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Immigration Law

Excerpts from the June 1, 2012, Bender’s Immigration Bulletin: ELIS Launches

ELIS Launch

On Tuesday, May 22, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) launched the initial release of its new electronic immigration system, USCIS ELIS. ELIS is the agency’s first-ever online immigration system created to modernize the process for both filing and adjudicating immigration benefits. This first release, available for certain students and visitors, is intended to lay the foundation for the Web-based future of USCIS and our immigration system. An in-person engagement was held on May 22nd to introduce the new system. USCIS will host a series of webinars in June to accommodate individuals who are unable to attend the launch event in Washington, DC. The schedule for the webinars will be posted at

New H-2B Regulations Enjoined: DOL Issues Guidance


On April 26, 2012, the Temporary Non-agricultural Employment of H-2B Aliens in the United States, Final Rule, was preliminarily enjoined by the U.S. District Court for Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division, in Bayou Lawn & Landscape Services, et al. v. Hilda L. Solis, et al., and was never implemented. For the present time, employers should file their H-2B labor certification applications under the 2008 rules (Labor Certification Process and Enforcement for Temporary Employment in Occupations Other than Agriculture or Registered Nursing in the United States (H-2B Workers), and Other Technical Changes, 73 Fed. Reg. 78,020 (Dec. 19, 2008)).

DOL warns that “this preliminary injunction necessarily calls into doubt the underlying authority of the Department of Labor to fulfill its responsibilities under the Immigration and Nationality Act and Department of Homeland Security regulations to issue the labor certifications that are a necessary predicate for the admission of H-2B workers,” according to a DOL announcement.

On May 16, the Department of Labor published Guidance in the Federal Register, 77 Fed. Reg. 28,764, clarifying the 2008 procedures. In addition, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification will post additional filing guidance on its website, http://www.foreignlabor This Guidance is reprinted at Appendix C.

STEM List Expanded

DHS announced an expanded list of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) designated-degree programs that qualify eligible graduates on student visas for an optional practical training (OPT) extension. International students who graduate from a designated STEM degree program can remain in the United States for an additional seventeen months on an OPT STEM extension. The expanded list of degrees includes fields such as pharmaceutical sciences, econometrics, and quantitative economics. The complete list of approved degree programs is reprinted at Appendix D.

USCIS Adopts as Precedent AAO P-3 Decision

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) issued a binding precedent decision addressing the term “culturally unique” and its significance in the adjudication of petitions for performing artists and entertainers.. Due to the unusually complex and novel issue and the likelihood that the same issue could arise in future decisions, the decision was recommended for review.

Precedent decisions support USCIS’s commitment to consistency in the administration of immigration benefits. This is the third precedent decision issued since late 2010. Selected and designated as precedent by the Secretary of Homeland Security, with the Attorney General’s concurrence, precedent decisions are administrative decisions that are legally binding on DHS components responsible for enforcing immigration laws in all proceedings involving the same issue.

This decision, Matter of Skirball Cultural Center, was published at 25 I. & N. Dec. 799. The decision is summarized below, in Case Digests, AAO Decisions.


London Embassy Will Be Busy

The U.S. Embassy in the United Kingdom will be experiencing a very busy summer due to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Embassy officials advise that nonimmigrant visa services will be limited from July through August 2012. If you need to apply for a visa to enter the United States, contact the embassy as soon as possible. Officials can issue visas as early as 120 days before report date.

USCIS Reorganization of Office of Public Engagement

USCIS announced it has formed a newly named operational directorate, the Customer Service and Public Engagement (CSPE) Directorate. The Office of Public Engagement has been rolled into this new directorate. The current Chief of the Office of Public Engagement, Mariela Melero, will lead the new directorate under the title of Associate Director. This is another step in the continuing redesign of customer service at USCIS. USCIS has retained the design firm IDEO to assist in the re-design of USCIS delivery of immigration services.

Increased NEXUS Benefits Planned

CBP and the Canada Border Services Agency announced plans to increase NEXUS benefits. CBP and CBSA will streamline the membership renewal process for the NEXUS program by waiving the interview for members who have not had changes to their information and have maintained their low-risk status. Both agencies have begun enrollment blitzes to expedite the processing of NEXUS applications and have launched a NEXUS lane added at the Queenston/Lewiston Bridge.

Bender's Immigration Bulletin

[This is an excerpt from the June 1, 2012, issue of Bender's Immigration Bulletin.]

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