Archive for the ‘What’s new’ Category

Through the USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCIS ELIS), individuals can e-file immigration related applications. The system offers accurate, convenient, and secure customer service and through that USCIS can now be able to process cases with more efficiency and consistency. Foreign students can now e-file Form I-539 (Application to extend or change status) through ELIS.

The following information will be of help to Designated School Officials (DSO) and foreign students regarding the ELIS system and how USCIS handles the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Form I-20, the Arrival-Departure Record Form I-94, and other documents.

The DSO of the institution that accepted the student to study in the US will issue Form I-20 to the foreign student. Form I-20 is needed to apply for a visa , to enter the US and to apply for other benefits.
Form I-20 does not need a stamp to prove status. Though an unstamped Form I-20 is valid, it does not mean lawful status. Some agencies require these students to present a Form I-20 to identify the end date for the student’s program. As mentioned earlier, though a stamp is not needed, USCIS has given a six-month transition and will stamp the form through Nov. 21, 2012.

As a student, you will not have any negative impact on off-campus employment if you have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a Form I-20. Additionally, an unstamped Form I-20 will not have any negative impact on applications for other benefits, such as driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards. USCIS has clearly mentioned it to the Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) that a Form I-20 does not need a stamp to be valid. Also remember that Form I-20 is valid without a stamp. Form I-20 is endorsed when it is signed by a DSO. With this a student will be able to travel internationally or apply for employment authorization.

USCIS normally accepts a photocopy or scanned electronic version of Form I-20 or DS-2019. If the necessity to review the original document arises, USCIS will request you to provide the original document. They will pass a decision electronically. Though the student will receive the approval notice through mail, the scanned copy of the Form I-20 will not be stamped and sent to the student. Form Aug. 10, 2012, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stopped providing stamps on Forms I-20 and DS-2019 for prospective and returning international students and scholars wishing to enter the United States. This change has enable the CBP processes become consistent with USCIS’s decision to stop stamping the Form I-20.

Make sure you upload all needed supporting documents in USCIS ELIS before making payment and submitting your case for review and further decision. If the need arises, you can also submit additional documentation at any time before a final decision is made on your case. To do so, just login to your USCIS ELIS account and selecting “Upload Additional Documents.” If you have submitted more than one application please make sure you upload the documents in the case for which they apply.


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USCIS, in its efforts to provide relief to victims of crimes approved the statutory maximum 10,000 petitions for U non immigrant status, also known as the U-visa. USCIS has reached the statutory maximum for the third year continuously since it began issuing U-visas in 2008. Every year, 10,000 U-visas are made available for victims of crime who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are ready to help law enforcement authorities investigate or prosecute such crimes. A U-visa petition requires law enforcement certification of assistance in the investigation or prosecution of crimes.

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas said the U-visa is an important tool aiding law enforcement to bring criminals to justice. At the same time, providing immigration protection to victims of crime and their families. During the recent past, USCIS has significantly expanded its public education and outreach effort. It was through partnerships with law enforcement agencies and service providers. For this, USCIS officers have traveled to more than 40 cities, including Denver, New York City, Newark, and San Antonio. It was to train federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and immigrant-serving organizations on the available immigration protections to persons who are victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and other serious crimes.

The Congress created this program to strengthen the law enforcement community’s ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other crimes, offering protection to victims at the same time. It is estimated that more than 61,000 victims and their family members have received U-visas since this program was started in 2008. USCIS will continue to accept new petitions as they are received until the end of the current fiscal year, and will resume issuing U-visas on Oct. 1, 2012, which is subsequently the first day of fiscal year 2013 when new visas are made available.

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USCIS recently introduced new forms and instructions for individuals to request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals from USCIS. USCIS has started accepting completed forms from August 15, 2012. Earlier, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano had announced that some individuals who came to the US as children and meet other key guidelines may request consideration of deferred action.

Persons requesting consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals have to submit Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. In addition, they have to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (with the appropriate filing fees) and Form I-765WS, Worksheet.

Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer removal action of a person as an act of prosecutorial discretion. USCIS will review these requests and arrive at a decision on a case-by-case basis. It is important to remember that it does not provide lawful status or a path to permanent residence or citizenship. Persons whose cases are deferred as part of this process will not be removed from the US for a two-year period, subject to renewal, and can also apply for work authorization.

You may request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals if :

  • You were below the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012
  • You came to the US before your 16th birthday
  • You have continuously resided in the US since June 15, 2007, till date
  • You were physically present in the US on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action
  • You entered without inspection before June 15, 2012, or your lawful immigration status expired as of June 15, 2012
  • You are at present in school, have graduated or have a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the US
  • You have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, three or more other misdemeanors, and that you do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) gave more information on the deferred action for childhood arrivals process during a national media call in preparation for August 15, the actual date for implementation.

Earlier, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano informed that some young people who came to the US as children and meet other key guidelines may qualify on a case-by-case basis, to receive deferred action. USCIS is finalizing a process by which eligible persons can request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals.

USCIS has planned to make all forms, instructions, and additional information regarding the deferred action for childhood arrivals process available on August 15, 2012. Then they will begin accepting requests for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals.

Highlights of the additional information:

  • Persons – those in removal proceedings, those with final orders, and those who have never been in removal proceedings – can request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals.
  • Such persons will use a form specifically developed for this purpose.
  • They will then have to mail their deferred action request together with an application for an employment authorization document (EAD) and all applicable fees to the USCIS.
  • All are required to provide biometrics and also undergo background checks.
  • EAD applicants cannot request Fee waivers and also for biometric collection. However, fee exemptions will be available in certain extra ordinary circumstances.
  • The four USCIS Service Centers will review all the requests.

More information on June 15 announcement will be made available at the USCIS website on August 15, 2012. This process is not yet in effect and persons who meet the guidelines of this new process should not request consideration of deferred action before August 15, 2012. It is important to note that requests submitted before August 15, 2012 will be rejected. Eligible persons should also be aware of immigration scams.

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Over the recent years, an unprecedented effort has been taken to transform the US immigration enforcement system into one that focuses on public safety, border security and the integrity of the system. As the Department of Homeland Security continues to focus its available enforcement resources on the removal of individuals who are a danger to national security or a risk to public safety, including aliens convicted of crimes, with particular stress on violent criminals, felons, and repeat offenders, DHS will exercise prosecutorial discretion to make sure that enforcement resources are not expended on low priority cases, such as individuals who were brought to the US through no fault of their own as children, have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, or multiple misdemeanor offenses, and meet other key requirements.

From now on, some young people who were brought to the US through no fault of their own as young children and who meet several key requirements will be considered for relief from removal from the US or entered into removal proceedings. Those who can prove they fulfill the requirements will qualify to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.

It is important that only those individuals who can prove through proper documentation that they satisfy these requirements will qualify for deferred action. Persons who are not currently in the US and who cannot prove that they have been physically present in the US for a continuous period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding today’s date will not qualify.

While this guidance comes to effect immediately, USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within sixty days. Meanwhile, persons seeking more information on the new policy can visit USCIS’s website (www.uscis.gov), ICE’s website (www.ice.gov), or DHS’s website (www.dhs.gov). Such persons can also call USCIS’ hotline at 1-800-375-5283 or ICE’s hotline at 1-888-351-4024 during business hours to request more information on the forthcoming process.

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USCIS receives thousands of paper applications for many immigration benefits available. It is estimated to be more than 6 million each year. This paper-based process consumes a great deal of resources and employee time as well.

On May 22, 2012, USCIS reached a significant milestone with the launch of their new electronic immigration system, USCIS ELIS. Through this system, applicants and their attorneys and accredited representatives can create an online account and submit and track their immigration benefit requests any time (24 hours a day, 365 days a year). At present, only individuals applying to change or extend their non immigrant status by filing Form I-539, can use this system. The Agency has planned to roll out additional form types and functions over time until all the applications/petitions can be processed through the ELIS system. This advanced system has enhanced tools to combat fraud and safeguard national security.

Recently, the USCIS received the 1,000th electronically-filed application through USCIS ELIS. Significantly, there as a commensurate drop in the number of paper Form I-539 applications submitted after the system’s launch. USCIS ELIS has already delivered for our early users the timeliness, convenience, and added security of a more modern immigration system.

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USCIS Update

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in San Francisco experienced a fire today and, as a result of the disruption to service, some applicants may be unable to get to the San Francisco Field Office for their scheduled interviews.  USCIS will automatically reschedule interviews for those affected.


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