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South Carolina town ranked top tourist town in the world

by Dominic 18/10/2012 11:44:00

 

Charleston, South Carolina has
been named the top tourist
town in the world.

Influential magazine publisher Condé Nast has ranked Charleston, South Carolina as the top tourist town in the world.

Beating out contenders like New York, San Francisco, the Grand Canyon and Disney World, Charleston was also ranked the top tourist destination in the United States.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley celebrated the news by announcing that the state's $15 billion (£9.3 billion) tourism industry was recovering to levels not seen since prior to the global financial crisis.

Charleston has also previously been named 'America's Most Friendly' city as well 'America's Sexiest City' and is home to a great number of historical and architectural buildings and museums dedicated to the town's past.

Last year the city hosted the PGA Championship which Governor Haley said brought in more international travellers choosing to visit the historical town on a US visa.

"We got to see a $92 million [£57 million] economic impact from the PGA and continue to see benefits said Governor Haley.

The governor said Condé Nast's announcement put the town firmly on the global map as a tourist destination.

"What it should tell people across South Carolina is that you don't need to go anywhere. It's all right here.

"And what it tells everybody across the world is you haven't been here, get here quickly and if you have, get back."


- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

US Immigration Update - 14 August, 2012

by Dominic 14/08/2012 11:20:00
Young Brit gets US visa victory

A young British woman has been granted permission to remain in America after her US visa expired when she turned 21...read more.

Young immigrants prepare for US immigration directive opening

Thousands of young illegal immigrants are queuing up, eager to take advantage of the president's executive order which will allow them to live and work legally for two years free from the threat of deportation...read more.

New York grants to help young people avoid US immigration scams

The New York state legislature has announced it will provide $450,000 in grants to groups who are assisting young immigrants apply to President Obama's Deferred Action scheme...read more.



Young Brit gets US visa victory

Lauren Gray has been granted
permission to stay in the US.
 

A young British woman has been granted permission to remain in America after her US visa expired when she turned 21.

Lauren Gray was born in the UK but spent the majority of her life in Missouri, moving there in 1995 with her parents who moved to America on a business US visa to manage a hotel and restaurant.

However, the E-2 class of visa Ms Gray's parents held offers no path to residency and children are only alloved to remain in the country until they are 21 unless they get a visa of their own.

Ms Gray has reportedly been trying to get her own visa for nine years but an extensive backlog in the US immigration system meant she came perilously close to facing the prospect of moving back to a country she barely knows, alone.

Ms Gray's struggle became known when her story was featured in several newspapers and she eventually caught the attention of Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill. The Democratic senator then personally called Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano regarding Ms Gray.

The Department of Homeland Security has since granted Ms Gray leave to live and work in the US for a further two years, after which she will have to either renew the deferral or secure her own visa.

While acknowledging that the victory is only temporary, Ms Gray said she was "thrilled I get to stay and live my dream here like I wanted."

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Young immigrants prepare for US immigration directive opening

People are queuing up across
the US to file their applications.
 

Thousands of young illegal immigrants are queuing up, eager to take advantage of the president's executive order which will allow them to live and work legally for two years free from the threat of deportation.

President Obama in June took a major step in the US immigration debate by issuing an executive order which put a stop to the deportations of all illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the US before they were 16.

If they met those conditions and had either graduated high school or served in the military and had no criminal record, they could defer deportation for two years and be granted a work permit by applying to the scheme and paying the $465 (£296) application fee.

The president's order, known as Deferred Action, is likely to have a significant effect on November's presidential election but the nearly 2 million people the directive helps only care about one thing at the minute: getting their work permit.

Some had expected potential applicants to be cautious as their illegal status has forced them to be but with applications for the scheme due to open tomorrow, immigration advisers, charities and lawyers nationwide have been swamped by young immigrants eager to get their applications in as soon as possible.

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New York grants to help young people avoid US immigration scams

The New York state legislature
wants to ensure people avoid
being taken advantage of.
 

The New York state legislature has announced it will provide $450,000 in grants to groups who are assisting young immigrants apply to President Obama's Deferred Action scheme.

Applications for Deferred Action begin being accepted tomorrow and allow young immigrants to gain a work permit valid for two years if they meet a number of conditions.

However, as the president's scheme is aimed at illegal immigrants, many maintain a cautious approach toward government departments and immigration officials are concerned that some will turn to private advisers for advice, and this leads to the possibility of scams.

Reports last month confirmed several instances of unscrupulous advisers offering potential applicants the opportunity to 'fast-track' or 'guarantee' their applications for sums as much as $4,000 (£2,550). At the time of these reports, little information had been released by immigration officials about the application process and when details eventually did emerge, the application fee was just $465.

In order to combat these growing concerns, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo promised $600,000 (£380,000) to pay for advertising campaigns and legal counsel but the state's assembly has gone further by promising a further $450,000 for clinics, workshops and legal services state-wide.

"It is critical that we get information out to our immigrant communities so that people will know who is eligible for deferred action and so that they can avoid being scammed," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

US Immigration Update - 08 August, 2012

by Dominic 08/08/2012 10:59:00
New US visa category for foreign job makers proposed

A bipartisan bill in the US House of Representatives has been proposed which would allow foreign entrepreneurs capable of creating jobs for American citizens to obtain a US visa has gained widespread support...read more.

Obama’s US immigration directive outlined

Further details to President Obama's US immigration order have been outlined for the first time, explaining how as many as 1.4 million people can avoid deportation...read more.

US visa ban for foreign students attending unaccredited universities

The House of Representatives has passed a bill which would prevent foreign students from attending unaccredited universities...read more.




New US visa category for foreign job makers proposed

The bill proposes granting
immigrants who are capable
of creating jobs for citizens.
 

A bipartisan bill in the US House of Representatives has been proposed which would allow foreign entrepreneurs capable of creating jobs for American citizens to obtain a US visa has gained widespread support.

Democratic Representative John Conyers of Michigan and Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah have proposed amending the Immigration and Nationality Act to grant a US visa to more people who can help the struggling economy.

Under current legislation, foreign citizens can obtain work visas for themselves and their families but don't place any emphasis on job creation, says Mr Conyers.

"Our immigration system provides green cards to those who fill jobs in the American economy, but not to those who create jobs. This makes no sense," he said.

"The lack of a path to permanent residency deters many entrepreneurs from helping revitalise our economy and lower unemployment.

"The bill would address the concern by making existing employment-based green cards available to those who establish a new business and create and sustain jobs for American workers."

The American Investment and Job Creation Act of 2012 (HR 6210) has already won support from several reputable and influential bodies including the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Venture Capital Association but will need support from the Senate to become law. 

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Obama’s US immigration directive outlined

The president's directive has
proved exceptionally divisive.
 

Further details to President Obama's US immigration order have been outlined for the first time, explaining how as many as 1.4 million people can avoid deportation.

There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the US and how to deal with them has been almost as big an issue as how to stop them entering for decades. With so many people living in fear of deportation, President Obama used his executive powers to bypass the government and put a stop to the deportation of illegal immigrants who were brought to the US as children.

The move ignited an immediate political uproar; in an election year, bold political statements are common, moves are not and the president's move is seen as exceedingly risky, one which could cost him the election, or win it.

While the political ramifications remain to be seen, the actual ramifications were felt immediately. With only basic criteria outlined - applicants have to be under 30, brought to the US before they were 16, have no criminal record and have served in the military or graduated high school - and no definite date for applications, the potential for exploitation was rife.

Reports immediately began to flow in of unscrupulous US immigration agents and advisers reportedly offering to 'fast-track' applications for as much as $4,000 (£2,500). As all of the directive's target are technically illegal, few are willing to go to the authorities to report such scams, or even for assistance, through fear of deportation.

However, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have outlined the full requirements for the first time.

  • Applications will begin being accepted on 15 August
  • The cost of an application will be $465 (£298)
  • Evidence supporting an application will be required
  • Applications will be reviewed individually at one of four USCIS centres
  • Decisions will be received before Election Day (6 November)

Renowned civil rights activist and Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez, who has been a vocal advocate of immigration reform, said the president's directive was a monumental achievement in the fight for equality among immigrant communities.

"You cannot overstate how important this moment will be in immigration communities and Latino neighbourhoods across the country."

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US visa ban for foreign students attending unaccredited universities

Only accredited universities
will be allowed to grant
foreign students visas.

The House of Representatives has passed a bill which would prevent foreign students from attending unaccredited universities.

The Student Visa Reform Act comes in the wake of charges against the dean of a Californian university over allegations of several cases of visa fraud. Jerry Wang, CEO of Herguan University was charged with 15 counts of visa fraud including forging documents and allowing scores of foreign students to remain in the country without a valid US visa.

In order to combat similar crimes, the bill passed by the House of Representatives prevents all postsecondary educational institutions from enrolling more than 25 students on non-immigrant visas if they are not accredited by an organisation approved by the Department of Education.

"The accreditation requirements instituted by this bill will prevent illegitimate institutions from cheating foreign students who legitimately seek a bona fide education in the United States," said Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren, the bill's sponsor.

"In addition, this requirement will prevent fly-by-night [untrustworthy] institutions from engaging in student visa fraud to smuggle or traffic persons into the country."

The bill will now be presented to the Senate for further review. 

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

US Immigration Update - 31 July, 2012

by Dominic 31/07/2012 16:00:00
Microsoft leads demand for US visa

A recent US immigration report has shown that IT giant Microsoft has filed more US visa applications in the past two years than any other company...read more.

New York outlines plan to stop US immigration abuse

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration has said it will implement measures to ensure that people taking advantage of President Obama's recent US immigration directive will not be exploited....read more.

People falling victim to US immigration scams

With US President Obama's executive order putting a halt to the deportation of as many as 1.4 million people still to take effect, reports of people falling victim to US immigration scams are rife...read more.




Microsoft leads demand for US visa

Microsoft maintains more US
visas are needed to bring in top
talent.

A recent US immigration report has shown that IT giant Microsoft has filed more US visa applications in the past two years than any other company.

Between 2010 and 2011, Microsoft submitted approximately 4,100 US visa applications, 1.26% of all applications submitted for the H-1B class of visa which allows foreign citizens to live and work in the US in speciality occupations for up to three years.

Fellow IT giant IBM filed the second most applications with approximately 3,300 while tech firms dominated the top 25 companies filing over 12% of all applications.

"A small number of companies were very heavy users of the program," said the author of the study. "The employers requesting the most H-1Bs are large private companies specializing in information technology, consulting, and electronics manufacturing."

The H-1B visa is subject to an annual cap of 65,000 places which has proved extremely controversial in the past; employers claim foreign skills in greater numbers to continue innovative technology developments while critics argue that with unemployment so high - currently at 8.2% - employers should be giving preference to domestic workers.

Microsoft has been one of the loudest voices in the fight to abolish the cap altogether and with the company posting its first ever quarterly loss in the three months to the end of the June, it is likely the calls will only grow.

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New York outlines plan to stop US immigration abuse

Governor Cuomo wants to make
sure no one falls foul of scams.
 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration has said it will implement measures to ensure that people taking advantage of President Obama's recent US immigration directive will not be exploited.

Last month President Obama used his executive powers to put a stop to the deportation of all illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the US before they were 16, have graduated high school or served in the military and have no criminal record.

Instead, they will be permitted to apply for a two work permit which can be renewed indefinitely; the directive is thought to affect as many as 1.4 million people.

The move has angered many anti-immigration advocates as well as Republican politicians who see the move as rewarding people who gained entry to the country illegally. However, some criticism has come from immigration advisers who claim the president's directive leaves plenty of potential for scams.

As the directive is aimed at people who have been in the country illegally, many remain extremely cautious when it comes to discussing their immigration status therefore are liable to talk to manipulative advisers who charge for unqualified advice.

Governor Cuomo is eager to avoid these hazards and has set about installing several safeguards to limit abuse when the system opens for applications in mid-August.

“I think there is going to be a great deal of fraud, and these young people are going to need a great deal of help responding with the kinds of documents the federal government is going to require of them,” said New York Secretary of State Cesar A. Perales. “It became clear to us that this was going to be a golden opportunity for scammers.”

The governor's measures include multilingual advertisements, community outreach programmes and $600,000 (£380,000) for legal counsel.

“It’s not enough to say to people, ‘Be careful; some people want to take your money,’ ” Mr. Perales said. “What we’re saying is we’re also providing an alternative mechanism. That is what distinguishes what New York State wants to do from others who just warn you.” 

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People falling victim to US immigration scams

Applications for the president's
directive will begin being received
in mid-August.
 

With US President Obama's executive order putting a halt to the deportation of as many as 1.4 million people still to take effect, reports of people falling victim to US immigration scams are rife.

President Obama in June used his executive powers to stop deportations and start issuing a US visa to all illegal immigrants under the age of 30, who were brought to the US as children, have no criminal record and have served in the military or graduated high school.

The directive is set to begin receiving applications in mid August but unscrupulous immigration advisers are reportedly charging as much as $4,000 (£2,546) to move ahead with claims.

Concerned voices have previously warned against such scams springing from the president's move, particularly as illegal immigrants have an intrinsic fear of their illegal status being discovered and are therefore unlikely to report being a victim of a crime to the authorities.

Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez, a renowned immigration advocate, has posted a warning on social networking sites advising those affected, known as 'DREAMers' due to the DREAM Act which aims to achieve many of the same things the president's directive does, to beware of unscrupulous advisers looking to exploit the vulnerability and uncertainty of potential applicants. 

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

US immigration fuels America's Olympic success

by Dominic 31/07/2012 11:00:00

Aside from 1980 Moscow Games in which the US did not compete, America has never finished outside the top three in medals tables of the Summer Games since its inception in 1896, and has topped the table more times than any other nation.

The US briefly lost its crown in 2008 to host country China, although it did win more medals, just fewer gold medals, but America is expected to comfortably regain the top spot during the 2012 Summer Games. While China's emergence as a global economic superpower combined with its massive population has been credited for its surge up the rankings, America has had genuine challengers to its supremacy before and prevailed.

During the Cold War both the Soviet Union and East Germany secured more medals than America but eventually fell away while the US maintained top spot. China may represent a more significant challenge but despite its economic success and its 1.3 billion strong population, it does not have the diversity of the US, and that could be its downfall.

American Success at the Summer Olympics 

Year 

City 

Medals
Won
 

Medal Table
Rank
 

Second Place 

Second Place
Medals
 

Notes 

2008

Beijing

110

2

 

 

Second behind China, won more medals, less golds

2004

Athens 

102

1

China

63

 

2000

Sydney 

92

1

Russia

88

 

1996

Atlanta

101

1

Russia

63

 

1992

Barcelona

108

2

 

 

Second behind unified team of 12 countries

1988

Seoul

94

3

 

 

Third behind Soviet Union and East Germany

1984

Los Angeles

174

1

Romania

53

 

1980

Moscow

 

 

 

 

Did not compete due to boycott

1976

Montreal

94

3

 

 

Third behind Soviet Union and East Germany

1972

Munich

94

2

 

 

Second behind Soviet Union

Meanwhile America has withstood all challengers and always quickly regained top spot. This can be attributed to many things, a strong economy and great infrastructure or a widespread passion for sport but one factor whose overwhelming influence cannot be discounted is immigration.

US immigration between the mid-19th and 20th centuries occurred on a never before seen scale and one which is unlikely to ever be seen again. Waves upon waves of people arrived to attempt 'the American Dream' and as a result created one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse countries in the world, all of which fuelled its march to economic, cultural, scientific and sporting dominance.

America has fought to bring immigration under control for decades, increasing border security, tightening US visa restrictions and deporting more people than ever. However, its greatest strength lies in the new migrants of the past.

The current US Olympic team looks set to be challenged only by the powerhouse that is China and indeed, both countries currently sit atop the medal table after just three days of competition. Yet while China can handpick its talent from a larger pool than the US, America's selection offers much more variety.

America's women's gymnastics team presents the best example of the power of multiculturalism; three of the five members are of European descent, one African-American and one mixed race gymnast. The team qualified in first place in the team event while three finished in the top four of the all-around event, meaning one had to be disqualified as rules only allow for two per country to compete in the finals.

While other countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia and many other Western European nations have similar levels of diversity as the US, they are dwarfed by America's 315 million strong population.

China may be the new kid on the superpower block and be backing up its claims on the medal table but a century of immigration to the US combined with its own economic success and population size means its dominance at the top of the medal podium is unlikely to be challenged for long.


- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

US Immigration Update - 24 July, 2012

by Dominic 24/07/2012 14:25:00
Obama's US immigration directive paying off with voters
Polling data of likely voters show President Obama's US immigration directive last month is keeping him ahead of Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the race for the White House...read more.
Homeland Security Secretary defends Obama over US immigration changes

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has defended President Obama's US immigration directive to spare illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation...read more.

US senators move forward on green card relaxations

US Senators Chuck Grassley and Charles Schumer have struck a deal which will allow more green card applications from individual countries to be granted...read more.




Obama's US immigration directive paying off with voters

Barack Obama is enjoying a
comfortable lead among Hispanic
voters over his rival Mitt Romney.

Polling data of likely voters show President Obama's US immigration directive last month is keeping him ahead of Republican challenger Mitt Romney in the race for the White House.

Last month President Obama issued an executive order which put a stop to the deportations of all illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to America as children, have no criminal record and have either graduated high school or served in the military.

Both candidates are attempting to strengthen their appeal to Hispanic voters but it would appear Mr Romney's Spanish language ads aren't a match for the incumbent's directive as polls show the president leading his challenger 59% to 30% among Hispanic voters.

While the economic recovery is likely to remain the most important issue to all voters including Hispanics in November's election, Latino voters' obvious ties to South and Central America make US immigration policy an important issue.

A Miami Herald poll of likely Hispanic voters in the state of Florida, a critical battleground state with 29 electoral votes at stake, showed 53% of voters in support of the president's executive order and 66% in favour of whole scale immigration reform which would allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country.

For his part, Mr Romney has said if he is elected president he will introduce bipartisan immigration reform which will address the issue. What measures he would take though are yet to be seen as the Republican nominee has remained particularly vague in his comments on the issue although during the primary he promised to veto the DREAM Act, which achieves similar things to the president's directive, and labelled Arizona's strict immigration law SB 1070 a 'model for the nation'.

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Homeland Security Secretary defends Obama over US immigration changes

Homeland Security Secretary Janet
Napolitano refused to rescind President
Obama's executive order.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has defended President Obama's US immigration directive to spare illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation.

President Obama's patience in his efforts to get the DREAM Act, which allows illegal immigrants the chance to earn US citizenship, through the Houses of Congress finally wore out in June when he issued an executive order to bypass Congress and enact similar policies.

The president's directive allows illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the US before they were 16, have graduated high school, earned a General Educational Development (GED) diploma or served in the military, and have no criminal record to apply for a two year work permit.

The president's move has attracted significant criticism, not least from Republicans but Secretary Napolitano has defended the directive.

"Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a strong and sensible manner," the homeland security secretary told the House Judiciary Committee.

"But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case."

The secretary referenced the ongoing US immigration debate in Arizona, a state she was previously governor of, for its emphasis on law enforcement agents' use of discretion in deportation cases.

"Indeed as the Supreme Court noted in its recent decision on the Arizona immigration law, 'a special feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials'."

Critics of the president's action have labelled the move as amnesty for illegal immigrants, Republic Representative Lamar Smith, who heads the committee Secretary Napolitano was addressing, said "the [Obama] administration's amnesty agenda is a win for undocumented immigrants but a loss for Americans".

Meanwhile, Mr Smith's fellow Republican Representative Steve King, who is planning a lawsuit against the president accusing him of exceeding his authority in even issuing the directive, called on Secretary Napolitano to rescind the policy.

"I will not rescind it; it's right under the law," the secretary responded. 

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US senators move forward on green card relaxations

New York Senator Charles Schumer

US Senators Chuck Grassley and Charles Schumer have struck a deal which will allow more green card applications from individual countries to be granted.

Under current legislation, no one country is allowed to receive more than 7%, or 9,800, of the 140,000 green card allocations granted each year.

However, as many feel that current legislation limits the country's ability to give preference to highly skilled migrants in occupations which the US is currently lacking, Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer proposed a bill known as the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act.

The bill aims to eliminate the national quota and reduce the often decades long waiting period for highly skilled applicants from countries with high rates of application such as India and China.

Republican Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley had placed a 'hold' on the bill which prevented its progress thruogh the Senate. However, after Senator Schumer agreed to add an amendment which gives 'greater authority to program overseers to to investigate visa fraud and abuse', Senator Grassley removed his objection and the bill will now move forward in the Senate.

The amendment allows the American Department of Labor (DOL) audit US visa applications before they have been granted, unlike under current legislation which permits audits of applications only after they have been processed and a complaint has been raised.

While many saw Senator Schumer's proposal as a positive step in permitting more people the opportunity to move to America, critics say Senator Grassley's amendment will create an unnecessary burden for the companies, particularly small companies without legal departments, that submit the applications.

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

US Immigration Update - 17 July, 2012

by Dominic 17/07/2012 10:09:00
No US visa for tattooed applicants

In an effort to clampdown on gang culture in America, US immigration authorities are reportedly rejecting or delaying US visa applications if applicants have tattoos...read more.

US visa application rate soars in China

The American State Department has confirmed that over one million US visa applications from China have been processed so far in the current fiscal year, a 43% increase on last year...read more.

Republicans ready to sue president over US immigration law

Republican Congressman Steve King says he is ready to move forward with his lawsuit against Barack Obama over the president's US immigration directive...read more.




No US visa for tattooed applicants

Tattoos staff suspect could
have gang links are putting
US visa applications at risk.
 

In an effort to clampdown on gang culture in America, US immigration authorities are reportedly rejecting or delaying US visa applications if applicants have tattoos.

The Wall Street Journal has reported the case of Hector Villalobos, a Colorado-based Mexican, who travelled to his native country to apply through the proper channels for a permanent US visa.

However, his application was denied on the basis he has tattoos, some associated with Mexican gangs, and as a result, Mr Villalobos has been stuck in Mexico for seven months, away from his American wife and children.

"He likes tattoos, just like many Americans like tattoos," said Mr Villalobos' American wife, Veronica, adding that he had gotten his tattoos because he 'thought they were cool'.

Tattoos are often used by criminals to signify their affiliation to a particular gang or sub culture and US immigration advisers have reported increased rates of rejections for green card, visa and permanent residency applications in recent years because of tattoos. Just two people were rejected on such grounds in 2006; this had increased to 82 last year.

A US State Department spokesperson said the presence of a tattoo wouldn't be sufficient evidence to deny an application but any that had known connotations to gang culture could be subject to further investigation; Mr Villalobos' tattoo which reads 'smile now, cry later' has been associated with gangs in the past.

"If you are sporting a gang tattoo, it is reasonable for a consular officer to investigate if you have gang affiliations," said a spokesperson for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates tougher US immigration measures.

However, Denver based immigration lawyer Jeff Joseph says the measures are hyper vigilant and even encroach on a person's individual rights to free speech.

"They cast too wide a net and border dangerously on violating first amendment freedom of speech and expression."

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US visa application rate soars in China

America's efforts to appeal
to Chinese tourists are
beginning to be felt.

The American State Department has confirmed that over one million US visa applications from China have been processed so far in the current fiscal year, a 43% increase on last year.

America has been trying to increase tourism revenue nationwide recently after reports emerged that showed almost no growth in the country's tourism industry over the last decade, despite an almost worldwide increase.

The US remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world but difficulties in applying for a US visa were shown to be one of the main obstructions in tourists, particularly from Brazil and China, visiting the country.

In January, President Barack Obama gave his State Department 60 days to investigate ways of decreasing extensive waiting periods which included adding more consular staff with foreign language skills and removing the necessity for interviews for repeat visitors.

The measures were topped off in June when Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs reopened an annex at the US embassy in Beijing to vastly increase interview capacity for Chinese visa applicants and the changes are now being shown to work.

"We are implementing permanent solutions to keep us ahead of the growing visa demand for years to come," read a State Department statement which was released with the improved figures.

Chinese tourists have consistently been shown to spend the most of any nationality while on holiday and both the UK and Australia have highlighted the need to make it easy for Chinese tourists to visit the country but the US has been the first to act.

"The accomplishments announced today reflect the Obama Administration's commitment towards increasing US jobs by encouraging more people to visit our country," concluded the statement. 

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Republicans ready to sue president over US immigration law

Representative Steve King
says his suit will be ready in
weeks.

Republican Congressman Steve King says he is ready to move forward with his lawsuit against Barack Obama over the president's US immigration directive.

President Obama issued an executive order back in June which put a stop to the deportation of all illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the country by their parents if they had graduated high school or served in the military and have no criminal record.

The move, which is thought to directly affect as many as 1.4 million people, was hailed by US immigration advocates but has met fierce opposition among critics, many of whom are Republicans

Iowa Representative Steve King has claimed the move, which bypassed both Houses of Congress, surpassed the president's authority and is taking moves to prevent its implementation. Mr King said his team was now just weeks away to filing the suit.

"If the case is heard on the merits, we're in an excellent position to succeed," said Representative King, adding that there are at least four legal arguments which could prevent the president's directive from being enforced.

"There is an effort that might simply invalidate his executive edit and there's also a federal statute that requires [immigration law enforcement] to place illegals into deportation proceedings.

"Another component of it is the violation of the administrative procedures that the president appears to have ordered [law enforcement officials] to engage in."

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

US Immigration Update - 10 July, 2012

by Dominic 09/07/2012 14:35:00
Immigration in America is likely to remain a hot topic all the way to the presidential election in November. While the economy and its handling will be the most hotly debated topic between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the incumbent's decision to put a hold on as many as 1.3 million potential deportations last month is not likely to be forgotten any time soon.

Immigration has always been a controversial subject in the US; whether it's how many agents are needed to patrol the border (the number of 'boots on the ground') or what to do with illegal immigrants who make it into the country or how large the US visa allocation should be each year, every facet of the argument is nuanced and confounded by opinions from all sides.

And so, as this year is an election year, all policy suggestions, all loopholes highlighted and all campaigns started carry more weight and are scrutinised more closely and criticised more widely.

Here is a look at some of the stories regarding US immigration policies and their effects from the last week.


Obama pushes for immigration reform during Independence Day speech

US President Barack Obama took the opportunity during a speech on Independence Day to push reform of the US immigration system...read more.

California combats Arizona with US immigration bill

California's state legislature has made a significant statement in the national debate on US immigration and the states' rights to enact laws by passing a bill which prevents the detaining of any illegal immigrant for anything other than a violent or serious felony...read more.

Obama’s order opens door to scams

US immigration advisers in America have cautioned enthusiastic illegal immigrants that shameless con artists are eager to exploit the president's executive order...read more.

Silicon Valley start-up floats US visa shortcut

A Silicon Valley company has announced its intention to anchor a converted cruise ship 12 miles off the coast of California in order to provide a chance for budding technology companies to work close to the technology hub without the need for a US visa...read more.



Obama pushes for immigration reform during Independence Day speech

Barack Obama says America's
success 'demands'  US
immigration reform.

US President Barack Obama took the opportunity during a speech on Independence Day to push reform of the US immigration system.

President Obama, addressing a group of immigrants who have served in the military to earn their US citizenship, praised the country's immigrant population as a vital part of the country's success.

"Immigration makes America stronger," said the president. "Immigration makes us more prosperous. Immigration positions America to lead in the 21st century.

Immigration is a controversial subject in the US; the debate mainly centres on increasing border security and what to do with the illegal immigrants already in the country. President Obama has previously tried to introduce legislation known as the DREAM Act which would allow some younger illegal immigrants to stay but he has faced tough opposition from his Republican opponents.

However, the president bypassed the congressional processes he had needed to pass the DREAM Act last month when he issued an executive order to halt the deportations of a similar demographic the DREAM Act is intended for: illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the US as children, have no criminal record and have graduated high school or served in the military.

The order has ignited a fierce debate around the subject and is likely to have significant influence on the presidential election in November but the president promised that the directive would not be the end of his reforms.

"Just as we remain a nation of laws, we have to remain a nation of immigrants," President Obama told the new US citizens.

"That's why as another step forward we're lifting the shadow of deportation from deserving young people who were brought to this country as children.

"It's why we still need a DREAM Act: to keep talented young people who want to contribute to our society and serve our country.

"It's why we need, why America's success demands, comprehensive immigration reform."

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California combats Arizona with US immigration bill

California has passed the 'anti-
Arizona' bill.

California's state legislature has made a significant statement in the national debate on US immigration and the states' rights to enact laws by passing a bill which prevents the detaining of any illegal immigrant for anything other than a violent or serious felony.

The bill, passed on Thursday 5 July, received 21 votes of support to 13 opponents in the Californian Senate and 47-26 in the Californian Assembly, both houses have Democratic majorities. The bill's passing sends a strong message to other states in the country that are passing strict US immigration laws in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's SB 1070.

Arizona's strict immigration law was signed into law in 2010 but remained the subject of legal challenges until last month when the Supreme Court struck down three out of the four provisions. While many of the law's opponents hailed the decision as a victory, the one provision upheld was also the strictest.

The 'show me your papers' provision allows law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of any individual legally stopped or arrested.

Supporters of the law say it is needed as the federal government has failed in properly policing states with borders to Mexico. Opponents say the law encourages racial stereotyping.

SB 1070's passage through the Supreme Court has led other Republican controlled states such as Alabama, Georgia and Utah to introduce similarly strict laws but California, despite having the largest illegal immigrant population in the country, has bucked that trend.

"Today's vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona," said Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

The bill, known as the 'Anti-Arizona Bill' will now go back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote before being sent to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown to be signed into law.

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Obama’s order opens door to scams

Despite the good news, immigration
advisers have warned people to
beware possible cons.
 

US immigration advisers in America have cautioned enthusiastic illegal immigrants that shameless con artists are eager to exploit the president's executive order.

President Obama last month issued an executive order which put a stop to the deportation of all illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the US before they were 16, have no criminal record and have either graduated high school or served in the military.

The move, which was seen as drastic and brave by an incumbent president seeking re-election, is thought to affect as many as 1.4 million people. While affected people may be keen to apply for the work permit included in the order, immigration advisers warn that the potential for scamming is rife.

The federal government is yet to outline how the directive will be implemented - much to the chagrin of dissenting Republicans - meaning there is plenty of room for doubt.

"It's just a very short planning period to put the capabilities into place and to get the information out and to get people to understand what's going to be required," said a senior fellow at the Immigration Policy Center.

"There will be all kinds of misinformation, and there will be people who are trying to exploit this."

Several immigrant advocacy groups are initiating schemes to educate neighbourhoods, particularly the Hispanic areas most likely to be affected by the order, to make them aware of such scams.

Kim Propeack of the Casa de Maryland advocacy group said they have already had hundreds of calls from people reporting so-called immigration advisers and lawyers offering advice, for a substantial fee, of how best to navigate the order to secure a work permit. Many of the shameless advisers' targets are technically still in the country illegally and therefore are too cautious to report the advisers to the police.

"There's just no end to the capacity of these folks to profiteer off these situations," said Ms Propeack. 

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Silicon Valley start-up floats US visa shortcut

Blueseed proposes building a
US visa haven 12 miles off the
coast of Silicon Valley.

A Silicon Valley company has announced its intention to anchor a converted cruise ship 12 miles off the coast of California in order to provide a chance for budding technology companies to work close to the technology hub without the need for a US visa.

While presidential candidates argue about the effects of a high unemployment rate, the thriving technology companies based in the infamous Silicon Valley are engaging in bidding wars to secure the top talent.

However, with current US visa limits set at 85,000 per year for the whole country and with that allocation being filled within weeks of opening, both companies and aspiring engineers have complained about immigration policy hindering the progress of the technology industry.

In order to combat this, Blueseed, an ambitious start-up headed by entrepreneurs Max Marty and Dario Mutabdzija, have said they plan to build a floating centre for foreign technology start-ups. This, Blueseed says, will allow them to live and work within close proximity of Silicon Valley without the need for a US visa.

The project, which aims to launch by the end of 2013, will be constructed from a converted ship into a floating town capable of accommodating up to 1,800 foreign entrepreneurs and technology workers. The ship will be anchored 12 miles off the coast of Silicon Valley and residents, who will pay an average of $1,500 (£965) a month, can be ferried to the mainland on a tourist visa.

While Blueseed has attracted significant interest from many of Silicon Valley's residents but faces tough challenges to ensure the project is a success; 12 miles off California's coast is not strictly international waters and therefore questions will be raised regarding the workers' legal status.

Whether the project will come to fruition remains to be seen but even if it fails to get off the ground, it is still being regarded as drawing attention to the shortcomings of the US visa system and the damages it can have on companies needing foreign workers to expand.

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

US Immigration Update - 03 July, 2012

by Dominic 03/07/2012 10:43:00
The Supreme Court has dominated most aspects of the news in America in recent weeks. While forest fires continue to threaten the country's wildlife, it is the decisions that a group of nine unelected judges have made, and whether they should have the power to make them, which is attracting the most coverage.

The Supreme Court last week upheld President Obama's healthcare plan, commonly known as Obamacare, in what many are calling the most signifcant indicator of the incumbent's first term. The decision ignited a fierce political debate of its own but it was the court's previous decision, on Arizona's controversial US immigration law which has continued to fuel debates far beyond the reach of politics, even appearing on the cover of Time magazine and featuring as the main focus of an episode of Aaron Sorkin's HBO show Newsroom.

The debate over the constitutionality, the fairness and the actual enforcement of SB 1070 is expected to roll on for the forseeable future but its effect on the upcoming presidential election, as well as its influence on other states dealing with immigration problems, is already being seen.


Romney remains quiet on SB 1070

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has kept his silence on his US immigration policies, refusing to comment any further on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the most controversial part of Arizona's tough immigration law, SB 1070...read more.

State Department defends Egyptian ‘terrorist’ US visa

The American State Department has defended the decision to grant Hani Nour Eldin, a recently elected Egyptian politician, a US visa amid concerns he has ties to the organisation Gamaa Islamiyya, which both the US and the EU classify as a terrorist organisation...read more.

States move forward with tough US immigration laws

After the Supreme Court's ruling which struck down three provisions in Arizona's controversial US immigration law, SB 1070, but upheld the most controversial, other states are moving forward with their own, SB 1070 inspired, laws...read more.

Civil rights activist mocks Arizona’s US immigration law

Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez has voiced his opposition to Arizona's controversial US immigration law by openly mocking the 'show me your papers' provision upheld by the Supreme Court this week in the House of Representatives...read more.

Playboy model granted ‘genius’ US visa

Playboy model Shera Bechard has been granted a US visa under a category reserved for 'individuals with extraordinary ability'...read more




Romney remains quiet on SB 1070

Mitt Romney's immigration stance
needs to be precariously balanced.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has kept his silence on his US immigration policies, refusing to comment any further on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the most controversial part of Arizona's tough immigration law, SB 1070.

The Supreme Court handed down its judgement this week, stating that while the state does not have power to overrule the federal government in writing their own US immigration laws but upheld the state's enforcement officers' right to verify an individual's immigration status during a lawful stop or arrest.

The ruling has ignited a ferocious political debate with politicians and activists from across the political spectrum claiming a victory and promising further legal challenges. However, Mr Romney's response has been guarded at best.

"I believe that each state has the duty, and the right, to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities," said the former governor of Massachusetts after the court's ruling.

Mr Romney faces a tough proposition when it comes to immigration; the hard line he trod during the primary may have endeared him to the Republican Party's conservative base but it hurt his standing among Hispanic voters who have vested interests in the country's attitudes toward illegal immigration.

Mr Romney refused to state whether he supported the law, instead opting to criticise President Obama without stating his own plan to tackle immigration.

"As a candidate Obama, he promised to present an immigration plan during his first year in office. But four years later we are still waiting."

The response has naturally frustrated analysts and journalists alike, as well as Hispanic Republicans.

"I'm getting increasingly frustrated as Republican Hispanic, not seeing him engage," said strategist Ana Navarro. "Telling us that Obama is not enough. He's got to tell us that he's good and what his plan is."

Mr Romney has avoided reporters on the issue since; during a flight between campaign stops, Mr Romney remained in the front of the plane and instead sent an aide to answer journalists' questions.

Despite being questioned on the matter a total of 16 times, Romney aide Rick Gorka repeatedly reiterated the candidate's non-committal responses. 

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State Department defends Egyptian ‘terrorist’ US visa

The decision to grant a US visa
to the Egyptian politician has
proved most controversial.

The American State Department has defended the decision to grant Hani Nour Eldin, a recently elected Egyptian politician, a US visa amid concerns he has ties to the organisation Gamaa Islamiyya, which both the US and the EU classify as a terrorist organisation.

Eldin was granted a US visa so he could form part of a delegation of newly elected Egyptian politicians who met with American officials last week.

However, the decision to grant a member of Gamaa Islamiyya has attracted the ire of the House Committee on Homeland Security who has demanded answers on how Eldin's application was processed.

"The nature of Eldin's visit suggests an absence of full vetting rather than a policy choice, or perhaps a breakdown in the screening missions of and coordination among our federal agencies," said Representative Peter King who heads the committee.

Gamaa Islamiyya has been responsible for a number of terrorist attacks, including the 1997 Luxor massacre in which 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed.

However, Victoria Nuland, a spokesperson for the State Department said major political changes were occurring in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring and the US needs to cooperate with politicians from its allies but that due process was not sacrificed in this case.

"We neither had then, nor do we have now, any reason to believe that this particular individual, who at the time of his application was a member of parliament, would post a threat to the United States," said Ms Nuland.

"It's a new day in Egypt; it's a new day in a lot of countries across the Middle East and North Africa. So new political personalities are coming to light.

"We have more folks who want to come here, want to know us, want to learn about the United States, want to develop relationships with us. We have the same interest with regard to them."

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States move forward with tough US immigration laws

Several states are now moving
forward with their own US 
immigration laws.
 

After the Supreme Court's ruling which struck down three provisions in Arizona's controversial US immigration law, SB 1070, but upheld the most controversial, other states are moving forward with their own, SB 1070 inspired, laws.

The Supreme Court upheld the controversial 'show me your papers' provision in SB 1070 which permits law enforcement officers to ascertain an individual's immigration status during a routine stop.

The political debate the ruling ignited looks set to continue for some time yet but in the meantime, other states have begun progressing with introducing their own tough US immigration laws.

Georgia, Utah, Indiana, South Carolina and Alabama, the latter's law, HB 56 is considered even tougher than SB 1070, have all introduced similar laws to Arizona and are currently the subject to similar lawsuits.

However, while the outcome of the lawsuits is awaited and lawmakers are optimistic in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling, the laws are beginning to be implemented.

A specially trained staff in South Carolina, known as the Immigration Enforcement Unit, with its own marked cars and uniforms is preparing to be deployed and the 'show me your papers' provision is ready to be enforced.

Not only are states moving forward with their laws, Kris Kobach, author of both SB 1070 and HB 56, says the Supreme Court's ruling has opened up the possibility of other states such as Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Mississippi introducing their own laws.

"When the state legislatures start up again next year, you will probably see those bills introduced," said Mr Kobach.

Almost all of the laws are subject to legal challenge, either by the Obama administration, immigration advocates or both who claim the laws promote racial profiling. 

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Civil rights activist mocks Arizona’s US immigration law

Representative Gutierrez is
known for his oratory skills.

Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez has voiced his opposition to Arizona's controversial US immigration law by openly mocking the 'show me your papers' provision upheld by the Supreme Court this week in the House of Representatives.

The Supreme Court this week struck down three out of the four provisions in SB 1070, the controversial US immigration law which opponents say encourages racial profiling. However, the court upheld the provision known as 'show me your papers' which permits law enforcement officials to ascertain an individual's immigration status during a lawful stop or arrest.

Rep Gutierrez of Illinois, a noted civil rights activist, derided the law in the House yesterday by playing a game he called 'pick the immigrant'. Using pictures of famous journalists, sports stars and even Supreme Court justices, Rep. Gutierrez demonstrated the difficulty Arizona's law enforcement officials face in identifying illegal immigrants during traffic stops and arrests.

Rep. Gutierrez used pictures of broadcasters Geraldo Riviera and Ted Koppel (Mr Riviera was born in Brooklyn, Mr Koppel in the UK), basketball players Jeremy Lin and Tony Parker (Lin was born in Los Angeles, Parker was born in Belgium and raised in France) and Supreme Court justices Sonya Sotomayor and Antonin Scalia (both are US citizens but Justice Scalia is the child of Italian immigrants while Justice Sotomayor is descended from generations of Puerto Rican US citizens) to demonstrate his point.

But it was Rep Gutierrez's use of teen pop couple Justin Bieber and Selina Gomez which has proved most popular. Bieber, a Canadian is often mistaken for an American while Ms Gomez, a Texan, is frequently presumed to be from Central or South America.

"I'm sure Justin helped Gomez learn all about American customs and feel more at home in her adopted country," said Rep. Gutierrez. "Oh wait a minute, I'm sorry; because I'm not a trained Arizona official, I somehow got that backwards.

"Actually, Miss Gomez of Texas has helped Mr Bieber of Canada learn about his adopted country.

"Justin, when you perform in Phoenix, remember to bring your papers."

Rep. Gutierrez concluded his mockery of the provision by deriding the law itself.

"The idea that any government official can determine who belongs in America and who doesn't simply by looking at them is completely ridiculous, unfair and un-American, and yet this absurdity is the law of Arizona."
 

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Playboy model granted ‘genius’ US visa

Playmate Shera Bechard was
granted a 'genius' US visa.
 

Playboy model Shera Bechard has been granted a US visa under a category reserved for 'individuals with extraordinary ability'.

The Canadian born 26-year-old who has also dated Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, 86, was granted a US visa in the O-1 category, usually deemed a 'genius visa'. The United Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines the O-1 visa as inteded for either

  • Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
  • Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry

While Ms Bechard may not appear to fit into either of those categories, Los Angeles based US immigration lawyer Chris Wright argued that the playmate's achievements, which include being crowned Miss November 2010, make her eligible for the highly selective category.

"There's nothing in those regulations that requires you to be a genius," said Mr Wright.

"It's quite condescending to say 'oh, the idiot Playboy playmates, they don't qualify'."

Ms Bechard said her role in the 2009 movie Sweet Karma, which won her a best actress award at the Texas-based Fantastic Film Festival had added weight to er application. 

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

US Immigration Update - 26 June, 2012

by Dominic 26/06/2012 14:18:00
Immigration in the US has always been a controversial subject but in an election year, every facet is more closely scrutinised, every proposal is more vociferously debated and every fact and figure is doubted. While an election year makes it all the more difficult to pass any legislation, politicians from across the political spectrum propose their own solutions and ideas to the issues they perceive will secure their re-elections come November.

This week, we have seen the fallout from President Obama's executive order and his Republican rival Mitt Romney's tentative response, but away from the presidential election, we have also seen two new contrasting US visa proposals, one which advises an expansion of existing visa programmes, another which cautions against similar measures.

Here is a breakdown of the week's stories:


President Obama's excutive order shakes up election

President Obama put a halt to the deportation of an esimated 800,000 young people earlier this month in a move which has dramatically altered the landscape of November's election...read more.

Congressman warns against Visa Waiver Program expansion

Republican Congressman Lamar Smith has said that adding Poland to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) would lead to an increased risk of terrorism...read more.

US visa for foreign homeowners proposed

A bipartisan bill has been proposed in the US Senate which would grant foreign nationals who purchase a home in America a three-year visa....read more.

Supreme Court Rules on controversial US immigration law

The American Supreme Court has handed down its ruling on Arizona's controversial US immigration law which could have far reaching consequences...read more.




President Obama's excutive order shakes up election

President Obama has thrown
election predictions into doubt.
 

President Obama put a halt to the deportation of an esimated 800,000 young people earlier this month in a move which has dramatically altered the landscape of November's election.

Earlier this month, President Obama used his executive powers to bypass the Houses of Congress and put a stop to the deportation of all illegal immigrants under the age of 30 if they were brought to the country before they were 16, have graduated high school or served in the military and have no criminal record.

The affected people, of which some studies estimate there to be as many as 1.3 million, will instead receive a working US visa.

The president's political opponents would typically have outraged at any executive order coming out of the White House and while some have criticised the use of the presidential power, most are cautious about voicing too strong an opposition.

Many analysts and political strategists claim the growing demographic of Hispanic voters will determine this year's election and Republicans' reactions need to take into consideration the makeup of their potential voters.

On the one side, Hispanic voters have been shown to rank the struggling economy as their priority issue yet with obvious ties to Central and South America, they also have vested interests in US immigration policy. While Republicans typically have strong economic policies, their frequent hardline on immigration such as the line presidential nominee Mitt Romney took during the primary, risks alienating Hispanic voters.

On the other side, Republicans are wary about supporting the president's order as this risks alienating the typical Republican voter who has conservative ideals, supports strong border controls and opposes any policies that grant amnesty to anyone who entered the country illegally.

With such a tough proposition, Republican reaction and the political fallout of the president's order was widespread and far reaching.

To read the full story and subsequent developments, click here.

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Congressman warns against Visa Waiver Program expansion

Congressman Lamar Smith

Republican Congressman Lamar Smith has said that adding Poland to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) would lead to an increased risk of terrorism.

"We know that terrorists have used the VWP to their benefit," wrote Mr Smith. "September 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, 'shoebomber' Richard Reid and 1993 World Trade Center conspirator Ahemd Ajaj all entered or attempted to enter the US through this program."

The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 36 countries, including the UK, Australia and New Zealand, to enter the US without a visa. The programme attracts significant debate in the US; Mr Smith also wrote that a governmental report found almost half the 36 countries currently in the programme did not meet security requirements.

Poland's acceptance to the scheme is a controversial topic; despite maintaining significant ties with the US, including participating in Iraq and Afghanistan, Poland is one of only four EU countries currently not a part of the VWP. 

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US visa for foreign homeowners proposed

Foreign citizens who invest in
property could obtain a visa.
 

A bipartisan bill has been proposed in the US Senate which would grant foreign nationals who purchase a home in America a three-year visa.

Republican Senator Mike Lee and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer introduced the bill in an effort to entice further foreign investment to the US and give an extra boost to a still recovering economy.

The senators claim the bill was inspired by an influx of wealthy foreign buyers purchasing luxury homes in Manhattan, some of which are reportedly the most expensive residential homes in the world.

The bill would allow foreign buyers willing to spend at least $500,000 (£320,000) on real estate and reside in the property for 180 days to live and work legally in the US for three years. 

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Supreme Court Rules on controversial US immigration law

The Supreme Court passed down
its ruling after weeks of
deliberations.

The American Supreme Court has handed down its ruling on Arizona's controversial US immigration law which could have far reaching consequences.

The law, known as the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in April, 2010 and was intended to take effect by the end of July that year. However, legal challenges over its constitutionality were filed almost immediately and the law has remained subject of legal challenges ever since.

The Law

SB 1070 is anti-illegal immigration law intended to crack down on illegal immigrants by making it almost impossible for them to remain in the state. At the time of its writing, SB 1070 was considered the strictest immigration law in the country.

Provisions in the law state that any foreign citizen over the age of 14 who remains in the country for more than 30 days must register with the government and all foreign citizens must carry registration documents on them at all times; the law makes it a misdemeanour crime for any foreign citizen found without the proper documentation.

The law makes it difficult for illegal immigrants to find work and includes fines for individuals or companies found to be hiring or harbouring illegal immigrants.

When enforcing the law, SB 1070 allows law enforcement officials to determine an individual's immigration status during either a routine stop or lawful arrest, or during any time that an official has 'reasonable suspicion' as to an individual's status.

The US immigration law was written in large part by Kansan Secretary of State Kris Kobach and sponsored by former State Senator Russell Pearce, both Republicans. The law has influenced similar laws in other states including South Carolina and Alabama which are subject to similar legal challenges. Alabama's HB 56 law, also drafted in large part by Mr Kobach is considered even tougher than SB 1070...

...to read the rest of this story, click here.

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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the American Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.