Pilot Program To Expedite Entry Into U.S. For Citizen, LPR Travelers

April 12, 2008

U.S. citizens, nationals, and permanent residents will soon be eligible for a pilot program enabling expedited clearance of pre-approved, low-risk air travelers into the United States, according to a new rule published in the Federal Register.

The International Registered Traveler (IRT) pilot project, a.k.a. Global Entry, is scheduled to start June 10, 2008 at  John F. Kennedy International Airport, Jamaica, New York (JFK); the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston, Texas (IAH); and the Washington Dulles International Airport, Sterling, Virginia (IAD), and may expand to other locations as announced.

CBP is working with other countries, exploring expansion of the program to include other categories of travelers as well.

Applications to participate in the pilot program should be submitted May 12, 2008, but will be accepted throughout the duration of the pilot program. The pilot program is expected to continue for at least six months. The time frame of the pilot program will vary, depending on the progress of CBP’s evaluation of the program.

The program enables participates to by-pass regular passport control primary inspection lines, using instead automated kiosks to verify identity via fingerprint biometrics technology, explains the Rule.

The procedure will also involve responding to several customs declaration questions by use of a touch-screen.

Upon verification, the traveler will receive a receipt, which, along with his passport and/or permanent resident card, he then gives to the CBP Officer at the exit control area for examination.

The application for the IRT pilot is available on-line through the Global On-Line Enrollment System (GOES).

There is a $100 non-refundable application fee.

CBP has posted a FAQ on its site.


How to Report Suspected Criminal Violations by USCIS Employees

April 6, 2008

Immigration officers are required to abide by standards of integrity and efficiency, and if they do not, the U.S. government wants to know about it.

You may report suspected criminal violations, misconduct, wasteful activities, and allegations of civil rights or civil liberties abuse to the DHS Office of Inspector General.

To make a report, call 1-800-323-8603 or email DHSOIGHOTLINE@DHS.GOV.

Calls can be made anonymously and confidentially.

For more information, see the Office of Inspector General web page.


USCIS, FBI Announce Plan to Eliminate Name Check Backlog

April 4, 2008

USCIS and the FBI have announced a joint plan to eliminate the name check nightmare that holds up processing of applications, such as for green cards and naturalization.

The agencies say they will obtain their new processing goals “by increasing staff, expanding resources, and applying new business processes,” according to a USCIS press release.

The agencies have set the following milestones for name check processing:

May 2008 – Process all name checks pending more than three years

July 2008 – Process all name checks pending more than two years

Nov. 2008 – Process all name checks pending more than one year

Feb. 2009 – Process all name checks pending more than 180 days

June 2009 – Process 98 percent of all name checks within 30 days and process the remaining two percent within 90 days.


New International Adoption Procedures Take Effect April 1

March 31, 2008

New international adoption procedures take effect April 1, 2008 when the recently ratified Hague Convention for Intercountry Adoption (HCIA) goes into force in the United States and other member countries.

The Convention is designed to better protect the best interests of the children who are adopted, their birth families, and the adoptive parents. By imposing adoption practice standards, its goals are to prevent the abduction, exploitation, sale, and trafficking of children.

As of February 26, 2008, 75 countries have become parties to the Hague Adoption Convention.

Adoptions between Hague and non-Hague countries are not prohibited by the HCIA.

The major changes to the way inter-country adoptions are processed under the HCIA are:

  • Designation of a central authority for the regulation of inter-country adoption
  • Requirements for agency adoption accreditation;
  • Transparency of agency budgets and fee schedule policy; including accounting audits; and
  • Professional standards of practice including supervision guidelines, and the training of agency employees, board members, and prospective adopting parents in HCIA requirements.

In the United States, the Department of State (DOS) is designated as the “Central Authority” under the HCIA and the Intercountry Adoption Act (IAA), which implements the HCIA in the United States. DOS is responsible for ensuring HCIA and IAA requirements are followed.

U.S. adoption service providers must be accredited to handle HCIA adoption cases. DOS provides a list of approved agencies in the United States.

DOS will maintain a centralized registry to track all adoption cases and to receive complaints and comments about accredited adoption service providers involved in HCIA cases.

DOS has also beefed up its information about adoption practices in various countries, including posting warnings as information is received.

USCIS has issued interim regulations governing the adoption process in light of the HCIA and IAA. The interim regulations are in effect, and are being published for public comment for issuance of the final rule. The comment period has been extended to May 27, 2008.

USCIS has established a special unit to process all HCIA adoption applications and petitions at its USCIS National Benefits Center. The special unit will also provide customer service support to prospective adoptive parents who have filed Form I-800A or Form I-800 for inter-country adoptions.

Prospective adoptive parents can download the forms and filing instructions and Hague Adoption Convention Fact Sheet, available on the the USCIS site.

Americans adopted more than 19,000 foreign-born children in 2007 – more than all the other countries of the world combined, according to CNN.


Naturalization Interviews To Be Held Weekends, After Hours

March 21, 2008

If you receive your notice for a naturalization interview and it is schedule for the weekend or after hours, it was not a mistake. 

USCIS said it is expanding its hours and staff to help respond to the deluge of naturalization applications received last year.

In pursuit of its processing time goals, USCIS will be interviewing applicants on Saturdays, Sundays and during the week after traditional work hours.


Estimated Processing Times For Summer Surge Naturalization Applications Reduced to 14-16 Months

March 16, 2008

USCIS has reduced its processing time projections to 14-16 months for naturalization applications filed during the surge last summer, increasing the chance yours will be approved in time to vote in the November presidential election, according to a recent statement.

Processing times were originally estimated to be between 16-18 months.

USCIS reports that during FY 2007, it received approximately 1.4 million naturalization applications. In the months of June and July of 2007 alone, it experienced an increase of nearly 350 percent compared to the same period in 2006.

The summer surge is attributed to a desire to beat the fee increase and to stepped up campaigns promoting naturalization in anticipation of the upcoming presidential election.


Plan Ahead: Biometrics Now Required For Re-Entry Permits BEFORE Leaving the U.S.

March 7, 2008

Permanent residents who require a re-entry permit to return to the United States after traveling abroad for more than an year can no longer simply file and leave, according to a new USCIS requirement.

Now, they must wait for an appointment to provide fingerprints and photographs (i.e. biometrics) first.

The new policy also applies to refugees needing a Refugee Travel Document, but it does NOT apply to those seeking Advance Parole. The same Form I-131 is used for all three forms of permission to return.

This new requirement became effective March 5, 2007. After providing biometrics, the applicant may then travel and, just as before, and have the approval sent to the embassy for pick up overseas.

Although USCIS offers an expedite service, this new requirement promises to wreck further havoc on travel plans, given the frequent delays in processing applications.