LitwinLaw Newsletter - 10/1/06

October 1, 2006
Headlines:

1. Holiday Travel Warning, Update on VWP Program, Biometric
Passport Requirements
- We want to remind travelers to ensure that
their passports, visas, and other documents are current and in order well
in advance of the busy holiday travel season; biometric passport
requirements for VWP-participating countries are set to take effect
on October 26.

2. USCIS Expands Premium Processing Service -
EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 immigrant visa categories have been added
to premium processing service.

3. Shifts in Visa Number Availability Kick Off New Fiscal
Year
- Although visa numbers have not fully recovered, there has been
some movement in the employment-based categories.

4. State Dept. Instructs on Effective Business Referral
Programs
- Posts throughout the world have established
business facilitation programs to ensure that they are
responsive to the needs of the U.S. business community.

5. 2008 Diversity Visa Lottery Instructions Released - Entries for
the DV-2008 lottery must be submitted electronically between
October 4 and December 3, 2006.

6. USCIS Eliminates Locally Produced Employment Authorization
Cards
- USCIS is phasing out the I-688B.

7. Dep't of Labor Updates Procedures on Backlogged
Cases, Launches Web Site for Checking Status of Applications
-
The DOL has issued a FAQ on backlogged cases that have received
"no contact" from the agency, and has launched a Web site for
checking case status.

8. New Report Issued on Immigration and America's Future -
The Migration Policy Institute recommended policy changes to harness
the benefits of immigration to advance U.S. interests in the 21st century.

Also in this issue:

Government Agency Links

Details...

1. Holiday Travel Warning, Update on VWP Program, Biometric
Passport Requirements

As the holidays approach, be sure that traveler's passports,
visas, and other documents are current and in order well in
advance of the busy holiday travel season. Travelers should
also remember that because of heightened security measures,
delays are possible and full compliance with security
procedures is necessary.

For most applicants, a personal appearance interview is required as a
standard part of visa processing. Additionally, applicants affected
by security procedures are informed of the need for additional screening
at the time they submit their applications and are being advised to
expect delays. The time needed for adjudication of individual cases
will continue to be difficult to predict. For travelers, the need for
an interview will mean additional coordination with the embassy or
consulate to schedule an interview appointment. Individuals should build
in ample time before their planned travel date when seeking to obtain a
visa.

Some applicants must obtain advance parole (advance permission to
travel) to leave the U.S. while their applications are pending.
Advance parole processing time is now averaging about 3.5 months
(up from about two months last year), so sufficient lead time to
apply for parole, if needed, should be factored into travel
preparations.

On September 7, 2006, at a hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on
Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security, Jess T. Ford, Director of
International Affairs and Trade for the U.S. Government Accountability
Office (GAO), recommended that the Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) strengthen its efforts to mitigate risks inherent in the Visa Waiver
Program (VWP) available to citizens of specified countries. The
DHS has acknowledged that an undetermined number of inadmissible
individuals may have entered the U.S. using stolen or lost passports
from VWP countries, he noted. Because of such concerns, Congress
periodically considers restricting the VWP. Mr. Ford's testimony
(GAO-06-1090T) is available at http://www.gao.gov/
new.items/d061090t.pdf
. The GAO's related report (GAO-06-854) is
available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06854.pdf.

Biometric passport requirements for VWP-participating countries
are set to take effect on October 26, 2006. Those countries will be
required to begin issuing passports with integrated circuit chips
containing biometric information. Each VWP country is at a different
stage in its development of secure passports, but VWP travelers who
obtained machine-readable passports (MRPs) before October 26, 2005,
are not required to have a digital photograph or contact-less chip.
This means that if you obtained or renewed/extended an MRP
before October 26, 2005, you will not be required to get another
passport for travel until your MRP expires. Passports issued or
renewed/extended between October 26, 2005, and October 25, 2006,
must be machine-readable and include a digital photograph printed
on the data page; passports issued or renewed/extended on or after
October 26, 2006, must be machine-readable and include the
integrated chip.

For general information
on biometrics and electronic tagging, see "The Frontiers of
Privacy Law: Technology Marches On"
(http://www.pli.edu/emktg/toolbox/Privacy_Tech33.doc
- scroll down for article), published by the Practising Law Institute.

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2. USCIS Expands Premium Processing Service

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced
the addition of three categories to the premium processing service,
which allows U.S. businesses to pay a $1,000 fee in exchange for
15-day processing of the case. On September 25, 2006, USCIS began
accepting premium processing requests for the Immigrant Petition
for Alien Worker (Form I-140) for the EB-1B (outstanding professors
and researchers); EB-2 (members of professions with advance
degrees or exceptional ability not seeking a national interest
waiver); and EB-3 (workers other than skilled workers and
professionals, including unskilled labor requiring less than two
years of training or experience) immigrant visa categories. In
addition, on August 28, 2006, USCIS added EB-3 professionals
and skilled workers to categories eligible for premium processing.
After these two announcements, all I-140 employment-based
immigrant visa petitions will qualify for premium processing other
than EB-1A extraordinary ability, EB-1C multinational manager,
EB-2 national interest waiver, and EW unskilled waiver petitions.

Since 2001, premium processing service has been available for several
nonimmigrant classifications within the Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker
(Form I-129), including E treaty traders and investors, H-1B specialty
occupation workers, H-2B temporary workers performing nonagricultural
services, H-3 trainees, L intracompany transferees, O aliens of
extraordinary ability and those performing essential support services,
P performers and athletes and those performing essential support
services, Q international cultural exchange visitors, R religious
workers, and NAFTA professionals from Canada and Mexico.

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3. Shifts in Visa Number Availability Kick Off New Fiscal Year

The Department of State has issued the Visa Bulletin for October 2006,
which is the start of fiscal year 2007. Although visa numbers have not
fully recovered, there has been some forward movement in the
employment-based categories. For example, the EB-2 category
for India was unavailable beginning in August; the new cut-off
date for October is June 15, 2002 (although this actually
represents a retrogression from the January 1, 2003, cut-off
date in existence before the category became unavailable).

It has also been reported that numbers in the Schedule A category
(nurses, physical therapists, and certain persons with exceptional
abilities in the arts or sciences that are exempt from labor
certification) may be exhausted soon, possibly as early as November.
Once that occurs, it will still be possible to file
immigrant visa applications for such persons, but they
will be subject to the priority dates of the underlying visa category
(e.g., EB-2 or EB-3) for their occupation.

Family-based visa numbers also recovered from the steep retrogression
imposed last quarter, but not to the cutoff dates previously in existence.

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4. State Dept. Instructs on Effective Business Referral Programs

In a recent cable to all diplomatic and consular posts, the Department of
State noted that facilitating access to timely visa appointments for
business travelers is one of the Bureau of Consular Affairs'
highest priorities.

Businesses are looking for a predictable way to factor the visa process
into their travel planning. Posts throughout the world have
established business facilitation programs to ensure that the
Department is responsive to the needs of the U.S. business
community while continuing to maintain visa security standards.
Many such programs are conducted in coordination
with American Chambers of Commerce (AMCHAMs) overseas.

The Department noted that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
recently polled regional AMCHAMs on consular sections'
business facilitation programs. Survey respondents commended
consular sections that allow for group appointments or set
aside a specific day or block of time to handle business
visa applications. Respondents also cited clearly written
procedures and established channels of communication as the most
important factors in establishing a successful business facilitation
program. Some AMCHAM members complained that programs seem to
shift with the arrival of each new section chief, and that
changes are not always communicated clearly and promptly.

The Department also noted that having a designated point of
contact in the consular section is essential. Model programs
include AMCHAM Buenos Aires, where each company designates its
own specific officer to communicate with the Chamber's Visa Office.
The AMCHAM ensures that the visa application is arranged in a
standard format, provides a job letter showing the applicant's
position, salary, and length of service, and provides
remote data entry. The AMCHAM holds regular meetings with
member-company coordinators and provides training to new and current
members. It stresses the need to study each applicant thoroughly before
scheduling appointments, noting that its productive relationship with
the consular post stems from maintaining daily contact with the
consular section and the call center.

For more information on these efforts and model programs, see the
Department's cable at http://travel.state.gov/visa/laws/telegrams
/telegrams_3033.html
.

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5. 2008 Diversity Visa Lottery Instructions Released

The Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs has released
instructions for the 2008 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Entries for
the DV-2008 lottery must be submitted electronically between noon EDT
(GMT-4) October 4, 2006, and noon EST (GMT-5) Sunday, December 3,
2006. Paper entries will not be accepted. Applicants may access the
electronic DV entry form and instructions at http://travel.state.gov/visa/
immigrants/types/types_1318.html
during the registration period.
Because heavy demand may result in Web site delays, applicants are
strongly encouraged not to wait until the last week to enter. Also,
receipt of more than one entry per person will disqualify the person
from registration. There is no fee.

For DV-2008, natives of the following countries are not
eligible to apply because these countries sent more than 50,000
immigrants to the U.S. over the previous five years: Brazil,
Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic,
El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan,
Philippines, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Korea, United Kingdom (except
Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam. Persons
born in Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and Taiwan are eligible.

To enter the lottery, a person must have either a high school education
or its equivalent, or two years of work experience within the past five
years in an occupation requiring at least two years of training or
experience to perform. The Department of Labor's O*Net OnLine
database will be used to determine qualifying work experience.
Certain people from ineligible countries may qualify on the basis
of their spouse's or parent's country of birth.

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6. USCIS Eliminates Locally Produced Employment Authorization
Cards

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) currently issues two
types of employment authorization documents: Form I-766, Employment
Authorization Document (EAD), and Form I-688B, Employment
Authorization Card. The I-766 is produced in Kentucky and accounts
for approximately 88 percent of the EADs produced on behalf of USCIS;
the remainder are produced at various field offices. Because of various
issues with the locally produced cards, such as outdated card
technology, obsolete equipment, and lack of maintenance, USCIS is
phasing out the I-688B. This affects both locally produced
interim EADs and non-interim EADs.

As part of this initiative, USCIS will no longer accept I-765 filings for
non-interim EADs at local offices. Applications that were received at any
local office through September 30, 2006, have been forwarded to the
appropriate Service Center or the Chicago Lockbox for processing.
Such applications received on or after October 1, 2006, will be
returned and the individual will be advised to file directly with the
appropriate Service Center or Lockbox indicated on the I-765
instructions. The agency recommends that applicants seeking to
replace an expiring EAD file the I-765 at least 100 days before
the current card expires.

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7. Dep't of Labor Updates Procedures on Backlogged Cases, Launches Web Site for Checking Status of Applications

Inquiries must be sent to the appropriate e-mail provided in the FAQ by October 11, 2006. This process is only for employers or their designated attorneys; beneficiaries of labor certification applications are not authorized to use the process. The process is not intended for status checks or other case inquiries, but is to be used only in those cases for which the employer or attorney has received no contact whatsoever from the BEC.

The DOL also has launched a Web site for pending applications filed at a Backlog Elimination Center (BEC). The Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) has received many requests from employers, attorneys, and applicants regarding the status of applications being processed as part of the backlog elimination effort. To provide basic case status information on specific cases, OFLC introduced the Backlog Public Disclosure System. The status of a case (but not estimated processing times) may be checked athttp://www.pbls.doleta.gov/pbls_pds.cfm by entering the ETA case number. The system currently checks only cases beginning with a D (Dallas) or P (Philadelphia).

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8. New Report Issued on Immigration and America's Future

The Migration Policy Institute's Independent Task Force on Immigration
and America's Future has released its final report, "Immigration and
America's Future: A New Chapter." Recognizing that U.S. immigration
policies are increasingly disconnected from the economic and social
forces that drive immigration, the Independent Task Force asked what
kind of immigration policy and system would harness the benefits of
immigration to advance U.S. interests in the 21st century. Over the
past year, the Task Force, a bipartisan panel of leaders and experts,
evaluated the economic, social, and demographic factors driving today's
large-scale immigration to the U.S., both legal and illegal. The final
report presents several far-ranging recommendations.

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Government Agency Links

Follow these links to access current processing times of the USCIS
Service Centers and the Department of Labor, or the Department of
State's latest Visa Bulletin with the most recent cut-off dates
for visa numbers:

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