Tag Archives: DHS

USCIS Implements Customer Identity Verification at its Field Offices

Beginning September 9, 2013, USCIS began employing a new verification tool called Customer Identity Verification (CIV) in its field offices. Customers will now submit biometric data, specifically fingerprints and photographs, when appearing at USCIS offices for interviews or to receive evidence of an immigration benefit.

CIV will enhance the integrity of the immigration system and combat identity fraud by allowing USCIS to biometrically verify a customer’s identity. Having resolved a technical issue that delayed the original launch, the tool will now be phased in between September 9 and October 21, 2013 to customers attending an interview or being issued evidence of an immigration benefit.

How It Works:

After a customer arrives at a field office, clears security, and is called to the counter, two fingerprints will electronically be scanned and a picture taken to verify their identity. The process takes just a few minutes and applies only to customers who have an interview or receive evidence of an immigration benefit. People who come to the USCIS office for InfoPass appointments, or to accompany a customer, will not undergo this process.

Currently, USCIS requires applicants and petitioners requesting immigration or naturalization benefits to visit the nearest Application Support Center (ASC) to provide biometric data. USCIS uses this data to help determine eligibility for requested benefits. This requirement, along with providing a government-issued document for examination, will not change.

How It Helps:

CIV connects instantly to the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology’s (US-VISIT’s) Secondary Inspections Tool (SIT). SIT is a Web-based application that processes, displays and retrieves biometric and biographic data. US-VISIT also links databases associated with border inspections and security.

Revised FL-DMV Procedures for “Deferred Action” Applicants.

If DHS has granted deferred action and a work permit has been applied for or approved, these individuals are eligible for issuance. Other documents required would be a valid government-issued document (unless the customer has been issued with the Department since January 1, 2010), two (2) proofs of residential address and proof of social security number (if one has been issued), along with the deferred action letter from DHS.

Furthermore, if the customer is a youth and is seeking a first-time issuance, F.S. 322.095 requires completion of the traffic law substance abuse (TLSA) course or the satisfactorily completed Department of Education driver’s education course.

DHS/USCIS Begins Accepting DEFFERED ACTION Cases Today.

Today, August 15, 2012, USCIS begins to accept Deferred Action cases.

“USCIS has developed a rigorous review process for deferred action requests under guidelines issued by Secretary Napolitano,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “Childhood arrivals who meet the guidelines and whose cases are deferred will now be able to live without fear of removal, and be able to more fully contribute their talents to our great nation.”

Deferred action is a discretionary determination to defer removal action of an individual as an act of prosecutorial discretion. USCIS will review requests and make decisions on a case-by-case basis.  While it does not provide lawful status or a pathway to permanent residence or citizenship, individuals whose cases are deferred as part of this process will not be removed from the United States for a two-year period, subject to renewal, and may also apply for employment authorization.

The Deferred Action process appears to be fairly straightforward for most; however issues surrounding the process are not. Each person will, in essence, be revealing him or herself to the government. While DHS has offered some level of assurance regarding confidentiality, those assurances are necessarily weak. Speaking with an immigration attorney before applying is the smart, safe way to go.

  • Because of the complexity of immigration law as a whole, even the simplest process can be fraught with pitfalls. AILA and the immigration lawyer community are rallying to mobilize unprecedented pro bono activity surrounding the Deferred Action initiative.
  • DREAMers, like all Americans, are united by a deep respect for those who work hard for a living and a shared commitment to the country we all call home. These young people study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods, and pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents—sometimes even as infants—and yet they live under the threat of deportation to a country they may know nothing about.
  • This temporary reprieve for DREAMers gives Congress the space to reach a consensus by taking the immediate threat of deportation off the table. Deferred action is not amnesty. Deferred action is not permanent. Deferred action is not a pathway to a green card or citizenship. Deferred action is not legal status. Youth that qualify cannot vote or petition for family members.
  • Under current law people granted deferred action are eligible to apply for work authorization. While living in the United States people must have a way to support themselves—this is not a change in current law.

Please see the page on my website, regarding DEFERRED ACTION.

Some “DEFERRED ACTION” Pointers

1. In a change from the prior announcement, people currently in removal proceedings will use the USCIS process when it is implemented on August 15, 2012, rather than go through ICE. Only individuals in detention will go through ICE to make a deferred action request.

2. Information provided as part of the deferred action request process is protected from disclosure

to ICE or CBP for purposes of removal proceedings unless the requestor meets the criteria of USCIS’ November 2011 NTA memo.

3. If a departure from the U.S. was due to removal, voluntary departure, etc., the absence was not brief, casual and innocent and would interupt the continuous residence that is required since June 15, 2007. Short absences before August 15, 2012, reasonably calculated to accomplish the purpose of the trip, would not be interuptive.

4. Only people who are currently not in status and were not in any lawful status on June 15, 2012 are eligible.

5. A “significant misdemeanor” is one for which the individual was sentenced to more than 90 days, or a conviction for domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, firearm violation, drug distribution or trafficking (but not possession), or DUI, regardless of the sentence.

6. Minor traffic offenses, such as driving without a license, are not considered misdemeanors that count toward the “3 or more” standard.

7. The Form I-765 will be required, along with another form that will be made available on August 14 or 15. Total fees, including biometics, will be $465. Fee waivers will not be available, but fee exemptions will be permitted in very limited circumstances, and must be requested and approved before submitting a deferred action application without a fee.

8. Whether a person has reached age 15, and whether the requestor meets the education requirements, will be determined as of the date the request for deferred action is filed, NOT the June 15, 2012 date.

Talking Points on “DREAM Act”

THE DREAM ACT: A CENTRAL ELEMENT OF REFORM
The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (S. 729/H.R. 1751) is a bipartisan bill that would provide a conditional six-year pathway to legal permanent residence for certain unauthorized youth who, as children, were brought to the U.S. if they: complete high school; demonstrate good moral character; and complete at least two years of higher education or serve for at least two years in the U.S. military. The bill also would also repeal section 505 of the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Reconciliation Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) that prohibits states from providing any higher education benefit based on residency to unauthorized immigrants unless they provide the same benefit to U.S. citizens in the same circumstances, regardless of their residence.


THE DREAM ACT CAN STRENGTHEN THE U.S. ECONOMY

The students who would benefit under the DREAM Act have been raised and educated in the U.S. and by allowing them to pursue a higher education, we are investing in the future of our country and our economy.
•  Communities, states, and nation would reap significant benefits from the DREAM Act. A RAND study showed that a 30-year-old Mexican immigrant woman who graduated from college will pay $5,300 more in taxes and cost $3,900 less in government expenses each year than if she had dropped out of high school. This amounts to an annual fiscal benefit of over $9,000 every year, money that can be used to pay for the education of others.
•  DREAM Act beneficiaries will make up part of the educated workforce needed to help the U.S. compete in the global economy. In our globalized world, their multilingual and bicultural skills, and contributions are more important than ever to the success and global competitiveness of the United States.

CURRENT LAW PROVIDES NO WAY FOR THESE CHILDREN TO ACHIEVE LEGAL STATUS

•  Due to the undocumented status of their parents and other family members, they have no available avenues for family-based visa sponsorship.
•  Few employers would or could sponsor them for a work visa due to their age and lack of work experience. Even if an employer was willing to sponsor them, the process takes precious years that these children cannot afford to waste.

STATES SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO DETERMINE WHO QUALIFIES FOR IN-STATE TUITION

•  States are required to invest in elementary and secondary education for undocumented children, but can’t collect on the return. However, when states are ready to earn a return on their investment through a highly educated workforce, they are barred from offering in-state tuition to these children. The states (and their taxpayers) have the right to earn this return.
•  States should have the authority to determine how they allocate their resources. Such an educational investment pays dividends for the states by reducing the dropout rate, leading to substantial savings in criminal justice costs and the use of public benefits, and sharply increasing the taxes paid by those benefiting from this initiative. AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 09043072. (Posted 3/19/10).

THIS BILL REFLECTS A BALANCED APPROACH TO REFORM AND MUST BE PART OF ANY COMPREHENSIVE EFFORT TO OVERHAUL OUR IMMIGRATION LAWS

•  This measure would require children to have lived in the U.S. for a number of years and to have no criminal record.
•  This measure would require eligible children to dedicate themselves to learning English and succeeding in our educational system.
•  This measure proposes a one-time only fix that would not encourage illegal immigration.

This measure recognizes that the status quo needs to be reformed by granting children the means to continue their education and legalize their status. Such reform works for children and works for America.

What’s “DEFERRED ACTION” ?

“Deferred action” amounts to an excercise of favorable discretion by the authorities, which allows an individual to remain temporarily in the United States and apply for work authorization. It does not confer any kind of permanent residence, nor can it be seen as a form of amnesty.

Under this new initiative, deferred action would be granted for two year increments and would be renewable.

According to DHS, people may apply for deferred action if they meet all the following criteria:

  • came to the U.S. under the age of 16;
  • are not above the age of 30;
  • have resided in the U.S. for 5 consecutive years as of the date of the memo;
  • are currently in school, have graduated from high school, obtained a GED or have been honorably discharged from the armed forces; and
  • have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanors, multiple misdemeanors or who do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Specifically, DHS advised that:

Effective immediately, ICE, CBP, and USCIS agents should not place individuals into removal proceedings who meet the above criteria.

For those already IN immigration proceedings and who have been offered administrative closure under the previous prosecutorial discretion program, ICE will begin making determinations about deferred action immediately. For other persons who are in removal proceedings, ICE is directed to implement the program within 60 days.

For those NOT in removal proceedings, which is the vast majority of individuals affected by the new announcement, USCIS has been directed to devise a plan within 60 days that allows people 15 and older to affirmatively apply for both deferred action and work authorization (those granted deferred action through ICE will apply to USCIS for work authorization as well). People with final orders of removal will also apply to USCIS.

DHS issues guidance on NSEERS violations

NSEERS was a program implemented following “9/11″ to more closely scrutinize and monitor the travel habits of individuals from certain countries.  Recently, the program was terminated, but the question remained on how DHS should process applications for certain immigration benefits on behalf of Aliens who, until recently, were required to abide by NSEERS.

DHS just issued a department-wide guidance regarding the handling of Aliens who were previously subject to NSEERS registration, but have failed to fully comply with all provisions of NSEERS. Failure to fully comply with NSEERS often carried with it penalties, including but not limited to, inadmissibility to the United States.

The recently released guidance advises DHS adjudicators/officers to distinguish whether any previous NSEERS violations were willful and deliberate, or unintended or otherwise excusable.   If DHS finds, based on the evaluation of the facts and circumstances, that the violation was NOT intentional, then no further action should be taken adverse to the Alien, with regard to approving or issuing any immigration benefit sought, so long as otherwise qualified. In other words, DHS can no longer deny an application for a benefit SOLELY on the grounds of an NSEERS violation.

The determination of whether or not the noncompliance was willful will be based on the totality of the circumstances, involving a careful consideration of all factors, including but not limited to evidence in the record, statements by the individual, or other relevant information. As always, DHS personnel possess the authority to elicit and consider evidence to aid in determining whether an alien was subject to and complied with NSEERS requirements and whether any non-compliance was willful.

The burden of establishing (by preponderance of the evidence) whether or not an NSEERS violation was willful and deliberate or unintentional rests with the Alien, not DHS.

Evidence that would support a finding that the noncompliance was not willful includes, but is not limited to:

  • Credible claims that the alien received inaccurate or incomplete advice by INS or DHS personnel about where to report or register;
  • Credible claims that the alien was in contact with INS or DHS, but INS or DHS failed to accurately advise the alien as required under the regulations;
  • Incapacitation of the alien (e.g., serious illness and/or hospitalization, admission into a nursing home or extended care facility where mobility is severely limited) that prevented him or her from complying;
  • Exceptional circumstances beyond the control ofthe alien (e.g., natural disaster, death of the spouse, child, or parent of the alien) that prevented him or her from complying; or
  • Any other evidence showing that the failure to appear was through no fault of the alien.

Failure to comply with an NSEERS requirement based on personal inconvenience or fear of immigration consequences is not sufficient to support a finding that the violation was anything other than willful and deliberate.

DHS and TSA testing relaxed airport travel procedures for DOD personnel

1/4/2012 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — President Barack Obama signed a bill into law Jan. 3 to streamline airport screening procedures for service members and their families traveling on official orders.

The Risk-based Security Screening for Members of the Armed Forces Act gives the Transportation Security Administration six months to develop and implement a plan to expedite screening services for service members on orders and in uniform and, “to the extent possible, any accompanying family member.”

The act, in part, calls for the agency to establish standard guidelines for the screening of military uniform items, such as combat boots.

In a statement released Jan. 4, agency officials said they’re in the process of reviewing options for these new procedures in consultation with the Defense Department.

Even before this law, the agency had several measures in place to aid troops through the screening process. For example, troops in uniform with a military identification card aren’t required to remove their boots or shoes unless they set off an alarm, according to the agency’s website.

The agency also seeks to accommodate family members. Families who would like to accompany a deploying service member to the boarding gate or greet them upon their return may receive passes to enter the secure area of the airport, the site said. Family members, agency officials advise, should contact their air carrier representative at the airport for local procedures.

The agency also expedites the screening process for Honor Flight veterans, and partners with the Defense Department to expedite screening for wounded warriors and their families. The Honor Flight Network organization transports veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit their war memorials.

Also aimed at expediting screening procedures, the agency is testing a new program at the airport in Monterey, Calif. In mid-November, troops traveling out of Monterey Peninsula Airport began presenting their DOD identification to a document checker for card-reader scanning.

The pilot program is designed to test the technology to verify service members’ status. If successful, it could pave the way for service members to be included in the agency’s expedited screening program, agency officials said, enabling them to use special lanes at participating airports to pass more quickly through airport security. These expedited procedures could involve not having to remove their shoes, belt and jackets or their laptops from bags.

Programs such as this one strengthen security, officials said, explaining that separating out low-risk people, such as members of the armed forces, allows the agency to focus its resources on travelers who present a higher risk.

(Tonya Townsell of the Presidio of Monterey public affairs office contributed to this article.)

Visa Delay due to PIMS??? What is PIMS anyway?

Back in November 2007, the U.S. State Department (which governs all U.S. Consulates overseas, and issues U.S. visas), rolled out the “PIMS”-system. (Petition Information Management Service)

The purpose of this system was to manage information regarding petitions filed with USCIS, including scanning, archiving and data retrieval by consular officers, when adjudicating visa applications, based on previously filed USCIS-petitions.

Developed as a more secure form of verification, PIMS enhances fraud detection since the paper USCIS approval notices supplied by visa applicants were subject to fabrication and alteration. Data is entered into PIMS primarily by the State Department’s Kentucky Consular Center (KCC), which is primarily staffed though a contractor, Serco, Inc. A single performance based contract with Serco, Inc. covers both the KCC and the National Visa Center.

The results of other checks, such as fraud, criminal background, and immigration history and status (including SEVIS), may also be included in the PIMS report. A post must confirm a petition approval in PIMS before issuing a visa based on that approval.

It is NOT possible for a petitioner or beneficiary to send a petition directly to KCC for entry into PIMS, as this would circumvent the official inter-agency verification process. The petition copy for PIMS must be first sent to the USCIS Service Center which approved the petition for forwarding to the KCC.

Additionally, KCC cannot be contacted directly to verify the existence of a positive approval record before an interview.

Consular officers, during their review,  must check the Consolidated Consular Database (CCD), to verify the petition’s status in PIMS.  If the consular officer at that time cannot confirm the appropriate petition information in PIMS, the officer must contact KCC by email. At that time, KCC will research to determine if a copy has been received at their location. If not, KCC will then research the approval in USCIS’s CLAIMS3 electronic case system, and if able to confirm approval, the KCC will make the details available through the CCD.

If the approval information is in USCIS’ database, CLAIMS3, the approval information should be inserted into the CCD within 2 working days.

Previously, when the information in CLAIMS3 was incomplete, KCC would contact USCIS and request that the missing information be updated.  Now the procedure has changed because USCIS would take too long to act on behalf of KCC.   Now as long as CLAIMS3 verified approval, the KCC needs no longer wait for USCIS to update CLAIMS3 with additional details and would upload any information from CLAIMS3 into PIMS for use by posts.

Given that the PIMS record may now include incomplete information from CLAIMS3 and no copy of the petition, it is best practice for applicants to attend their visa interviews with the original petition approval notice and a full copy of the petition.  It is the responsibility of consular posts to continue to check the CCD system to determine if the PIMS record has been inserted/updated. Therefore, it is best practice for immigration attorneys to continue to follow up with consular posts to ensure that the consular officers are continually checking the CCD for updates.

USCIS Announces “Entrepreneurs in Residence” Initiative

USCIS Director Mayorkas announced the coming of “Entrepreneurs in Residence.” This new innovative initiative will utilize industry expertise to strengthen USCIS policies and practices surrounding immigrant investors, entrepreneurs and workers with specialized skills, knowledge, or abilities.

“This initiative creates additional opportunities for USCIS to gain insights in areas critical to economic growth,” said Director Mayorkas. “The introduction of expert views from the private and public sector will help us to ensure that our policies and processes fully realize the immigration law’s potential to create and protect American jobs.”

The agency will stand up a tactical team comprised of entrepreneurs and experts, working with USCIS personnel, to design and implement effective solutions.