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New Citizens Celebrate Constitution

September 19th, 2016 by Jennifer Rico

Naturalizations to Take Place on Constitution DayMore than 38,000 immigrants are slated to become some of America’s newest citizens through 240 naturalization ceremonies across the country that correspond with Constitution Week and Citizenship Day from September 26-23. Celebrating 239 years since the signing of the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 and “I Am an American Day,” a commemoration that began in 1940, the ceremonies underscore the meaning of U.S. citizenship with reflection on the connection between the Constitution and citizenship.

According to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) press release on the celebrations taking place during the week, “The Constitution plays a meaningful role in the lives of new Americans. It not only establishes the rule of law, but also creates the framework for an immigration system that enables immigrants to become full citizens with the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as any other.”

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. and Ellis Island in New York City are among the most famous sites where the naturalization ceremonies will be held. These venues reflect the USCIS partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), which began in 2006.  Other iconic landmarks where ceremonies will take place are the Lincoln Memorial and Yosemite National Park.

Earlier this year, USCIS committed to performing 100 naturalization ceremonies on NPS sites in recognition of the NPS 100-year anniversary. “These picturesque and quintessentially American places inspire new citizens and those who witness naturalization ceremonies to celebrate and experience our country’s history and natural beauty, and to protect it for future generations,” reads the Constitution Week release from USCIS.

USCIS Director León Rodríguez is among officials who will administer the Oath of Allegiance to the nation’s newest citizens. Administering the Oath of Allegiance, he says, is an honor as the new citizens add to the “diversity strength and character of our country.”

Naturalization ceremonies are also scheduled to be held at U.S. courts where federal judges will preside over the event and administer the Oath of Allegiance.

Guest speakers at other naturalization ceremonies around the country include NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Mary Giovagnoli, deputy assistant secretary for immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security.

USCIS Urges Employers’ Continued Use of “Returning Workers” H-2B ID

September 14th, 2016 by Jennifer Rico

Employers Urged to Use H-2B IDWhile it’s uncertain whether or not Congress will reauthorize returning workers provisions around H-2B nonimmigrant worker visas—a provision that exempts certain eligible returning workers from the H-2B cap—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) encourages relevant employers to continue identifying these workers and to provide the H-2B Returning Worker Certification.  Identification of returning workers will help USCIS identify those visas that shouldn’t be counted against the cap if Congress does reauthorize the returning worker provisions.

The returning worker provisions applies to those H-2B workers who were counted toward H-2B limits established for fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2016. If action toward reauthorization is taken by Congress or the President either before or after September 30 of this year, “the provisions for FY 2017 would likely exempt returning workers who were counted toward the H-2B limit during fiscal years 2014, 2015 or 2016,” according to a USCIS statement.

Employers planning on hiring returning workers file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and also follow certain other requirements, including:

  • Certification: Employers must complete and include the H-2B Returning Worker Certification, which must be signed by the same person who signed Part 7 of Form I-129. The certification acknowledges that listed workers have been issued an H-2B visa or changed to H-2B status during one of the last three fiscal years.
  • Named Workers: Along with the full name of the worker, the certification must include information on any different status the worker holds. Providing a copy of the workers’ previous visa could aid in preventing processing delays.
  • Multiple Workers: Although more than one worker can be included in a single petition,  any returning workers must be listed on the H-2B Returning Worker Certification. Employers must submit Attachment 1 of Form I-129 for multiple named workers.

In order to maintain paperwork coherence, USCIS recommends separate petition filings for returning workers from petitions for new H-2B workers.

On the possibility that the returning workers provisions renew, early identification of those workers who don’t need to be counted against the cap will allow the issuance of more visas to other workers, according to a USCIS statement.

“Continuing to identify and certify returning workers will enable USCIS to keep an accurate count of H-2B nonimmigrant workers for the FY 2017 cap regardless of whether the provisions are reauthorized. If Congress reauthorizes the provisions, and if employers continue to identify and certify returning workers in H-2B filings, then USCIS will be able to identify cap-exempt cases and adjust its counts accordingly.”

Dispersion Trends in the Hispanic Population

September 12th, 2016 by Jennifer Rico

More Hispanics in Small CommunitiesWhile large cities are typically associated with the places immigrants choose to settle in the United States, areas located outside of metropolitan areas with smaller populations are now seeing a good share of immigrant. The Latino population, which is undergoing its own internal demographic changes, is among the groups most represented in the changing face of smaller communities across the country.

According to a new report from The Pew Research Center on Hispanic trends, around half of U.S. counties– 1,579– included a population of at least 1,000 Latinos, which reflects 99 percent of the overall Latino population in the nation. In 1990, only 833 counties in the nation included 1,000 or more Latinos.

Of the remaining 1,562 counties with populations of fewer than 1,000 Latinos, most have populations of less than 13,000 residents.

“General population growth and economic opportunities in places that traditionally had few Latinos led to the dispersal of the Latino population across the U.S. beginning in the 1990s, just as the Latino population growth was accelerating,” according to the Pew report. “These two trends– rapid population growth and geographic dispersion– have led to a number of Latino-driven demographic changes nationwide since 1990.”

While dispersion of the Latino population across more counties in the United States has been driven largely by agricultural and manufacturing job opportunities, Pew report authors Renee Stepler and Mark Hugo Lopez also postulate that Hispanic growth in smaller communities will slow. The slow down, the authors write, is reflective of a slowdown of Hispanic growth in the overall U.S. population.

Still, the influence of Hispanic within their communities is undeniable. For example, 17 states in the nation had kindergarten student populations of at least 20 percent as of 2012. In 2000, only eight states in the country reported these young students at the same level.

The authors also note the “rising electoral influence of Latino voters in recent elections.” And while Latino voters are mostly concentrated in California and Texas, the population dispersion of the group has grown in a number of battleground states. In particular, these include Colorado, Nevada, Virginia and North Carolina.

But just as the Hispanic population growth has slowed since the onset of the Great Recession beginning in 2007, so too as the rate of dispersion dropped in the same time frame. While the share of U.S. counties with at least 1,000 Latinos as part of the population saw an 8 percent gain between 2000 and 2007, since then the rate of dispersion as only grown by 4 percent.

FY 2017 Cap for CNMI-Only Transitional Workers Set

September 8th, 2016 by Jennifer Rico

Visa Cap Set on CNMI WorkersThe Department of Homeland Security (DHS) responded to a statutory requirement to reduce each year the cap of nonimmigrant labor from the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). The cap for the CMNI-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) program in fiscal year 2017 is now 12,998, a reduction of one.

With the CW-1 program, CNMI employers can apply for temporary permission to employ foreign nationals who aren’t eligible for any existing employment-based nonimmigrant category that falls under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The new fiscal cap for the CW program, in effect until Dec. 31, 2019, is intended to “meet the CNMI’s existing labor market needs and provide opportunity for potential growth, while meeting a statutory requirement to reduce the cap each year,” according to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) release. The statement continues, “Because the cap was reached for FY 2016 on May 5, DHS has decided to preserve the status quo, or current conditions, rather than aggressively reduce CW-1 numbers for FY 2017.”

Foreign workers who are employees of CNMI employers utilizing the program cannot be eligible for any other employment-based nonimmigrant visa classification such as the H-2B classification for temporary or seasonal workers and the H-1B classification for workers in a specialty occupation. DHS urges CNMI to reevaluate this criteria for their workers and to use other nonimmigrant classifications where appropriate.

CNMI-employed workers on H-2B or H-1B visas have no cap during the transition period, which ends Dec. 31, 2019.

The FY 2017 CNMI-Only announcement doesn’t affect the status of current CW-1 workers unless their employer files for an extension of the current authorized period of stay. Approved petitions that have an employment start date between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017 generally count towards the 12,998 cap.

Nonimmigrants holding CW-2 status– the spouses and minor children of CW-1 nonimmigrants aren’t directly affected by the revised cap.

USCIS encourages CW-1 employers to file a petition for a CW-1 nonimmigrant worker as early as possible– within six months of the proposed start date of employment. USCIS will reject any petition filed more than six months in advance.

DHS published the notice in the Federal Register on September 2.

USCIS Awards $10 Million in FY 2016 Grants

September 6th, 2016 by Jennifer Rico

10 Mil for USCIS GrantsU.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has awarded close to $10 million in grant money to 46 organizations dedicated to helping permanent residents prepare and apply for U.S. citizenship. With the grants, USCIS expects the these fiscal year 2016 funds to aid more than 37,000 permanent residents in 21 states around the country to achieve citizenship.

The USCIS grant program, which began in 2009, has now awarded a total of $63 million and has aided more than 156,000 permanent residents in the country prepare for citizenship.The Citizenship and Integration Grant Program awards public and private nonprofit organizations with funds. Now in its eighth years, USCIS has awarded 308 grants to organizations in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

“There is a great need for citizenship preparation services throughout the country,” USCIS Director León Rodríguez said in a late August USCIS release. “Grant recipient organizations provide critical services to immigrants as they pursue their dream of U.S. citizenship.”

Grant awards, which will be used for citizenship preparedness for permanent residents by Sept. 30, 2018, this year includes newly created grant opportunities. FY 2016 awards includes grants intended to assist nonprofit organizations working to establish new citizenship instruction programs or working to expand the quality and reach of existing citizenship instruction programs. With the awards for the fiscal year, USCIS sought to encourage the expansion of the existing field of citizenship instruction programs. In particular, USCIS emphasized those programs offered by small, community-based organizations that had not yet received USCIS grants previously.

USCIS describes the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program as a “major part of USCIS’ efforts to support effective citizenship preparation services and provide information to immigrants and public or private nonprofit organizations,” according to the release. USCIS notes other efforts that include the Citizenship Resource Center, which is a web resource that provides learning materials to help permanent residents prepare for the naturalization process. USCIS also partners with federal and municipal agencies with the purpose of raising awareness of the rights, responsibilities and importance of U.S. citizenship. The agency’s efforts are designed to reach the estimated 8.8 million permanent residents nationwide eligible to apply for naturalization.

More information on the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program is available at www.uscis.gov/grants.

USCIS Seeking Comment on Proposed International Entrepreneur Rule

September 1st, 2016 by Jennifer Rico

International Entrepreneur Rule ProposedCiting their long history of overall economic contribution to the nation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is seeking comment on a proposed International Entrepreneur Rule where certain international entrepreneurs could be considered for temporary permission to enter the country– parole– in order to start or scale their businesses in the United States. The proposed rule would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use its discretionary statutory parole authority for international entrepreneurs to stay in the United States in cases where there could be a significant public benefit through rapid business growth and job creation.

The proposed rule allows DHS to grant foreign entrepreneurs an initial stay of up to two years as they oversee and grow their startup business in the United States. In cases where entrepreneurs and their startups show continued “significant public benefit as evidenced by substantial increases in capital investment, revenue or job creation,” DHS could grant subsequent re-parole for up to three additional years, according to a USCIS release on the topic.

Under the proposed rule, DHS can grant parole on a case-by-case basis for startup business owners who:  

  • Have at least a 15 percent ownership interest in the startup and have an active and central role to its operations;
  • Have a startup that was formed in the United States within the past three years; and
  • Have a startup with substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation, as evidenced by:
    • Capital investment of at least $345,000 from certain qualified U.S. investors with established records of successful investments;
    • Awards or grants of at least $100,000 from certain federal, state or local government entities; or
    • Satisfaction of one or both of these financial criteria in combination with other reliable and compelling evidence of the startup’s potential for rapid growth and job creation.

“America’s economy has long benefited from the contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs, from Main Street to Silicon Valley,” USCIS Director León Rodríguez stated in the release. “This proposed rule, when finalized, will help our economy grow by expanding immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment and generating revenue in the U.S.”

USCIS Warns on Payment Scams

August 29th, 2016 by Jennifer Rico

Warning for USCIS Payment ScamsImmigrants working to keep their paperwork with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are in the crosshairs of thieves looking to make a quick buck as scammers are targeting the foreign-born population for bogus application fees and sensitive personal information. In response, USCIS is reminding immigrants that the agency only solicits payments from applicants through letters written on official USCIS stationary and sent through the U.S. Postal Service.

The scam, which targets immigrants all around the country, consists of criminals who impersonate government officials through phone calls or e-mail. Scammers tell the target they’ve come across a problem with an application, or that they need additional information in order to continue the immigration process. “They will then ask for personal and sensitive details, and demand payment to fix any problems,” according to the USCIS release warning of the scam.

Scams that target immigrants are nothing new. Unscrupulous attorneys, for instance, have a history of tricking undocumented immigrants into paying them obscene amounts of money for nothing of any value. In other instances, self-declared “notarios” too often separate undocumented immigrants from their money, and even sometimes wind up getting their duped clients deported.

In its Avoiding Scams page, USCIS advises immigrants to exercise self-empowerment with its online educational resources. These include:

USCIS also lists other resources that could be helpful, including:

  • USCIS customer service at 800-375-5283 (TDD for the deaf and hard of hearing: 800-767-1833);
  • The Ask Emma virtual assistant for answers to questions and help in navigating the USCIS site
  • Attending a USCIS outreach event; or
  • Scheduling an appointment online to visit a local USCIS office.

For those who receive a scam email or phone call, USCIS asks immigrants to report it to the Federal Trade Commission at http://1.usa.gov/1suOHSS. For those who receive suspicious emails, USCIS asks recipients to the correspondence to the USCIS Webmaster at uscis.webmaster@uscis.dhs.gov. USCIS reviews these emails and share them with law enforcement agencies as appropriate.

New Citizens, National Parks Celebrate Together

August 24th, 2016 by Jennifer Rico

National Parks host New CitizensWith the nation’s centennial celebration of the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) this year plans at least 100 naturalization ceremonies in national parks, allowing immigrants to inaugurate their new citizenship in a venue among the nation’s greatest sources of pride. Sixteen of these naturalization ceremonies are planned for August 25 when 450 new citizens will take the Oath of Allegiance in national parks across the country.

The USCIS / NPS partnership is part of a stepped-up effort between the two agencies to not only promote awareness and understanding of citizenship, but also the glory and treasure of the nation’s beauty. Since the launch of the partnership in 2006, NPS has hosted naturalization ceremonies at sites across the country for thousands of new Americans, including on the rim of the Grand Canyon, on the Civil War battlefield at Vicksburg National Military Park, the base of Mount Rushmore, Ellis Island, and at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

The national parks system, adopted in 1916, predominantly hosts white visitors, according to an Associated Press report. With its 100th anniversary, the AP report reads, “the agency is facing some key challenges ahead. Among them is reaching out to minority communities in an increasingly diverse nation and getting them to visit and become invested in preserving the national parks.”

USCIS Director León Rodríguez, who will join National Mall and Memorial Parks Superintendent Gay Vietzke at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C., will administer the Oath of Allegiance to 40 new Americans at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. “At USCIS, we believe that being an American means understanding and honoring our history and the places the National Park Service is charged to protect,” Rodriguez said in a USCIS statement. “We look forward to continuing to welcome new U.S. citizens and protecting ‘America’s Best Idea’ for the next 100 years.”

Other naturalization sites on August 25 will include ceremonies at Grand Canyon National Park, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine as well as national preserves in Florida, Arkansas, Texas and West Virginia.

Relief Available to Louisiana Flood Victims

August 22nd, 2016 by Jennifer Rico

Immigrant Flood Victims Receive ReliefIn the wake of the recent severe storms and flooding that have already killed 13 people and forced thousands of residents into shelters in Baton Rouge, La., US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reminds customers that the agency offers disaster relief to immigrants who are affected by the circumstances.

Relief measures, which are available on request through the USCIS National Customer Service Center, include:

  • A change of nonimmigrant status or an extension of nonimmigrant stay for individuals who are currently in the United States, even in cases where the request is filed after the authorized period of admission is expired;
  • A re-parole of individuals who been granted parole previously by USCIS;
  • An expedition on the processing of advance parole requests;
  • An expedition of the adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students who are experiencing severe economic hardship;
  • An expedition of the adjudication of employment authorization applications in cases where appropriate;
  • A consideration of fee waivers due to an individual’s inability to pay;
  • Some assistance for individuals who’ve received a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny but weren’t able to appear for an interview, submit evidence or respond in a timely manner;
  • A replacement of damaged or lost immigration documents or travel documents issued by USCIS, including things like a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card);
  • A rescheduling of a biometrics appointment.

USCIS offers immigration relief measures that may help people affected by unforeseen circumstances,” according to an August 19 release on the Louisiana-related relief. “We cannot anticipate these events, but will do our best to help you get the benefits for which you qualify,”  a USCIS humanitarian page reads. Individuals can reach the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 800-375-5283 (TDD for the deaf and hard of hearing: 800-767-1833.) More information is available at uscis.gov/humanitarian/special-situations.

President Obama will be visiting the flooded areas of Louisiana on his return from a vacation from Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. His visit comes several days after GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump surveyed the area with VP nominee Mike Pence.

Majority of Hispanics See “Mostly Broken” Immigration System

August 17th, 2016 by Jennifer Rico

Favor for citizenship for undocumentedA high majority of Hispanics living in the U.S. say the country’s immigration system is “mostly broken” and that undocumented immigrants who are already living in the United States should be given legal status, according to new poll data. Additionally, more of these Hispanics say the U.S. should adopt stricter immigration policies than those who say current policies are already too strict.

The vast majority of Hispanics– 88 percent– surveyed for the Fox News Latino poll said they favor bestowing legal status on those who are already living in the country on an undocumented basis. Only 9 percent of respondents favor deporting undocumented residents. A full 90 percent of respondents said they favor a chance at citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors.

The Fox News Latino study reports 69 percent of respondents say the U.S. immigration system in general is broken and needs to be fixed. Thirty-eight percent of respondents told pollsters the U.S. also needs to adopt tougher immigration laws and that current policies are “not strict enough.” This compares to 26 percent of respondents who say current immigration policies are already “strict enough.” The poll showed 30 percent of Hispanics view current laws as “about right.”

Results of the poll are mirrored in Hispanic support of the presidential candidates. While GOP nominee Donald Trump, who promises to build a wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico, favors a hardline policy around border security and undocumented immigration, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who says she’ll take President Obama’s immigration policies further, touts legal status– and possibly citizenship– for those living in the country without documentation. Unsurprisingly, then, 71 percent of Hispanics polled say Clinton would provide better leadership around immigration than Trump, who received only 19 percent support among Hispanics on the issue.

Survey respondents also told pollsters that immigrants make positive contributions to the United States through their ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. An estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants are currently living in the United States.

Results of the Fox News Latino poll are based on an early August survey of 800 registered Hispanic voters.

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