Volume Eleven, Number Eleven
SHUSTERMAN’S Newsletter US Immigration December 2006 is the Web’s most popular e-mail newsletter regarding U.S. immigration laws and procedures with over 40,000 subscribers located in more than 150 countries. It is written by a former INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) with over 30 years of experience practicing immigration law.
Published by the Law Offices of Carl Shusterman, 600 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1550, Los Angeles, California, 90017. Phone: (213) 623-4592 x0.
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“Very professional law firm. We had a difficult issue and Mr. Shusterman’s office got right onto the case and resolved the issue with USCIS. Because of their efforts, me and my family were able to get our Legal Permanent Residency card. My suggestion to those trying to obtain employment based card. Don’t look for money saving attorney. They will cost you lot more in long run. Go to a law firm which is professional and knowledgeable. It pays in the long term.”
- Nilesh Patel, Chicago, Illinois
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Newsletter US Immigration December 2006
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. Immigration Legislation: The “Lame Duck” and Beyond
2. A Better Alternative to the New CIS Web Site
3. CIS Web Site to Link to Certified Immigration Specialists
4. Success Story: Persistence and Patience Pay Off
5. Immigration Trivia Quiz: Polynesian Power
6. Ask Mr. Shusterman: Extending Your H-1B Status Past 6 Years
7. Immigration Government Processing Times
8. RN Visa Numbers Run Out Even As Need for Nurses Increases
9. Chat Schedule, Transcripts, Audios & Videos
10. Winner of the November 2006 Immigration Trivia Quiz
- 9th Circuit Immigration Outline Updated – On November 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit updated its excellent outline of immigration decisions decided by the Court. We link to this outline from the “Federal Courts” section of our “Deportation” page at
- BIA – In November, BIA member Juan Osuna and Jean King published an excellent update on precedent decisions published by the Board of Immigration Appeals during fiscal year 2006. We link to their 11-page guide from the “Board of Immigration Appeals” section of our “Deportation” page at
- CIS on Case Management Timelines – An October 27 memorandum from Michael Aytes, Associate Director, Domestic Operations, USCIS, provides guidance on timeframes related to case processing. The memo covers the rescheduling of interviews and naturalization testing, the effect of an RFE on the processing clock, NOID extensions, and Post-RFE/NOID processing. See
- Green Card Lottery – The State Department deadline for submitting applications for the DV-2008 green card lottery is on December 3. Apply online from our “Lottery” page at
- Immigration Tracker – Our law firm uses Immigration Tracker as a database system, to complete immigration paperwork and to allow our clients to access their files 24/7. The latest Tracker newsletter is online at
- Letters – We are always happy to receive letters from our readers (although we receive too many to answer them all personally). Here is one that we received last week:
Dear Mr. Shusterman:I am a solo practitioner, and I handle U.S. Immigration cases only. I wish to inform you that your web site has been extremely helpful even to attorneys like me who could not afford to employ individuals who could do research for us. I believe that your service to the public in general, including small or solo practitioners like me, must be lauded, recognized, and praised as I am doing that here in my own small way.Sincerely.H. D. TINGSON JR.
Attorney at Law
Member – California State Bar
- Naturalization – On November 30, the CIS announced that, starting in January 2007, it will introduce a pilot naturalization exam in 10 cities with a revised civics and English test. The agency also released a list of 144 questions and answers for the new civics test. We link to this information from the “Naturalization” portion of our “Citizenship” page at
- Premium Processing – Starting on November 13, the CIS once again expanded its Premium Processing Service, this time to include I-140s submitted on behalf of persons of extraordinary ability. See the CIS Press Release and general information about Premium Processing on our “Premium Processing” page at
On November 28, the CIS suspended premium processing for R-1 religious workers for the next six months. See the above page for details.
- Students – For the past three years, the number of international students (on F-1, J-1 and M-1 status) studying in U.S. universities fell. Finally, this year, the number of new foreign students increased according to a report released on November 13 by the Institute of International Education. The total number of international students is over half a million, and the biggest sending countries are India with over 76,000 students and China with more than 62,000. We link to a press release regarding the new report at
http://opendoors.iienetwork.org/?p=89251 (Link no longer operational)
- USCIS Today – We link to the most recent issue of “USCIS Today”, the CIS newsletter, from our “CIS” page at
- Visa Bulletin – To view the December 2006 Visa Bulletin, see our “Visa Bulletin” page at
- Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative – On November 24, a DHS/DOS final rule was published which provides that, with limited exceptions, beginning on January 23, 2007, all U.S. citizens and nonimmigrants from Canada, Bermuda, and Mexico who enter or depart the U.S. from within the Western Hemisphere at air ports-of-entry will be required to present a valid passport. See
http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20061800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2006/pdf/06-9402.pdf (Link no longer operational)
The election is over, and to paraphrase the former Republican Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Dick Armey of Texas, his party found the most rapidly growing demographic in the electorate (Hispanics) and needlessly offended them.
From the opposite side of the political spectrum, New York Times columnist Frank Rich stated that “nationwide, the Republican share of the Hispanic vote fell from 44 percent in 2004 to 29 percent this year (2006). Hispanics aren’t buying Mr. Bush’s broken-Spanish shtick anymore; they saw that the president, despite his nuanced take on immigration, never stood up forcefully to the nativists in his own camp when it counted most, in an election year.”
Anti-immigrant actions and rhetoric did not resonate with voters in the November election. A case in point: The Chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee, a veteran Republican in a conservative district in Indiana lost his seat by double-digit margin. Even in Arizona, the Democratic governor, attacked as soft on illegal immigration, was reelected while a longtime Republican congressman who made attacking illegal immigration his battle cry lost his seat. Also unsuccessful was a member of the “Minutemen” who sought to use his opposition to illegal immigration to propel himself into the House of Representatives.
Is it any wonder that Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) was named as the first Hispanic to head the Republican National Committee immediately after the election?
The new Congress will feature Chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees who are strongly on record in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich).
Most importantly, a vote in the House of Representatives on comprehensive immigration reform will finally take place, and it is clear the majority of House members are in favor of such a plan. The old Republican House leadership had refused to allow a vote on such a proposal or even to convene a conference committee with the Senate to hammer out a compromise bill.
We link to a press release from the National Immigration Forum entitled “The Surprise Winner in This Year’s Election is…Comprehensive Immigration Reform” at
Since comprehensive immigration reform is all but assured in 2007, will the Republican-controlled “lame duck” Congress pass immigration legislation in December?
There is some speculation that Congress may pass legislation benefiting highly-skilled workers before adjourning. On November 13, the day that the lame duck session convened, two letters signed by over 1,000 employers, research institutions and industry trade groups requesting more H-1B and EB visas were sent to each member of Congress. We link to these letters at
How does the general public feel about comprehensive immigration reform? A nationwide poll, conducted after the election by Quinnipiac University, found that by a margin of 69 percent to 27 percent, American voters say illegal immigrants should be allowed into a guest worker program with the ability to work toward citizenship over a period of several years. Such a guest worker program has wide support among voters of all political stripes.
President Bush has met with leaders of both parties in the House and Senate about comprehensive immigration reform, and is optimistic about cooperating with the Democratic majority on this issue.
Senator Kennedy (D-MASS), the incoming Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration declared earlier this week that “the dynamics are right. With a new Congress, we have an opportunity to pass our plan to secure our borders, uphold our laws, and strengthen our economy.”
The bottom line? The operative word regarding comprehensive immigration reform has now changed from “if” to “when”.
We have been praising the CIS web site for years. It was clearly the best site on the web containing the most comprehensive information about immigration benefits. Also, it was an indispensable source for immigration forms and government processing times.
We were, therefore, surprised when, on November 1, the CIS announced that the agency had launched its “new and improved” web site. See
http://www.uscis.gov/files/pressrelease/WebRelease_110106.pdf (link is no longer operational)
http://www.uscis.gov/files/pressrelease/WebFactSheet_110106.pdf (link is no longer operational)
We explored the new site and found that many of the pages contained in CIS’ old web site no longer exist. For those that do exist, the information that they contain tends to be minimal and the internal links often do not work.
For example, from our “Premium Processing” page at
we link to the CIS’ “Premium Processing Service” page which is located at
channel=0c039c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1 (Link no longer operational)
This page contains a series of links to the law, the regulations, press releases and fact sheets about premium processing, immigration forms, etc. So far, so good, right?
The problem is that none of the internal CIS links actually work!
What’s more is that the design of the new web site only allows users to view a maximum of two or three inches of material on their screen at one time. The “headers” and the “footers” on the new site take up most of the room on your computer screen. This was not true on the old site. The CIS webmaster should consider modifying the design of the new site to make it more user-friendly.
We are grateful that CIS has preserved their “old web site” online at
http://220.127.116.11/graphics/index.htm (Link no longer operational)
However, the old site contains the following warning: “This site was current as of October 30, 2006, and will not be updated. It will be removed from the Internet on November 30, 2006. Please visit our new website at
Since the old CIS site may be gone by the time that you read this, how do you find the immigration information that you need?
All during November, we explored the new CIS web site, and by using the Search Engine and the Site Map, we were able to locate the most useful information on the government’s site. Most of the information you seek is there. It’s just hard to find.
In order to assist you, we created over 500 links to the new CIS site. Since our web site is neatly divided into categories such as “Temporary Visas”, “Green Cards”, “U.S. Citizenship”, “Deportation”, “Immigration Legislation”, etc., it is relatively simple to navigate. Instead of searching for hours to locate what you need on the new CIS site, we recommend that you quickly locate the general category on our site, and then click the appropriate link to the CIS web site to find the information that you require.
Try it. You’ll be glad that you did!
Want to provide feedback regarding the new CIS web site? E-mail your comments to
and, if you wish, cc: us at email@example.com
How do you choose a competent and ethical immigration attorney to represent you?
With over 10,000 attorney members of the American Immigration Lawyer Association (AILA), you certainly have a lot of choices. Remember, however, that any attorney who pays his membership dues can join AILA. AILA membership is not a guarantee of quality.
Fortunately, most immigration attorneys have web sites, and you can read about their accomplishments and successes. However, don’t expect attorneys to advertise their failures on their web sites!
Nevertheless, you can use attorney web sites to find the following information:
- How many years have they been practicing immigration law?
- Do they primarily specialize in cases involving employment-based visas, or do they mainly concentrate on deportation defense, asylum and family-based cases?
- Have they ever worked for the Immigration Service?
- Have they achieved any significant distinctions? An “AV” (“A” for the highest in competence and “V” for very high ethics) rating on
www.Lawyers.com is very impressive. Have they been voted by their colleagues as “SuperLawyers” or are they listed in “Best Lawyers in America”?
- Finally, be aware that the State Bar Associations of California, Texas, Florida and North Carolina all have a rigorous system of determining which lawyers qualify as “Certified Specialists in Immigration and Nationality Law”.
We have written about the advantages of choosing an attorney who is a Certified Specialist to represent you many times in this newsletter. See:
(February 2005) In our review of CIS’ “Guide for New Immigrants” at
(July 2005) we took the agency to task for not including links to the State Bar web pages listing Certified Specialists in Immigration Law in the “Finding Legal Assistance” portion of the guide. Our review concluded as follows: “We believe that the Guide is a good starting point which can, and should, be improved upon.”
Now, we are pleased to announce that the CIS has decided to follow our suggestion and include links to the web sites of the pages which certify immigration specialists. See the letter, dated November 6, from Alfonso Aguilar, CIS’ Chief of the Office of Citizenship to me at
The state web sites listing Certified Immigration Specialists are as follows:
- North Carolina:
Why hire a Certified Specialist?
Here is what the State Bar of California says: “The more complicated your situation, the more reason to consider hiring an attorney who specializes in Immigration and Nationality Law and who is committed through certification to keeping up her or his proficiency through continual practice and continuing education.”
After the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991, Russia found itself an independent nation and was forced to deal with the probability that some of its states would seek independence as well. Muslim Chechnya was one such state that sought its sovereignty and forced the Russian government out of its capital city, Grozny. That act has led to an off-and-on war for the past fifteen years.
Initially the poorly-trained, ill-supplied, and badly-led conscripts of the Russian army proved incapable of suppressing determined Chechen opposition, both in the capital and in the countryside. Although both sides entered into a peace treaty in 1996, it came at a cost of hundreds of thousands of casualties combined to both the Russians and Chechens.
Our client, Ms. A is originally from Chechnya. She entered the United States during the first Chechen war, after receiving a scholarship to attend courses at a U.S. University. She later returned home to visit her parents and re-entered the U.S. on an F-1 student visa. She earned a university degree.
By the time Ms. A had completed her education, the second Chechen war was beginning. Russian forces and Chechen militia were again engaging in brutal conflicts. More civilians lost their lives, and her home city of Grozny was decimated. Her parents, along with many other Chechen families, fled the country and sought refugee status in Europe.
With no home to return to in Chechnya, Ms. A applied for asylum in the United States with the assistance of an attorney. Her application was referred to the Immigration Court and where it was denied by an Immigration Judge. She filed an appeal of this decision with the Board of Immigration Appeals. During this time, Ms. A was lawfully employed at a large U.S. company, where she met her husband, a U.S. citizen. After their marriage, the couple retained a new attorney to assist them with her immigration case. This attorney succeeded in obtaining a remand from the Board of Immigration Appeals so that she could apply for adjustment of status based on her marriage.
Unfortunately, an important detail was overlooked by Ms. A’s previous attorneys. When she first came to the United States, she entered with a J-1 visa. Frequently, J-1 visa holders are subject to the so-called two-year home residence requirement. This requirement mandates the J-1 visa holder to return to his or her home country for a period of two years before he or she can adjust status. Ms. A was never notified by her attorneys that this requirement applied to her, and that it would prevent her from adjusting her status. It came as quite a surprise when the Judge, at Ms. A’s next hearing, stated that she was ineligible to adjust status, and must either satisfy the two-year requirement, or obtain a waiver from the USCIS.
Distraught, Ms. A and her husband came to our office seeking assistance and fearing that she would be deported. Our office immediately prepared an application for a waiver of the two-year home residence requirement based on exceptional hardship to Ms. A’s husband and their newly-born son. Given the warlike conditions prevailing in Chechnya, we were hopeful that this application would be treated favorably. We were mistaken in our assumption that the U.S. government would not force a person to return to a home that was decimated by aerial attacks. USCIS took little time to deny her application, stating that Ms. A’s husband and son would not experience exceptional hardship if she was forced to return to “Russia” for two years. Obviously, the officer who denied the case had no clue that a war was going on.
We filed an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO), and emphasized the USCIS’ erroneous conclusion that Ms. A could simply relocate to any region in the Russian Republic. It is clear that a J-1 visa holder must return to his or her last country of residence in order to fulfill the requirement. Contrary to the USCIS’s assumption, strict residence limitations in Russia would force Ms. A to return to Chechnya, this time as the wife of an American. To further exacerbate the hardship, Ms. A is Muslim and her husband is Catholic. The on-going ethnic and religious violence in the republic would be a source of grave concern to her husband, who would rightfully fear for her life, and if he joined her, for his life and that of their infant son. Numerous other compelling factors were highlighted to the AAO in our lengthy appeal.
While her waiver appeal was pending at the AAO, the Immigration Judge refused to allow a further continuance of her case, and again ordered Ms. A. removed from the U.S. For the second time, she appealed the Judge’s removal order to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Nearly a year after we appealed the waiver denial, the AAO ruled in Ms. A’s favor. The decision explicitly recognized that the conditions in her native Chechnya were sufficient to support the granting of Ms. A’s exceptional hardship waiver. Several more months passed before the Department of State issued their favorable recommendation on her application. Ms. A’s persistence and determination allowed us to celebrate with her on the day she finally received an approval notice from USCIS.
Her saga was not yet over as her removal case was still on appeal with the Board of Immigration Appeals. Our office filed a request to have her case remanded in light of the recent approval of her waiver. The Board granted our motion and sent her case back to the Immigration Judge for the second time.
This time Ms. A was equipped with a waiver approval when she appeared in Immigration Court to seek adjustment of status. The government received several continuances to allow for the completion of the necessary background checks. Nearly three years after she retained our law firm to represent her, and almost a decade after her immigration saga began, the judge granted lawful permanent resident status to Ms. A.
At long last, her patience with our immigration system finally paid off.
To read more of our Immigration Success Stories, see
This month, we are starting a new feature entitled “Ask Mr. Shusterman”. Since I receive over 100 e-mail messages each day asking a variety of questions relating to immigration law and procedure, it is impossible to answer these questions individually. However, we recognize that some of these questions are asked by a great many persons, and that it is not in their interest to pay for a legal consultation for a question which could be answered in 5-10 minutes.
So, beginning in this month’s newsletter, we will select one question which is general in nature and whose answer will help hundreds of our subscribers.
This month’s question is as follows:
Question: How can I extend my H-1B status for more than 6 years?
Answer: You may extend your H-1B status for more than 6 years under the following circumstances –
- If you left the U.S. during the 6-year period, you may apply for an extension of H-1B status, and ask the CIS for permission to “recapture” any time that you were outside the U.S. for any reason. For example, if you took a two-week vacation to your country, your job sent you abroad for a total of two months, and you honeymooned outside the U.S. for one week, then you have been outside the U.S. for a total of approximately 11 weeks. None of this time is counted against your 6 years. As long as you can document this, you can request that the CIS extend your H-1B status for 11 additional weeks.
- The American Competitiveness in the 21st Act of 2000 (AC-21) provides that in the case of long-delayed applications, principally labor certifications and immigrant visa petitions, which have been pending for one year or more, the beneficiary can extend his H-1B status on a yearly basis until such time as his green card application is decided.
- Another section of AC-21 provides that if a person has an approved immigration visa petition, but cannot have his application for adjustment of status decided because there are no available visa numbers (think “retrogression”), the person may apply for H-1B extensions in 3 year increments.Do you have immigration questions? Send them to my assistant, Sonya Canton at
firstname.lastname@example.org (Link no longer operational)
- Each month we will choose one question to answer in our newsletter. Questions should be general in nature, and should be short and to the point (no more than 20-30 words).
If your question is neither short nor general, you may wish to schedule a 30-minute legal consultation with me at
We link to the most recent immigration waiting times for each of the four USCIS Service Centers, the National Benefits Center and the Administrative Appeals Office. We also link to the processing times of all of the 83 USCIS District Offices and Sub-offices. We link to the Labor Department’s page entitled “Processing dates for labor certification applications”. Finally, we link to the State Department’s “Visa Wait Times” page.
Every year, the number of registered nurses who retire exceeds the number of RNs who graduate from U.S. nursing schools.
Yet, as the baby boomers reach retirement age, the demand for RNs is rapidly rising. Today, there are well over 100,000 vacancies for RNs at hospitals around the country. By 2020, this number will approach one million!
In May 2005, President Bush signed legislation to provide an additional 50,000 immigrant visas for RNs, physical therapists and their spouses and children. By November 2006, all 50,000 visas had been used.
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) has proposed that both RNs and PTs be exempted from numerical visa limitations. This makes a lot of sense since RNs and PTs are the only occupations listed on the Labor Department’s list of shortage occupations. Senator Brownback’s amendment is part of the SKIL bill which is pending before both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
If an appropriations bill is sent to the President during the “lame duck” session of Congress this month, the Brownback amendment could be attached and become law. If you work for a hospital, are a recruiter or are an RN or PT, this is the time to call or e-mail your local members of Congress and urge them to support the Brownback amendment. To learn the e-mail addresses of your Senators and Representatives, simply fill in your zip code in the “Contact Congress” box on our “Immigration Legislation” page at
and click “Go”.
Earlier this week, we assisted a local hospital in petitioning an RN from Singapore for permanent residence. Her starting salary will be over $80,000 per year. However, under the employment-based 3rd preference category for skilled workers, it will take over four years to bring the nurse to the U.S. Hospitals should petition as many RNs as possible now since, if the Brownback amendment is enacted into law, these RNs will be able to immigrate to the U.S. and start their employment during 2007.
Yesterday, a fully-licensed RN in California came to see us. She was brought across the U.S. border from Mexico by her parents when she was only 11 years old. She recently graduated from nursing school in the U.S. Unfortunately, despite her license, her education, her fluency in both English and Spanish and the tremendous need for her services, there is no way for her to legally work in the U.S. What a terrible waste of talent!
Passage of comprehensive immigration reform is needed for her to legalize her status, and begin working as a registered nurse.
For more information about how a foreign-born RN may immigrate to the U.S., see our “Registered Nurse” page at
Here is the message from the quiz winner:
Dear Mr. Shusterman,
- The people pictured are Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, Sergey Brin, and Jawed Karim.
- Three of them are immigrants: Chen, Brin and Karim. Chen was born 1978 in Taiwan, Brin in 1973 in Moscow/Russia and Karim in 1979 in Merseburg in my native Germany!
- The companies they founded are YouTube (Hurley, Chen, Karim) and Google (Brin).
About myself: I am a 33-year-old medical doctor from Germany, currently doing a research fellowship at UCSD on a H1B visa. I have been a subscriber to the newsletter for over a year, since I heard Mr. Shusterman speak in person at the LA Kaplan Center, I use it to generally stay abreast of developments in immigration policy as it relates to the healthcare sector (and my situation) in particular.
As always, thank you for an entertaining quiz. BTW, I used Google (ha!) and Wikipedia to research.
With kind regards,
Simon Gortz, MD
Dear Dr. Gortz,
Congratulations on being our quiz winner!
Certified Specialist in Immigration Law, State Bar of California
Former U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service Trial Attorney (1976-82)
Board of Governors, American Immigration Lawyers Association (1988-97)
Phone: (213) 623-4592 Fax: (213) 623-3720
Law Offices of Carl Shusterman, 600 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1550
Los Angeles, California 90017
“And that’s what some members were concerned about prior to advancing a comprehensive (immigration reform) bill. In other words, they said, show me progress on the border, and then we’d be interested in talking about other aspects. Well, there’s progress being made on the border in terms of security, and I would hope we can get something done. It’s a vital issue. It’s an issue that — there’s an issue where I believe we can find some common ground with the Democrats.”
– President Bush (the day after the November elections)
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Disclaimer: This newsletter is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. All information contained in this newsletter is generalized. Any reliance on information contained herein is taken at your own risk.