Fraud Alert: Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman Telephone Numbers Used in Scam to Obtain Personally Identifiable Information

December 6, 2019 Leave a comment

We have been informed that the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (Ombudsman) would like to warn its stakeholders of reports that certain Department of Homeland Security (DHS) telephone numbers, including the Ombudsman’s main telephone number, have been used recently as part of a telephone spoofing scam targeting individuals throughout the country. Spoofing is the deliberate falsifying of information transmitted to a caller ID display to disguise an identity.

The Ombudsman’s Office numbers (202-357-8100 and 1-855-882-8100) appear to have been compromised.  The scammers use various tactics, such as the threat of identity theft, to elicit sensitive information. Very little is known at this time, but please be aware that we – indeed any government office – would never ask for sensitive information over the telephone, such as Social Security numbers or credit card information.

Please note that it continues to be safe to make calls to the Ombudsman’s Office using our telephone numbers and email posted to our website.

USCIS Increases Premium Processing Fee

November 6, 2019 Leave a comment

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that beginning on December 2, 2019, it is adjusting the filing fee to request premium processing for certain employment-based petitions.  The premium processing fee will increase to $1,440 from the current fee of $1,410 for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

October 2019 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based Visa Numbers – Eligibility to File Adjustment of Status Applications

September 26, 2019 Leave a comment

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:
You must use the Dates for Filing chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for October 2019.

Employment-
based
All Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed
CHINA-
mainland
born
EL SALVADOR
GUATEMALA
HONDURAS
INDIA
MEXICO 
PHILIPPINES 
1st
01JUL19
01SEP17
01JUL19
15MAR17
01JUL19
01JUL19
2nd
C
01AUG16
C
01JUL09
C
C
3rd
C
01MAR17
C
01FEB10
C
C
Other Workers
C
01AUG08
C
01FEB10
C
C
4th
C
C
15AUG16
C
C
C
Certain Religious Workers
C
C
15AUG16
C
C
C
5th Non-Regional Center
(C5 and T5)
C
01JAN15
C
C
C
C
5th Regional Center
(I5 and R5)
C
01JAN15
C
C
C
C

ICE Commences On-Site Inspections for STEM OPT Employment

September 26, 2019 Leave a comment

Our office has learned that ICE (http://www.ice.gov) has started to conduct on-site inspections for STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) employment.  The site visits are aimed to address how the salary of STEM OPT employees is determined, whether there is sufficient structure to provide supervision and training of the employee, and the nature of the employer/employee relationship at any third-party worksites.  According to https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/: Site visits will be limited to checking information related to student STEM OPT employment and ensuring that students and employers are engaged in work-based learning experiences that are consistent with the information supplied on the student’s Form I-983.

The length of the site visit appears to be about 1-2 hours but it could take up to five hours.  ICE normally gives two days’ notice via email to the STEM OPT employee’s manager/supervisor unless such visit is pursuant to a complaint in which case a notice would be unlikely.  It is important to note that in order to qualify for a STEM OPT extension, the student and the employer must complete Form I-983, providing specific information about the training program and agreeing to notify the Designated School Official (DSO) if there are any material changes to the training program. In addition, the Form I-983 must be regularly updated with the student’s progress in the training program.  However, the I-983 is not included with the application for STEM OPT, and as a result, it is generally not reviewed by USCIS or ICE at all (unless requested by USCIS via a Request for Evidence (RFE).

In light of the inspections, we remind you that employers as well as the students must carefully review the I-983 and instructions, and update it as needed.  Moreover, both the employer and the student should be familiar with the content of the I-983, and be prepared to describe the training opportunity to an ICE officer.  Even without a site visit, compliance is extremely important. The I-983 creates obligations certified by both the student and the employer. Violations could result in termination of student status, or impact future adjudications if USCIS or consular officers note discrepancies between the I-983 and online information or resumes submitted. There are also reports that the USCIS Vermont Service Center has started asking STEM OPT employers to email the I-983 plan as part of I-765 adjudication.  As with any site visit, front-line employees, such as security officers or administrative staff, should ask the ICE officer for a business card, and ask the officer to wait until a designated person at the worksite is called.  The ICE officer may want to tour the worksite, but best practice is to have the officer accompanied by the designated person on site.

 

August 2019 Visa Bulletin – Employment-Based Visa Numbers – Eligibility to File Adjustment of Status Applications

July 17, 2019 Leave a comment

For Employment-Based Preference Filings:
You must use the Final Action Dates chart in the Department of State Visa Bulletin for August 2019.

Employment- Based
All Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed
CHINA-
mainland
born
El Salvador
Guatemala
Honduras
INDIA
MEXICO
PHILIP
PINES
VIETNAM
1st
01JUL16
01JUL16
01JUL16
01JAN15
01JUL16
01JUL16
01JUL16
2nd
01JAN17
01JAN17
01JAN17
02MAY09
01JAN17
01JAN17
01JAN17
3rd
01JUL16
01JUL16
01JUL16
01JAN06
01JUL16
01JUL16
01JUL16
Other Workers
01JUL16
22NOV07
01JUL16
01JAN06
01JUL16
01JUL16
01JUL16
4th
C
C
01JUL16
C
01JUL16
C
C
Certain Religious Workers
C
C
01JUL16
C
01JUL16
C
C
5th
Non-Regional
Center
(C5 and T5)
C
15OCT14
C
15OCT14
C
C
15OCT14

Federal Judge Issues Injunction Preventing Enforcement of USCIS’ F,J,M Unlawful Presence Policy

May 14, 2019 Leave a comment

As part of the lawsuit filed by Guilford College and other against Dept of Homeland Security (DHS), a Federal Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on May 3, 2019 preventing the DHS from enforcing the USCIS’ August 8, 2018 policy memo that sought to change how days of unlawful presence are counted following a violation of F, M, or J nonimmigrant status.

The lawsuit filed late last year by Guilford College was supported by several other educational institutions that filed amicus curiae brief (friend of the court) with the Court.  The May 3, 2019 injunction states the following:

The Court finds that, under the circumstances of this case, the equities and public interest factors weigh in favor of granting injunctive relief. An injunction will prevent the harms outlined above for Plaintiffs, along with similarly situated individuals and institutions across the country. The record does not reflect any countervailing harm to the government in maintaining the status quo by returning, for the duration of this lawsuit, to a policy that it voluntarily followed for over twenty years. “

The May 2019 injunction order by the Court may be found here

Court Order May 2019

The preliminary injunction is a welcome news to thousands of foreign nationals that are currently in the U.S. in F, J, or M status.  We will post any updates on this matter as they become available.

USCIS Clarification on Advance Parole & International Travel

March 2, 2019 Leave a comment

In light of the numerous denials of Advance Parole applications due to international travel by applicants even in possession of a valid Advance Parole, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently amended its policy.

Under the revised policy, which came into effect in February 2019, if an applicant files Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, to request an Advance Parole document and departs the United States without possession of an Advance Parole document that is valid for the entire time the applicant is abroad, his or her Form I-131 will be considered abandoned.  At times, an individual may have an approved Advance Parole document while a second one is pending. Individuals may travel on the approved Advance Parole document, provided the document is valid for the entire duration of their time abroad.  The pending Form I-131 will not be considered abandoned in this situation.

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