Recent Immigration Information
H1B1 CAP UPDATE
As many Khabar readers are aware, the popular H1B1 Specialty Occupation Visas are in danger of reaching the cap set for them earlier than ever before. USCIS released an official announcement on September 7, 2004 that, as of August 18, 2004, they had received 45,900 Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 cap-subject H1B cases. This is 5,900 cases more than were filed as of August 4, 2004. Since there are only 65,000 cap numbers for FY2005 (October 1, 2004 to September 30, 2005) this means that the numbers are running out very quickly. Moreover, since 6,800 of the cap numbers are reserved for Chile and Singapore under Free Trade Agreements, the true cap is only 58,200. Although some of the unused Chile and Singapore numbers may be added back in, the numbers are uncertain. At this time, immigration practitioners are speculating that the cap can be reached at any moment, but almost certainly before the end of October 2004. We will continue to keep readers of Khabar updated on the latest cap developments.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION REVISES
RULES FOR ISSUING SSNs TO FOREIGN STUDENTS
On September 13, 2004, the Social Security Administration (SSA) revised its rules for assigning Social Security Numbers (SSNs) to foreign academic students in F-1 Student Status. Specifically, SSA is requiring additional evidence for F-1 students who are applying for SSNs. F-1 students must provide SSA with evidence of age, identity, immigration status, and work authorization. In addition, unless the F-1 student has an employment authorization document (EAD) from DHS or is authorized by the F-1 student's school for curricular practical training (CPT), the F-1 student must provide evidence that he or she has been authorized by the school to work and has secured employment or a promise of employment before SSA will assign an SSN. The regulations will become effective October 14, 2004. The full text of the regulation can be read at: http://policy.ssa.gov/pnpublic.nsf/LawsRegs.
PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS TO GO INTO EFFECT FOR VISA WAIVER TRAVELERS AS OF OCTOBER 26, 2004
Effective October 26, 2004, visa waiver travelers from all 27 Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries must present either a machine-readable passport or a valid US visa. Travelers with a valid US visa will not be required to have machine-readable passports. In addition, as of September 30, 2004, all VWP travelers arriving at a US port of entry will be required to enroll in US-VISIT, the program through which all travelers are photographed and fingerprinted for tracking purposes. In a related item, President Bush signed into law a 1-year extension for the date countries are required to produce biometric passports in order to remain eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, delaying the requirement until October 2005.
US CIS LAUNCHES INFOPASS IN ATLANTA
US CIS has now expanded its internet-based appointment system to residents of the Atlanta area. This launch is part of a national effort to implement InfoPass in all 33 US CIS District Offices in the country, including all 34 Sub-Offices by October 2004. With InfoPass, the public can go online to schedule a date and time to meet with an immigration information officer, avoiding the need to wait in line. InfoPass first debuted in Miami last year and has eliminated the lines in that office completely.
InfoPass is now offered in 12 languages including: Arabic, Chinese, Creole, English, French, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, Russian, and Vietnamese. US CIS plans to add additional languages in the future.
As Khabar readers are aware, customers may now go online to check the status of their pending application, and build a portfolio of up to 100 cases to check. US CIS also offers customers e-mailed updates when the status of their case changes. Customers may access all US CIS internet-based services on www.uscis.gov.
Anecdotal evidence out of the Atlanta District Office indicates that those with InfoPass appointments still may be waiting up to 2 hours to get their cases reviewed or their questions answered. Information Officers in Room 111 are no longer available for walk-in questions; all entrants must now have an InfoPass appointment.
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