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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

An Immigration Roundup

by Jose Latour

Following are select highlights of immigration events in February 2004.

H-1B Cap Is Reached!
Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) issued a public announcement on the evening of Tuesday, February 17th, 2004, stating that they believe that there are 65,000 new H-1B petitions pending. Therefore, any new H-1B petitions that were not received by the close of business day on February 17th will be returned along with the filing fees.

CIS also stated that the earliest that cases can be filed for the 2005 fiscal year is April 1, 2004. Petitions filed after April 1st will be able to request a validity date of October 1st. The full press release from CIS can be accessed through the following link.

Please notice that the cap only affects individuals who are seeking a new H-1B. This includes individuals currently in the U.S. in any status other than the H-1B (i.e. students and B visitors) and individuals who are abroad who do not currently hold an H-1B. Therefore, the cap does NOT affect H-1B extensions, H-1B amendments or H-1B transfers from one company to another. The cap also does not affect certain research and non-profit positions.

What does this mean to you?

If you are a Recruiter: If you find qualified candidates for openings who do not currently have an H-1B, they may not be able to begin working for you until October 1, 2004 or later. The exception to that would be students who have valid Optional Practical Training.
If you do locate qualified candidates for open positions and you are willing to wait until October 1st before they can begin working, you want to make sure that the petitions are ready to be filed by April 1st or as soon thereafter as you can.

If your New H-1B is Currently Pending: If you are lucky enough to have had your H-1B filed prior to last night's announcement, stay on top of your petition. If a Request for Evidence is issued (RFE), be sure to respond to the RFE as soon as you and your employer can. The reason why you want to do this is that you want to protect yourself against the possibility that CIS has underestimated the number of petitions currently pending.

If you are in the U.S., you have a willing employer but your current status is not good through October 1st, you should contact your immigration attorney.

We will continue to monitor the situation and post updates as more information becomes available from CIS. We have one final word for those of you who work for companies that need H-1B employees: do not forget to contact your local Congress Representative and/or Senators! It is essential that our Congress knows the importance of the H-1B workers to your particular industry. If we let them know, we have some hope that the H-1B cap will once again be raised.

Minors Must Appear In Person to Apply for U.S. Passport
The Bureau of Consular Affairs (part of the State Department) has started to require that all minors applying for passports appear in person. This applies to all passports -- regular, official, and diplomatic -- even if the child has previously been issued a passport.

Now, when applying for a passport, in addition to having their child present, parents will also be required to submit documentation of parental relationship and consent.

The purpose for the two changes in the requirements for passport applications for all children under the age of 14 is to "help to verify the identity of minor applicants and aid in the prevention of international child abduction and trafficking."

The USCIS Proposes Fee Increase
On February 3, 2004, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a proposal in the Federal Register to change the fees charged for processing immigration applications. The reasons cited for increases in application fees include higher costs of processing these documents, the new procedures for national security efforts, as well as plans for new programs and enhancements to other existing programs. the proposal also includes a service fee of $70 for "any individual who is required to have biometric information captured in connection with an application or petition...and whose residence is in the United States."

The proposed rule also addresses the need for future fee increases beyond those proposed at this time. It says that beginning in FY 2006, "application fees will be adjusted on October 1st of each year based upon the inflation level enacted by Congress. If Congress has not enacted the inflationary rate by the start of the fiscal year, [USCIS] will use the anticipated inflation rates used in the President's annual budget request."

* Remember, at the time this article is being written, this is only a proposal to increase the fees. Fees currently remain unchanged.

The Latest PERM Update As Of Feb. 23, 2004
The final regulation for PERM, a new, more-automated Labor Certification process, was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on February 23, 2004. This is a milestone that has been long-anticipated.

OMB now has up to 90 days to review the final regulation from the Department of Labor (DOL) and decide whether to send it back to DOL for further revisions or to send it to the Federal Register for publication (making it "official," but not yet in effect).

The Department of Labor has stated that the final PERM regulation would take effect 120 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

Please see our article for more details about PERM.

About The Author

Jose Latour is the founding partner of Latour & Lleras, P.A., a Gainesville, Florida based business immigration practice representing corporations nationwide in visa management, compliance, and HR training. The above represents Mr. Latour's Editorial opinion. The A/V rated firm and its web site,, were named a winner of the 2002 Inc. Magazine Web Award, receiving recognition along with 14 other companies as the best Web companies in America. In 1999, the firm was named "One of America’s Top Ten Internet/Virtual Companies" in the Inc. Magazine and Cisco Systems "Growing with Technology Awards." The site is one of the most visited and widely read resource on the Internet on U.S. immigration law, attracting subscribers from all over the world, the media and from within the U.S. government. Mr. Latour served as a U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officer in Mexico and Africa before entering private practice and today divides his time between his law practice, writing, flying, and his music.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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