Category: Customs and Border Protection


CBP Plans to Discontinue I-94s, No Longer Stamping I-20/DS-2019 Documents

October 19th, 2012 — 5:45pm

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is in the process of automating traveler arrival/departure records and will be eliminating at international airports and seaports the paper version of Form I-94, the white card placed in most foreign nationals’ passports that denotes the date of their admission as well as their status and authorized period of stay.  Instead, the traveler will receive a stamp in their passport with a handwritten code of admission (such as H-1B or O-1) and period of admission. Under the plan, nonimmigrants arriving at land borders, and certain classes of arriving foreign travelers, such as refugees, will continue to be issued a paper Form I-94.

The reasons for eliminating the I-94 paper form are two-fold: (1) CBP already has access to the information gathered on the I-94 through the foreign national’s application for a nonimmigrant visa and the Web-based Advance Passenger Information System (APIS); and (2) eliminating Form I-94 will save the agency money and resources.

Since first announcing its plans to implement a paperless I-94, CBP has received concerns from federal and state agencies about the impact on their programs that use the document for an identifier. For example, what will state DMVs require? And, what will the Social Security Administration require for SSNs? CBP also has not yet fine-tuned an online systems query capability that must be in place before the paper record is eliminated.  While implementation of the paperless I-94 is still some months away, it is clearly on the horizon.

Meanwhile, CBP has already implemented another change for certain arriving nonimmigrant visa holders. CBP officials are no longer stamping prospective or returning foreign students’ Form I-20s and exchange visitors’ DS-2019s at ports of entry. Instead, CBP is using an electronic system to adjudicate the individual’s status notation. The stamping of the Form I-20 / DS-2019 had been a longstanding USCIS procedure, and thus USCIS is apparently reaching out to other agencies to inform them of the change, since many agencies require these stamps prior to granting benefits.

 

Comment » | Customs and Border Protection

ESTA Travelers: Do Not Risk a Misrepresentation Finding

June 22nd, 2012 — 10:16am

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency whose officers make the determination at ports of entry regarding admission to the United States, advises that failure to disclose visa refusals for administrative processing or for an incorrect visa category on  visa application, Form DS-160, may be construed as a misrepresentation when completing the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form, and this misrepresentation could make the applicant inadmissible. The ESTA form is required for those foreign nationals who are eligible to enter the United States through the visa waiver program. ESTA applicants are advised to report visa “refusals” as “denials” even when the refusals are for administrative processing or for selecting the incorrect visa category on Form DS-160. This means that even when a consular officer suspends a visa application for administrative processing for receipt of additional documents or other information and those documents are subsequently submitted and the visa is granted, the ESTA applicant should consider that as a denial on the ETSA form. This is because the Department of State (DOS) treats a consular officer’s decision to suspend processing a visa as a visa refusal. Because DOS treats the suspension for administrative processing as a refusal, CBP requires that such refusals be reported on the ESTA application.

The ESTA application asks “Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or entry into the U.S. or had a U.S. visa canceled?” If the applicant’s visa application is under administrative processing by a consular post, the applicant should answer “yes” to this question on ESTA. CBP advises that it will manually review the ESTA application to determine whether the applicant is eligible for travel. Generally, CBP will issue a decision on such applications within 72 hours of submission.

CBP also advises that if a visa applicant does not select the correct visa category on the nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160, the consular officer may require the applicant to complete a new Form DS-160 with the correct visa category before the visa may be issued. Because there may be a record of this error noted by a consular officer, the applicant should also disclose a visa refusal on ESTA as a denial and explain the circumstances in the space provided even if the applicant is not told that the consular officer has entered such a notation.

Comment » | Customs and Border Protection, Visa waiver program

Alabama Enacts Immigration Law

April 26th, 2012 — 3:26pm

The new Alabama law targeting undocumented immigrants has come under attack by advocate groups and federal judges, who have found key provisions of the law to be unconstitutional. In addition to being ruled as unconstitutional, agricultural interest groups have claimed the law has created labor shortages in the fields and business groups fear it is fostering a hostile economic climate throughout the state.

Recently, flaws of the immigration law were exposed when a Mercedes-Benz executive, visiting from Germany, was detained for hours by the local police, after failing to prove his legal status when his only identification was his German I.D. State lawmakers are undeterred and instead of repealing the law, they are tweaking it in hopes of avoiding future embarrassment. Unfortunately, throughout the process, they have made things much worse.

The modifications not only leave intact much of the law’s original features, but make some aspects even harsher. For example, a revision concerning the checking of legal status of detained individuals was changed to require police officers to conduct such checks only when issuing a traffic citation. The trouble is that police officers can almost always find reasons to issue traffic citations, if they are so inclined. Another provision of the law states that the legal status of passengers can be checked if the driver is believed to be an illegal immigrant. This invites racial profiling, and in some instances, even makes profiling okay.

Religious groups worry that the new laws will make it illegal for them to offer aid to struggling, undocumented immigrants. The existing law states it is illegal to offer aid to ten or more illegal immigrants, but the revision would lower this number to five. Virtually anything can be considered “offering aid,” even simply giving them a ride to work. Similarly, the revised law seems to favor large corporations over small or family-owned business when the law would allow firms’ licenses to be revoked if the revocation “serves the public’s interest.”

Although relatively few undocumented immigrants inhabit the state of Alabama, the thousands that did have since fled the state. Zulkie Partners, LLC, a business immigration law firm, boasts a team of attorneys, who are experts in corporate immigration law. If you feel you need assistance in navigating the complicated and convoluted immigration laws of the United States, Zulkie Partners, LLC, can help. The attorneys of Zulkie Partners understand that clients are looking for value beyond simple legal expertise and are dedicated to helping you every step of the way.

Comment » | Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Immigration reform, Worksite enforcement policies

Immigration and the Executive

December 19th, 2011 — 11:16am

While the Justice Department efforts to protect individual rights and to preserve the right of the federal government to enforce immigration law have been laudatory, a number of other significant policies of the current Administration have angered pro-immigration supporters, not the least of which has been the record number of deportations that have transpired in the last three years. Some 1.2 million undocumented foreign nationals have been deported since President Obama took up office, compared to almost 1.6 million deported during the eight-year Presidency of George Bush. In FY2011 alone, an unprecedented 400,000 people were deported. However, just last month the Administration took real action to provide relief for the undocumented who pose no threat to the country and who commit no crime.

Prosecutorial Discretion

 A new DHS-ICE policy encouraging the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in appropriate cases was launched in mid-November – complete with fairly comprehensive guidelines and procedures – and is being piloted in Baltimore and Denver, December 4 through January 13, 2012. DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) had announced in June its intent to eliminate low priority cases from the immigration court dockets and instead focus its enforcement priorities on the removal of those who have broken criminal laws, threats to national security, recent border crossers, repeat violators of immigration law, and immigration court fugitives. In August, DHS and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) issued a directive to ICE attorneys to review pending court cases as well as cases where a charging document had not yet been filed to determine if the agency should decide not to prosecute the case. DHS also announced the establishment of a joint DHS-DOJ working group to review the approximately 300,000 pending cases and identify cases for administrative closure. The pilot program just launched was designed to identify cases most clearly eligible and ineligible for a favorable exercise of discretion. During a six-week period, USCIS, ICE, and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) attorneys are to review cases according to the agency’s general prosecutorial discretion guidance as well as by a set of more focused criteria. Ultimately, DHS expects to implement “best practices” on an ongoing basis nationwide.

While it is still too soon to judge the results of the pilot program and the impact of the agency’s new policy, in Baltimore, at least, removal cases normally set in December and January have been scheduled well into the future.  Stay tuned.

Other DHS guidance issued in November on when immigration charging documents should be issued dove-tails with its prosecutorial discretion policy.

Adjudications, Entrepreneurs, Small Business

More informally, the Administration has engaged the public and immigration stakeholders on a variety of issues and has done so more directly that ever before. Recently, the USCIS Ombudsman’s Office held an Annual Conference attended by 300 to discuss improving the delivery of immigration benefits and services. USCIS also has hosted a number of teleconferences with the public. A teleconference was held on USCIS’s then-changed policy on where and to whom I-797 approval notices are sent. (Feedback from the call contributed to USCIS changing its policy.) Another teleconference was held on small and start-up business immigration issues and involved not only immigration officials but those from the Small Business Administration and other federal agencies. On a related note, USCIS just launched an “Entrepreneurs in Residence” initiative and hopes to bring business experts in-house to work alongside USCIS staff to ensure that its policies are reflective of industry realities. This could be a valuable opportunity for business experts and immigrant entrepreneurs, especially those who have engaged in the U.S. immigration system through immigrant visa applications, to join USCIS’s tactical team and affect how the agency adjudicates cases. Business members, however, must be U.S. citizens. To apply for the Entrepreneurs in Residence program, see http://www.dhs.gov/xabout/careers/loaned-executive-business-expert-uscis.shtm

It’s anyone’s guess whether the Administration’s formal policy changes (prosecutorial discretion) or its informal meetings and public engagements will result is administrative fixes that have real teeth. At the end of the day, however, these changes represent only modest remedies to a system that cries out for wholesale reform.

Comment » | Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Immigration reform, Worksite enforcement policies

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