USCIS Quarterly Stakeholder Meeting Updates Oct 10, 2012

Every quarter, USCIS holds a meeting to hear what the public has to say. These meetings typically attract the same interested organization leaders and immigration attorneys. Today’s agenda is available online. The good news is USCIS provides a written recap of today’s meeting. For our CM Guru readers, you can get highlights of the meeting hot off the press today!

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Updates

USCIS recently released figures on how many cases it has received from August 15, 2012 to September 13, 2012. We wrote about these figures in our last blog article . One of the key issues asked by attendees was whether students who have been granted deferred action based on DACA would be eligible for Federal Student Aid via FASFA. USCIS’ response indicated the federal Department of Education will be reviewing this issue.

SAVE Program Updates

The Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program is a “web-based service that helps federal, state and local benefit-issuing agencies, institutions, and licensing agencies determine the immigration status of benefit applicants so only those entitled to benefits receive them.” SAVE is not a one database but rather a network of various federal databases that state and local agencies use. DMVs are one of the more common state agencies enrolled in the SAVE program. With recent changes in how Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) have ceased to stamp Forms I-20 for students, many wondered if agencies using SAVE would have updated student information. USCIS assured the public that SAVE has access to the SEVIS database, which does contain updated student identity information. Additionally, due to I-94 automation, agencies and applicants are encouraged to use their passport numbers and Alien numbers rather than their I-94 numbers, when processing through SAVE. USCIS plans on releasing a list of participating SAVE agencies for public access in about a month. Currently, out of the 56 state jurisdictions, 48 agencies currently participate in SAVE.

Artists in Residence vs. Entrepreneurs in Residence (aka AIR vs. EIR)

You’ll recall earlier this year I wrote about the Entrepreneur in Residence Program. There was a lot of excitement about the government’s recruitment of actual practitioners to provide guidance on policy matters. Although USCIS indicated the program, which has been active for many months, has been met with much success and cooperation, we’ve yet to see the fruits of that success. (Hopefully next week’s EB-5 Stakeholder Meeting will reveal more.) It appears there may be an “Artists in Residence Program” on the horizon but the details are murky. USCIS did not release much information about this matter.

Absconding Workers

How does USCIS know about absconding workers (particularly H-2A workers)? First, employers must be diligent about reporting absconding workers. Once that occurs, the DHS matrix of databases quickly goes to work where the information is shared with multiple federal agencies, though it appears DOL is not quite one of them (yet).

I-94 Automation

This was the big elephant in the room (IMHO). You can read more about I-94 automation details here. A couple of important distinctions: First, USCIS will continue to issue paper I-94 cards to foreign nationals receiving an extension or change of status. Second, USCIS database are supposed to be able to check a foreign national’s I-94 number, regardless of whether it’s the “dummy” number issued to a foreign nation upon entry, or whether it’s the electronic I-94 number being generated on the back end by CBP. USCIS did indicate that CBP is working on providing foreign nationals access online where they will be able to retrieve their I-94 number. The timeline for this website is unclear since this falls under the purview of CBP. There were many questions related to how the I-94 automation process is syncing with the E-Verify Program and with the revised Form I-9 to which USCIS revealed they are still in the process of working out the details. Absent a “viable” I-94 number, the passport number and entry stamp are the two most important status identifiers for foreign nationals. USCIS is considering additional public educational materials to release online in order to improve education on the I-94 automation process, so that government agency business protocols at the local and state level are in synch with the current federal changes.

H-1B Backlog and Dependents

USCIS confirmed the delay in processing current H-1B petitions have been due to the backlog of H-1B cap cases. Rest assured USCIS plans on getting caught up with cases in the next month. On another exciting note, according to Pearl Chang, Acting Chief of USCIS Office of Policy and Strategy, USCIS is working on a proposal that would allow H-4 spousal dependents to apply for work authorization during periods beyond the primary beneficiary’ H-1B 6th year, pursuant to AC21. Have more questions or concerns? Contact USCIS at public.engagement@uscis.dhs.gov.

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