OCTOBER 2010
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida
Immigration

STATE DEPARTMENT MOVES TO ELECTRONIC FORM FOR IMMIGRANT VISAS AT CONSULAR POSTS

Dilip Patel

By DILIP PATEL
(www.dplawfirm.com)

In a rule promulgated in early August, the Department of State (DOS) is implementing its transition to the use of an electronic application process for immigrant visa applicants, Form DS-260, which will eventually replace the current paper-based application process, Form DS-230. The new form is designed to be completed and signed electronically. While the general procedure remains the same, immigrant visa applicants will complete and submit the form online, enabling the National Visa Center and consular officer to review all information entered into the DS-260 at the time of application processing and interviewing. Applicants will no longer be required to print a form to take to the visa interview. By signing the DS-260 electronically (i.e., clicking on the “Sign and Submit Application” button), the applicant will certify that the information provided is correct and will be bound by that information. At the time of the interview, applicants also will be required to swear under oath to statements contained on the DS-260 and to provide a biometric signature in connection with the oath.

While third parties such as attorneys may continue to assist an applicant in the preparation of the DS-260, the applicant must electronically sign and submit the new form. DOS advises that it will continue to accept the DS-230 when necessary, but green card applicants should expect to use the new form going forward.
A similar electronic form for nonimmigrant visa applicants, Form DS-160, has been in use for several months now at U.S. consulates worldwide.

OBAMA AND FIXING THE IMMIGRATION SYSTEM: WHERE ARE WE AND WHAT CAN WE EXPECT?

All agree that comprehensive immigration reform will not happen before the November mid-term elections. And, despite rumors that the Democrat majority in Congress could use a lame duck session of Congress to move through immigration reform, there is little hope of that happening. So, what’s the new timetable? There isn’t one; the schedule for reform all depends on the make-up of the next Congress.

For his part, though, President Obama continues to make clear that he supports immigration reform but that reform cannot happen without bipartisan support. And, although he has set no particular new timetable, he is trying to continue the momentum, create political courage, as well as set the stage for success come January 2011.

In a July speech at American University in Washington, President Obama appealed to both parties in Congress to come together to fix a broken immigration system. But the president acknowledged, as he had done repeatedly in the past, that reform cannot pass without Republican votes. “That,” he said, “is the political and mathematical reality.” And, Republicans are not likely to come onboard until the borders are secured and our enforcement policy is improved. So, are the administration’s record enforcement activities all politics? Will these improvements persuade Republicans to support comprehensive immigration reform? Will this be enough to get 60 votes in the Senate and 218 in the House for comprehensive reform in the 112th Congress? Until such time, can anything be done? Yes, lots.

While we wait to see how the politics of immigration reform play out, much can be done to address many pressing problems. The government (USCIS) has the authority to fix a number of procedural and legal interpretations that serve to restrict immigration benefits — benefits that are provided for in current law. In fact, a now much-publicized policy memorandum from top-level USCIS staff details a number of far-reaching administrative fixes that USCIS could take to alleviate immigration pressures on certain individuals, promote family unity, and foster economic growth in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform. Ideas include amending the unlawful-presence policy for adjustment of status applicants, expanding the doctrine of “dual intent” to additional nonimmigrant visa holders, and expanding the availability of premium processing to more types of visa processing. We applaud such out-of-the-box thinking and encourage USCIS to act.

Nevertheless, comprehensive, sensible immigration overhaul will not be possible without new law, and new law will not be possible without real leadership from the White House as well as members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. In the meantime, the country continues to overheat from tremendously frustrating gridlock.

Dilip Patel of Dilip Patel Law Firm (Business and Immigration Attorneys) is board certified in immigration and nationality law. He can be reached at (813) 855-0066, e-mail dpatel@dplawfirm.com or visit www.dplawfirm.com

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