New VIBE Process
USCIS announced that Dun and Bradstreet, the independent information provider (IIP) for VIBE (Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises), has launched a new streamlined process for certain petitioners and U.S. government customers submittiing information about their organizations into VIBE's database. VIBE, a web-based tool designed to assist USCIS in adjudications of Forms I-129, I-140, and I-360 immigration petitions, uses commercially available data from an independent information provider, in this case Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), to validate basic information about companies or organizations petitioning to employ certain alien workers.
Eligible petitioners are now able to update their company or organization information via D&B's iUpdate for U.S. government customers web page. This process is available to U.S.-based, privately held companies only. Companies may use the iUpdate link to create, update, and view basic elements of their organizations' D&B records, without any cost and without being subjected to direct marketing from D&B.
U.S.-based publicly traded companies, government entities, and foreign companies may continue to create, update, or view their reports by contacting D&B at www.dnb.com, but may be subject to direct marketing and may encounter D&B representatives suggesting a purchase of the firm's products and services.
The information displayed in iUpdate for U.S. government customers contains essentially the same data that is shared with USCIS via the VIBE systems, and will allow a petitioner to know how the business or organization will be presented in VIBE before filing a petition.
For further information, see USCIS's Q&A on VIBE at Appendix A.
USCIS Adds Five New Countries to H-2A/H-2B Eligibility List
USCIS announced that the Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Department of State, identified fifty-eight countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs for the coming year. A notice listing the eligible countries was published in the Federal Register on January 18. Each country's designation is valid for one year from the date of publication.
Effective January 18, nationals of the following countries are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B programs: Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Tonga, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Vanuatu.
The five countries added this year are: Haiti, Iceland, Montenegro, Spain, and Switzerland.
USCIS may approve H-2A and H-2B petitions for nationals of countries not on this list if it is determined to be in the best interest of the United States.
BITS AND PIECES
New USCIS Office
USCIS celebrated the opening of its newest immigration field office in Queens, New York, on January 20. The new office, located at 27-35 Jackson Avenue, houses waiting rooms, an Application Support Center (offering fingerprinting and photographic services as part of the application process), a naturalization ceremony room, and interview and file rooms. The office hours are 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Passport Services Pilot Program
On January 24, the State Department's Office of Passport Services launched a ninety-day pilot program allowing adult U.S. citizens living in the United States and Canada to apply for a passport card online. By applying online, customers will not be required to mail in their current passports and necessary forms. To participate, an applicant must currently possess a valid ten-year passport book, upload an acceptable digit photograph, and make an online payment in U.S. dollars via Pay.gov. Applications accepted online will be subject to the same adjudication standards as in-person or mail-in applications. The pilot program is the State Department's "signature" initiative under President Obama's order to simplify customer service interactions and streamline related processes to increase efficiency (Executive Order 13571).
[This is an excerpt from the Feb. 15, 2012, issue of Bender's Immigration Bulletin.]
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