U.S. Immigration News for Japanese Companies - September 2012

Date: 9/18/2012
 U.S. Immigration News for Japanese Companies - September 2012

USCIS Provides Information About L-1B Petition Approvals

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") recently released information about the approval and denial rates for L-1B specialized knowledge petitions from 2003 through 2011. The L-1B program allows a U.S. employer to transfer an employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization's interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States if the employee has worked for at least one year in the previous three years outside the United States for a foreign affiliate. From 2003 to 2007, the USCIS approved between 91% to 94% of the L-1B petitions. However, the approval rate for L-1B petitions dropped significantly beginning in 2008, even though there was no statutory or regulatory changes concerning L-1B petitions. The approval rate in calendar year 2011 was only 73%, which was the lowest approval rate of any year since 2003. Additionally, the number of L-1B petitions filed with the USCIS dropped from its high of close to 30,000 in 2007 to approximately 14,000 in 2011.

Department of State Provides Information About the FY 2013 and 2014 Diversity Visa Lotteries

The Department of State (DOS) announced that online registration for the Fiscal Year 2014 Diversity Visa Lottery program will begin on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 and conclude on Saturday, November 3, 2012. Although the DOS provided information about the registration dates, the DOS did not provide further information about the next Diversity Visa Lottery. Additional information will be available in our firm's Immigration Alert when it becomes available.

The DOS also indicated that individuals who submitted applications in the Fiscal Year 2013 Visa Lottery may now check on the DOS's website to confirm if they "won" the lottery. Please note that the DOS is no longer notifying individuals by mail if they "won" the lottery. Instead, individuals must confirm whether they won the lottery on the DOS website. Although the DOS updated its website on May 1, 2012 with the "winners" of the Fiscal Year 2013 Visa Lottery program, the DOS encouraged applicants who were not selected initially to recheck the website on or after October 1, 2012 because it may select more entries as "winners", depending on the response that the DOS receives to the initial group that was selected. The DOS reminded applicants that if they lost or misplaced the confirmation that they received when submitting the initial lottery application, they will not be able to confirm whether or not they "won" the lottery. In the Fiscal Year 2013 Visa Lottery, the DOS only received approximately 12.5 million entries. This number is significantly less than the 19.6 million entries that it received for the Fiscal Year 2012 Visa Lottery.

USCIS Indicates that Employers Should Continue to Use the "Expired" Form I-9

The USCIS recently announced that employers should continue using the Form I-9 currently available on the USCIS website until further notice. Although this form indicates under the current Office of Management and Budget ("OMB") Control Number that it expires on August 31, 2012, the USCIS indicated that this form is not outdated as of this date. The USCIS will provide updated information about the new version of the form when it becomes available. The USCIS recently extended the comment period for the new form until September 21, 2012. After the comment period ends, the USCIS may then take time to further modify the new form to incorporate commenters' suggestions and recommendations into the formatting of the new form. Please remember that all employers must complete a From I-9 for all employees including those that have been transferred to the United States under E and L visas. The employees must complete Section 1 of the Form I-9 on the first day of employment.

Internal Revenue Service Modifies the ITIN Process

The Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") recently announced an interim change to the Individual Tax Identification Number ("ITIN") procedure. ITINs are issued by the IRS for tax administration purposes for individuals who are not eligible to obtain a Social Security number ("SSN") from the Social Security Administration ("SSA"). The IRS indicated that it is making these changes in order to "strengthen its procedures for issuing ITINs". Until it issues a regulation, the IRS will only issue ITINs when applications include original documents, such as passports and birth certificates or certified copies of these documents from the issuing agency. ITINs will no longer be issued based on applications supported by notarized copies of documents. The IRS indicated that these changes are effective immediately. However, the IRS indicated that it plans to issue a regulation regarding the issuance of ITINs sometime in early 2013.

For more information about this or any other immigration topic, please contact Eldon Kakuda via email at ekakuda@masudafunai.com or any of the other attorneys in Immigration Group.

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