Hello Everybody. This is Cyrus Mehta. Welcome to this week’s edition of immigration matters.
In today’s segment, I want to inform you about two developments – one good, the other not so good. 7th Year H-1B Extension
Let’s start with the good news. There is a bill pending in Congress, the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act, which has already been passed by the House and has just been passed by the Senate. This bill contains several immigration provisions. The most interesting is a provision that amends Section 106(a) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000, known as AC21. This provision would allow an H-1B nonimmigrant to file for a 7th year extension provided that a labor certification or an immigrant visa petition has been filed on behalf of the nonimmigrant for more than 365 days.
The H-1B visa is valid for only 6 years. Since labor certification applications, the first step in the green card process, are backlogged, many do not expect to see progress on their green card applications before the 6th year.
The earlier AC21 legislation also provided for a 7th year extension under limited circumstances. In AC21, the extension could only be filed if both a labor certification and an immigrant visa petition had been filed before the end of the 6th year. In most cases, it is impossible to file an immigrant visa petition unless the labor certification application has been approved. Due to the delays in the labor certification process, the AC21 provision has become virtually defunct.
The new provision would allow one to file for a 7th year extension of the H-1B visa if a labor certification were filed 365 days earlier and is still pending without regard to the ability to file an immigrant petition also. This provision would also allow those who left the US because of the 6-year limit to have a new H-1B petition approved and be able to return from abroad with a new visa or otherwise re-obtain H-1B status. Special Alien Registration Program
Let me now highlight another development. As of September 11, 2002, the INS initiated a Special Alien Registration program to register nonimmigrants who are citizens or nationals of countries with significant Muslim population. Not only do they have to get photographed and fingerprinted when they enter the US at an airport, but they also have to report after 30 days, as well as one year later, upon their arrival in the US. At the time of departure from the US, they also have to report to an INS authority at certain designated airports or ports of departure. Failure to comply with any registration requirements would result in their names being put in a national criminal database and also render them subject to deportation. At present, the Special Registration rule only applies to nationals of citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Libya and Syria.
However, the Justice Department has recently issued a memo indicating that citizens or nationals of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen who are males between 16 and 45 years of age would also need to be subject to registration. Furthermore, registration would apply to any nonimmigrant who has made unexplained trips to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, Cuba, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Somalia, Pakistan, Indonesia, or Malaysia. It would also apply to other nonimmigrants who meet pre-existing criteria, especially if the individual’s presence in the US warrants monitoring in the interest of national security, which would include an assessment of the person’s behavior, demeanor and answers to questions.
A system that brands all members of a particular nationality as suspect does not really improve the nation’s security. It makes more sense to screen visa applicants overseas at the American embassy, which is already happening rather extensively in certain countries. Implementing a Special Alien Registration program for all citizens or nationals of targetted countries will only jeopardize America’s relation with that country over the long run. It will also deter people from entering the US who would otherwise enhance the country through tourism, study, business or investment.
I hope you found this segment helpful and informative. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact LAw Office of Cyrus D. Mehta & Associates, PLLC at 212-425-0555. The number once again is 212-425-0555. You can also email us at email@example.com
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This is Cyrus Mehta wishing you a wonderful weekend. See you again in two weeks.