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28 January 2013

Reminder: USCIS Immigrant Fee Takes Effect on Feb. 1

Starting Friday, Feb. 1, those who receive an immigrant visa package from a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad will be required to pay a new $165 immigrant fee.

We are aware of the effect that any new fee has on the communities we serve. However, the fee is necessary to cover the costs of producing and delivering permanent resident cards.

Important Points to Remember

  • Starting on Feb. 1, 2013, applicants must pay both the Department of State (DOS) application fee and the USCIS Immigrant Fee.
  • To simplify and centralize the collection of this new fee, we will require immigrants to pay online through the USCIS website.
  • Applicants must submit their payment online after they receive their visa package from DOS and before they depart for the United States.
Children who enter the United States under the Orphan or Hague adoption programs, Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants, returning residents (SB-1s), and those issued K visas  are the only immigrant visa cases exempt from paying the new fee.

Please see the following page on our website for more information:

22 January 2013

Want to know which employers are enrolled in E-Verify?

Great news: This information is just a click away!

USCIS has just launched its new E-Verify Employers Search Tool, which allows you to find employers currently enrolled in E-Verify.

The new tool lets you filter, sort and export results found during your search. Information you can find in it includes:
  • The employer’s business name;
  • Whether the employer is a federal contractor; and
  • The city and state where the employer is located.
E-Verify is a Web-based service that helps employers determine whether their newly hired employees are authorized to work in the United States. The new search tool replaces the lists of employers and federal contractors previously found in our E-Verify website.

Among those who will benefit from the E-Verify Employers Search Tool are F-1 students in programs related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) who plan to apply for a 17-month Optional Practical Training STEM Extension. These students may only work for employers enrolled in E-Verify.

USCIS will update the new search tool’s database each quarter.


11 January 2013

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month

Human traffickers lure victims with false promises of employment and a better life, only to exploit them through forced labor. In many cases, victims are trapped in a form of modern-day slavery through threats of violence and other forms of abuse and intimidation.

At USCIS, we are fighting human trafficking and other crimes by offering victims immigration relief. This relief allows them to stay in the United States to assist law enforcement authorities in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases. We offer the T Nonimmigrant Status (T Visa) for victims of severe human trafficking, and U Nonimmigrant Status (U Visa) for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse.

Our “Resources for Victims of Human Trafficking & Other Crimes” webpage provides valuable links and information for victims, those wishing to assist victims, and law enforcement.

We also offer training on the forms of relief offered to victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and other crimes. For information on training or to register, please email

For more information on what you can do to fight human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888.

You can also learn more through the Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign.

07 January 2013

Introducing the USCIS Policy Manual

Today USCIS is beginning the transition toward an online, centralized manual of immigration policies by releasing the first volume of the new USCIS Policy Manual.  This follows an unprecedented, agency-wide review of USCIS policies, and incorporates feedback from thousands of agency employees, customers and stakeholders.

The complete USCIS Policy Manual will comprise several volumes, each dealing with different areas of immigration, including citizenship and naturalization, protection and parole, adjustment of status, admissibility, refugees and asylum, waivers, and travel and employment. The new Policy Manual will ultimately replace USCIS’ current Adjudicators Field Manual, or AFM, and the current USCIS Immigration Policy Memoranda website.

For more information, see our website.

20 December 2012

Asylum Customer Satisfaction Survey Results

Nearly 1,000 customers from eight of our asylum offices completed a satisfaction survey about their asylum interviews and office visits during the past fiscal year. The survey was conducted by the USCIS Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate and the Office of Policy and Strategy’s Research and Evaluation Division.

Key survey findings include:
  • Front desk staff received an overall satisfaction rating of 94 out of 100.
  • The satisfaction rating for asylum officers was 89 out of 100 which impacted overall customer satisfaction more than any other survey component.
  • The overall Customer Satisfaction Index for USCIS Asylum Offices was 87 out of 100—about 20 points higher than the latest federal government average for customer satisfaction.
The summary and full survey report are available as well.

13 December 2012

USCIS Public Engagement Division Holds Last Enlace Publico of 2012

On Dec. 5, the USCIS Public Engagement Division (PED) held its last Enlace Publico for 2012. The free Spanish-language public engagement was held from 7:30-9 p.m. EST in the Tomich Center at USCIS headquarters, 111 Massachusetts Ave. Participants were able to join through teleconference, live Web stream, or social media. The event was moderated by Mariela Melero, Associate Director of the Customer Service and Public Engagement Directorate (CSPED), and Victoria Porto, Supervisory Adjudications Officer for the Field Operations Directorate and Team Lead for the Office of Transformation Coordination (OTC). They provided brief updates to participants and then answered their questions on a variety of immigration topics, including consideration for deferred action for childhood arrivals, provisional waiver and the Department of State visa bulletin.

Victoria Porto (left), Supervisory Adjudications Officer for the Field Operations Directorate, and OTC’s Team Lead, and Mariela Melero (right), CSPED Associate Director, provided updates and answered participants’ questions during the Public Engagement Division’s last enlace Publico for 2012

Approximately 650 individuals joined through teleconference, more than 137 emails were received, and another 660 joined through live Web stream. The ongoing success of this multilingual public engagement series demonstrates the importance of providing our customers and stakeholders with alternative forms of engagements in their own languages. Look for the 2013 schedule of Enlace Publicos on our website in the coming weeks.

07 December 2012

Naturalized Citizen SGT Saral K. Shrestha Earns Soldier of the Year Honors

Born and raised in Kathmandu, Nepal, SGT Saral K. Shrestha knew he wanted a military career from the time he was a small boy. Watching shows about the military on television, he dreamed of life as a soldier. As a young man, Shrestha's mother urged him to pursue higher education in the United States. At age 17, he applied for a visa and left his home to study in a new land.

"It was a culture shock, it's always rush, rush, rush," Shrestha said about his first time being in the United States. "You're working or studying the whole time. There were a lot of tall buildings, a lot of new things. Everything is surprising, so you stop being surprised."

After spending his first month with an uncle in Philadelphia, Shrestha headed to Nebraska to begin his studies in computer networking. Still, he dreamed of joining the military and embarking on a life of service and discipline, but it seemed impossible.

"MAVNI Was a Blessing"   

Though Shrestha wished to serve in the U.S. military, he initially had no avenue to join without U.S. citizenship or permanent residence. That changed in 2009 when the Department of Defense introduced the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program. MAVNI allows visa holders with special, highly needed skills - such as having expertise in languages that are critical to military operations - to enlist in the military and earn U.S. citizenship through their service.

Shrestha was close to completing his degree when he found out about the program, but he didn't hesitate to sign-up. After being screened by USCIS and completing the recruitment process, he headed to Fort Benning for basic training in September 2009.

"MAVNI was a blessing," Shrestha said. "When I graduated my basic training, I had one of the USCIS personnel come onto the field with a United States flag and I took my oath." Shrestha considers it the most special day of his life. "I realized I was part of something way bigger," he said.

From Special Forces to Afghanistan to Soldier of the Year

While training as a specialized Power Generation Equipment Repairer at Fort Lee, Va., a recruiter with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) approached Shrestha, who was then a private. The recruiter knew about his ability to speak Urdu, a language common in Afghanistan and spoken in Pakistan. "He talked me into it, got me excited and motivated," Shrestha said.

In 2011, Shrestha was deployed to Afghanistan and traveled all around the country, including to some of the most remote forward operating bases. He used his language skills to communicate with Afghani locals and Afghani friendly forces working with the U.S. Army. Shrestha worked long hours to keep the U.S. bases supplied with power and fuel, but still found time late-night to complete his college degree.

When Shrestha returned to the U.S., life turned to "garrison mode." This meant staying prepared, sharp, and in-shape. Shrestha also saw the opportunity to take part in competitions for "best soldier." "I tried my best and became my company's top soldier," he said. "The competitions have steps, and it gets tougher as you move up a level. You move from brigade level, to sub-command, to Special Operations Command, to the Army-wide competition."

Shrestha won at the local levels of the competition, and went on to compete against other soldiers at the command level of the competition.

SGT Saral Shrestha (right) is declared the hand-to-hand combat winner in a lower-level Soldier of the Year competition at Fort Bragg, NC.

He then competed in the final round, the Best Warrior Competition, which he described as a five-day "Super Bowl for the Army."

The Best Warrior Competition included events such as the Army Physical Fitness Test, day land navigation, urban night land navigation and shooting. A selection board, headed by the Sergeant Major of the Army, judged the competitors. Shrestha said this invoked pride. The winner was announced at the Association of the United States Army's military convention in Washington, D.C.

When he heard his name called as U.S. Army Soldier of the Year, Shrestha said he was shocked. "I didn't know how to react, it was a big moment," he said.

GEN Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, welcomed SGT Saral Shrestha to his office at the Pentagon and presented him with an award for his recent win at the Best Warrior Competition.

Looking back at his journey from Nepal to the United States and his service to his new country, Shrestha stresses that his accomplishments would not have been possible without support from family, friends, trainers and comrades.

SGT Saral Shrestha and his wife Elisha celebrate the Soldier of the Year victory with his uncle, Purushottam Kuthu.

He remembers how his family would call him from Nepal and remind him that he was in their prayers. "A lot of people help you, it's never just about you," he said. Shrestha said that he tries to always live and serve by his motto: "Mission first, soldiers always."

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30 November 2012

White House Blogs on New USCIS Resource for Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Be sure to check out this post on The White House Blog detailing our recent launch of Entrepreneur Pathways, an online resource center for immigrant entrepreneurs that assists them in the immigration process as they start and grow businesses in the United States.