Immigration Law Update - December 2016
New Fee Schedule For Immigration Benefits
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is adjusting the fee schedule for immigration filings processed by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS conducted a comprehensive fee review and determined that current fees do not recover the full cost of services provided. The new fee schedule will go into effect on December 23, 2016. Any petition received on or after December 23rd must contain these new fees or USCIS will reject the petition. To view the full fee schedule, see the USCIS website. Some of the new fees include:
- I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker: $325 to $460
- I-140 Petition for Alien Worker: $580 to $700
- I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status: $290 to $370
- I-765 Application for Employment Authorization: $380 to $410
USCIS Publishes A New E-Verify Manual
USCIS has released a new E-Verify User Manual, providing guidance on E-Verify processes and responsibilities for employers. The new manual can be found here. E-Verify is an internet-based system that compares information from an employee's I-9 Employment Verification Form to data in US government records. For more information about I-9s, please visit the Clark Hill website.
Online I-94 Application
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced an enhancement to the I-94 website that will allow travelers to apply and pay for their I-94 online prior to arriving at a land port of entry. Travelers can provide their biographic and travel information, as well as pay the I-94 application fee ($6) online, up to seven days before their entry into the US. Travelers who chose to take advantage of this online system will be issued a provisional I-94 after submitting their application and making payment. The traveler must present themselves at a land port of entry within seven days of their application. For more information about this new feature, please see the CBP website.
Changes to Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced changes to the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) process. These changes will require some individuals to renew their ITINs. Under the new law, ITINs that have not been used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three years will no longer be valid for use on a tax return unless renewed by the taxpayer. Additionally, ITINs issued prior to 2013, that have been used on a federal tax return in the last three years, will need to be renewed. Only ITIN holders who need to file a tax return need to renew their ITINs. Others do not need to take any action. For information on how to renew an ITIN, please visit the IRS website.
Visa Revocation For Alcohol Related Arrests/Convictions
According to the US Department of State (DOS) in a September 2016 directive, US Consular Officers are required to revoke nonimmigrant visas of individuals arrested for, or convicted of, alcohol related offenses, including driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated. According to the policy, if after visa issuance, new or additional information calls into question an applicant's continued eligibility for a visa, in cases of a DUI arrest or conviction, Consular Officers may revoke the visa of an individual even if he or she is physically present in the United States.
Except in rare cases, visa revocation will not impact a nonimmigrant visa holder's ability to stay in the US, or the I-94 card. (For more information about I-94 cards, see the Clark Hill website.) However, it will impact any future travel; if a nonimmigrant visa holder with a revoked visa departs the US, they will need a new visa to reenter the US. When applying for a new visa, Consular Officers will refer any nonimmigrant visa applicant with one alcohol related arrest in the last five years, two or more arrests in the last 10 years, or where other evidence suggesting an alcohol problems exists, to a panel physician for a medical examination prior to visa issuance in order to determine whether this type of ineligibility may apply to the applicant. This additional review will likely add at least one month to the US visa application process.
DOS Implements A No Eyeglass Policy for Visa and Passport Photos
As of November 1, 2016, the DOS no longer allows applicants to wear eyeglasses in visa and passport photos. The change is part of an effort to enhance the security of the application process and verify identity faster. Going forward, eyeglasses will only be permitted for medical issues, such as a recent surgery, and a signed statement from a medical professional or health practitioner will be necessary in these cases. For more information, please see the DOS website.
USCIS Publishes Final Rule For Certain Employment-Based Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Visa Programs
On November 18, 2016, USCIS published a final rule aimed at improving several aspects of certain employment-based nonimmigrant and immigrant visa programs. This rule goes into effect on January 17, 2017. The Clark Hill Immigration Team will release a more detailed summary of this final rule in January.
January Visa Bulletin
The January Visa Bulletin has been released. For China, both the second and third preference final action dates will advance slightly. The final action date for employment-based second category (EB-2) China will advance to October 15, 2012 and EB-3 China will advance to September 8, 2013.
For India, the final action date for employment-based second category (EB-2) India will advance to April 15, 2008 and EB-3 India will remain the same at March 15, 2005. The high demand for India EB-3 upgrades could negatively impact the recovery of India EB-2 final action dates moving forward.
Due to the demand for EB-2 Worldwide, a final action cut-off date is expected in 2017. The final action date for employment-based second category (EB-2) cases included in the Worldwide limit will be current in January. The EB-3 Worldwide demand has dropped slightly, allowing this category to advance slightly. The final action date for employment-based third category (EB-3) cases included in the Worldwide limit will be August 1, 2016. Once EB-2 Worldwide becomes subject to a final action cut-off date, we may see an EB-3 downgrade trend which, to this point, has only been seen with China.
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