The State Department has recently announced that they anticipate that the EB-2 permanent resident visa numbers for people born in China and India will retrogress to sometime in 2007. Lately, the EB-2 category for people born in China and India moved forward dramatically. Apparently, the State Department has moved forward too quickly and needs to retrogress the numbers to make sure they do not issue more than the allotted visa numbers. The retrogression in EB-2 numbers is anticipated to take place in May or June 2012. Because of a high demand in the EB-1 category, it is not expected that any numbers will trickle down from that category to the EB-2 pool. Additionally, there is no word as to whether the bill introduced to address visa backlogs will pass both Houses of Congress and become law. Therefore, permanent resident applicants from China and India in the EB-2 category should engage in immigration strategic planning to deal with the expected retrogression in EB-2 numbers.
H-1B Season is Upon Us
Starting April 2, 2012, USCIS will start accepting H-1B applications with a validity date effective October 1, 2012. In the last three years, H-1B visa numbers expired, respectively, in January, December, and November. It is impossible to predict when the numbers will be exhausted this year so we recommend that our clients prepare and file their H-1B applications as soon as possible.
Immigration Films by Maya Wilbourn
Whether I am watching an unedited independent film in a small local theater or a film that won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, there is something very exciting about film festivals. Filmmakers are eager to share their artistic expressions and answer questions about their experiences making movies. Audience members readily give their undivided attention. And unlike the limited formats given to the news or presidential candidate debates, films tell a complete story. The inaugural American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Film Fest at the Annual Conference in Nashville this year is sure to be a hit.
Immigration films are important because they shape the public’s perception of immigrants. They offer viewers a chance to connect with characters and in turn, our clients. Filmmakers can educate the general public about why our current immigration system needs to be fixed. The lack of poetic justice can make viewers feel uncomfortable with the fairness of our immigration laws. Films can be persuasive, arguing against the border wall for example, or they can simply examine a unique perspective on immigration. No matter how many clients and different types of cases I have, it is always eye opening to see the points of view expressed in films about immigration.
The AILA Film Fest will offer a variety of feature films and shorts. For those of you that I won’t see on the red carpet, here are the films to check out:
The Other Side of Immigration
Based on over 700 interviews, The Other Side of Immigration asks why so many Mexicans leave home to work in the United States and what happens to the families and communities they leave behind. Through an approach that is both subtle and thought provoking, the film challenges audiences to imagine more creative and effective immigration policies.
Lost Boys of Sudan
Lost Boys of Sudan is an Emmy-nominated feature-length documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America. Orphaned as young boys in one of Africa’s cruelest civil wars, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor survived lion attacks and militia gunfire to reach a refugee camp in Kenya along with thousands of other children. From there, remarkably, they were chosen to come to America. Safe at last from physical danger and hunger, a world away from home, they find themselves confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary American suburbia.
SHORT: Next Door Neighbors: Somali Soomaali & Little Kurdistan, USA
Nashville Public Television’s award winning Next Door Neighbors series looks at Nashville’s status as a new destination city for refugees and immigrants, and explores the rich diversity of people now calling Nashville home. Across the United States, mid-sized cities like Nashville, TN are experiencing unprecedented growth in their international populations. Together these communities are redefining the traditional international city on a smaller local scale.
Tony & Janina’s American Wedding
This film follows a Polish American family through the red tape of the current U.S. immigration system, telling the untold human rights story of post-9/11, that every undocumented immigrant in America faces today.
The Least of These
Detention of immigrant children in a former medium-security prison in Texas leads to controversy when three activist attorneys discover troubling conditions at the facility. This compelling documentary film explores the role – and limits – of community activism, and considers how American rights and values apply to the least powerful among us.
SHORT: The Invisibles
Every year, thousands of migrants face kidnap, rape and murder in Mexico. Driven by grinding poverty and insecurity back home, they travel through Mexico in hope of reaching the USA with its promise of a better life. But all too often their dreams are turned to nightmares. Told over four parts, The Invisibles exposes the truth behind one of the most dangerous journeys in the world and reveals the untold stories of the people who make the journey north through Mexico.
“Papers” is the story of undocumented youth and the challenges they face as they turn 18 without legal status. There are approximately 2 million undocumented children who were born outside the U.S. and raised in this country. These are young people who were educated in American schools, hold American values, know only the U.S. as home and who, upon high school graduation, find the door to their future slammed shut.
Sixty-two-year-old Walter Vale is sleepwalking through his life. Having lost his passion for teaching and writing, he fills the void by unsuccessfully trying to learn to play classical piano. When his college sends him to Manhattan to attend a conference, Walter is surprised to find a young couple has taken up residence in his apartment. Victims of a real estate scam, Tarek, a Syrian man, and Zainab, his Senegalese girlfriend, have nowhere else to go.
SHORT: Border Stories
Border Stories is re-imagining the documentary, one with no beginning, middle, or end. Its only linear aspect is the border itself. Our crew travels the length of the U.S.–Mexico border, from Brownsville, Texas to Tijuana, Mexico in search of stories that portray the human face of this politically and emotionally-charged region.
Potential Change to the I-601 Waiver Process, the Waiver for Unlawful Presence in the United States
While there is no guarantee from the U.S. Government that the process for adjudicating I-601 unlawful presence waivers will change, USCIS has issued a notice of intent to change the current procedure. The primary change would be to allow a person to apply for an I-601 waiver while still in the United States in order to reduce lengthy separations from their family that result from the current process of having to leave the country before the application is ever made. USCIS plans to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the coming months and will be receiving comments from interested parties during this time before publishing a final rule.
I-601 waivers are required to obtain a waiver of the three and ten year bars that attach to a person who has accrued more than six months of unlawful presence in the United States. The potential change to the current I-601 adjudication process is based on the serious problems with the current procedures. Currently, a person who has accrued unlawful status is required to leave the United States before filing the I-601 with appropriate consulate abroad. The person then will file the I-601 waiver as well as an application for visa processing abroad. The person then must wait for the appropriate consulate or embassy to adjudicate the I-601 waiver. The adjudication times can run into years in some cases. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the waiver will be granted. Resultantly, a person who has accrued unlawful presence in the United States, but has a mechanism to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident, faces a very significant hurdle in terms of long term and potentially permanent separation from his or her U.S. family. The new proposed procedure would alleviate the time that a person with a meritorious case for an I-601 waiver is separated from their family by allowing the person to file their I-601 waiver with the appropriate consulate while still present in the United States. This would greatly reduce the period of separation from the family. Upon approval of an I-601 waiver, the person would still be required to exit the United States and obtain their visa through normal consular processing.
The potential new provisional waiver process will have limitations. While the I-601 waiver applies where there is hardship to LPR spouses or parents, the provisional waiver process would only apply to cases where the hardship is to U.S. citizen spouses or parents. Additionally, the new rule will only be available to individuals who only need unlawful presence waivers. People who need additional waivers for other grounds of inadmissibility such as fraud or certain criminal convictions will have to continue to use the normal waiver adjudication process (leaving the country before the waivers are submitted to the consulates abroad). This new, potential rule would dramatically reduce the period of separation between a person eligible for an I-601 waiver and his U.S. family members. Under current rules, an individual is not permitted to even apply for the waiver until a consular officer has made a finding of inadmissibility. If this rule is passed, the waiver application will be adjudicated while the person remains in the United States.
As a final reminder, no new rule is yet in place. Any application for a provisional waiver of unlawful presence will be rejected by USCIS at this time. USCIS is working diligently on the rule making process and hopes to have a final rule published by the end of 2012 after which there will be a 60 day comment period on the proposed rule.