DHS Designates Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone for TPS Protection

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may designate a country for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) when conditions make it unsafe for citizens of that country who are in the United States to safely return.  TPS is usually granted when there is ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions.  Due to the recent Ebola outbreak in western Africa, DHS has designated Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone for TPS.

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National Visa Center Will No Longer Collect Original Civil Documents for Immigrant Visa Applications

The U.S. Department of State has announced that, as of November 12, 2014, the National Visa Center ceased collecting original civil documents – birth and marriage certificates, police clearance certificates, etc. – from applicants for immigrant visas.  From now on, applicants will submit only photocopies of these documents to the NVC and take the originals to their visa interviews at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide.

The NVC’s practice of requiring original documents is a long-standing one that has caused applicants additional stress, worry and expense in the already demanding and difficult process of applying to immigrate permanently to the United States.  The State Department’s announcement suggests that the change will “reduce customer wait times, and improve the customer experience overall.”

DHS Extends TPS for Honduras

DHS announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduran nationals who already hold TPS. TPS allows qualifying individuals to remain and work lawfully in the United States until conditions in their home countries improve. The new extension allows qualifying individuals from Honduras to reapply for TPS and work authorization that will be valid until July 5, 2016. The re-registration period is now open and ends on December 15, 2014. Employment authorization documents held by qualifying individuals already set to expire on January 5, 2015 (and endorsed “A-12” or “C-19” under “category”), are automatically extended for six months, through July 5, 2015. Employers can rely on the DHS announcement or Federal Register Notice for I-9 employment verification and reverification purposes.

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State Department Diversity Visa Lottery Begins October 1

The State Department has announced the registration period for the Congressionally mandated 2016 Diversity Visa (DV) lottery. The DV lottery allows nationals from certain countries to apply for immigrant visas ("green cards") outside of the normal immigrant visa process. Individuals already being sponsored for immigrant visas by family members or employers may participate as well. Requirements include being a national of an eligible country (although an applicant may qualify based on his or her spouse's nationality) and high school education or work experience. The online registration period begins on Wednesday, October 1, 2014, at noon EST, and ends on Monday, November 3, 2014, at noon EST. Complete eligibility requirements and filing instructions will be posted on October 1, 2014, at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english.html (click on “Diversity Visas”).

Visa Issuance Problems at all Posts

The Department of State reports that it is experiencing technical problems with its global passport and visa system. This problem is delaying the issuance of visas at this time. The embassies and consulates are still scheduling and conducting visa interviews; however, visa issuance will be delayed until the problem is resolved. This is a worldwide issue, and not specific to any one location. Those planning to travel abroad to obtain new visas must take this problem into consideration before departing the United States, as their return may be delayed. We will provide an update once the problem has been resolved.

USCIS Announces Count for Fiscal Year 2015 H-1B Petitions

As widely anticipated, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced yesterday that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet both the regular cap (65,000) and the advanced degree cap (20,000) for Fiscal Year 2015.  USCIS received a total of 172,500 petitions during the FY2015 filing window, which ran through the first five business days of April.

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USCIS Announces that H-1B Cap Has Been Reached for Fiscal Year 2015, Lottery Planned

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received sufficient H-1B petitions (regular and master’s cases) to reach the statutory cap for Fiscal Year 2015 (10/1/2014 through 9/30/2015). Because the cap was met during the first five business days that employers could file Fiscal year 2014 petitions, a lottery will be held in the coming weeks to determine which cases will be accepted for processing, and which will be rejected.  Those chosen in the lottery will be issued receipt notices; those rejected will receive the original filings back from USCIS. 

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DHS Extends TPS for Haiti

DHS announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Haiti who already hold TPS.  TPS allows qualifying individuals to remain and work lawfully in the United States until conditions in their home countries improve.  The new extension allows qualifying individuals from Haiti to reapply for TPS until May 2, 2014.  Haitian TPS work authorization documents valid until July 22, 2014, are automatically extended until  January 22, 2015.  The DHS press release can be found here.

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DHS Extends TPS for Somalia

DHS announced that it is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Somalia who already hold TPS.  TPS allows qualifying individuals to remain and work lawfully in the United States until conditions in their home countries improve.  The new extension allows qualifying individuals from Somalia to reapply for TPS until December 31, 2013.  There is no automatic extension of previously-issued work authorization because there is sufficient time for applicants to apply for and receive new work authorization documents.  The new work authorization documents will be valid until September 17, 2015.  The DHS press release can be found here.

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USCIS Provides E-Verify Guidance Following Government Shutdown

Employers enrolled in the E-Verify program were unable to access the E-Verify system during the recent government shutdown.  While employers were still required to complete paper I-9s for new hires, they were not able to enter the data into the E-Verify system within the required three days.  USCIS has issued guidance for E-Verify participants.  The guidance addresses handling tentative non-confirmations received between September 17, 2013, and September 30, 2013; SSA final non-confirmations; and how to comply with the three-day rule (which must be completed by November 5, 2013).

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