Monday, May 28, 2012

USCIS opens Electronic Immigration System

ELIS is a name for the USCIS's online electronic immigration benefits system. The word ELIS resonates of the word "ELLIS," an island through which more than 12 million immigrants entered between 1892-1954. Originally a mere 3-acre plot, is now almost 30-acre plot: a result of real estate acquisition by the port authority. Whereas ELLIS needed a ten-fold increase in real estate to accommodate the great influx of immigrants entering the U.S., ELIS needs only a few megabytes of online real estate. For now, ELIS will only take care of I-539 extend/change non-immigrant status. But there are plans to expand this portal to include immigration related services (not just nonimmigrant services).

The ELIS system is available to accept requests for extension of status for those who are in B-1, B-2, M-1, or M-2 status. Also included are F-1s who were admitted with I-94s that contained an end date, rather than the standard D/S indicating validity for duration of status. It is also available for nonimmigrants seeking to change status to B-1, B-2, F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, M-1, or M-2. Finally, it is available for F-1 or M-1 students seeking to reinstate status.

So, what to do?

If you are applying for a change or extension of nonimmigrant status, check out the detailed chart at the  USCIS WebSite. There you will also find instructions on opening your account for using ELIS. In order to visit ELLIS, you have to go to New York. But ELIS, you can visit from your living room.

Online tool to prepare for the naturalization test

As immigration lawyers, we often receive requests from clients about resources for preparing for the American citizenship exam. Over the last 17 years of our practice, things have changed quite a bit. Back then, there were few, if any, resources to prepare for this test and the oath. There were but a couple of books available from the federal government's press. Then, a different types of spiral bound pamphlets came about. But, now…. Smithsonian Institution has published one of the best resources to prepare for the civics portion of the naturalization test. USCIS Director, Alejandro Mayorkas, said on May 22, 2012, that “Using the Smithsonian Institution's extensive collection, this online tool will help individuals learn about the founding principles of American democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a meaningful way.”

This interactive, online tool is a fun way to prepare for the test.

So, what to do?
If you going to appear for the naturalization test or the citizenship oath, check this out: 
Preparing for the Oath: U.S. History and Civics for Citizenship available at

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I-9 Compliance... what is an employer's responsibility?

Employers often feel nervous about accepting I-9 documents for employment verification. Some human resources officers feel the stress about getting it wrong. So, what kind of care should employers exercise while reviewing the I-9 forms?

Well, the manual states this: if documents reasonably appear on their face to be genuine and relate to the person presenting them, the employer must accept the documents.

Key words in the above statement are: reasonably, face, and relate. If a candidate presents papers bearing a photo identification that resembles the person presenting them, then the employer need not worry. The test is “reasonableness”—what would a reasonable employer do?

So, what to do? 

Exercising reasonable care is a bit more complicated than it sounds. The care exercised by a reasonable employer must be greater than a random person off the street would exercise. But reasonable also doesn’t mean that the employer act with the vigilance of a border patrol officer. As long as the document presented resembles the person presenting, and on its face (i.e., without the use of forensics) it appears genuine, and meets the other elements of due care that an employer must exercise, the employer likely meets the good faith compliance duty against any potential charges of knowingly hiring an unverified or unverifiable candidate.

Review the employer's handbook published by the USCIS:

Also, sign up for e-verify. Learn more about e-verify . If the automatic link does not work, click on: