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Immigration Updates

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December 2002
Immigration Updates

DOJ AUTHORIZATION

BILL SIGNED INTO LAW

On November 2, 2002, President Bush signed the ?21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act? (H.R. 2215), into law. As discussed in last month?s Immigration Update, this new law contains some immigration law provisions more favorable than previously existed for H1B extensions, J-1 physician waivers, and EB-5 entrepreneurs.

The H1B extension provisions allow for extensions of H1B status beyond the standard six-year limitation if the person is the beneficiary of a labor certification, which has been filed and pending for one year or longer. If this condition is satisfied, it is possible to extend the H1B status in one-year increments for as long as it is necessary. There is no longer the requirement that the person should have an I-140 or I-485 pending as previously required by the AC21 ?H1B Portability? law.

The regulations on the Conrad State 20 program, which allows waivers of the J-1 two-year home residency requirement for physicians willing to work in underserved areas, have also been expanded. In addition to the extension of the program until 2004, the number of waivers available per participating state increased from 20 to 30 per year.

INS WARNS PUBLIC

ON IMPOSTER WEBSITES

The INS has issued a warning against websites falsely claiming to be official government websites. Bona fide government websites usually end in <.gov>, rather than <.net>, <.org> or <.com>, although there are exceptions such as the website for scheduling visa application appointments with U.S. consulates in Canada and Mexico <>. While the INS acknowledges that some non-governmental websites provide legitimate information, others try to mislead people and charge them for forms and information that is free and available through the INS.

For those with questions about the legitimacy of immigration-related websites or the information contained therein, the INS provides a service known as on the INS website. This service allows communication with the INS regarding a limited number of matters, including imposter websites.

HOMELAND SECURITY BILL EXPECTED TO PASS CONGRESS

Congress is poised to pass legislation that would create a Department of Homeland Security that includes provisions that would dramatically change our immigration functions. H.R. 5710 has already passed the House, and is expected to be passed by the Senate as well. ?While reforming our immigration functions are essential to help make us safer, H.R.5710 largely does not get it right,? said Jeanne Butterfield, Executive Director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). ?This bill will impede efficient, effective, and fair adjudications and enforcement practices that are essential to our economy, to reuniting families, and to our national security ? so that we know who is here and keep out those who mean us harm. ?

The Homeland Security legislation will dramatically alter many aspects of the immigration system. We will be providing more detailed information in upcoming Immigration Updates, in addition to the summary provided in this month?s column. Most significantly, the INS will be dismantled. Instead, two new agencies - one an enforcement agency and one a benefits agency - will now be in two different sections of the new Homeland Security Department. How exactly the division will impact the services offered to law-abiding aliens wishing to immigrate remains to be seen.

New agencies with the names Bureau of Border Security and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration (BCI) will take over the INS? previous functions. The Department of State?s discretionary role in the immigration process will be significantly decreased by this new bill. The State Department will still issue visas at US consulates, but Homeland Security officers will now have the power to veto a consular officer?s approval of a visa and the new department will set overall visa issuing policy.


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