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Nearly Half a Million Immigrants Overstayed Their Visa

Nearly half a million immigrants from all parts of the world have overstayed their visas, according to the recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Report released on January 19, 2015.

According to the report, of the nearly 45 million non-immigrant visitors who were in the United States either for business or vacation (holders of B1, WB, B2 and WT visas) and who were expected to depart the country between October 2014 and September 2015, 527,127 individuals overstayed their admissions. This placed total overstay rate at 1.17 percent which means that almost 98.83% of the non-immigrants followed their allotted visa stay and left the US on time.

Due to continuing departures, as of January 4, 2016, the number of Suspected In-Country overstays or those for whom no departures have been recorded had dropped to 416,500. It is also expected to drop even more as the number of individuals who have departed or adjusted status continues to increase.

An overstay is a nonimmigrant who lawfully came to the United States for an authorized period of time but failed to depart after the lapse of such period. The DHS identifies two types of overstays—Suspected In-Country Overstay or those for whom no departure has been recorded and Out-of-Country Overstay or those individuals whose departure was recorded after their lawful admission period expired.

The report shows that for fiscal year 2015, 226,777 Filipinos were expected to depart but 3,701 overstayed their visas. Out of this figure, there were 436 Out-of Country Overstay and 3,265 Suspected In-Country Overstay placing out total overstay rate at 1.63%.

Countries with a high total overstay rate include Afghanistan (10.86%), Burkina Faso (18.01%), Chad (17.43%), Djibouti (27.67%), Eritrea (19.28%), The Gambia (11.20%), Georgia (12.44%), Laos (18.44%), Liberia (11.93%), Mauritania (13.49%) and Federated States of Micronesia (16.00%). US neighbors Canada and Mexico have a 1.27% and 1.56% overstay rate respectively. However, some of the largest numbers were from countries like Germany with 21,394, Italy with 17,661, United Kingdom with 16,446 and France with 11,973. All of these countries are under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

According to the report, the DHS conducts overstay identification by examining arrival, departure and immigration status information. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) obtains passenger manifest data from commercial air and sea departures from the US and passenger data on land departures into Canada. The report, however, admits that “determining lawful status is more complicated than simply matching entry and exit data”.

Immigrant Visa Waiting List is Long

123,524 applicants were added last fiscal year to the immigrant visa waiting list in the various preference categories subject to numerical limits.

A report from the National Visa Center (NVC) and submitted to the Department of State shows that as of November 1, 2015, there were 4,455,274 family-based applicants, an increase of 123,524 or 2.9% from last year. The number of employment-based visa applicants was 100,747 up by 9,837 applicants from last year.

The Philippines placed second over-all, with 417,511 registrants. The other countries that round up the top five in terms of number of registrants are: Mexico- 1,344,429; India- 344,208; Vietnam- 282,375; and China- 260,265.

These numbers include not only the principal applicants or petition beneficiaries but also their spouses and children entitled to derivative status. However, they do not include spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents of US citizens who are not subject to the numerical limitations.

The figures do not also include the significant number of applicants for adjustment of status. Also excluded are those who failed to respond within one year to the visa application instruction letter sent by the National Visa Center notifying them of visa availability. In such case, the petition is considered inactive and not counted in the waiting list totals.

For fiscal year 2016, or from October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017, the total number of visas to be issued is 226,000 in family-based preferences and 140,000 for employment-based preferences. The total per-country limit will be 25, 620, which translates to decades-long wait times for applicants in certain categories from countries such as Mexico, India, Vietnam, China and the Philippines.

The numbers of registrants for the family-based preferences (F) are: F1 (adult unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens)- 322,786; F2A (spouses and children of permanent residents)- 276,022; F2B (adult sons and daughters of permanent residents)- 480755; F3 (married sons and daughters of US citizens)- 825,991; and F4 (brothers and sisters of US citizens)- 2,549,718.

The Philippines has the second highest number of family preference registrants with 388,214. The per-country limit on the annual number of family preference visas for FY 2016 is 15,280.

Mexico ranked first in all family-based preferences. The Philippines ranked second in F2B and F3 categories; fourth in the F2A category, and sixth in the F4 category. More cases may be added to the F1 waiting list because of the automatic conversion pending 2B cases into F1 cases upon the naturalization of the petitioner, but this can be avoided by availing of the opt-out provision under the Child Support Protection Act. By opting to remain as an F2B case, a longer wait time under the F1 category is avoided.

For employment-based preferences (EB), the breakdown of registrants is as follows: EB1 workers with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational managers and executives)- 3,474; EB2 (advanced degree professionals and aliens of exceptional ability)- 11,440; EB3 (skilled workers and professionals)- 61,584; EB3 (other workers)- 6,208; EB4 (special immigrants and religious workers)- 379; and EB5 (employment creation)- 17,662.

The Philippines ranked first in the EB3 (skilled workers) category, fourth in the EB2 and third in the EB3 (other workers) categories. Registrants from the Philippines comprise 30% of the total for employment-based preferences at 29,297, of which 96% fall under the EB3 (skilled workers) category for the Philippines. For FY 2016, the per-country limit is only 9,825.

 

 

 

Immigration Raids Cause Fear Among Immigrant Communities

The recent deportation raids targeting immigrants and refugees from Central America have caused hysteria and panic among immigrant communities.

Rumors have been circulating of immigrant officials taking families from churches and schools thus prompting people not to leave their houses.

While these rumors may not at all be true, they came about after President Barack Obama ordered the deportation of asylum seekers from Central America especially those who have been issued final removal orders by the immigration courts either because their asylum petition was denied or they did not file any at all. However, even as immigration officials say that they mainly target the undocumented, these rounds of deportation clearly has caused fear and panic even to those who have papers and have the right to stay in the United States.

At the start of the year, the first large-scale effort by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to deport families who fled the violence caused by gangs and drug syndicates in Central America rounded up 121 individuals. They now fear that they will be separated from their loved ones and taken from places that they now consider as homes as deportations continue.

ICE agents have reportedly rounded up houses at wee hours in the morning, only giving about five minutes for fathers, mothers and children to gather their belongings before they were made to board ICE vehicles.

Over 150 members of Congress, and many human rights advocates and immigration lawyers have expressed their concern over what has happened.

Immigrant advocates argue that those migrants should be treated as refugees with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), not illegal immigrants. The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely like in cases of ongoing armed conflict (such as civil war), an environmental disaster (such as earthquake or hurricane), or an epidemic and other extraordinary and temporary conditions.

During a designated period, individuals who are TPS beneficiaries or who are found preliminarily eligible for TPS upon initial review of their cases are not removable from the United States, many obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) and may be granted travel authorization.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) condemned the raids and called it an unconscionable move against the vulnerable populations and something that essentially abrogates our legal obligations to provide protection to refugees.

“Our laws protect asylum seekers crossing the border from being prosecuted for illegal entry, but the government refuses to acknowledge that these mothers and children have fled from uncontrollable violence and need asylum protection,” said AILA President Victor Nieblas Pradis.

The United States is obliged to recognize valid claims for asylum under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. This obligation was codified and expanded with the passing of the Refugee Act by the United States Congress.

The lack of transparency and due process in these recent raids was also underscored by Pradis saying “since these plans came to light, AILA and its partners have been pleading with the administration to be more transparent about how it will conduct the raids and to work with us to ensure that no one is wrongly deported.”

“Traumatized families who may not have access to legal counsel or understand their rights and responsibilities under our nation’s asylum laws could be sent to their deaths.”

Immigration Relief For Those Affected by Severe Weather

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently offered immigration relief to those affected by unforeseen circumstances such as the severe weather and flooding in Southern and Midwestern United States.

Around seven million people in 15 states were affected by the flooding brought about by continuous rains over a three-day period last December.

Recognizing that natural calamities as well as extreme situations can occur and affect an immigration status, the USCIS has announced measures that would be available upon request.
These include change or extension of nonimmigrant status for an individual currently in the United States, even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has expired; re-parole of individuals previously granted parole by USCIS; expedited processing of advance parole requests; expedited adjudication of requests for off-campus employment authorization for F-1 students experiencing severe economic hardships; expedited adjudication of employment authorization applications, where appropriate.

Foreign nationals may also request consideration of fee waivers due to an inability to pay; assistance for those who received a Request for Evidence (RFE) or a Notice of Intent to Deny but were unable to appear for an interview, submit evidence or respond timely to said requests and notices; replacement of lost or damaged immigration or travel documents issued by USCIS, such as a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card); and rescheduling of a biometric/ fingerprinting appointment.

For extensions and changes of status, they need to show in their request that they are unable to apply for a change of status on or before the period of admission has expired because of the disaster or extreme situation. They may do the same if they were unable to respond timely to a request for evidence. If they need USCIS to expedite their request for a service, they may also make a request when filing or after they file and explain how the severe weather or the calamity created the need to expedite the said process.

If they are also unable to pay the required fees, they may request that said fee be waived by filing a Request for Fee Waiver, Form I-912 or making a written request.

USCIS also recognizes that students may need to work off-campus if a certain calamity has affected his means to support himself. The disaster may occur either in the United States or overseas and as long as the student is able to show that this occurrence has affected his economic conditions and he has been recommended for employment by the Designated School Official (DSO), he may be eligible to receive employment authorization. All the student needs to do is file an I-765 or the Application for Employment Authorization.

If they have lost their USCIS-issued document because of the calamity and through no fault of their own, they may file Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Residence Card) or I-551 stamp (request for an interim evidence of permanent residence stamp) if they lost their green card. If they lost their Form I-94, they may file Form I-102 (Application for Replacement/ Initial Non-immigrant Arrival/Departure Record). And finally, if they lost their Employment Authorization Document, they just file another Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization).

 

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