asked to provide a copy of the SWA PWD to the DOL analyst and submitted a new SWA PWD for 2009, instead of one dated for 2007. The CO determined that its basis for denial was valid and forwarded the appeal file to BALCA.

PERM Regulation 20 C.F.R. § 656.24(a) controls and it provides that the employer must request a prevailing wage determination from the SWA having jurisdiction over the proposed area of intended employment. The SWA must enter its wage determination on the form it uses and return the form with its endorsement to the employer. Furthermore, the employer must maintain the SWA PWD in its files and be prepared to submit it if requested in the course of an audit.
In the instant case, the Employer should have obtained a PWD from the SWA prior to filing ETA Form 9089, and entered the skill level assigned by the SWA on Form 9089. However, the Board found that it may be possible that the Employer did not understand that what the CO was asking for was the 2007 PWD that the Employer should have obtained prior to filing and not a new PWD. Subsequently, the Board provided that fundamental fairness requires that the Employer be given a second opportunity to produce the relevant PWD.

Accordingly, the Board vacated the decision of the CO in denying labor certification and returned the matter to the CO for further processing.

Matter of Galaxy Studios, Inc.

Posted On: February 11, 2010

H-1B Admissions at Newark, NJ Airport

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Liaison Committee received reports from AILA members that CBP inspectors at the Newark, New Jersey airport port of entry were apparently assisting in an investigation involving certain H-1B nonimmigrants from India and certain H-1B petitioner companies.

The CBP inspector’s questions focused on (1) who the individuals worked for, (2) how their pay was computed, (3) who paid their salary, (4) their job duties, and (5) what they were paid. According to the reports, some individuals were subjected to expedited removal and visa cancellation.

After inquiring with CBP headquarters about these alleged incidents, the CBP Liaison Committee was advised that many of the cases involved in the allegations involved companies currently under investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for ongoing fraud. The CBP provided that upon an inadmissibility finding, the determination to either allow the applicant to withdraw his or her application for admission or to subject the applicant to expedited removal was based on “the totality of the circumstances” and was reviewed on a “case-by-case” basis. The CBP also confirmed that they screen ALL employment-based visa holders to determine admissibility and ensure compliance with entry requirements.

AILA was provided with additional news regarding a new policy instituted at Newark Airport dealing with random checks of returning H-1B, L-1 and other employment-based visa holders. Based upon the initial check, if the person’s admissibility is questionable, then he or she will be sent to secondary inspection for further review, and if questions still surround the person’s admissibility they may possibly be asked to withdraw his/her application for admission to the U.S. or be subject to expedited removal.

The Newark Airport port of entry has another policy regarding Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs). The Airport has a mandatory detention policy for returning LPRs who have a post-1998 conviction. There are several exceptions to detainment for humanitarian reasons, and if the CBP cannot get a copy of the conviction record within 24 hours, the person may be released.


Moving Forward:
Employment Based Immigration applicants - If you must travel outside of the U.S., you should thoroughly prepare for your return trip to the U.S. by reviewing all pertinent documents, as well as carrying certain evidence to support assertions made in the petition. Certain evidence may include but is not limited to the following: pay stubs, employment verification letter, income tax returns, W-2 Forms, Employment offer letter, Employment Agreement.

Petitioning Employers – You must be prepared for inquiries from CBP officers to confirm the assertions made in any nonimmigrant petition. Additionally, you should keep and maintain adequate employee personnel and inspection files, and keep public information as accurate and current as possible.


Additionally, please note that the USCIS has revised I-797 Approval notices to include the following fraud related language:

NOTICE – Although this application/petition has been approved, DHS reserves the right to verify the information submitted in this application, petition, and/or supporting documentation to ensure conformity with applicable laws, rules, regulations, and other authorities. Methods used for verifying information may include, but are not limited to, the review of public information and records, contact by correspondence, the Internet, or telephone, and site inspections of businesses and residences. Information obtained during the course of verification will be used to determine whether revocation, rescission, and/or removal proceedings are appropriate. Applicants, petitioners and representatives of record will be provided an opportunity to address derogatory information before any formal proceeding is initiated.

Source: AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 10020237 (Posted 2/2/2010)

Posted On: February 10, 2010

USCIS Guidance for Recipients of TARP Funding Filing H-1B Petitions

Due to the passage of the Employ American Worker Act (EAWA), the USCIS is required to collect Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) information on each H-1B petitioning employer. Under the EAWA legislation, any company that has received TARP funding and seeks to hire new H-1B workers is considered an “H-1B dependent employer.” An H-1B dependent employer must make additional statements to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regarding the recruitment and non-displacement of U.S. workers when filing a Labor Condition Application (LCA).

After enactment of EAWA, USCIS revised its Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, to include a question asking whether the employer has received TARP funding.

It has come to the attention of the USCIS that some businesses who have received TARP funds may have repaid their obligations and may not know how to proceed with completing Form I-129 when filing for new H-1B hires.

• If you received TARP funds and have repaid your obligations, then answer “NO” to the question regarding TARP funding on Form I-129. If you wish to provide further information on the repayment of your obligations, you may do so and include that information with the H-1B petition.
• If you received TARP funds and have not repaid your obligations, then you must answer “YES” to the question regarding TARP funding, and must provide the additional statements regarding recruitment and non-displacement of U.S. workers on the LCA.
• If you submitted an LCA which includes the additional statements, but answer “NO” to the TARP funding question on Form I-129, you may explain the circumstances of the inconsistency of your answers. For instance, you received TARP funding at the time of filing the LCA but repaid the obligation before filing Form I-129.

Please be aware that if you indicate on the petition that you are subject to TARP funding, but the LCA does not contain the proper additional statements relating to H-1B dependent employers, USCIS has advised that they will deny the H-1B petition.

As immigration law is already complex is nature, it is important to have an attorney experienced in the field, who is ready and willing to advise when changes occur. Contact MVP Law Group if you have any further questions regarding EAWA, and its effect on your company.

Posted On: February 9, 2010

March 2010 Visa Bulletin

The Department of State has released its latest Visa Bulletin.

The March 2010 Visa Bulletin still shows employment based third preference (EB-3) visas as oversubscribed while the employment based second preference (EB-2) is current for all areas of chargeability except for China and India.

Already applied in EB3, thinking about filing in EB2...if you are eligible, contact MVP Law Group toll free at 1-800-447-0796.

Filed in EB3 or EB2 and still waiting...and married to a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident?...you may be eligible to file a Family Based Immigrant Petition for faster processing. Questions, contact MVP Law Group toll free at 1-800-447-0796.

Click here to view the March 2010 Visa Bulletin.

Posted On: February 8, 2010

Immigrant Integration Partnership – USCIS and Los Angeles, CA

The Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), Alejandro Mayorkas and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have entered into an agreement to strengthen and enhance local immigrant integration efforts. Launched as a pilot, this agreement will remain in effect for two (2) years with evaluations conducted by the USCIS to analyze the program’s effectiveness and to determine whether this partnership may be replicated in other locations.

The purpose of the partnership initiative is to strengthen immigrant integration efforts in Los Angeles through proactive citizenship awareness, education and outreach activities. The partnership has planned a series of informational sessions as well as other activities for Los Angeles residents where USCIS educational materials highlighting the benefits and process of U.S. Citizenship will be available at city facilities.

Mayor Villaraigosa provided that “this outreach campaign is a model of cooperation and civic empowerment that will help enrich America’s continued success as a nation of immigrants.”

Read the entire article

Posted On: February 5, 2010

BALCA reverses denial of Labor Certification – Employer Omissions on ETA Form 9089 were not material as other information provided on the Form answered the essential question posed by the Form

The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) recently reversed the final determination of a Certifying Officer (CO) denying labor certification (LC) for an alien worker for the position of Household Assistant.

The employer filed a LC which was accepted for processing on June 5, 2006. On September 20th, the CO denied the application because several required selections on the form had not been made by the Employer. The Employer thereafter requested reconsideration at the end of October. In its request for reconsideration, the Employer’s attorney provided responses to the omissions and believed that the request for reconsideration was to determine that the 30 day deadline had not elapsed. The Employer argued that each of the omissions was not material to the adjudication of the application as other information provided within the form answered the essential questions posed by the form. The Employer clearly stated in the motion for reconsideration that it was providing reasons for omissions in the event that the CO accepted the motion despite its lack of timeliness. Thereafter the CO accepted the Employer’s explanations for several of the selections, but found that the denial was valid because the Employer still did not provide information on what should be completed for the omitted selections. On appeal, the CO moved to dismiss the appeal on the ground that it was not timely. The Employer thereafter filed a response opposing the CO’s motion to dismiss.

PERM Regulation 20 C.F.R. § 656.17(a) controls and it requires that an employer who desires to apply for a labor certification on behalf of an alien must file a completed Department of Labor (DOL) Application for Permanent Employment Certification (ETA Form 9089). The regulation goes on to provide that incomplete applications will be denied. In the instant case, the Board found that the CO waived the issue of timeliness and made their decision based upon the materiality of the omissions. The Board recognized that some omissions may not be material to the review of the substance of an application and stated that the Employer made reasonable arguments as to why, in context, the omissions all were not material; however, the CO proffered no explanation for why the omissions prevented a complete review of the application.

Accordingly, the Board declined to affirm the decision of the CO in denying labor certification and returned the matter to the CO for the issuance of a labor certification.

Matter of Ben Pumo

Posted On: February 4, 2010

Attorney General Cuomo Filed Suit Against Two Immigration Services Organizations for Providing Fraudulent Services

On January 14, 2010, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo obtained a temporary restraining order against the International Immigrants Foundation, Inc. (“IIF”), International Professional Association, Inc. (“IPA”), and their President Edward Juarez.

As a result of the order, the organizations must refrain from providing immigration services and from soliciting new clients. To help handle the organizations’ existing clients and to protect innocent victims, the Office of the AG and several New York legal associations have made a plan to coordinate their efforts.

The Attorney General filed a lawsuit against these organizations alleging that they have been defrauding immigrants with false promises of citizenship, engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and illegally charging exorbitant fees for services.

It has become apparent that Attorney General Cuomo is cracking down on fraudulent and unauthorized immigration-related services in New York. In the past few months, the Attorney General shut down four businesses for providing legal services to thousands of immigrants without being licensed to do so.

To read more

If you have been a victim of immigration assistance fraud, please contact the Attorney General’s Immigration Services Fraud Unit Hotline at (866) 390-2992 or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has published a brochure titled: “Don’t Be a Victim of Immigration Fraud,” which provides basic information on how to protect yourself and avoid becoming a victim.

Posted On: February 3, 2010

USCIS Director issues a Response to Recommendation 43, Temporary Acceptance of Filed Labor Condition Applications for Certain H-1B Filings

The Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), Alejandro Mayorkas has recently issued a response to the recommendations of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman regarding the temporary acceptance of Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) for certain H-1B filings.

Until March 9, 2010, the USCIS Service Centers will continue to accept H-1B petitions filed without certified LCAs. However, the only H-1B petitions that will be accepted are those that have been filed at least seven (7) calendar days after the LCAs were filed with the Department of Labor (DOL). The only acceptable proof of the submission of the LCA for certification with the DOL is a copy of the DOL’s email giving notice of receipt of the LCA.

Those that do take advantage of the temporary acceptance of these certain H-1B filings must wait until they receive a Request for Evidence (RFE) before submitting the certified LCA to USCIS. The LCA submitted in response to receiving an RFE must be the same LCA filed with the original petition and it must be submitted within 30 calendar days of receipt of the RFE requesting such documentation.

Additionally, Director Mayorkas has indicated that the USCIS will continue to excuse late filings whereby the delay in filing the petition was related to LCA issuance delays beyond the control of the petitioner and/or denials by DOL due to Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) check issues.

Those that would like for the USCIS to consider a late filing should be prepared to submit evidence showing that the filing delay was through no fault of their own along with the H-1B petition.