Saturday, December 29, 2012

In Depth Study of STEM Foreign Nationals in the U.S. and Their Immigration

A CRS report shows that the number of full-time STEM graduate students increased from 91,150 in 1990 to 148,923 in 2009, taking approximately 32.7% of StEM graduate students. The statistics reflect, according to the report, that graduate enrollments in engineering fields have exhibited the most growth of the STEM fields in recent years. 

About 40,000 graduate degrees were awarded to foreign STEM students in 2009, with 10,000 of those going to Ph.D. recipients. In FY2010, almost 91,000 H-1B workers were employed in computer-related occupations, taking up 47% of all H-1B beneficiaries. 


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USCIS Memorandum 12/20/2012 on Operational Guidance for EB-5 Cases Involving Tenant-Occupancy

In this type of Regional Center cases, the USCIS required evidence that the projected jobs attributable to prospective tenants (which would occupy the commercial space created by the EB-5 capital) would represent newly created jobs, and not jobs that the tenant had merely relocated from another location. This determination is necessary to assess whether there is a reasonable causal link between the EB-5 enterprise and the job creation that would allow for the attribution of the tenant jobs to the EB-5 enterprise. 

In regional center cases that rely on tenant occupancy models, as in any other regional center cases, USCIS requires evidence that the claimed jobs result, directly or indirectly, from the economic activity of the EB-5 commercial enterprise. Jobs that are merely re-located rather than created do not count

The foregoing policies will be implemented as follows: Where applications for regional centers are approved based on their use of tenant-occupancy projections, the approval notices should contain appropriate language regarding the assumptions underlying the approval, which if not borne out may impact related adjudications at the I-526 or I-829 stages.


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Russian Adoption Ban Brings Uncertainty and Outrage

President Vladimir V. Putin on Friday signed into law a ban on adoptions of Russian children by American citizens, apparently blocking the departure from Russia of hundreds of orphans who had already been told that they would soon go home with new parents.

The adoption ban, which was included in a broader law retaliating against the United States for an effort to punish Russian human rights violators, has opened a deep and emotional schism at the highest levels of the government and more broadly throughout Russian society. It has also dealt a severe blow to the country’s already strained diplomatic relationship with the United States.


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USCIS Response to Ombudsman's Recommendations of 2011

  • The Omudsman issued a variety of recommendations to the USCIS covering employment-based, family-based issues, RFE practices, transformation program, etc. This response report gives some clues as to where the USCIS stands on the issues. For instance, this report indicates that while RFE templates for H nonimmigrants have not yet been posted, USCIS Headquarters has worked with the Service Centers on the RFEs for this classification.

    For example, when the January 2010 H-lB employer-employee relationship policy memorandum was issued, USCIS Headquarters personnel conducted related training at the Service Centers. SCOPS worked with the Service Centers to create RFE templates that addressed the issues covered in the memorandum and required provisional 100-percent supervisory review of RFEs. SCOPS regularly conducts roundtables with the Service Centers to discuss issues within these classifications to ensure consistency and to determine where USCIS may need additional training and materials.
    Read on.


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USCIS EB-I-485 & I-140 Processing Statistics at the End of October 2012

USCIS I-140: Processing Statistics at the End of October 2012:

 TSC NSC National
Pending 10,495 9,041 19,581
Customer action waiting 1,684 2,429 4,113
Completed 4,088 2,778 6,866
New receipts 4,991 3,987 8,978

Note: Backlog and new receipts have been steadily rising in NSC for the last six months, while the same for TSC remains more or less steady. This might have been caused by redistrbution of I-140 work loads between the NSC and TSC for more effective use of the resources



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ICE Under Consideration of a Proposal to Expand STEM 17-Month OPT Eligibility

ICE is considering a proposal to enable F-1 nonimmigrant students on post-completion optional practical training (OPT) to qualify for the 17-month extension based on either (1) a prior STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) degree or (2) the most recent degree granted if in a STEM field. This change can be proposed as early as early next year.

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Background of H-4 EAD Limiting to Permanent Residence Seeking H-1B Alien Spouses in the Proposed Rule

Background is explained as follows: An alternative considered by DHS was to permit employer authorization for all H-4 dependent spouses. In enacting AC21, Congress was especially concerned with avoiding the disruption to U.S. businesses caused by the required departure of H-1B workers (for whom the businesses intended to file employment-based immigrant visa petitions) upon the expiration of workers' maximum six-year period of authorized stay. 

Although the inability of an H-4 spouse to work may cause an H-1B worker to consider departing from the United States prior to his or her eligibility for an H-1B extension. This alternative was rejected in favor of the proposed process to limit employment authorization to the smaller sub-class of H-4 nonimmigrants who

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USCIS Under Consideration a Plan to Enhance Opportunities for High-Skilled H-1B1 and E-3 Nonimmigrants and EB-1 Immigrants

USCIS is under consideration to propose certain benefits affecting high-skilled workers within the nonimmigrant classifications for specialty occupation professionals from Chile and Singapore (H-1B1) and from Australia (E-3), and the immigration classification for employment-based first preference (EB-1) outstanding professors or researchers, to harmonize the regulations for E-3 and H-1B1 nonimmigrant classifications with existing regulations for other, similarly situated nonimmigrant classifications and to encourage and facilitate the employment and retention of these high-skilled workers.

For EB-1, it is considering to address that the evidentary requirements for the EB-1 outstanding professor and researcher employment-based immigrant classification would allow for the submission of comparable evidence (achievements not listed in the criteria such as important patents or prestigious, peer-reviewed funding grants) for that listed in 8 CFR 204.5(i)(3)(i)(A)–(F) to establish that the EB-1 professor or researcher is recognized internationally as outstanding in his or her academic field. 

This proposal is likely to harmonize the evidentary requirements for EB-1 outstanding professors and researchers with other comparable employment-based immigrant classifications and ease petitioners' recruitment of these highly skilled individuals by expanding the range of evidence that may be adduced to support their petitions.

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USCIS Announces New Immigrant Fee

On February 1, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin collecting a new USCIS Immigrant Fee of $165 from most immigrant visa recipients who receive their visas on or after February 1, 2013.

According to the U.S. Department of State, the new fees are exempt for the following:
  • IR-3
  • IH-3
  • IR-4
  • IH-4
  • K-1
  • K-2
  • K-3
  • K-4


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Friday, December 21, 2012

USCIS Announcement on Further Expansion of Case Status Services via e-Request

USCIS has just announced that it has further expanded the services offered by its Case Status Online and e-Request systems as part of an ongoing effort to enhance these services for its customers. Case Status Online allows the customers to view the most current status of their applications for all USCIS Forms. e-Request allows the customers to inquire electronically about applications and petitions submitted to USCIS. Effective 12/19/2012, customers can see the following enhancements:
  • Within Case Status Online, customers will be able to track the mailing and/or delivery of a card or document produced by USCIS through its Secure Mail Initiative.
  • Within e-Request, customers will be able to create a Service Request if they do not receive documents related to Forms I-485, Application to Adjust Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; and I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

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USCIS Proposes to Revise N-400 Form Adding Additional Questions

USCIS proposes to revise the current N-400 adding more questions to consider the information that occurred before an eligibility determination for naturalization is made. Even if the applicant for naturalization has received a previous immigration benefit from USCIS, the length of time that may have transpired between the initial interaction that the respondent had with USCIS on another immigration benefit request and the filing of the N-400 requires USCIS to verify that actions taken by the respondent during the intervening years do not affect his or her eligibility for naturalization. 

The form is also updated to examine the inadmissibility grounds that were added by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. USCIS added these questions as required by the agreement reached through a working group comprised of representatives of affected agencies, including the Departments of Justice and State, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of DHS. These additional questions are necessary for USCIS to meet the statutory requirements and the President’s directive to make a determination that a person is ineligible to naturalize because of his or her past involvement with terrorism, persecution, torture, or genocide. This proposal will be published in the federal register tomorrow seeking comments within 60 days.

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National Visa Center FB and EB Immigrant Visa Waiting List as of 11/01/2012

National Visa Center FB and EB Immigrant Visa Waiting List as of 11/01/2012

Link: http://www.travel.state.gov/pdf/WaitingListItem.pdf

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Visa Classifications Exempt from USCIS New Immigrant Visa Fees That Takes Effect on 02/01/2013

  • According to the U.S. Department of State, the new fees are exempt for the following:
    • IR-3
    • IH-3
    • IR-4
    • IH-4
    • K-1
    • K-2
    • K-3
    • K-4
  • Please review the USCIS new release and DOS news.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Home Based Businesses For Visa Holders (H1, L1, etc)

There are some individuals present in the United States in lawful, nonimmigrant status who wish to earn extra money. These foreign nationals are often enticed by the prospect of home-based businesses, sometimes involving multi-level marketing. Others consider social media and technology to be avenues toward earning extra money. As there is no direct employer-employee relationship, it is often incorrectly believed that this does not engage them in any form of unauthorized employment. This presumption is incorrect and can lead to a series of immigration problems.

What is Unauthorized Employment?

 

It is not necessary that one work for an existing business as an employee in order to be engaged in unauthorized employment. When an individual establishes a business, even on a part-time basis from home, s/he is considered to be working in the United States. Thus, if s/he is present in a status that does not allow employment or that only permits employment with a specific sponsoring

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Republicans Struggling with Approach To Immigration Reform

Report indicates that because of their need for accomodating their ultra right wing conservatives within the party and the reality of their post-election mandate to resolve the immigration reform which has been created by the November 2012 election, the party could not even determine the basic "starting" point and direction of immigration reform for being stuck with choice of peacemeal vs. comprehensive approaches. One then wonders whether the Republican leaders in the so-called 'gang of 8 Senators group' for immigration reform are outcasts of the Republican party politics. 

When the new 113th Congress opens, the situation will corner them to a very difficult "defensive" position which they witnessed during the election, as the Democrats are anticipated to come forward with a comprehensive immigration reform proposal "very aggressively!" At this point, some of the Republicans' piecemeal immigration reform proposals have been perceived and taken negatively for being unrealistic under the given political reality and rather a road block to the workable immigration reform within the year 2013.


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USCIS Update of DACA Processing Statistics as of 12/14/2012

  • The following show total receipts and approvals as of 12/14/2012. This update also shows the applicants by country.
    • Total Received: 367,903
    • Approvals: 102,915
  • The following is the trend.
 As Of  Receipts Total  Bio Scheduled  Review Ready  Approvals
12/14/2012 367,903 336,464 157,151 102,965
11/15/2012 308,935 273,203 124,572 53,273
10/10/2012 179,794 158,408 6,416 4,591
09/13/2012  82,361 63,717 1,660 29


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More Details For H4 Visa Holder To Get EAD

This post has been updated with more details on following topics:
  • Purpose 
  • Eligibility 
  • Timeline 
Please click here to see updated post: http://topimmigrationnews.blogspot.com/2013/01/updated-ead-for-h4-visa-holders-part-1.html

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USCIS Updates DACA Q&A

The DACA Q and A site was updated on 11/30/2012 (and again on 01/18/2013) providing additional information and answers. Those who are involved in DACA processing may want to go through the site again to the end.

Link: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.eb1d4c2a3e5b9ac89243c6a7543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=f2ef2f19470f7310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=f2ef2f19470f7310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD

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January 2013 Visa bulletin has been released

This post has been updated. Please click below for February 2013 Visa Bulletin: http://topimmigrationnews.blogspot.com/2013/01/february-2013-visa-bulletin.html

January 2013 Visa bulletin has been released (valid from Jan 1 to Jan 31). Please see below for more details.

Family Based:

Family-Sponsored All Chargeability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA- mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
F1 22DEC05 22DEC05 22DEC05 08JUL93 22DEC97
F2A 22SEP10 22SEP10 22SEP10 01SEP10 22SEP10
F2B 08DEC04 08DEC04 08DEC04 22NOV92 15APR02
F3 22JUN02 22JUN02 22JUN02 08MAR93 08AUG92
F4 08APR01 08APR01 08APR01 22JUL96 15APR89

Employment Based:

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USCIS Has Just Commenced a Process Seeking White House Approval for H-4 Employment Authorization Proposed Rule

  • What a wonderful news for the H-1B professional families! USCIS has just initiated the rule making process for proposed H-4 employment authorization rule. Hats off to the USCIS leaders!!
  • As we published last year, this rule proposes extending the availability of employment authorization to H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants who have begun the process of seeking lawful permanent resident status through employment and have extended their authorized period of admission or "stay" in the U.S. under section 104(c) or 106(a) of Public Law 106-313, also known as the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21). Allowing the eligible class of H-4 dependent spouses to work encourages professionals with high demand skills to remain in the country and help spur the innovation and growth of U.S. companies.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Some H1B and L-1 Applicants Eligible for Visa Interview Waiver in India

The U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, India recently announced the expansion of the Interview Waiver Program (IWP) for certain visa applicants in India. The expanded program now includes H1B and L-1 visa applicants as well as certain students, provided that they meet specific requirements.

Background: IWP Initiated in March 2012

 

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) initiated the visa IWP in early 2012. The intention of the pilot program was to facilitate travel to the United States for business and tourism. For Indian applicants, eligibility is based upon either age or visa category. Initially, the program applied to applicants under seven or over 80 years of age, regardless of visa category. For all others, eligibility was limited to the following visa categories: B-1, B-2, J-2, H-4, L-2, C, and D. These applicants continue to be eligible for the IWP.

Expansions and Limitations of IWP

 

Under the expansion of the IWP announced in late November 2012, qualification has been expanded to:
  • Children under 14 years of age, applying in any visa category
  • Students, provided they are returning to the same school and program
  • H1B workers
  • L1A and L1B workers with individual (not blanket) petitions


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USCIS Initial Estimate of DACA Applications by DREAMers

  • DACA started from 08/15/2012 and within three months (11/15/2012), the USCIS received 308,935 applications. This record is a little less than one thirds of total DACA application estimates when the USCIS launched the program. According to the I-765WS estimate, the work sheet for employment authorization application by Deterred Action applicants were estimated as follows. This form is required for all the deferred action applicants including non-DACA deferred action applicants:
    • Total Deferred Action Applicants (Judging from I-765WS estimate): 1,047,357
      • DACA applicants: 1,041,300
      • Non-DACA applicants: 6,057
    • Total DACA applications actually received within the first three months (08/15/2012 - 11/15/2012)
      • 308,935
  • It appears that the USCIS has been releasing the monthly statistics to satisfy the

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Reported New 'Gang of Eight (8)' on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the Senate

A report indicates that the fledgling group’s members for FY 2013 CIR include: Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah and Sen.-elect Jeff Flake of Arizona. Where is Sen. Marco Rubio? Probably he is not a member of the group because his stance on immigration reform has been ambivalent between piecemeal and comprehensive reforms. Read on.

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STEM Legislation Confrontations Between Two Powerful Republican and Democrat Senators on the Senate Floor

  • There was an interesting see-saw game on the Senate floor. Republican Senator Cornyn asked Unanimous Consent that the House passed H.R. 6429 (STEM Jobs Act of 2012) be agreed to. It was objected to by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. Later, Senator Schumer asked Unanimous Consent that his version of pending STEM bill, S. 3553 (Benefits to Research and American Innovation through Nationality Statutes Act of 2012), also known as BRAINS Act of 2012, be agreed to. It was this time objected to by Senator Cornyn. Thus two STEM bills will continuously remain in the filibuster bin!
  • BRAINS Act proposes to make up to 55,000 visas available to qualified immigrants who: (1) possess a graduate degree at the level of master's or higher in a field of

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New Chief Counsel of the USCIS: Stephen Legomsky

  • There had been a long period of vacuum for this position in the USCIS leadership before the new counsel was appointed and assumed the position, without much publicity, on 10/24/2012. Information indicates that Mr. Legomsky has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford and a law degree from the University of San Diego, where he graduated first in his class and was Notes and Comments Editor of the San Diego Law Review. He also has a Bachelors of Science in mathematics from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He reportedly has over 30 years of experience in U.S., comparative, and international immigration, as well as in refugee and citizenship law and policy. Before serving in his current role, he was the Jogn S. Lehmann University

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Temporary Immigration Relief for Victims of Hurricane Sandy

  • Whenever there were disasters, there were always some immigrants who had suffered from the disaster. One most typical illustration was the 9/11 World Trade Center Twin Tower terrist attack. It produced a fairly number of immigrants who survived and lost everything. The Hurrican Sandy was not as big as the 9/11 incident nor the natural disaster in Luisiana, which are more or less forgotten by now. However, the number of victims from Sandy are known fairly large because of the disaster which hit the most populated parts of the nation. The USCIS released a news at the time potential relief available for the immigrant victims of the disaster. This posting is to remind of such relief which are potentially available whenever a disaster takes place, including the following:
    • A change or extension of nonimmigrant status, even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has ended;
    • Extension or re-parole of people who were granted parole before;
    • Expedited adjudication of off-campus employment authorization applications for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
    • Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications; and

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USCIS Releases H-1B "Cap" Petition Processsing Data for FY 2009 thru FY 2012

Remember that this data does not include 20,000 Master degree cap cases, but any Master degree cases that exceeded the 20,000 and merged into regular cap track are included in this data. Since this data includes only cap cases, the cap exempt cases are not included here.

Link: http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Resources/Reports%20and%20Studies/Immigration%20Forms%20Data/Employment-based/H1BFY09-12.pdf

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Reminder of USCIS Guidance for Employers of Newly Hired DACA Employees

The employers hiring DACA employees should pay attention to this guidance to not to violate USCIS employment authorization verification requirement rule and U.S. Department of Justice's rule of prohibition of discrimination of newly hiring people.

Link: http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Humanitarian/Deferred%20Action%20for%20Childhood%20Arrivals/DACA-Fact-Sheet-I-9_Guidance-for-employers_nov20_2012.pdf

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Explosive Growth of EB-5 Investor Immigrant Visa Applicants & Potential Cut-Off Date for EB-5 Visa Numbers in the Second Half of FY-2013

  • Report indicates that the number of EB-5 immigrant visa approvals have exploded, and from 2010 to 2011 the number of EB-5 visas almost doubled, 1,885 to 3,463 respectively, and the same growth seems to be occurring in 2012. Through June 20th there have already been 4,302 EB-5 visas issued, with 86% of them having been issued to Chinese nationals. The State Department predicts that the total number of EB-5 visas to be issued in 2012 will likely be approximately 6,200. (See also USCIS EB-5 statistics). The Department of State, aware of the high Chinese for EB-5 visas, has issued a statement claiming that a cut-off date may need to be implemented in the

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

New House Committee Chairs and Potential Impact on Immigration Policies and Legislation Process

Yesterday, the Speaker of the House released a list of the new chairs of House committees, noticeably replacing the chairs of the Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security Committee. 

Even though no drastic change is anticipated, some change may take place down the road. We will watch what impact it will have on the immigration policies and directions in the new 113th House of Representaitves.

Link: http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2012/11/house-homeland-security-committee-gets-new-leader/59780/?oref=river

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U.S. Consular H-1B and L-1 Visa Fact Sheet in India

The rate of denial of L-1B visa petitions is extremely high at the level of USCIS. This fact sheet indicates that additional 10% of these approved L-1 visa cases are again denied at the level of the visa post.

Link: http://photos.state.gov/libraries/india/13974/pdfs/HLFactSheet.pdf

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Friday, November 30, 2012

I-485 Receipts May Contain Incorrect Priority Date

In permanent resident (green card) cases, each eligible family member seeking to adjust status to permanent residence in the United States must submit an I-485. In employment-based (EB) cases, the employer generally must file a PERM labor certification as well as an I-140 employer petition for the sponsored principal worker. After this, if permissible, the sponsored worker and any dependents (spouse and/or child/ren), is eligible to file an I-485 based on the principal's case. The spouse and child/ren receive the same priority date and same EB category as the sponsored worker (sometimes referred to as the principal or primary beneficiary).


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House Passed STEM Jobs Act as Anticipated, 245:139 Majority

Rejecting Rep. Zoe Lofgren's motion to refer the bill to the House Judiciary, the House floor passed this bill. Surprisingly, some Democrats joined the Republicans in passing this bill. However, the chance for this bill in the Democratic Senate is grim. Besides, should this bill pass both Houses, the President may veto this bill.

It could have been interesting if the Senate would have passed it with amendment deleting the part eliminating diversity immigration lottery program and toss it back to the House. However, even this hypothetical scenario after will not work since the Lame Duck Congress will shut down after

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Updated: Visa bulletin prediction for 2013

This post has been updated in January 2013. Please click on the link below:

http://topimmigrationnews.blogspot.com/2013/01/updated-visa-bulletin-prediction-for.html

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

USCIS EB-I-485 & I-140 Processing Statistics at the End of September 2012

Note: This post has been updated: http://topimmigrationnews.blogspot.com/2012/12/uscis-eb-i-485-i-140-processing.html

USCIS I-140 Processing Statistics at the End of September 2012:

   TSC NSC National
Pending 9,050 7,622 16,716
Customer action waiting 1,889 2,390 4,279
Completed 5,625 2,181 7,808
New receipts 3,920 2,990 6,910


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U.S. Mission in India "Expands" Interview Waiver Program for Indian Nationals

  • American Consulates expands the initial interview waiver program which was initiated in India in March 2012 to the following cases:
    • Children applying before their 14th birthday traveling on any visa class
    • Students returning to attend the same school and same program
    • H-1B worker visas
    • L-1A or Individual L-1B worker visas
  • The renewal application must be within the same classification as the previous visa. If the previous visa is annotated with the words “clearance received,” that applicant is not eligible for a waiver of a personal interview.

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USCIS Expanded e-Request Services, Including 'Status Request' Online Rather Than 800-Number

  • USCIS has expanded the services offered by its e-Request system. This Web-based tool allows customers to inquire about applications and petitions submitted to USCIS. Effective today, the agency made the following enhancements to e-Request:
    • Create a service request for all forms to either inquire about the status of your application or petition if it is outside of the normal processing time OR notify USCIS about an administrative error in a notice or document the agency sent you.
    • For Forms I-90 and N-400 only, you can inquire about an Application Support Center appointment notice or other notice you were expecting to receive.
    • Accessibility to individuals with disabilities (section 508 compliant).
  • To submit an e-Request, please visit the USCIS e-Request home page and have your receipt number available. For details of the e-Request Services, please click here.


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Permanent Labor Certification (PERM) Processing Times Update as of 11/05/2012

  • Analyst Review (Clean Case): 09/05/2012
  • Audit Cases: 04/30/2012
  • Reconsideration Request Cases: 10/15/2012 Reader may visit the OFLC site.
  • Government Error Reconsideration Cases: Current

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USCIS Updates DACA FAQs, Filing Tips, and Guidance for Employers


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Rise of DACA Applications by DREAMers

  • Before the election, a large number of potential DACA DREAMer population were initially hesitant to come out of the closet to apply for the DACA benefits when it was announced on June 15, 2012 because of Romney's initial stance of self-deportation and refusal to accomodate the President's initiative to give a relief, albeit limited in scope, to these DREAMers. As the election day was inching away, he changed his stance and announced his position on DACA applicants that he would not deport those DREAMers who had been granted DACA approvals. This helped some of the DREAMers come out of the closet and applied for the DACA benefit right before the election day. This is reflected in the new DACA statistics which was released by the USCIS on 11/16/2012. However, the turnout was only about 20% of the estimate total potential pool of DREAMer population of 1.7 million and majority of the DREAMers were hesitant to come forward before the election because Romney did not make a commitment to extend the DACA benefits which had been granted to those who had come out of the closet. Since DACA benefit was good only for two years, there still remained a serious fear factor, should Romney be elected, that they could still be deported after two years of DACA approval.

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

USCIS DACA Processing Update as of 11/15/2012

  • The following show total receipts and approvals as of 11/15/2012. This update also shows the applicants by country:
    • Total Received: 308,935
    • Approvals: 53,273 

  • The following is the trend:

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USCIS Updates EB-485 Inventory Data (as of 10/04/2012)

USCIS recently updated the EB-485 inventory data. This data is very important for the employment-based immigrants to figure out where their individual cases are located and how many EB-485 cases are pending ahead of the individuals. You can do this because inventory statistics go by the priority date rather than filing date.

Hence, you will have to go to the category of country, type of preference (EB-1 or EB-2 or EB-3), and your priority date. And then add up all the numbers before your priority date cases, which will tell you how many cases are ahead of you. This information will help you to figure out roughly how far you are away from the visa cut-off date in the monthly visa bulletin. Once your number becomes current, then you go to the USCIS monthly processing times report which reports by the receipt date rather than priority date to learn how long it will take for the Service Center to approve your case. 


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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Visa Bulletin Prediction for 2013 by USCIS

USCIS released their prediction for visa bulletin in 2013. Please see details below:

VISA AVAILABILITY IN THE COMING MONTHS 

FAMILY-sponsored categories (monthly)

Worldwide dates:
F1: three or four weeks
F2A: four to six weeks
F2B: three to five weeks
F3: one or two weeks
F4:   one or two weeks

EMPLOYMENT-based categories (monthly)


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Sunday, November 11, 2012

USCIS Statistics at the End of September 2012

USCIS Statistics at the End of September 2012 of New Receipts and Pending Immigration Applications

Link: http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Resources/Reports%20and%20Studies/N-400%20and%20Application%20for%20Benefits/2012/APPLICATIONS%20FOR%20IMMIGRATION%20BENEFITS_Sep2012.pdf


USCIS Statistics at the End of September 2012 of New Receipts and Pending N-400 Naturalization Applications

Link: http://www.uscis.gov/USCIS/Resources/Reports%20and%20Studies/N-400%20and%20Application%20for%20Benefits/2012/N-400%20NATURALIZATION%20BENEFITS_Sep%202012.pdf

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OFLC Extends Special Relief for Sandy Hurricane Victims Relating to the Labor Certification Process

The Office of Foreign Labor Certification has released announcement and Q&A for relief available for those who suffered from the Sandy Hurricane and faces problems and delays in labor certification process. 

Link: http://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/pdf/Sandy_Extension_FAQ11-8-2012.pdf

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Two senators restart talks on U.S. immigration reform plan

Two U.S. senators launched a fresh move to put together a bipartisan immigration reform plan on Sunday, restarting talks on a proposal that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country.

Since President Barack Obama was re-elected last week with overwhelming support from Hispanic voters, many Republicans have expressed a new willingness to work with Democrats to pass immigration reform after years of legislative inaction.

Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said he and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham have agreed to resume talks on immigration reform that broke off two years ago." And I think we have a darned good chance using this blueprint to get something done this year. The Republican Party has learned that being ... anti-immigrant doesn't work for them politically. And they know it," Schumer said.

Obama in 2010 called the proposal backed by Graham and Schumer a "promising framework," but it made no headway.

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State Deparment Latest Message for FY 2013 DV Lottery Registrants

  • DV 2013 Program: Entrants from DV 2013 (those who submitted entries during the registration period between October 4, 2011 and November 5, 2011) are requested to check the status of their entry now using their confirmation number through Entrant Status Check (ESC) on the E-DV website, if they have not already. Checking ESC promptly is important for selectees, to provide ample time for next steps in the Diversity Visa application process. ESC continues to be available to entrants through September 30, 2013.
  • Review more about Entrant Status Check and Selectee Notification below.

Link: http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1322.html 

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December Visa bulletin has been released

December Visa bulletin has been released (valid from Dec 1 to Dec 31). Please see below for more details.

Family Based: 

Family-Sponsored All Charge-ability Areas Except Those Listed CHINA- mainland born INDIA MEXICO PHILIPPINES
F1 01DEC05 01DEC05 01DEC05 01JUL93 08OCT97
F2A 22AUG10 22AUG10 22AUG10 01AUG10 22AUG10
F2B 15NOV04 15NOV04 15NOV04 01NOV92 22MAR02
F3 08JUN02 08JUN02 08JUN02 01MAR93 01AUG92
F4 01APR01 01APR01 01APR01 22JUL96 22MAR89

Employment Based:

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Hannity, Boehner push GOP on immigration reform

Well, that was fast.

Just two days after President Barack Obama sailed to re-election over Mitt Romney, boosted by more than 70 percent of the Latino vote, some Republicans are striking a new tone on illegal immigration.

Conservative Fox News and radio host Sean Hannity said Thursday that his views on immigration have "evolved."
 
Meanwhile, in an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer, House Speaker John Boehner said he is "confident" the two parties can agree to a deal on immigration.
 

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Anticipated Surge of DACA Applications and USCIS Resources

Yesterday's Presidential election result is a huge relief for DACA Dreamers. There appear to be a large number of DACA Dreamers who had been hesitant to come foward to apply for DACA benefits because of uncertainty of the result of the election. 

Now, since the President Obama is reelected, the uncertainty for those DREAMers who have applied for the DACA benefits and who have yet to come forward and apply for DACA benefits has disappeared. 

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USCIS updates its relief criteria for those affected by hurricane sandy

Where appropriate, USCIS may exercise its discretion to allow for delays in filing resulting from the hurricane. This may include, for example:
  • Assistance to those who have not appeared for an interview or submitted required forms of evidence. You may show how the disrupting event affected your connection to USCIS and your ability to appear or submit documents as required; and
  • Assistance to those who have not been able to respond to Requests For Evidence (RFEs) or Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID). USCIS will extend the deadline for individuals to respond to RFEs or NOIDs by 30 days. This will apply to all RFEs and NOIDs with a deadline of October 26 through November 26, 2012. During this time, USCIS will not issue denials based on abandonment of an application or petition.


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Congress Election Results and Direction of Immigration Reform

Next Congress and the White House will practically see no changes: The second term President Obama in the White House, the Democratic majority Senate in the upper chamber of the federal legislature, and the Republican majority House in the lower chamber of the legislature. 

Unlike the first term, however, the President is likely to push very aggressively comprehensive immigration reform for two reasons: Firstly, this is a sort of mandate imposed on him in this election. Secondly, he will have nothing to lose from being aggressive because this is the last term he can run for the White House. 

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What does Obama's relection mean for immigration

Barack Obama has won the election! What does this mean to the future of innovation and the technology industry? Based on Obama’s record and statements released during the campaign, here’s what technologists can look forward to:
  • Strong support for high-skilled immigration reform: The Startup 2.0 Act is most likely the first opportunity for reform, and probably won’t happen until next year. Specifically, the Startup 2.0 Act would increase work visa availability for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) graduates from American universities. Second, it would create an entrepreneurship visa for foreign workers who create jobs in the U.S. (right now, foreign workers have to be sponsored by another company, which makes it difficult to be a founder). Finally, it eliminates country-specific caps on visas. Pressure from Democrats to include immigration reforms for Mexico and other low-represented nations will be a challenge, however.
  • Open Government Reform: Obama’s political appointees, Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, and Chief Information Officer, Steven VanRoekel, will continue to open the vaults of government data for use by the private sector (much like Reagan did for navigation consumer tech, when he released the Global Positioning System data)
  • Continued support for government investment in clean technology, and the technology industry, through the Small Business Administration, which gives millions to investors for early stage companies and those outside the typical startup zones (i.e. California and New York).
  • Strong support for STEM Education. Obama will continue to support the federal government as having an important role in preparing the next generation innovators.

Recommended Reading: 

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Friday, November 2, 2012

USCIS Reminds the Immigrants of Potential Relief Available for Those Immigrants Who Are Affected by Sandy Hurricane

USCIS reminds customers affected by Hurricane Sandy of certain U.S. immigration benefits or relief that may be available to them.

USCIS understands that a natural disaster can affect an individual's ability to maintain lawful immigration status or obtain certain other immigration benefits. Eligible individuals may request or apply for temporary relief measures, including:
  • " A change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States, even when the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired;
  • " Extension or re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by USCIS;
  • " Expedited adjudication of off-campus employment authorization applications for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardship;
  • " Expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications; and

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USCIS Updates Processing Time

 USCIS Updates Processing Time Report with Posting Date of 11/01/2012 and Processing Time Determination Cut-Off Date of 09/30/2012

 The cut-off date for processing times determination has moved forward one month in the November 1, 2012 posting.
  • H-1B Processing: (Target Time - 2 Months)
    • CSC: 2 months, except Change of Status from Other Nonimmigrant Status - About 4 months
    • VSC: Backlog since 05/07/2012 in all types of H-1B petitions.
  • EB-485 Processing: (Target Time - 4 Months)
    • NSC 4 months
    • TSC: Backlog since March 2012
  • I-140 Processing: (Target Time - 4 Months)
    • NSC: 4 months for EB-1 and Schedule A, Backlog for EB-2 since 05/16/2012 and EB-2 (NIW) since 05/12/2012. EB-3 is backloged since 04/16/2012
    • TSC: 4 months for all classifications. 


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USCIS Releases New I-140 Form

USCIS Releases New I-140 Form (October 1, 2012 Version). Current I-140 Form Not Acceptable Effective January 1, 2013

See the new version I-140 form and instructions below:

Link: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=f74e3fad247ba310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=e7801c2c9be44210VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD

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Using the EAD as an Option for Employment

This post has been updated. Please click the link below:

http://topimmigrationnews.blogspot.com/2013/01/using-ead-as-option-for-employment-part.html

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Biometric Notices for All I-131 Applicants (GC Holder)

The Nebraska Service Center (NSC) of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that, regardless of age, all applicants who file for reentry permit or refugee travel document (Form I-131) are being issued biometric appointment notices. The purpose of these biometric appointments is to capture a digital photograph of applicants who are not required to submit fingerprints. These NSC statements came in response to questions submitted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). 

Background: I-131 Applications

Form I-131 is used when applying for several different types of travel documents. The matters discussed here, however, are limited to I-131 applications filed by lawful permanent residents ("green card" holders) in order to obtain reentry permits and I-131 applications filed by refugees in need of travel documents. Reentry permits are needed when permanent residents plan to remain outside of the United States for more than one year.


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Visa Bulletin Predictions for EB2

This post has been updated: http://topimmigrationnews.blogspot.com/2012/11/updated-visa-bulletin-prediction-for_29.html

In October 24, 2012 meeting, Charles Oppenheim provided important insights and predictions regarding the contents of the U.S. Department of State (DOS) Visa Bulletin for fiscal year 2013 (FY13). Mr. Oppenheim is the Chief of the division within the DOS that is responsible for the visa bulletin.  

EB2 Predictions: India


Mr. Oppenheim stated that he does not expect to be able to move the current EB2 India cutoff date of September 1, 2004 forward at any time in the immediate future. However, his predictions for FY13 indicate the likelihood of limited advancement.

Mr. Oppenheim gave his most optimistic, best-case predictions for EB2 India as reaching an early 2008 cutoff date by the end of the fiscal year. FY13 ends September 30, 2013. So, there is a

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Defense of Marriage Act is ruled unconstitutional

The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a major decision this week ruling the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. DOMA bars federal agencies from providing any benefits to individuals in same sex marriages and unions. And that means US citizens are unable to sponsor their same-sex spouses for immigration benefits even if the marriage takes place in one of the growing number of states that allows such marriages or in a country where same sex marriages are legal. The US Supreme Court is likely going to be rule on DOMA soon.


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USCIS Extends Temporary Protected Status for Haiti

The Associated Press reports the U.S. government is giving Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake more time to legally live and work while their Caribbean homeland rebuilds. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has extended Haiti’s Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for an additional 18 months. The immigration benefits had been set to expire in January but now Haitians with TPS status can register for an extension beginning January 23, 2013 through July 22, 2014.

Current Haitian TPS beneficiaries, who have continuously resided in the United States since January 12, 2011 and seek to extend their TPS status, must re-register during the 60-day registration period that runs through November 30, 2012, if they wish to maintain their TPS. USCIS started accepting applications on October 1, 2012 and will continue to accept applications until November 30, 2012. Individuals who have not continuously resided in the United States since January 12, 2011 will not be eligible. The 18 month extension also allows TPS re-registrants to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

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US Allows Visa-Free Travel for Taiwanese

The Associated Press reports that the United States recently announced visa-free travel for Taiwanese visiting America. Starting December 1, Taiwan joins 36 countries whose nationals can travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for 90 days without a visa, a privilege not enjoyed by China.

Since the announcement comes during a U.S. election campaign, it is believed that the move was timed to demonstrate that the Obama administration is sticking up for self-governing Taiwan, an island China claims as part of its territory. However, the new waiver is also seen as a response to Taiwan lifting restrictions on U.S. beef imports and for President Ma Ying-jeou’s easing tensions with China.

The announcement was made at a State Department conference where Secretary of State Hilary Clinton stressed the industry’s importance for creating jobs and promoting economic growth. She said tourists from China and Brazil alone support more than 40,000 jobs in the US.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gFswrYfsvOyLnRFd1bR3pT0h2Gpw?docId=62dbf79ac17140cfa1aea7afead64ae8

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Microsoft: Shortage of tech workers in the US becoming 'genuine crisis'

Microsoft unveiled a lobbying push on Thursday to produce more applicants with the skills to fill technology and engineering jobs.

The proposal would boost visas for high-skilled foreign workers and invest millions of dollars in federal funding for education.

Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president, said at a press briefing that the lack of qualified job applicants is "approaching the dimensions of a genuine crisis" for tech companies.


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H-1B Usage Under-Counted

Reports reveal that USCIS has under-counted H-1B usage by nearly 15% over the past 5 years.

In fact, data shows that USCIS has approved about 45,000 too few H-1B applications between 2008 and 2012 due to inaccurate estimates of denial rates.

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H-1B Backlogs Persist

Several weeks into Fiscal Year 2013, USCIS continues to process an unexpectedly large backlog of H-1B cap cases. Many petitioning employers are experiencing longer processing delays than usual, while many foreign-born professionals were unable to start their employment on October 1 as anticipated

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I-9 Resources in Spanish

USCIS’ I-9 Central is now available online in Spanish and provides employers and employees with important information about the I-9 process and E-Verify.

Read More: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=8ad2fa0020d2a310VgnVCM100000082ca60aRCRD&vgnextchannel=68439c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD

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Fast Lane to U.S. Citizenship Reopens


Thousands of immigrants were so eager to enlist in the American military during the last two years, despite the strong odds that they could be sent to combat zones, that they signed a petition on Facebook asking the Pentagon to let them join.

Now they will have the chance. Late last month, the Pentagon reopened a program to recruit legal immigrants with special language and medical skills, which was active for a year in 2009 but was suspended in January 2010.
The program is small; it will enlist a total of 1,500 recruits each year for two years, mainly in the Army. But military officials said the yearlong pilot program brought an unusually well-educated and skilled cohort of immigrants into the armed services.
“Their qualifications were really stellar,” said Naomi Verdugo, assistant deputy for recruiting for the Army. “And we have been very pleased about how these folks have been performing.”
The program is open to immigrants on temporary visas, who otherwise would not be eligible to enlist. Its powerful lure is that it allows them to naturalize as United States citizens quickly, in most cases at the end of basic training, which lasts about 10 weeks. Most immigrants on temporary visas, whether they are students or workers with particular skills, must wait years — for some nationalities, more than a decade — to become citizens.
Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the program was intended to fill “some of our most critical readiness needs.” This time around, the Army is looking for dentists and surgeons, and for psychology professionals to help with the severe emotional strains soldiers have undergone in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Officials are also looking for native speakers of 44 languages, including Azerbaijani, Cambodian-Khmer, Hausa and Igbo (both spoken in West Africa), Persian Dari (spoken in Afghanistan), Portuguese, and Tamil (spoken in South Asia). Spanish is not on the list of languages.
Recruiting officers were quietly frustrated that Pentagon officials took more than two years to restart the program. The renewal became tangled in a broad security review after the shooting rampage in 2009 at Fort Hood, Tex., according to accounts from military officials. The background checks for the immigrants were scrutinized with added caution, even though the man charged in the killings, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, is a native-born American.
In renewing the program, military officials added a new layer of security screenings, Ms. Lainez said.
To make their case to the Pentagon, recruiting officers compiled dossiers on the first class of immigrants, of whom 943 out of 1,000 were in the Army. On average, immigrants who enlisted in the Army language program scored 17 points higher (on a scale of 99) than other applicants on an entrance test, said Capt. Carol Stahl, who manages the program for the Army. One-third of the first class of recruits had master’s degrees or higher.
One-third of the class went into the Special Forces, a highly selective assignment that can often lead to combat missions, Captain Stahl said. Attrition was one-quarter the rate of other soldiers who entered at the same time.
A soldier from Nepal who entered with the first class, Sgt. Saral Shrestha, just won the Army’s Soldier of the Year award after a grueling four-day competition involving fighting skills at Fort Lee, Va.
“This was a boost of very high quality people,” said Margaret Stock, an immigration lawyer in Alaska who is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and helped devise the program. Even before they enlist, she said, the immigrants have been screened because they have to pass background and occupational checks for their temporary visas.
To qualify, immigrants must have been living in the United States legally for at least two years. They must be high school graduates and pass the entrance test.
The program — known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or Mavni — is not open to illegal immigrants, who are barred by law from enlisting. In general, immigrants who are not citizens must have a permanent resident visa, known as a green card, to enlist.
The first round filled up quickly, and the Army turned away thousands of people. Many of them signed the Facebook petition and were hoping the program would start again.
Health care professionals, who enlist as officers, must serve either three years of active duty or six years in the Reserves. Immigrants who enlist based on their language skills must serve for a minimum of four years of active duty. Participants who fail to serve their term can lose their citizenship.
One of the first temporary immigrants the Army accepted this year was Dr. Amen Dhyllon, 33, a dentist practicing in Philadelphia who was born in India and came to the United States in 2006. Dr. Dhyllon said he completed a postdoctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania in June combining two dental specialties.
Dr. Dhyllon said he was eager to become an American citizen.
“Even in the position where I am today,” he said, “no one would appreciate me as much as people appreciate me here. This country does not differentiate between color or accent. Here, if you are good, people will put you to the front.”
Dr. Dhyllon said he was not worried about the risks of service. He said he was attracted to the Army because of the wide range of patients he would see.
“I can be part of the culture,” he said. “I can learn everything about this country from the root.”


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