Wednesday, January 30, 2013

President Obama Voices Support for Employment-Based Immigration Reforms as Senate Begins Work on the Details

From, 01/29/2013

Envisioning the United States as “a magnet for the best and brightest,” President Obama today voiced his support for the tenets underlying a bipartisan Senate proposal for immigration reform, but vowed his own reform bill if Congress cannot act quickly. 

In a list of comprehensive reform principles released after the President's speech, the White House called for specific reforms to the employment-based immigration system, including more immigrant visa numbers, the elimination of per-country quotas on immigrant visas, new visa programs for investors and entrepreneurs and a plan to “staple” green cards to the diplomas of foreign nationals who earn a U.S. advanced degree in a STEM field. 

The President’s address and the White House framework followed a week of intense immigration activity in the Senate that included key proposals on employment-based programs. On Monday, a bipartisan group of eight Senators unveiled a framework for comprehensive reform, setting forth the guiding principles of an eventual Senate bill. Another Senate group today released a slate of detailed proposals to enhance the H-1B and employment-based permanent residence programs. 

The Comprehensive Framework 
The Senate framework for comprehensive reform is based on four pillars: a “tough but fair” path to citizenship for the undocumented population that is contingent on enhanced border security; a reform of the legal immigration system; the creation of a fraud-resistant employment verification system; and improvements in employment-based temporary programs.

Without going into great detail, the Senate framework calls for streamlined permanent residence for holders of U.S. advanced degrees in STEM fields and the reduction of backlogs in the employment-based permanent residence system generally. A plan for lower-skilled foreign workers would require sponsoring employers to demonstrate recruitment and non-displacement of U.S. workers. The framework also calls for a stronger employment verification system, including a “non-forgeable electronic means” to check the status and identity of new hires. 

The plan was drafted by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). 

The I-Squared Act: A Detailed Proposal for Employment-Based Reform 
Another bipartisan Senate group has released a detailed proposal to reform the employment-based temporary and permanent residence systems. The Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 (the I-Squared Act) is sponsored by Senators Rubio, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chris Coons (D-DE). Key components of the bill include: 

H-1B reform. The I-Squared Act would increase the H-1B cap to a baseline of 115,000. A market-based escalator provision would allow for additional H-1B numbers up to a maximum of 300,000 in years when demand for the cap is high, and reductions in additional numbers when demand is low. The bill would create an unlimited H-1B cap exemption for holders of U.S. advanced degrees by removing the current ceiling of 20,000. 

The bill seeks to reduce hurdles in H-1B extensions and job changes by making it harder for USCIS to deny the extension of previously approved petitions and giving terminated H-1B workers a sixty-day transition period to find new employment. 

H-4 spouses would be eligible for employment authorization. 

The H-1B training and education fee would be increased to $2500 for sponsoring employers with more than 25 employees. These funds would be used to promote STEM education and retraining of U.S. workers. 

Nonimmigrant visa revalidation. The bill would reinstate the ability of E, H, L, O and P nonimmigrants to revalidate their visas from within the United States and avoid lengthy visa processing waits abroad. 

Employment-based permanent residence reforms. The bill would reform the employment-based immigrant visa quota system by allowing for the recapture and roll-over of unused immigrant visas from prior years. Though the bill would add no new immigrant visa numbers, it would create quota exemptions for dependents of principal employment-based immigrants, holders of U.S. STEM advanced degrees, individuals of extraordinary ability and outstanding professors and researchers. The bill would also eliminate annual per-country quotas on employment-based immigrant visas.

The bill would end the current requirement that foreign students at U.S. universities prove they intend to return to their home country at the end of an academic program. 

Next Steps for Comprehensive Reform 
Though there is increasing momentum for a fast track to comprehensive reform, it is likely to take several months or more for a bill to move through the legislative process. 

The Senate will now begin the work of drafting a detailed comprehensive reform bill, expected by March. The Senate Judiciary Committee is reportedly planning to hold a hearing on immigration reform as early as February 13. The I-Squared Act could be included in the Senate bill, but its favorable business immigration provisions would likely face opposition and potential amendments from legislators who support heightened restrictions on the H-1B and L-1 nonimmigrant programs. In past years, such proposals have included wage rules for L-1 employers and recruitment obligations extended to all H-1B employers. 

If a reform bill is passed in the Senate, it will move to the House of Representatives, where it faces a tough battle. There is already vocal opposition from immigration hardliners in the House, who object to plans for the legalization of unauthorized foreign nationals.

Anxious to Start Your 2012 Tax Return?

As we enter the tax filing period for 2012, you may be anxious to complete your return and to get your refund.  We at OHR and OIE understand this, and want to help!  

Please keep in mind that all non-US citizens (who are not US green card holders) should first use the GLACIER tax compliance system to determine if you are a resident or nonresident alien for tax purposes.  If GLACIER determines that you are a nonresident for tax purposes, we can help!  As a nonresident for tax purposes you will be able to complete your federal tax return using GLACIER Tax Prep (GTP) which will be available for use via your current GLACIER account no later than February 15, 2013.  

Workshops assisting with the Georgia state tax forms will be held February 20 through April 12 with dates, times, and locations to be announced soon.

Also, please be reminded that both resident and nonresident aliens for tax purposes who claimed treaties in 2012, as well as all those students who are nonresident aliens for tax purposes receiving scholarships above and beyond tuition, will need a form 1042-S to complete their tax return.  1042-S forms will also be released no later than February 15, 2013.  Recipients will receive an email from GLACIER when the form is ready for use.

See the International Student and Scholar Tax FAQs for additional information

Questions?  Email

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

J-1 Student On-Campus Work Authorization Renewal

If you are a J-1 student who is sponsored by Georgia Tech and working on-campus, it is time to renew your on-campus work authorization.  The form with instructions is available under  J-1 Student Resources at:

Note that if you plan to start or continue an on-campus job for spring semester, your request must be submitted to the OIE.  OIE normal walk-in hours are 8:30 am to 11:30am and 1:30pm-4:30pm   Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.   

Optional Practical Training: Changes and Tutorial

Students who wish to work off campus must have immigration authorization for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Curricular Practical Training (CPT). The procedure for OPT includes viewing a tutorial and completing the required E-form to request OPT.

F-1 students have the option to apply for either Pre-Completion OPT or Post-Completion OPT during their program of study. To determine which OPT is needed for your situation, please view the appropriate tutorial.

There are 5 easy steps to completing a successful OPT application

  1. Watch the appropriate OPT Tutorial.Complete the OPT assessment and the I-765. Upload both documents to the appropriate E-form in
  2. Pick up the I-20 from OIE once the E-form has been approved. Assemble your application together using the checklist provided by the OIE and mail the complete application to USCIS. For a complete OPT application check-list, click here.
  3. Receive the Notice of Action and the EAD card.
  4. Begin working only after you have received the EAD card authorizing you for OPT work permission. 

Important Dates for Spring 2013 Graduates:

January 28th: First day to submit OPT request in iStart (Takes up to 5 business days for an advisor to create your OPT I-20).

February 3rd: First day Texas Immigration Service Center will receive OPT applications
May 4th: Spring 2013 Graduation
July 3rd: Last day Texas Immigration Service Center will receive OPT applications

Non-thesis students are no longer required to have an appointment with an OIE advisor prior to submitting an application for Pre-completion or Post-completion OPT although advisors are available to answer questions and support students through the OPT process. Thesis students are required to meet with an international student advisor after completing the e-form to discuss their situation in more detail. Thesis students who have watched the tutorial and have questions on whether to apply for pre-completion or post-completion OPT should speak with an international student advisor during walk-in hours prior to completing the e-form. 

OIE has also implemented a new 17 month STEM extension tutorial. Please view this tutorial if you are currently on your Post-completion OPT and considering the STEM extension.

Monday, January 14, 2013

February 2013 Visa Bulletin

According to the U.S. Department of State’s February 2013 visa bulletin, the EB-2 category will remain current for all countries except India and China next month. The priority date cut-off for EB-2 India will once again remain unchanged at September 1, 2004. EB-2 for mainland China will advance by approximately five weeks, to January 15, 2008. 

February 2013 Visa Bulletin, Employment-Based Immigrant Visas

Friday, January 11, 2013

USCIS National Customer Service Center Adds Saturday Hours

Beginning Jan. 12, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) National Customer Service Center (NCSC) will expand its live, toll-free telephone assistance service to include Saturday hours.  Customer service representatives at our NCSC will now take calls Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., local time.

Customers will be able to call our toll-free number on Saturdays to receive nationwide assistance for immigration services and benefits offered by USCIS.  Our customer service representatives can answer routine questions on a wide variety of topics related to immigration services and benefits, including ordering forms, processing times, and information on local offices and civil surgeons.  For individuals seeking answers to more complex issues regarding their case, we recommend calling the NCSC Monday through Friday for access to Immigration Services Officers.  Individuals calling the NCSC can access information through a menu of automated options 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Contact our national toll-free customer service line by dialing 1-800-375-5283.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Traveling to Canada?

From, 12/07/2012

Biometrics to be Required for Visa Applicants from Countries

Nationals of thirty jurisdictions will be required to provide fingerprints and a digital photograph when applying for a Canadian visitor visa, study permit, or work permit beginning in 2013. Biometrics will be also confirmed when these travelers seek to enter Canada.

The new requirement will apply to applicants holding passports issued by the following jurisdictions: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Yemen. 

Applicants under the age of 14 or over the age of 79 will be exempt from the new requirement.

Canadian citizens and permanent residents will not have to submit biometrics when entering the country. 

Update, 01/09/2013

The Globe and Mail, 01/04/2013

“Almost all applicants seeking a visa to enter Canada will have their identity checked against American immigration databases to see whether they have been previously blacklisted, under a bilateral treaty signed…last month.

“And in a separate measure, Canada will be fingerprinting visa applicants from about 30 countries…by the end of this year.

“The measures are part of a sweeping effort to keep out the unwanted and dangerous, while simultaneously easing movement across the common border.

“…Cross-checking visa applicants’ identities against U.S. immigration databases will begin immediately. The U.S. will do the same with Canadian immigration databases.

“Once fingerprints are being taken later this year, they will automatically and electronically be checked against U.S. immigration databases as well as Canadian police records…

“…The treaty allows visa officers of both countries to electronically check the other country’s immigration database only.”

To read the full article, please click here

Department of State Online Case Tracker

The Department of State has introduced the online "Visa Status Check," which allows both immigrant and nonimmigrant applicants to check the status of their cases at the Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). 

Friday, January 4, 2013

US Embassies in China: Changes in Fee Collections

From US Embassy, Beijing, 01/04/2013 

New Deadline for Use of CITIC Fee Receipts

The U.S. Embassy and Consulates General in China will be transitioning to a new and improved visa fee collection system for Chinese applicants in mid-March 2013.  As a result of this new system, the U.S. visa fee receipts that applicants currently purchase from select CITIC Bank branches will be phased out and will not be valid after March 14, 2013.  There will be no fee increase associated with these changes.  The U.S. Embassy strongly advises all visa applicants to use all current CITIC fee receipts before they expire on March 14, 2013.  After the expiration date, we will be unable to accept receipts issued before March 14 and refunds for expired receipts will not be available.  Visa applicants who plan to apply close to or after March 14 should wait to pay their visa fees until after this date.  Specific details on this new and more convenient way for applicants to pay their visa fees will be announced closer to the transition date.  The implementation of a new system is part of our efforts to continually improve our services for Chinese visa applicants.