US visa applications in China set to become paperless

US embassy officials in Beijing, China announced at a briefing that the US embassy and all the Consulates in China will implement a new online system for visa applications starting in March 2010, abandoning the old paper applications.
Linda L. Donahue, minister-counselor for consular affairs and consul general, said that the new system has already been launched in various US missions worldwide over the past few months, and that it has proven to be a "faster, easier and greener" method.
With the new system, applicants will be able to fill out their personal information online without having to download or print the application forms.
The visa officials at embassies will also save time by not having to manually transcribe applicants' information from paper to computer.
It is a smart system that will filter questions on the application form according to the applicant's visa application purpose. Under the new system, a user who applies for an F1 student visa will answer a different set of questions than a user who applies for a short business visit visa. One will also be able to find language options in the upper right corner and opt to have the form translated into his/her native language.
"With this electronic paperless system, we will save 2 million to 3 million pieces of paper in China alone," said Nancy E. Abella, first secretary in charge of visas, noting that the effort reflects the US desire to be more environmentally friendly, even abroad.
The number of US visas issued in China has been increasing every year. In 2009, a total of 486,000 US visas were issued.
"We expect to see more applications, more visas being issued in China and more Chinese visitors in the US," Abella added.


Revised approval notice for certain I-129 and I-539 forms

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is alerting customers of certain Notices of Approval (Forms I-797) issued between Jan. 20 and Jan. 27, 2010, with incorrect or missing information. The form types impacted are Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) and Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539).
USCIS has started mailing new approval notices with corrected information to the affected I-129 petitioners and I-539 applicants. The USCIS has advised petitioners and applicants who received incomplete or incorrect approval notices that they should not attempt to use them. USCIS estimates that approximately 500 incorrect Notices of Approval (Forms I-797) have been issued.

A couple of examples of errors on the approval notices of affected petitioners and applicants:

For Form I-129, petitioners who requested multiple unnamed beneficiaries were issued an approval notice that lists only one unnamed beneficiary.
For Form I-539, some applicants were issued an approval notice with no validity dates listed.

If you know or believe that your "Notice of Approval" was issued with incorrect or missing information, and if you have not received a revised Notice of Approval by Monday, Feb. 8, please contact USCIS.


Number of illegal immigrants in the US falls by 7% in 2009

The number of illegal immigrants in the US has fallen by seven percent in 2009, to 10.8 million, coinciding with the country's financial crisis, a Department of Homeland Security report has stated.
The majority of the country's illegal immigrants come from Latin America, specifically- with 62 percent from Mexico (6.7 million), followed by those from El Salvador (530,000), Guatemala (480,000) and Honduras (320,000).
Together with Filipinos (270,000), Latin Americans accounted for 85 percent of the total illegal immigrants in the United States in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security report said.
"The number of unauthorized residents declined by 1.0 million between 2007 and 2009, coincident with the US economic downturn," said the report, based on census data and extrapolations from the total foreign population in the US.
Of the nearly 11 million undocumented people in the United States in January 2009, 37 percent, or approximately four million, arrived since January 2000, 44 percent since the 1990s and 19 percent since the 1980s, the report stated.
The cutoff date of January 1, 2021 in the DHS's estimated tally of illegal immigrants corresponds to a grandfather clause in the 1986 US immigration reform law that extended residency to anybody living in the United States prior to that date.
In overall numbers, a little more than 31 million foreigners were living in the United States, legally and illegally, in January 2009, the report said.
California was the state with the most illegal immigrants, 2.6 million, followed by Texas with 1.7 million and Florida with 720,000.
"Between 2000 and 2009, the Mexican-born unauthorized immigrant population increased by 2.0 million or 42 percent," said the report, confirming earlier independent studies of that nationality.
However, the biggest jump in illegal immigrants from a single country went to Honduras, and their number almost doubled (a 95 percent increase) in the past decade.
Beside the US and global financial crisis, other reasons that the report inferred for the drop in the undocumented population include tougher border enforcement and a national crackdown on illegal immigrants.
Since his inauguration a year ago, US President Barack Obama has been prodding Congress to take up immigration reform seriously, after two failed attempts in 2006 and 2007.


H-1B visa holders questioned, and deported from airport

There’s been a lot of discussion about outsourcing and H-1B visas, amid a recession that is leaving a huge number of Americans unemployed. In these difficult times, the question why some have to benefit at the expense of others is quite relevant.
This paradigm has scaled new levels.
According to a report, many Indian professionals were deported upon their arrival at JFK and Newark airports due to a new rule. The new regulation states that foreign workers arriving in the U.S. on work visas should arrive at their workplace, say activists and immigrations attorneys.
Philadelphia-based immigration attorney, Morley Nair, said in a statement, "The airport deportations…have sent shockwaves through the H-1B community. H-1B employers, employees and their attorneys alike are flabbergasted by this brazen act of official highhandedness where individuals arriving on H-1B visas were singled out even before their primary immigration inspection, put through sham questioning, forced into making coercive statements, issued expedited removal orders, and sent back.”
Apparently, the problem is that workers with legitimate H1B visas are arriving at client sites or third party locations in the U.S. rather than at the employer’s office. A technicality that many feel has taken the issue of outsourcing jobs to foreigners too far.
"Fifty to 80 percent of Indian H-1B visa holders come for a consulting company. Their companies will send them to client sites. The new rule stipulates that the petitioner of the visa should be present at the work place," said Aman Kapoor, ImmigrationVoice founder. The organization is an activist group for Green Card applicants and H-1B visa holders.
Nair commented that the practice of H1B visa holders turning up at client sites is the norm and has been around since the visa was first issued. As long as it is shored up with appropriate papers, it is not in violation of the law.
According to Kapoor, the move to curtail HIB holders stems from a memo by the Associate Director of Service Center Operations of USCIS, Donald Neufeld. The memo has only been issued on January 8, but the shocking nature of the response stems from customs officers interpreting the memo far too overzealously, said Nair. In some cases, immigration officials reportedly hassled HIB visa holders with questions about their pay and why they were being paid more than their American counterparts.
Cyrus Mehta, an attorney in New York explained the situation: “On one fateful day, January 11, when Continental Airlines Flight 49 landed in Newark from Mumbai, we know that CBP officer Matt McGirr and his colleagues, hunted through the lines for Indian H-1B workers even before they showed up for primary inspection. Their minds were made up. No detailed questions were asked' reports
Those who have been subjected to expedited removal (ER) will not be able to return to the U.S. for another five year. However, those Indian HIB visa holders who revoke their application for entry into the U.S. may go back with their funds and reenter following a new visa stamp or a new employer.
Attorneys and immigration lawyers say that they are protesting against the actions of immigration officials with the authorities.