In 2003, the State Department issued almost 79,000 H-2B visas – even though there is a yearly limit of 66,000 H-2B visas. Neither the State Department nor USCIS, who keeps track of the number of approved H-2B petitions, knows who is to blame. Once USCIS approves an H-2B petition, it is passed on to the State Department for final processing.
H-2B visas are used to bring unskilled, non-farm workers into the US. These unskilled workers usually work in landscaping, hospitality, forestry and construction.
New York Yankees pitcher Jose Contreras has hired an immigration attorney in his attempt to bring his wife and two daughters out of Cuba. Contreras has accused the Cuban government of punishing his family for his defection by not issuing them “white cards” – which would allow them to leave Cuba.
The Department of Labor sent its final PERM regulation to the Office of Budget Management (OMB). The OMB has 90 days to review the regulation and can choose to either return it to the Labor Department for more work or send it to be published in the Federal Register. The Labor Department has stated that the new regulation will take effect 120 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued an informational sheet highlighting its priorities for the year. Priority number six is to improve customer service for immigrants: “TO reduce the backlog of immigration service applications, the Department of Homeland Security will re-engineer existing systems to substantially decrease processing times and create fast track options for the bulk of applicants. The department is creating a series of new pilot programs aimed at a systematic deduction in processing times and paper flow. By May 2004, three new pilot programs will be in operation around the country. Lessons learned from these programs will be incorporated into a more wide scale overhaul of the process.”
Although there is disagreement between the US and Brazil over the US-VISIT program, other countries have chosen not to retaliate against the program. While some countries have imposed visa fees that are higher than the fees two years ago, spokesman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the Department of State, Stuart Patt, stated that the Department has not seen “any pattern of retaliation or response.”
Countries who have made changes to their regulations for Americans include
China – stopped accepting visa requests by mail on May 1, 2003 and visa applicants must now apply in person; raised the $30 processing fee to $50; there is still no visa required for Hong Kong.
Chile – now charges a reciprocity fee of $100 for American visitors, however, can now be paid by credit card instead of only cash.
Russia – raised its lowest single-entry fee fro Americans from $70 to $100; men ages 16 to 45 must complete a new form inquiring about their military service.
Thailand – increased tourist visa fees for all visitors from $15 to $25.
One of the undocumented immigrants who were arrested after the raids in the Wal-Mart stores has been granted a temporary reprieve from deportation. This will allow him to testify in a federal criminal investigation into Wal-Mart’s labor practices. While prosecutors are continuing to gather evidence, federal officials are attempting to protect others from deportation as well.