Immigration Alert: June 2007

Elise Healy and Leigh Ganchan Appointed to AILA National Liaison Committees

July 2007 Priority Dates will be Current for Most Employment-Based Categories

USCIS Temporarily Suspends Premium Processing for I-140 Petitions

U.S. Citizens Gain Travel Flexibility within Western Hemisphere

Substantial USCIS Fee Increases Effective on July 30, 2007

USCIS Announces Direct Filing Instructions for Certain Forms

Recent ICE Enforcement Actions

Updates on Comprehensive Immigration Reform


Elise Healy and Leigh Ganchan Appointed to AILA National Liaison Committees

We are proud to announce that the President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (?"AILA?") has appointed Elise Healy (?"Dallas?") and Leigh Ganchan (?"Houston?") to the AILA California and Texas Service National Liaison Committees, respectively. Ms. Ganchan also was appointed to serve on the USCIS Service Center Operations Liaison Committee.

The AILA national liaison committees raise and resolve procedural problems, individual case issues with the particular service center and other items practice and policy that are peculiar to the particular service center. The overall Service Center Operations Liaison Committee resolves practice and procedure issues common to the various Service Centers, and keep open the lines of communication between AILA and the Service Centers as a group.

This not only is an honor for Elise and Leigh, it also should provide the Immigration Law Group with even better operational understanding of these centers and thus facilitate a more orderly and efficient adjudication of our clients' applications.

July 2007 Priority Dates will be Current for Most Employment-Based

The Department of State (?"DOS?") Visa Bulletin for July 2007 indicates that all of the visa categories are current except for the EB-3 "Other Workers?" category. This means that, effective July 1, 2007, all foreign nationals (except those who fall in the EB-3 "Other Workers?" category) who otherwise are eligible to file applications for permanent residence shall be able to do so with the appropriate USCIS office. It also means that the American embassies abroad will be able to resume scheduling appointments for applicants whose immigrant visa applications could not be adjudicated because there was no visa number available.

The sudden progress in the DOS Visa Bulletin in the past few months has caught most by surprise. Moreover, there is no indication how long this window of opportunity for filing/interview will last. Most expect that the Visa Bulletin will remain current through September 2007 and then regress on October 1, 2007, the beginning of the federal government's new fiscal year. If that happens, then the USCIS will retain the cases but cannot adjudicate them until there again is a visa number available in the specific case category.

We anticipate that this development will result in an unusually large number of permanent resident filings, and that this will cause extraordinary delays in both the initial processing of these cases as well as the ultimate adjudication. This may have adverse consequences in several areas. First, there will be a delay in the applicant's ability to schedule the medical examination that is required prior to filing. Thus, those seeking to take advantage of this opportunity should schedule these examinations as soon as possible.

Second, the large number of applications will make it harder for the USCIS to process the initial filings and issue case receipts in a timely manner. This may restrict international travel plans by the applicants who either need those receipts or approval of advanced parole to depart the country without abandoning their permanent residence applications. Finally, it will cause not only a delay in processing these cases but also promises to slow down the entire USCIS service center process as they seek to divert resources to manage the case load. This promises to significantly increase the current processing times and backlogs that already are too long!

USCIS Temporarily Suspends Premium Processing for I-140 Petitions

On June 28, 2007, the USCIS announced that it was temporarily suspending the premium Processing Service for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. According to the USCIS, it expects high volume of these applications in July due to the fact that the visa bulletin will be current and it is concerned that it does not have the capacity to handle this volume.

As a result, the USCIS will refuse to premium process I-140 petitions received between July 2, 2007 and August 1, 2007. During this 30 day period, the USCIS will ascertain if it is able to handle these cases going forward. If so, it is expected that the USCIS will resume its Premium Processing Service for I-140 petitions filed after August 1, 2007.

U.S. Citizens Gain Travel Flexibility within Western Hemisphere

On June 20, 2007, the Bush administration postponed rules that would require passports for US citizens re-entering the country by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or Caribbean countries. This postponement follows the decision earlier this month to relax related requirements for air travelers. Both were required by the unprecedented demand for U.S. passports caused by the "Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative?" (?"WHTI?"), which had required United States citizens traveling to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda (the "WHTI Countries?") to obtain U.S. passports. [1]

The Departments of State and Homeland Security relaxed but did not eliminate the U.S. passport requirements for those returning under the WHTI to the United States. Through September 30, 2007, U. S. citizens without U.S. passports still will be allowed to traveling by air to and from WHTI Countries as long as they can demonstrate that they have applied for, but not yet received passports, and can produce a government issued photo identification.

To take advantage of this accommodation, U.S. citizen travelers will need to present the official proof of passport application to air carriers and to Customs and Border Protection (?"CBP?") officers at air ports of entry. Such individuals may be subject to secondary inspection and additional delays. In "secondary,?" CBP officers will evaluate any evidence of citizenship or identity the individual may have and will verify all information against available databases. The new documentation requirements may be waived under certain circumstances, including individual cases of unforeseen emergency and "humanitarian or national interest?" reasons. To prevent delay and frustration at the ports of entry, however, all U.S. citizens should obtain the appropriate documents before they depart the United States.

Travelers who have applied for passports should check the status of their application online at http://travel.state.gov. Applicants may trace the progress of their applications inside one week of applying. The online status check will confirm that the application is being processed, and will be updated to confirm that the passport has been mailed. A print-out of the online status check can be accessed at http://travel.state.gov/passport.

If a passport applicant is within two weeks of travel and the State Department website does not indicate that the passport process has been completed, the traveler should call the National Passport Information Center (NPIC) at (877) 487-2778 for information and support in arranging to have their passports ready for their trips.

Under regular circumstances, it can take the State Department 8-12 weeks to process a passport application. There is an expedited processing service. However, it is problematic and takes an inordinate amount of time to reach and utilize. Moreover, with the current volume of passport applications, even the expedite process is likely to be slow. Thus, those planning to travel should begin the passport application process well in advance of the departure date. U.S. citizens living outside the U.S. should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Consulates can provide emergency travel documents in situations where US passports have been lost or stolen.

http://www.ilw.com/immigdaily/news/2007,0424-ice.shtm

Substantial USCIS Fee Increases Effective on July 30, 2007

The USCIS will implement a new fee structure for all applications received on or after July 30, 2007. This will raise fees in many cases by more than 50%! All applications and petitions postmarked or otherwise filed after July 29, 2007 must include new fee. For a copy of a chart explaining the fee schedule, please visit:

http://www.uscis.gov/files/nativedocuments/FinalUSCISFeeSchedule052907.pdf.

USCIS Announces Direct Filing Instructions for Certain Forms

As part of the Bi-specialization initiative, the USCIS announced on June 21, 2007, the new "Direct Filing?" instructions for forms I-129F, I-131, I-140, I-360, I-485, I-765 and I-907. "Direct Filing?" is the process by which the USCIS requires customers to file their petitions and applications with the service center that will process the filings. The USCIS service center that receives the case then will generate a receipt notice and complete the adjudication.

The effective date of the "Direct Filing?" is July 30, 2007. This coincides with effective date of the USCIS fee increase. During the first "30?" days of the "Direct Filing?", however, the USCIS will not reject any form incorrectly filed at prior filing location. However, the USCIS will reject any applications/petitions that do not contain the correct fee. Starting August 30, 2007, the USCIS will reject any of these forms that are filed with the incorrect filing location.

Recent ICE Enforcement Actions

The Immigration Customs and Enforcement (?"ICE?") continued its worksite enforcement efforts to prosecute criminally those violate the laws regulating the employment of foreign nationals. On June 19, 2007, ICE culminated a four-month investigation with the California Department of Motor Vehicles into the operator of Bay Area pizza parlors. The owners of these pizza parlors were charged for harboring illegal aliens. In addition, four of the individuals working illegally in the restaurant were charged with federal identity theft.

Charles DeMore, special agent in charge of the ICE office in San Francisco stated that, "[l]ast week's action is part of ICE's continued effort to investigate employers who facilitate the hiring of undocumented workers. ICE will use every tool at its disposal to target businesses that exploit an illegal workforce to turn a profit.?"

ICE continued its worksite enforcement efforts in St. Louis, Missouri. On June 19, 1007, John F. Wood, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that several roofing companies in the Kansas City, Missouri area, their owners and a number of their employees were indicted for allegedly creating a scheme to make use of illegal aliens in their workforce.

Updates on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

The Senators who are pushing for a new immigration policy appealed to wavering supporters ahead of renewed debate on securing the borders and dealing with the twelve (12) million undocumented immigrants. A delicate compromise was pulled from the Senate in early June, and then revived after bipartisan negotiations with the White House.

The bill currently awaits a critical test vote this week. Today that vote appears to be lost. President Bush has been an advocate of immigration overhaul for a long time. On June 23, 2007, during his weekly radio address, he encouraged lawmakers to "summon the courage" to support what could be the last major legislative achievement of his presidency. He added "The status quo is unacceptable.?" But he has faced growing opposition from fellow Republicans and others who insist on better border security and are opposed to any policy that contemplates what might be considered amnesty for undocumented aliens. Today, it appears as if that opposition has prevailed.



[1] The passport requirement does not apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. "territory?" because these territories are considered part of the United States. U.S. territories include the following: Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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