Monday, March 25, 2013

CBP Announces Automation of Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

From, 03/21/2013

Eliminates Paper Forms, Streamlines Admission Process

Washington — U.S. Customs and Border Protection today announced that it has submitted to the Federal Register a rule that will automate Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record to streamline the admissions process for individuals lawfully visiting the United States. Form I-94 provides international visitors evidence they have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. which is necessary to verify alien registration, immigration status, and employment authorization. The automation means that affected visitors will no longer need to fill out a paper form when arriving to the U.S. by air or sea, improving procedures and reducing costs. The change will go into effect 30 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register.

“Automation of the I-94 will increase efficiency and streamline the admission process,” said CBP Deputy Commissioner David V. Aguilar. “Once fully implemented, the process will facilitate security and travel while saving CBP an estimated $15.5 million a year.”

Travelers wanting a hard copy or other evidence of admission will be directed to* to print a copy of an I-94 based on the electronically submitted data, including the I-94 number from the form, to provide as necessary to benefits providers or as evidence of lawful admission. ( )

As part of CBP’s work to bring advances in technology and automation to the passenger processing environment, records of admission will now be generated using traveler information already transmitted through electronic means. This change should decrease paperwork for both the officer and the traveler and will allow CBP to better optimize its resources.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

April 2013 Visa Bulletin

EB-2 China Will Advance Six Weeks; EB-3 to Advance for All Countries

According to the State Department’s April Visa Bulletin, the EB-2 category will advance by six weeks for China, to April 1, 2008, and will remain current for all other countries except India, which will remain at a cut-off date of September 1, 2004. 

April 2013 Visa Bulletin, Employment-Based Immigrant Visas

See the entire bulletin here: 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sequestration Update: How will the immigration agencies be affected?

Details are still coming in about the full impact of the sequester on the immigration agencies.  The agencies are working on implementation plans for mandatory budget cuts and we can assume that normal processes are likely to slow down.  Here’s some more detail about what’s going on at the various agencies.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

Since USCIS gets most of its budget from fees, the impact of sequestration might not be felt as immediately as it is at many of the other agencies.  However, there has been speculation about a “spillover effect,” meaning that, as many USCIS processes are dependent upon documents and processes from other agencies like CBP and ICE, the agency will be affected indirectly from the sequester.  

Customs and Border Protection & Transportation Security Administration

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano say that the sequester is already having a major effect on travel time at airports, with lines increasing to 150% or 200% of their normal size.  This is due to cutbacks on overtime at CBP, and could be exacerbated as furloughs or changes to overtime kick in for TSA. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICE has received considerable attention in light of the sequester, after 2,000 undocumented immigrants were released from detention.  In recent days, however, Napolitano has said that the release was part of the “normal ebb and flow” of detention, not an immediate result of the sequester.  Still, as Napolitano says the agency does not have the budget to meet the detention expectations of Congress, it appears the sequester will have a significant impact on the agency.

Department of State

Secretary of State John Kerry has said that “[r]eductions in funding would jeopardize the Department’s efforts to provide secure, error-free travel documents to those eligible to receive them, while denying them to those not eligible. Reduced funding would also undermine progress made in ensuring that visa requests are processed in a timely fashion.”
Patrick Ventrell, the agency’s acting deputy spokesperson, expanded upon Kerry’s remarks, saying “[O]ne of the things we are very concerned about is we’ve done – we’ve had a huge influx of hiring of new consulate officers we sent out to hotspots like India, China, Brazil, where you have lots of middle class folks who are trying to come to the U.S. for the first time and visit and spend their money. It’s good for the American economy. And so we are concerned that . . . we could have major setbacks in really the herculean effort we’ve made to reduce wait times.”  He noted the huge impact this could have on the economy, stating “We estimate that for every 65 visitors to the U.S., that creates one American job.”

Department of Labor

It is unknown exactly what budgetary cuts will be made at DOL, but the possibility exists that both PERM and LCA processing will slow down. 

Source: American Council on International Personnel, 03/07/2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

U.S. Visa Processing Questions & Answers

U.S. Department of State, 02/28/2013

Question: What did the State Department do to reduce Visa Wait Times and increase visa processing capacity in the past year?

Answer: The Department of State welcomes Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank’s announcement that 66 million international tourists visited the United States in 2012, generating an all-time record $168 billion in revenue, an increase of 10 percent from 2011. International tourism has a significant impact on the U.S. economy, creating one new American job for every 65 visitors that we help to bring to our shores.

We are proud to have played a key role in facilitating travel for the approximately one-third of travelers to the United States each year that require a visa, all while upholding the highest standards of border security. In FY 2012, we processed 10.3 million non-immigrant visa applications and issued 8.9 million visas, a 19 percent increase over the previous year, while working through extraordinary increases in demand for visas in key markets such as Brazil, China, and Mexico.

In January 2012, the President ordered us to build capacity, leverage resources, and improve the visa application and entry process. The Department continues to meet and exceed the President’s goals to attract and welcome more international visitors – visitors who create additional jobs here at home, many in the travel and tourism industry.

Keeping Interview Wait Times Low: Currently, more than 90 percent of applicants worldwide are interviewed within three weeks of submitting their applications. In China, consular officers have kept interview wait times to an average of five days and consular officers in Brazil have brought wait times down by 98 percent, from a high of 140 days in São Paulo, to just two days right now.

Increased Processing Capacity: The U.S. Missions in Brazil and China met the President’s goal to increase visa processing capacity by 40 percent in 2012. In Brazil, consular officers met the target in June 2012 and in China we met the target in November 2012. By the end of 2012, we had created more than 40 new visa adjudicator positions in China and 50 in Brazil, including 43 under an innovative program that targets recruits who speak Mandarin and Portuguese.

Streamlining the Visa Process: A pilot program that allows consular officers to waive in-person interviews for certain nonimmigrant visa applicants renewing their visas is operational at 53 visa processing posts in 29 countries. Consular officers have already waived interviews for more than 222,000 of these low-risk visa applicants.

Expanding Facilities: State spent millions of dollars to upgrade and expand its existing consular facilities. In China, State will open a new consulate building in Guangzhou in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, move the consular sections in Shenyang to a larger facility, and begin processing visas in Wuhan. New consulates in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre will open in Brazil in FY 2015.

Impact of the Federal Budget Sequester on Immigration Processing, 03/01/2013

As has been widely reported in the media, across-the-board funding cuts are set to take effect today at U.S. government agencies unless Congress can reach a compromise on the federal budget. The Departments of Homeland Security, State and Labor are all subject to cuts, but have not yet specified how their immigration processing operations would be affected. If funding reductions take place, employers and foreign nationals could see delays in adjudications, border inspections and visa issuance. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is primarily funded by filing fees and may see the fewest effects if sequester takes place, though it is subject to budget cuts to some degree. Customs and Border Protection is expected to be among the hardest hit among DHS operations. Immigration and Customs Enforcement this week released some low-risk foreign nationals from detention facilities, citing looming budget cuts. 

At the State Department, officials have already warned that consular services like visa processing might be delayed. Labor Department functions – including PERM, labor condition application (LCA) and prevailing wage operations – are not funded by fees and could also face delays due to cuts.