Archive for July, 2010

Canada Will Welcome More Economic Immigrants in 2010

Henry Chang | July 30, 2010 in Canadian Immigration | Comments (0)

On June 26, 2010, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney told a news conference that Canada is adjusting its 2010 immigration plan to put even greater emphasis on economic recovery and further reduce the federal skilled worker backlog. “When I met with my provincial colleagues last week, they all stressed the importance of economic immigration,” Minister Kenney said. “As we recover from the recession, increasing economic immigration will help ensure employers have the workers they need to supplement our domestic labour supply.”

Each year, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) sets out a plan for the number of immigrants it intends to welcome within economic, family and humanitarian immigration categories. The planned range for 2010 is 240,000 – 265,000 immigrants. CIC generally achieves the midpoint of this range. In 2010, CIC anticipates achieving the upper end of this range, allowing Canada to welcome more immigrants in the economic category than originally planned. This includes federal skilled workers and record-level numbers of provincial nominees, without reducing the number in the family or humanitarian immigration categories.

Minister Kenney noted that some of his provincial colleagues expect the need will grow further in the years ahead. “This is something we will need to take into consideration when we consult more broadly on plans for future years,” he said.

Even with higher numbers of economic immigrants, Canada still receives many more applications than can be processed in a timely way. As a result, the department is limiting the number of new applications it will consider in the federal skilled worker category every year.

“Canada will continue to welcome historically high numbers of immigrants, but we need to manage the number of new applications or risk creating new backlogs and longer processing times,” Minister Kenney said. “We have more than enough applications on hand now to fill many of our needs, and we want to be fair to those people who have been waiting the longest.”

Effective immediately, to be eligible to apply as a federal skilled worker, applicants must either have a job offer, or they must have experience in one of 29 in-demand occupations. These occupations were identified through analysis of updated labour market information and consultations with provinces, territories, stakeholders and the public.

For those applying under the occupation list, the government will limit the number of applications considered for processing to 20,000 per year as a way to better manage the supply of applications with labour market demand. Within the 20,000 limit, a maximum of 1,000 applications per occupation will be considered. The limit does not apply to applicants with a job offer.

In addition, all federal skilled worker and Canadian Experience Class applicants must submit the results of an independent language test before they will be considered.

Other than the language test result requirement, these changes apply only to the federal skilled worker immigration category. The authority for the changes, known as ministerial instructions, comes from amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act approved by Parliament in 2008 as part of the Action Plan for Faster Immigration.

The instructions are meant as a flexible tool to allow the government to keep the intake of applications for economic immigration in line with the number and types of jobs available in Canada, as well as reduce application backlogs and processing times.

Since the first instructions were issued in November 2008, the backlog of federal skilled worker applicants in process prior to the legislation has dropped from 640,000 to 380,000. The majority of decisions on new applications are being made in six to 12 months, compared with up to six years prior to the changes. But in the first quarter of 2010, the number of new applications rose significantly beyond the department’s ability to process them in a timely way, leading to the recognition that a more refined approach is necessary.

“These changes bring Canada in line with the practices of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, our main competitors for skilled immigrants,” said Minister Kenney. “They help match the supply of applicants to our processing capacity and today’s post-recession job market needs. This is the only responsible way to manage our immigration system.”

The Government is also proposing new eligibility criteria for the immigrant investor program so it makes an even greater contribution to the Canadian economy. Proposed regulatory changes will require new investors to have a personal net worth of $1.6M, up from $800,000, and make an investment of $800,000, up from $400,000. These proposals were pre-published today in the Canada Gazette for a 30-day public comment period.

Canada’s current criteria for investors are the lowest in the world, and have not been changed since 1999. As a result the program draws a larger number of applicants than can be admitted every year under the immigration plan, and processing times are increasing.

Until the changes are finalized, the Government will stop accepting new investor applications to prevent a flood of applications before the new criteria take effect, which would stretch processing times even further. When the new criteria are in place, new applications will be processed alongside the old ones. In this way, Canada can begin to realize the benefits of the changes immediately.

“Canada needs investor immigrants,” said Minister Kenney. “These changes are necessary to keep Canada’s program competitive with that of other countries, and keep pace with the changing economy.”

A link to the official press release from CIC appears here.

USCIS Updates FY 2011 H-1B Cap Count as of July 9, 2010

Henry Chang | July 15, 2010 in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

As of July 9, 2010, approximately 24,800 H-1B cap-subject petitions were receipted. Additionally, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has receipted 10,600 H-1B petitions for aliens with advanced degrees.

U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers. The current annual cap on the H-1B category is 65,000. However, some petitions are exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption provided to the first 20,000 petitions filed for a beneficiary who has obtained a U.S. master’s degree or higher. Others are completely exempt from the numerical limits.

Please note that up to 6,800 H-1B numbers may be set aside from the cap of 65,000 during each fiscal year for the H-1B1 program under the terms of the legislation implementing the U.S.-Chile and U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreements. Unused numbers in this pool are made available for H-1B use for the next fiscal year.

For further information regarding the H-1B category, please review our H-1B article, which is available here.

U.S. Department of State Publishes Visa Bulletin for August 2010

Henry Chang | in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

The Department of State released its August 2010 Visa Bulletin. This month’s bulletin shows significant movement in several preference categories:

  1. The EB-2 country-specific limit for China has advanced about three months from November 22, 2005 to March 1, 2006.
  2. The EB-2 country-specific limit for India has advanced five months from October 1, 2005 to March 1, 2006.
  3. The EB-3 has advanced almost ten months in the general chargeability category, the country-specific EB-3 limits have shown more modest increases ranging from a one-month advance for China to a nine-month advance for the Philippines. The country-specific limit for Mexico remains unavailable.
  4. Other Workers category has advanced almost twelve months for all lists except the country-specific list for India, which has advanced seven months.

The August 2010 Visa Bulletin is available here.

DOS Increases Fees for Immigrant Visas, Passports, and Other Consular Services

Henry Chang | July 9, 2010 in United States Immigration | Comments (0)

On June 28, 2010, the Department of State (“DOS”) published an updated Schedule of Fees for Consular Services (the “Fee Schedule”) in the Federal Register.

We previously reported that DOS increased its fees for nonimmigrant visa processing on June 4, 2010. The Fee Schedule now implements fee increases for passports, immigrant visas and other consular services. The changes will take effect on July 13, 2010, 15 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The twenty-seven adjusted fees are based on a Cost of Service Study completed by the Bureau of Consular Affairs in June 2009. According to DOS, this study established the true cost of providing these consular services, which by law must be recovered through collection of fees.

The increased fees described in the Fee Schedule are as follows:

Non-Immigrant Visa Fees*
Nonimmigrant visa application $ 131.00 $ 140.00
          1.   H, L, O, P, Q, and R categories $ 131.00 $ 150.00
          2.   E Visas $ 131.00 $ 390.00
          3.   K Visa $ 131.00 $ 350.00
          4.   BCC Adult $ 131.00 $ 140.00
Immigrant Visa Fees
IV Application Processing Fee    
          1.   Family-based immigrant visa $ 355.00 $ 330.00
          2.   Employment-based immigrant visa $ 355.00 $ 720.00
          3.   Other immigrant visas (SIVs, DVs, etc.) $ 355.00 $ 305.00
IV Security Surcharge $   45.00 $   74.00
Diversity Visa Lottery surcharge $  375.00 $ 440.00
Domestic review of Affidavit of Support $    70.00 $   88.00
Determining Returning Resident Status $  400.00 $ 380.00
Passport Fees
Passport Book – adult $ 100.00** $ 135.00**
Passport Book – minor $  85.00** $ 105.00**
Passport Book Renewal – Adult $ 75.00  $ 110.00
Additional passport visa pages - $  82.00
Passport Card – Adult $  45.00** $  55.00**
Passport Card – Child $  35.00** $  40.00**
Consular Report of Birth Abroad $  65.00 $  100.00
Renunciation of U.S. Citizenship - $  450.00
File Search and Verification of U.S. Citizenship $  60.00 $  150.00
Overseas Citizens Services
Disposition/Shipment of Remains of a non-U.S. Citizen $265.00 + expenses $200.00 + expenses
Documentary Services
Notarials, Certifications of True Copies, Authentications, provision of Department of State records $ 30.00 (first),
20.00 (addt’l)
$ 50.00
Judicial Services
Processing Letters Rogatory & FSIA $ 735.00 $ 2,275.00
Taking Depositions or Executing Commissions:    
1.   Scheduling/Arranging Depositions $ 475.00 $ 1,283.00
2.   Attending or Taking Depositions $ 265.00/hr + expenses $ 309.00/hr + expenses
3.   Swearing in Witnesses $ 265.00/hr + expenses $ 231.00/hr + expenses
4.   Supervising Telephone Depositions $ 265.00/hr + expenses $ 231.00/hr + expenses
5.   Providing Seal and Certification $ 70.00 $ 415.00
Administrative Services
Consular Time Charges (per hour) $ 265.00 $ 231.00