Iraqi SIV Program Extended, But End in Sight

January 16, 2014

In the wake of much anxiety late last year over the future of the Iraqi SIV program, Congress has officially extended it, giving hope to those whose cases have been pending for months or years awaiting final visa approval. The end of the program, however, is now in sight.

When Congress extended the program at the end of 2013, it set key parameters, signaling the impending end. In particular, it limited the number of visas that will be issued to 2,500. Once that number is reached, no more will be issued. Congress did not set a deadline for issuing the visas.

In addition, it limited the qualifying work period to September 30, 2013, meaning to qualify for the SIV, the applicant must have worked for or on behalf of the US government for more than one year between March 20, 2003 and September 30, 2013.

The deadline for applying for a Chief of Mission approval for the SIV (the first approval phase), is September 30, 2014.

The U.S. refugee program through IOM remains available to Iraqis.

Below is the announcement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad regarding the extension. For more information about the extension and the eligibility criteria for the program, click here: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/siv-special.html

The Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program benefiting individuals who have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government has been extended through passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2014.

The NDAA authorizes the issuance of 2,500 immigrant visas after January 1, 2014 to qualified principal applicants.

The NDAA does not include a date by which these visas must be issued, so consular officers have the authority to issue visas under this program until all 2,500 numbers have been used worldwide.  The Iraqi SIV program will end after all visas have been issued.

Under this legislation, the one-year period during which principal applicants must have been employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq begins on or after March 20, 2003, and ends on or before September 30, 2013.The legislation includes a requirement that the principal applicant must apply for Chief of Mission approval no later than September 30, 2014.

Those applicants with cases pending do not need to re-file.  If your petition has been approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), we encourage you to provide all requested documents to the National Visa Center (NVC) immediately so that your visa interview can be scheduled promptly.

Derivative family members (i.e., spouses, children) of principal applicants who were issued SIVs prior to December 31, 2013 can still be issued after December 31, 2013.

Applicants are advised to check their email accounts and consult our website (http://iraq.usembassy.gov/) regularly for the most recent information regarding the SIV program.

The separate U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for U.S.-affiliated Iraqis remains an option, as the eligibility criteria are very similar to those of the SIV program.  For more information on USRAP, please visit http://iraq.usembassy.gov/refugeesidpaffairs.html.

If you want to know whether you qualify for the SIV program or have other options to immigrate to the United States, please contact our office at atty@vkvlaw.com or call 202-340-1215.


EB-5 Regional Center Program Extended Three Years to Sept. 30, 2012

October 31, 2009

President Obama has signed a law extending the EB-5 Regional Center program for investor visas through Sept. 30, 2012.

 The  FY10 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill (P.L.111-83) did not include the Senate’s proposed amendment to make the EB-5 Regional Center program permanent. This proposed amendment was rejected Oct. 13, 2009 in a conference report issued by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

The law also extends the non-minister religious worker (section 568), the “Conrad 30” (section 568), and the E-Verify (section 547) programs through September 30, 2012.

It also grants USCIS the authority to complete processing of permanent residence applications for surviving spouses and other relatives of immigration sponsors who die during the adjudication process (section 568).

The bill was previously approved by the House of Representatives on 10/15/09 by a 307-114 roll call vote, and by the Senate on 10/20/09 by a 79-19 vote.


Weird Science: Maddening Visa Policies For World’s Brightest And What You Can Do About It

April 12, 2009

On the heels of yesterday’s post about the proposed STAPLE Act, today the Washington Post ran a timely article discussing a related obstacle faced by the world’s brightest minds, who would prefer to use their expertise in the United States but due to ill-conceived visa polices and procedures find it all but impossible to do so.

The article, headlined “U.S. Visa Delays Distress Scientists,” talks about the plight of foreign talent eager to get back to work, but who are stuck in their home countries waiting to emerge from the background check black hole so they can get a visa to re-enter the United States. (To read the article you will have to register to read the article, but to do so is free. If you don’t want to register, use a log-on from a site such as http://www.bugmenot.com).

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the consequences such obstacles are having and will have on scientific research and advancement in the United States. Experts don’t want to sit idle waiting for the U.S. government to decide whether they are worthy of a visa, and research institutions can’t simply put projects on hold until the experts arrive.

Innovation will go elsewhere.

If you want to bring back some common sense and balance to U.S. immigration law, contact your Senators and Congressmen. To learn more about the issues and how to contact your representatives, check out AILA’s Legislation and Advocacy pages, most of which do not require a password to use. Also see AILA’s advocacy arm AILFand AILF’s policy site for additional information, both of which are free to access.


New Bill Proposes Unlimited H-1Bs and Green Cards for STEM Ph.Ds

April 11, 2009

A new bill is circulating Congress that would allow foreign students who earned Ph.Ds in certain fields from universities in the United States an easier path to employment and a green card.

H.R. 1791, called the Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s From Leaving the Economy Act of 2009 (aka ‘STAPLE Act’), would eliminate numerical limitations for green cards and H-1Bs for foreign nationals who earned Ph.Ds in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) and have a job offer. The goal is to stop the reverse brain drain caused by the United State’s current immigration policies that thwart the ability of many of those holding these desirable STEM degrees from staying here and putting their talents to use.

In 2007, foreign nationals earned 34 percent of the doctorates awarded, most of which were in the STEM fields. In fact, in most STEM fields, foreign nationals represent the majority, outpacing their American counterparts who prefer non-science fields. For example, 30.3 percent of the degrees in engineering were awarded to foreign nationals and only 8.1 percent went to U.S. citizens in 2007, according to a study by the National Opinion Research Center headquartered at the University of Chicago.

When the new bill was announced, news sites and blogs targeting Indian readers lit up with excitement. One main reason for the attention from Indians is that these students would greatly benefit from such a program because they make up a large group of foreign nationals earning STEM-based Ph.Ds in the United States. Chinese students also account for a large percentage of Ph.Ds earned from American universities.

These two groups in particular are experiencing four- and five – year backlogs, and longer, for employment-based immigrant visas for those holding advanced degrees.

The bill was introduced March 30, 2009 by House Republican Jeff Flake from Arizona and has been sent to the Judiciary Committee for review. We will update our readers on the progress of this bill. Please note, every year many bills are introduced in Congress, but most either die or are revised for better or worse before becoming law.


Last Call for New H-1Bs For the April Lottery Season

March 14, 2009

OPT employees and others filing for their first H-1B visa hopefully have already made their plans to file their applications when the lottery season opens on April 1.

If not, we urge you to act now to avoid any last-minute problems.

USCIS will accept applications from April 1-April 7, 2009 for inclusion in this year’s lottery. If the number of applications received during this window are fewer than the cap, then the window will remain open until the cap is reached. In prior years the quota has been reached on the first day and we expect the same to happen this year.

The cap remains unchanged this year with only 65,000 for standard H-1Bs and 20,000 for those holding advanced degrees form the United States (Master’s degree or higher).

If the cap is reached in the first five working days, USCIS will first hold the random selection process for those holding advanced degrees from the U.S. After this quota is reached, those applicants not chosen will be placed in the standard H-1B lottery pool.

Extensions For Those Whose OPT Expires Before Oct. 1, 2009

If your case is accepted under the quota:

  • Work authorization will be extended if you will still be in OPT status after April 1 and you have filed for a change of status to H-1B.
  • If your post-completion OPT has expired before April 1, but you will still be in your grace period by April 1, your will receive an extension to stay in the United States until your Oct. 1, 2009 H-1B start date, but you will not be able to work prior to the H-1B start date. In other words, work authorization will not be reinstated retroactively.

Cap Exempt

Applications for employees who will work at the following are not subject to the cap:

  • Institutions of higher education
  • Nonprofit organizations or entities related to or affiliated with institutions of higher education
  • Nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations.

 In addition, individuals previously counted against the cap, such as most of those already in H-1B status (those working for the organizations named above were not counted against the cap, so if you are planning on changing employers, you should talk to a competent attorney immediately to determine whether you will be subject to the cap now).

H-1B Restrictions for Stimulus Funds (TARP) Recipients

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, companies that receive funding under title I of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (aka “TARP fund recipients”),  or under Section 13 of the Federal Reserve Act (12 U.S.C. § 342 et seq., authorizing the Federal Reserve’s “Discount Window” for short-term, secured loans to financial institutions and other companies), face additional restrictions on filing H-1B petitions.


Lawsuit Seeks to Void Controverisal New Federal Contractor E-Verify Law

December 27, 2008

The latest government attempt to impose the use of E-Verify on employers is being challenged in court. This time it is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business and human resources groups attacking the legality of new regulations that force federal government contractors to use E-Verify for its employees.

The regulations, which go into effect Jan. 15, 2009, require federal contractors with projects exceeding $100,000 lasting 120 days or more and for sub-contractors with projects exceeding $3,000 to use E-Verify to confirm its employees’ eligibility to work. It also requires contractors to reconfirm the employment authorization of existing employees hired after Nov. 6, 1986 who work on government contracts.

The Chamber says the government is using an executive order to get around normal law-making processes.

“This massive expansion of E-Verify is not only bad policy, it’s unlawful,” said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center (NCLC), the Chamber’s public policy law firm. “The Administration can’t use an Executive Order to circumvent federal immigration and procurement laws. Federal law explicitly prohibits the secretary of Homeland Security from making E-Verify mandatory or from using it to re-authorize the existing workforce.”

The lawsuit asks the court to declare the new regulations illegal and void.

Employer groups have criticized E-Verify as too costly and imperfect to require use by federal contractors and subcontractors.

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, is Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Chertoff, et al.

For more information on the controversial E-Verify program, please see our other article here.


New Database Gives State-by-State Round Up of Immigration Laws

November 29, 2008

In recent years states have been enacting a rash of new laws addressing immigration issues that affect foreigners and U.S. citizens alike.

In response, the Migration Policy Institute has created a free, searchable data base ofall immigration-related bills and resolutions introduced in state legislatures.

The State Responses to Immigration database classifies information by state, region, subject area, legislative type, and bill status.  For example, you can search the status of enforcement initiatives introduced in a state, compare the number of bills regulating employment, or evaluate the passage rate of health-related bills across the nation.

The database is a joint project of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) and a research team at the New York University School of Law (NYU).

The site reports that it has posted 2007 legislation and will add data for 2008, in addition to 2001-2006 data, in the coming months.

Other groups which have tracked state efforts to regulate immigration issues include the National Conference on State Legislatures. For information on this group’s efforts see our article here.