Holiday Travel Tips Across the US – Canadian Border

The Law Office of Robert F. Mirque and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reminds travelers planning trips across the border into the United States to have their approved travel documents and to anticipate heavy traffic during the celebration of the holidays.


The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, implemented on June 1, requires U.S. and Canadian citizens, age 16 and older to present a valid, acceptable approved travel document that denotes both identity and citizenship when entering the U.S. by land or sea. WHTI-compliant documents include a passport, U.S. passport card, enhanced driver’s licenses (EDLs) — now produced by the states of New York, Michigan, Vermont and Washington; also the Provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia — or a Trusted Traveler Program card (NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST). For more information, visit thw WHTI Web site. 


We also want to remind U.S. lawful permanent residents that the I-551 form (green card) is acceptable for land and sea travel into the U.S.


Border traffic volumes are expected to be greatly increased during this holiday weekend and all travelers are reminded of a few simple steps they can employ to cross the border.


Tip #1 – Travelers should familiarize themselves with the “Know Before You Go” section of the CBP Web site to avoid fines and penalties associated with the importation of prohibited items. “Know Before You Go” brochures are also available at border ports. 


Tip #2 – Travelers should prepare for the inspection process before arriving at the inspection booth. Individuals should have their crossing documents available for the inspection and they should be prepared to declare all items acquired abroad. In addition, individuals should end cellular phone conversations before arriving at the inspection booth.


Tip #3 – Members of the traveling public should consult the CBP Web site to monitor border wait times for various ports of entry including Blaine and Sumas, Wash., Sweetgrass, Mont., and Pembina, N.D. Information is updated hourly and is useful in planning trips and identifying periods of light use/short waits.


Tip #4 – During periods of heavy travel, border crossers may wish to consider alternative, less heavily traveled entry routes.


Tip #5 – Travelers should plan to build extra time into their trips in the event they cross during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic (i.e. Thanksgiving holiday and adjacent weekends).


Tip #6 – Know the difference between goods for personal use vs. commercial use.


Tip #7 –Do not attempt to bring fruits, meats, dairy/poultry products and firewood into the United States from Canada without first checking whether they are permitted.


Tip # 8 – Understand that CBP officers have the authority to conduct enforcement examinations without a warrant, ranging from a single luggage examination up to and possibly including a personal search. Even during the holiday travel season, international border crossers should continue to expect a thorough inspection process when they enter the U.S. from Canada.


You should be aware that CBP will continually monitor traffic and border crossing times at area ports of entry. The agency stated that it plans to fully staff all inspection lanes during peak periods and  implement various traffic management operations to maintain the flow of traffic during periods of exceptionally heavy usage.

The Law Office of Robert F. Mirque, Jr. wishes everyone a safe holiday season and if you have an immigration issue, please give us a call at 616-233-9300.

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E-Verify Rule For Federal Contractors Becomes Effective Today

We are reminding federal contractors and subcontractors that effective today, they may be required to use the E-Verify system to verify their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States if their contract includes the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause. 

In July, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano strengthened employment eligibility verification by announcing the Administration’s support for the regulation that will award federal contracts only to employers who use E-Verify to check employee work authorization.


The E-Verify federal contractor rule extends use of the E-Verify system to cover federal contractors and subcontractors, including those who receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.  Applicable federal contracts awarded and solicitations issued on or after today will include a clause committing government contractors to use E-Verify. 


Companies awarded a contract with the E-Verify clause on or after today will be required to enroll in E-Verify within 30 days of the contract award date.  With certain exceptions, E-Verify must be used to confirm that all new hires, whether employed on a federal contract or not, and existing employees directly working on these contracts are legally authorized to work in the United States. 


More than 148,000 participating employers at nearly 560,000 worksites nationwide currently use E-Verify to electronically verify their workers’ employment eligibility.  Since Oct. 1, 2008, more than 7.8 million employment verification queries have been run through the system and approximately 96.9 percent of all queries are now automatically confirmed as work-authorized within 24 hours or less.


For more information on the program, you can call my office at 616-233-9300 and we will be happy to answer all your I-9 questions. 

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Important Deadline for Religious Workers

Readers of my blog are reminded of an important deadline for religious workers who might benefit from the court’s order in Ruiz-Diaz v. United States, No. CO-71881RSL (W.D. Wash. June 11, 2009).

Applications for adjustment of status must be filed by August 31, 2009. This deadline applies to those applicants who had Form I-360 religious worker immigrant petitions pending as of June 11, 2009, and have accrued unlawful presence or unauthorized employment from the date of filing. A properly filed adjustment of status application by August 31, 2009 will toll any such unlawful presence or unauthorized employment until USCIS issues a final administrative decision.

If you have any questions about this deadline or any other immigration issue please give me a call at 616-233-9300.

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Myth: Immigrants Are a Threat to Workable Health Care Reform

FACT: The more people who pay into a system of health insurance, the more everyone benefits. An important function of health insurance is to pool risks and use premiums collected from the healthy to pay for the medical care of those who need it.


FACT: U.S. citizens make up the majority of those who are uninsured. U.S. citizens make up the majority of the uninsured (78%), while legal and undocumented immigrants account for 22% of the nonelderly uninsured.


FACT: Immigrants do not impose a disproportionate financial burden on the U.S. health care system. According to a July 2009 study in the American Journal of Public Health, immigrants use less medical care, and less expensive care, even when they have health insurance.



  • Immigrants’ per-person medical expenditures were one-half to two-thirds less than U.S.-born citizens with similar characteristics. Health care costs for the average immigrant in America are 55% lower than health care costs for the average U.S.-born person. Another study found that, in 2005, average annual per capita health care expenditures for noncitizens were $1,797-versus $3,702 for U.S. citizens.
  • Recent immigrants were responsible for 1.4% of total public medical expenditures for adults in 2003, even though they constituted 5% of the population. (fn. 1)

So, if you think that immigrants are the reason why we can’t solve the health care problem … think again!

If you have questions about an immigration matter, please do not hesitate to give me a call at 616-233-9300 to schedule a meeting. And, thank you for reading my blog.


fn. 1  AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09080561 (posted Aug. 5, 2009)

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US Court Orders USCIS to Accept Concurrently Filed Religious Worker I-360 and I-485



Some good news has come to religious workers who intend on filing an I-485.

In a United States District Court decision out of the state of Washington, the court in RUIZ-DIAZ v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ruled that a Petitioner who filed or will file a Petition for Special Immigrant Religious Worker Visa (Form I-360) with the USCIS on behalf of an individual beneficiary may now file an Application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) and, if the beneficiary seeks employment status, may also file an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) even if USCIS has not yet decided on the I- 360 petition.

Previously, the I-360 had to be adjudicated before the I-485 and I-765 could be filed.


The Court has struck down USCIS’ policy against concurrent filings as an unreasonable
interpretation of the applicable statute. In an order dated June 11, 2009, the USCIS is now required to accept as properly filed the I-485 and I-765 from individuals who are beneficiaries of a petition for special immigrant status,
whether submitted concurrently with or subsequent to the visa petition. 


Please keep in mind that this decision may be subject to review in the United States Court of Appeals. But for now this is a victory to the applicants filing under this category.

If you have any questions about religious worker visas, please call my office at 616-233-9300 to schedule an appointment.

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USCIS Announces Resumption of Premium Processessing for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker

I have had a number of clients asking me about premium processing of their applications. Well, today the USCIS announced that effective June 29, 2009, it will resume Premium Processing Service for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, in accordance with 8 CFR 103.2(f)(2).


 


After an evaluation of its I-140 backlog reduction efforts and increased I-140 adjudicative efficiencies, USCIS has concluded that it is now able to provide Premium Process Service for this benefit.


 


USCIS will accept Premium Processing requests for Form I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, involving EB-1 Aliens with Extraordinary Ability, EB-1 Outstanding Professors and Researchers, EB-2 Members of Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability not seeking a National Interest Waiver, EB-3 Professionals, EB-3 Skilled Workers, and EB-3 Workers other than Skilled Workers and Professionals.


 


Premium Processing Service is still not available for Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, involving EB-1 Multinational Executives and Managers and EB-2 Members of Professions with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability seeking a National Interest Waiver.


 


Under the Premium Processing Service, USCIS guarantees petitioners that, for a $1,000 processing fee, it will issue either an approval notice, or where appropriate, a notice of intent to deny, a request for evidence or open an investigation for fraud or misrepresentation, within 15 calendar days of receipt. If the petition is not processed within 15 calendar days, USCIS will refund the $1,000 fee and continue to process the request as part of the Premium Processing Service. 

Premium Processing Service continues to be available for previously designated classifications within Form I-140 and Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker.

If you have qustions about Premium Processessing or any aspect immigration law, please call me at 616-233-9300 or email me at info@mirquelaw.com

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US Grants Deferral for Widows of US Citizens Married Less Than Two Years

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today granted deferred action for two years to widows and widowers of U.S. citizens—as well as their unmarried children under 18 years old—who reside in the United States and who were married for less than two years prior to their spouse’s death.


“Smart immigration policy balances strong enforcement practices with common-sense, practical solutions to complicated issues,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Granting deferred action to the widows and widowers of U.S. citizens who otherwise would have been denied the right to remain in the United States allows these individuals and their children an opportunity to stay in the country that has become their home while their legal status is resolved.”


Secretary Napolitano also directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to suspend adjudication of visa petitions and adjustment applications filed for widow(er)s where the sole reason for reassessment of immigration status was the death of a U.S. citizen spouse prior to the second anniversary of the marriage.


Additionally, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will defer initiating or continuing removal proceedings, or executing final orders of removal against qualified widow(er)s and their eligible children.


USCIS will also consider favorably requests for humanitarian reinstatement where previously approved petitions for widow(er)s had been revoked because of the law. DHS will soon issue guidance instructing the public on how to apply for this relief.


These directives apply regardless of whether the citizen filed a petition for the alien spouse before death. Deferred action is generally an act of prosecutorial discretion to suspend removal proceedings against a particular individual or group of individuals for a specific timeframe; it cannot resolve an individual’s underlying immigration status. Individuals granted deferred action may apply for work authorization if they can demonstrate economic necessity.


While Secretary Napolitano’s directive provides a short-term arrangement for widow(er)s of deceased U.S. citizens, legislation is required to amend the definition of “immediate relatives” in the Immigration and Nationality Act to permit surviving spouses to remain indefinitely after the U.S. citizen spouse dies, enabling them to seek permanent resident status.

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Applicability Date for E-Verify Federal Contractor Rule Extended

This just in … The applicability date of the final rule requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to begin using U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) E-Verify system has been pushed back by six weeks to June 30, 2009.

If you have any questions regarding I-9 compliance or any other immigration issue, give me a call at 616-233-9300 or email me at
info@mirquelaw.com

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Reminder to All Employers to Use the New I-9 Forms

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a reminder that the revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (Rev. 02/02/09), went into effect April 3, 2009 for all U.S. employers. The revision date is printed on the lower right-hand corner of the form.

The interim final rule, published Dec.17, 2008 in the Federal Register, revised the list of documents acceptable for the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) process.  Employers may no longer use previous versions of the Form I-9.


It is the USCIS’ position that the revised list will improve the security and effectiveness of the Form I-9 process. The list specifies that expired documents are no longer acceptable forms of identification or employment authorization. Allowing for expired documents makes it more difficult for employers to verify an employee’s identity and employment authorization and compromises the Form I-9 process.


USCIS also updated the Handbook for Employers – Instructions for Completing Form I-9 to reflect the requirements of the revised Form I-9.

If you have questions about I-9 compliance, you can take a look at a 
power point presentation (scroll down to “SlideShare Presentations” and click to start) on I-9 compliance that I presented to West Michigan employers in January 2009. Or, if you have any question about immigration law in general, please contact me at rfmirque@mirquelaw.com or by telephone at 616-233-9300.

Thanks for reading my blog.

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USCIS Announces Acceptance of H-1B Applications for FY2010 starting April 1, 2009

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will begin accepting H-1B petitions subject to the fiscal year 2010 (FY 2010) cap on April 1, 2009.  Cases will be considered accepted on the date that USCIS takes possession of the petition; not the date that the petition is postmarked.

The numerical limitation on H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2010 is 65,000.  Additionally, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of aliens who have earned a U.S. masters’ degree or higher are exempt from the fiscal year cap.


USCIS will monitor the number of petitions received and will notify the public of the date USCIS has received the necessary number of petitions to meet the H-1B cap, known as the “final receipt date.”  The date USCIS publishes information that the cap has been reached does not control the final receipt date. To ensure a fair system, USCIS will, if needed, randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit from the petitions received on the final receipt date.  USCIS will reject cap subject petitions that are not selected, as well as those received after the final receipt date.


H-1B petitions cannot be filed more than six months in advance of the requested start date.  Petitions seeking an H-1B worker for an Oct. 1, 2009 start date can be filed no earlier than April 1, 2009. 


Petitions for new H-1B employment are exempt from the annual cap if the beneficiaries will work at institutions of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entities, or at nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations.  Thus, employers may continue to file petitions for these exempt H-1B categories seeking work dates starting in FY 2009 or 2010.
 
Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap also do not count towards the congressionally mandated H-1B cap. Accordingly, USCIS will continue to process petitions filed to:




  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States. 


  • Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers. 


  • Allow current H-1B workers to change employers. 


  • Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

H-1B petitioners should follow all regulatory requirements (8 CFR §214.2) as they prepare petitions to avoid delays in processing and possible requests for evidence.  USCIS has developed detailed information, including a processing worksheet, to assist in the completion and submission of a FY2010 H-1B petition.  Those documents are available from the Related Links section of this page.


U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers.

If you have a question about obtaining an H-1B Visa or any question related to immigration law, call me at 616-233-9300 or email me at info@mirquelaw.com

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