In a May 19, 2011 news release, USCIS proposed significant enhancements to the EB-5 visa program. According to the USCIS, the proposal makes three fundamental changes to the processing of EB-5 filings. First, processing would be accelerated for job-creating projects that are fully developed and ready to be implemented. Applicants and petitioners for such projects would have the option to request premium processing, guaranteeing a fifteen-day turnaround. Second, new specialized intake teams with expertise in economic analysis and program requirements would be created. Applicants would be able to communicate directly with the teams via e-mail to streamline the resolution of issues and quickly address questions or needs related to their applications. Third, an expert Decision Board would be convened to render application decisions. The Board would be composed of an economist and adjudicators and supported by legal counsel.
In a May 19 email to stakeholders, Director Mayorkas noted:
As part of our broad review, and echoing President Obama's call to promote immigrants' entrepreneurial spirit, we have focused on the Immigrant Investor Program, commonly referred to as the EB-5 Program. It is a program designed to attract investors and entrepreneurs from around the world to create jobs in America. In the two decades since its creation, the EB-5 Program has never met the annual cap of 10,000 visas.
The proposal, reprinted as Appendix A, has been posted for public comment on the USCIS Operational Proposals for Comment page. Comments will be accepted until June 17, 2011.
I-9 Central Launched
USCIS launched I-9 Central, a new online resource center dedicated to the most frequently accessed form on USCIS.gov: Form I-9. This website provides employers and employees simple one-click access to resources, tips, and guidance to properly complete Form I-9 and understand the process.
The launch of I-9 Central follows the introduction of other useful USCIS employment-related resources, including E-Verify Self Check (a service launched in March that allows workers and job seekers in the United States to check their own employment eligibility status online), and an updated "Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (M-274)" (published earlier this year).
I-9 Central includes sections about employer and employee rights and responsibilities, step-by-step instructions for completing the form, and information on acceptable documents for establishing identity and employment authorization. It also includes a discussion of common mistakes to avoid when completing the form, guidance on how to correct errors, and answers to employers' recent questions about the Form I-9 process.
The link to I-9 Central is www.uscis.gov/I-9central.
DV 2012 Results Invalid
The State Department announced on May 13 that, due to a computer-programming problem, the results of the 2012 Diversity Lottery that were posted on its website in early May have been voided. The results were not valid and were posted in error.
The glitch in the computer program caused 90% of the "winners" to be selected from the first two days of entries received during the thirty-day filing window. Obviously, the results did not represent a "fair, random selection of entrants, as required by law," according to a press release.
All notices of selection for the 2012 lottery have been rescinded. The State Department will now conduct a new selection process based on all the original entries for the 2012 program. All qualified entries from October 5 to November 3, 2010, remain in State Department hands and will be included in the new lottery. No new entries will be accepted. The confirmation numbers given during the now-invalid lottery are still valid and may be used to check the results of the new selection lottery.
The results of the new selection process are expected to be available on July 15, 2011, on the diversity lottery website, http://dvlottery.state.gov.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services David Donahue recorded a video message explaining the incident. It may be viewed at http://bit.ly/j8bsYK.
ICE Expands List of STEM Degree Programs
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) published an expanded list of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degree programs that qualify eligible graduates on student visas for an Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension. The extended list includes such fields as Neuroscience, Medical Informatics, Pharmaceutics and Drug Design, Mathematics, and Computer Science. Students who graduate from a U.S. college or university with one of the newly expanded STEM degrees can remain for an additional seventeen months on an OPT STEM extension. The expanded list is reprinted at Appendix B.
DOL H-1B Technical Skills Training Grant Competition
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced the availability of approximately $240 million through the H-1B technical skills training grant competition. The Department of Labor expects to fund 75-100 grants through a single solicitation. Individual grants will range from $1 million to $5 million and will be distributed through two rounds of funding.
The H-1B technical Skills Training Grant Program is funded through the user fee on employers for H-1B applications authorized under the American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998. The grant program is designed to provide education, training, and job placement assistance in the occupations and industries for which employers are using H-1B visas.
The Labor Department intends to award at least $150 million to grantees that provide on-the-job training to all participants. The remaining funds will be awarded to applicants that offer other strategies. At least $45 million of the total will be awarded to applicants providing training for occupations in the health care industry, and at least $60 million will be awarded to applicants serving individual experiencing long-term unemployment.
For detailed description of the solicitation and application deadlines go to www.grants.gov or www.doleta.gov/grants.
2010 Statistics Available
The DHS Office of Immigration Statistics has published 2010 immigration statistics relative to refugees and asylees and U.S. naturalizations. Data tables, summaries, and reports are available at http://www.dhs.gov/files/statistics/immigration.shtm.
[This is an excerpt from the June 1, 2011, issue of Bender's Immigration Bulletin.]
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