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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 March, April and May 2004.

1. L Visa Standards Addressed by DOS In Light of H-1B Cap (March 2, 2004)
Following the announcement that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) has received enough new H-1B visa applications to meet the cap for the 2004 Fiscal Year (October 1, 2003 - September 30, 2004), the Department of State (DOS) has issued a cable to embassies and consular posts regarding the L visa standards and the need to remain aware of potential visa fraud.

The document begins with a speculation that "applicants may increasingly turn to other visa categories, particularly L-1, as a way to evade the H-1B limitations..." and discusses concern in Congress over abuse of the L visa category.

"There is no legal reason why aliens eligible for H-1B status cannot legitimately seek out other types of visas, including L. On the other hand, the inability of aliens to obtain H-1B visas can lead to increased fraud and abuse of the L and other categories, and posts need to be sensitive to this possibility." [Emphasis added]

The cable describes and defines the requirements of the L visas with two concerns for potential abuse of the L visa category: "job shops" vs. "employer-employee relationship" and "specialized knowledge." Consuls are advised in the cable to seek an advisory opinion if uncertain.

2. Regulations for U.S. Passports Amended (April 2, 2004)
On March 26, 2004, the Department of State (DOS) published an interim final rule in the Federal Register (22 CFR Part 51) regarding several aspects of U.S. passport validity and issuance.

  • U.S. passports which are revoked, reported lost, or reported stolen are invalid.

  • All passport applicants who are not eligible to apply by mail are required to appear in person.

  • All minors under age 14 must appear in person for passport applications unless such appearance has been specifically waived.

  • All applicants for U.S. passports must provide photographs in accordance with passport application instructions.

For more information about U.S. passport applications, please see the website for the Department of State: Passport Services and Information.

In February, we reported on a proposed fee increase for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) applications... the fee increases have now been approved.

3. DHS Approves Fee Increases (April 16, 2004)
On April 15, 2004, DHS posted the official "Final Notice" of approval for the fee increases, and announced that these fee increases will go into effect in 15 days - April 30, 2004.

The reasons cited by USCIS 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.

Please refer to the Official USCIS Press Release Regarding the New Fees.

The Revised Fees will be effective April 30, 2004!

4. Hospitals Not Required to Report Undocumented Aliens (May 21, 2004)

The U.S. House of Representatives recently defeated the Undocumented Alien Emergency Medical Assistance Amendments of 2004, which would have required hospitals and other health care professionals to report undocumented immigrants to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to be reimbursed for providing care to these individuals, making inability to pay medical expenses a basis for removal from the U.S. The bill, introduced by Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher from California, would have required healthcare providers to provide information to DHS including patients' financial data, employer identification, and biometric information. The bill was defeated by a vote of 331 to 88.

5. New Employment Authorization Document: Enhanced Security Features (May 21, 2004)
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced in a press release on May 20, 2004 that a new version of the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) will soon be introduced.

The new card, Form I-766, will have several new security features designed to prevent fraud and counterfeiting, including: a magnetic strip, a two-dimensional barcode, and several features used to "determine the card's authenticity."

According to the Press Release, the EAD is "one of the most widely used immigration document[s]," produced at a rate of approximately 24,000 per week. The USCIS expects to issue the new EAD cards some time in June, 2004.

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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