Tuesday, September 23, 2014

FY 2016 Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Opens October 1

From Fragomen.com, 09/22/2014

The State Department will begin accepting online registrations for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Diversity Visa (DV) lottery starting Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at noon EDT. Foreign nationals who wish to enter the lottery have until Monday, November 3, 2014 at noon EST to file online.

The DV lottery program makes 50,000 green card numbers available each year through random selection. FY 2016 lottery results will be announced in May 2015. Foreign nationals selected in the FY 2016 lottery can submit their green card applications starting on October 1, 2015.

Who Is Eligible to Enter the Lottery? 
The DV lottery is open to natives of countries that have historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Entrants must have a high school education (or equivalent) or at least two years of qualifying work experience.

Individuals from countries with high rates of U.S. immigration are not eligible to register.
This year, those born in the following countries are ineligible: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam.

People born in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan can participate.

DV lottery applicants may include a spouse (same-sex or opposite-sex) and children in their initial entries or add a spouse and children after their initial registration.

Those people who cannot register because their country of birth is excluded may be able to qualify through a spouse who was born in an eligible country or, in certain circumstances, through a parent’s country of birth.

Registering for the Lottery 
To register, entrants must submit an online form and a digital photo through the official DV lottery website. Only one entry is permitted per person. If there are multiple registrations on behalf of one person, all of them are disqualified.

Applicants must carefully follow the State Department’s official lottery instructions. Lottery entries and digital photos that do not precisely conform to the instructions will be disqualified.

Once the application is accepted, applicants will receive a confirmation number, which can be used to check the status of their application.

How Are Lottery Winners Chosen and Notified? 
The State Department chooses lottery winners by random computer selection. Results will be published starting May 2, 2015 through at least June 30, 2016, on the official DV lottery entry status website.

Foreign nationals can learn whether they were selected only by visiting the official website and entering their confirmation number. The State Department does not notify entrants by letter, e-mail, fax or telephone. The official website is the only legitimate source of lottery results.

Guarding Against Lottery Fraud 
Unfortunately, DV lottery fraud is very common. However, foreign nationals can and should take a few precautions to protect themselves.
  • Look out for deceptive lottery websites. The only authorized DV lottery website is located on the State Department website. The State Department does not use or authorize any outside individual or company to accept lottery applications or operate the lottery. But websites posing as official government sites or claiming to have State Department authorization abound. They should be avoided.
  • The State Department does not charge a fee for lottery registrations. A website, individual or company claiming there is a government fee to enter the lottery is fraudulent.
  • If lottery assistance is needed, seek competent advice. Applicants may use a lawyer or other representative to prepare a lottery registration, but they should be wary of commercial websites that claim to register applicants outside of the registration period or purport to be authorized by the State Department to accept registrations for a fee.
  • Beware of lottery e-mails, letters or faxes that claim to be from the State Department. The State Department does not send e-mails, letters or faxes about the DV lottery. The official website is the only legitimate source of information about lottery results and the only place to submit a lottery registration.
  • Be skeptical of any communication claiming a foreign national has won the DV lottery when he or she did not register or registered in a previous year.
  • Avoid sending money or personal information to questionable individuals or companies.
  • Learn more about DV lottery fraud by visiting the websites of the State Departmentand the Federal Trade Commission.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Major Retrogression in the EB-2/India Immigrant Visa Category Expected in the Fall of 2014

From ogletreedeakins.com, 09/15/2014

The U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) Visa Bulletin sets out per country priority dates that regulate when an individual may begin the final phase of the “green card” process, either through adjustment of status or consular processing of an immigrant visa application. Those with a priority date that is earlier than the date listed for that visa category and country can proceed with their application.
Last week, Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the DOS’s Visa Control and Reporting Division, announced that due to the high volume of pending employment-based second preference EB-2/India petitions, effective immediately, the EB-2/India preference category will be "unavailable" through the end of the current federal fiscal year ending on September 30, 2014.
At the same time, Oppenheim indicated that visa numbers for EB-2/India should be available as of October 1, 2014, at the start of the new federal fiscal year. However, most importantly, visa retrogression for the EB-2 India category is possible as early as November 2014. Thus, it is likely that there will be a narrow window of time for current EB-2/India-based adjustment of status (AOS) applications to be submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) this fall.
September 2014
USCIS will continue to accept EB-2 India AOS filings with a current priority date. However, since the EB-2 India category has been made “unavailable” and visa numbers are no longer available in this category for September, USCIS may not act on cases until October.
October 2014
The October 2014 Visa Bulletin lists the EB-2/India category with a cutoff date of May 1, 2009. EB-2/India-based AOS applications with a priority date prior to May 1, 2009 should be accepted by USCIS during October.
November 2014 and Beyond
Given the demand in this category, DOS predicts the priority date for EB-2/India will likely retrogress from May 1, 2009 to early 2005, which may occur as soon as November 2014.
A significant percentage of EB-3 to EB-2 upgrades by Indian nationals is cited as a major factor with respect to the predicted retrogression, and DOS expects a large volume of such filings in the coming months. Therefore, EB-2/India applicants with priority dates prior to May 1, 2009, should file their AOS applications before the end of October 2014. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

CBP Releases Mobile Application, Allowing Some Travelers to Bypass Customs Line

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has released a mobile application called “Mobile Passport” that allows frequent traveler to bypass customs lines.  The app is currently available for iPhones and will soon be available for Android devices.

The app is currently available for use in Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

To use the app, users will need to download the app, enter passport information, answer a few questions and submit the answers to CBP.  Once approved, users will be able to use designated “mobile passport control” lines to skip general customs lines.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

October 2014 Visa Bulletin

From Fragomen.com, 09/09/2014

EB-3 China and Worldwide Advance; Upcoming EB-2 India Retrogression Likely

According to the State Department’s October Visa Bulletin, the EB-3 subcategory for professionals and skilled workers for China will advance by five months, to April 1, 2009. EB-3 will advance one week, to November 15, 2003, for India, and by six months for all other countries, to October 1, 2011. 

EB-2 China will advance by five weeks, to November 15, 2009. EB-2 India will remain at May 1, 2009 in October, but the State Department warns that retrogression for the category is likely and could occur as early as November due to increased demand. 

October 2014 Priority Date Cut-Offs 

In October 2014, EB immigrant visa priority date cut-offs will be: 

EB-1 Current for all countries. 

EB-2 China: November 15, 2009 
India: May 1, 2009 
All other countries: Current 

EB-3 Professionals and Skilled Workers 
China: April 1, 2009 
India: November 15, 2003 
Philippines: October 1, 2011 
All other countries: October 1, 2011 

EB-3 Other Workers 
China: July 22, 2005 
India: November 15, 2003 
Philippines: October 1, 2011 
All other countries: October 1, 2011 

EB-5 Current for all countries and subcategories. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Potential Implications for Travel Because of Ebola in Parts of West Africa

From Travel.State.gov, 08/28/2014

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to screening procedures, travel restrictions, and reduced aviation transportation options in response to the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.   

This Travel Alert will expire on February 27, 2015.
Due to an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued  Level 3 Travel Warnings for those three countries advising against non-essential travel and provided guidance to reduce the potential for spread of EVD.  The CDC also issued a Level 2 Travel Alert for Nigeria to notify travelers of the Ebola outbreak in that country.  The Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website prominently features an Ebola Fact Sheet and links to the CDC Health Travel Warnings, Travel Alert, and general guidance about Ebola.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC have also published and provided interim guidance to public health authorities, airlines, and other partners in West Africa for evaluating risk of exposure of persons coming from countries affected by EVD.  Measures can include screening, medical evaluation, movement restrictions up to 21 days, and infection control precautions.  Travelers who exhibit symptoms indicative of possible Ebola infection may be prevented from boarding and restricted from traveling for the 21-day period.  Please note neither the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs nor the U.S. Embassy have authority over quarantine issues and cannot prevent a U.S. citizen from being quarantined should local health authorities require it.  For questions about quarantine, please visit the CDC website that addresses quarantine and isolation issues.
The cost for a medical evacuation is very expensive.  We encourage U.S. citizens travelling to Ebola-affected countries to purchase travel insurance that includes medical evacuation for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).  Policy holders should confirm the availability of medical care and evacuation services at their travel destinations prior to travel. 
Some local, regional, and international air carriers have curtailed or temporarily suspended service to or from Ebola-affected countries.  U.S. citizens planning travel to or from these countries, in accordance with the CDC Health Travel Warnings and Health Travel Alert, should contact their airline to verify seat availability, confirm departure schedules, inquire about screening procedures, and be aware of other airline options. 
The Department is aware that some countries have put in place procedures relating to the travel of individuals from the affected countries, including complete travel bans.  Changes to existing procedures may occur with little or no notice.  Please consult your airline or the embassy of your destination country for additional information. 
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment allows you to receive the Department’s safety and security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you do not have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where you can find current Travel Warning and Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution, and read the Country Specific Information for your destination countries.  For additional information, refer to the "Traveler's Checklist" on the State Department's website.  Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free from within the United States and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

New U.S. Consular Fees Take Effect September 12

From Fragomen.com, 09/02/2014

Some employment-based fees will be decreased modestly when a new State Department consular fee schedule takes effect on September 12, 2014. H-1B and L-1 visa fees will not be affected, however. The fees were initially slated to take effect on September 6, 2014, but the State Department changed the implementation date to September 12, 2014.

The fee for E-1 and E-2 visa applications will be $205, down from $270. The fee for a State Department waiver of the two-year home residency requirement for J-1 visa holders who wish to change or adjust their status will also decrease, to $120 from $215. 

Foreign nationals applying for an employment-based immigrant visa at a consulate will pay $345, down from $405. Lawful permanent residents who have remained abroad for more than one year or beyond the validity of a reentry permit will pay $205 for a returning resident immigrant visa, down from $220. 

Individuals who want to formally renounce their U.S. citizenship will be subject to a fee of $2,350 – a more than fourfold increase from the current fee of $450. 

The new fees reflect the State Department’s latest assessment of the actual cost of visa services. They will take effect on September 12, though the State Department will accept public comments on the new rates through October 26, 2014.