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H1, B1 & Other Visas

May 2004
H1, B1 & Other Visas

US House of Representatives Receives Bill on H1B1 Visas

Just hours before the House of Representatives broke for a two-week recess on April 8th, 2004, Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), along with other House Republicans, introduced the "American Workforce Improvement and Jobs Protection Act" (H.R. 4166). This bill would create a permanent exemption from the H-1B cap for graduates of U.S. universities who have earned a Master's or higher degree. However, this exemption would be capped at 20,000 per year. In exchange for these benefits, H.R. 4166 would, among other things, reinstate the recently sunsetted H-1B fees and attestations and would impose a new $500 fraud fee on petitions.

Visa Waiver Visitors to be Added to US VISIT Screening Process

In a Press Release issued on April 2, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that visitors traveling to the U.S. using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) will be required to enroll in the US-VISIT program beginning September 30, 2004. Currently, US-VISIT applies to visitors holding non-immigrant visas, regardless of their country of origin.

Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary of Border and Transportation Security of the DHS, stated that initial phases of US-VISIT implemented in January 2004 have shown that the new system has succeeded in more efficiently "enhancing the integrity of our immigration systems, while protecting individual privacy." The US-VISIT program is scheduled to be expanded to more ports of entry by December 31, 2004, and to all air and sea ports of entry by December 31, 2005.

Visitors to the U.S. from VWP countries are allowed to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days using only a passport [the visa requirement waived]. According to the USA Patriot Act of 2001, beginning October 1, 2003, individuals traveling to the United States would be required to have machine-readable biometric passports in order to enter without a visa, such as those from countries who are part of the visa waiver program (VWP). Due to technological reasons, it has been difficult for countries to fully implement machine-readable passports, and many countries have been granted an extension of this requirement until October 26, 2004. In the April 2, 2004 statement, DHS and the State Department (DOS) asked Congress to extend this deadline for another 2 years.

Approximately 13 million visitors enter the U.S. each year from VWP countries. The Visa Waiver Program includes the following 27 countries: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and The United Kingdom (for citizens with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man).

US CIS Raises Immigration Fees Effective April 30, 2004

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) bureau of the Department of Homeland Security today issued regulations which will increase some immigration application fees by over 55 percent, becoming effective April 30, 2004. This rule adjusts the immigration benefit application fees by approximately $55 per application, and increases the biometric fee (i.e. fingerprinting fee) by $20.

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