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Starting May 5, USCIS Will Only Accept the Current Edition of Form N- 400

Beginning Sunday, May 5, 2014 USCIS will only accept the revised version of the Application for Naturalization (Form N-400), dated September 13, 2013. The current edition of Form N-400 was introduced on February 4, 2014 with a 2D barcode to streamline electronic processing of naturalization applications. The 90-day transition period wherein previous versions of the form were accepted ends May 5.

Revisions Announced to USCIS Asylum Application Criteria

The USCIS revised its Credible Fear Lesson Plan, which trains its officers to determine the suitability of an asylum application. Most significantly, the Asylum Division of the USCIS has adjusted its interpretation of the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the significant possibility standard. Standards for reviewing CAT claims now include the classification of mental suffering as a form of torture. According to the USCIS's new criteria, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering to constitute torture.

Premium Processing for H-1B applications to begin April 28

The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would begin premium processing for H-1B petitions for the fiscal year 2015 on April 28, 2014. Petitioners subject to the H-1B regular cap (65,000 visas) can receive expedited processing service of no more than 15 calendar days. Applicants who qualify for the H1-B Master's exemption (20,000 visas) can also request premium processing. To use this service, petitioners must submit Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, and pay an additional processing fee of $1,225.

New Reciprocity Schedule for Kazakhstan

On March 21, 2014 the State Department announced revisions to the reciprocity schedule for citizens of Kazakhstan. The changes reduce the issuance fee for certain nonimmigrant visas (NIV) lasting 12 to 24 months. In accordance with the new reciprocity schedule,12-month H-1B, H-1C, H-2A, H-2B, H-2R, H-3, H-4, R-1, and R-2 visas no longer have an issuance fee. The State Department also removed the issuance fee from 24-month L-1 and L-2 visas.

South Carolina Cuts Back on Anti-Immigrant Law

South Carolina accepted a proposal authored by immigrant rights groups to impose strict limitations on Act 69, or S.B. 20, which allowed police officers to verify immigration status during a regular traffic stop. Previously, officers could force drivers to show their immigration papers if there was reasonable suspicion that they had entered the country illegally. Civil rights group argued that the loose wording of the law facilitated racial profiling.

State Department Changes Policy Toward Children Born Overseas Through Assisted Reproductive Technology

The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security will now treat children born abroad with the help of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) the same as other children born overseas. Previously, children needed to have a genetic connection to their mothers to access immigration benefits.

USCIS Transfers Certain Cases from Service Centers to National Benefits Center and Field Offices

USCIS has announced that certain cases currently being adjudicated at one of the Service Centers (Texas, Nebraska, Vermont, and California) will be transferred to the National Benefits Center or a local USCIS Field Office. These offices will be issuing Requests for Evidence (RFEs) when appropriate. The filing location for new petitions and applications has not changed. These changes are summarized in the following chart:

CBP Stops Stamping Forms I-20/DS-2019

As of Aug. 10, 2012, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) no longer provides admission stamps on Forms I-20/DS-2019 for prospective and returning international students and scholars (traveling with F, M, and J visas) seeking admission to the United States. This change makes CBP processes consistent with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's (USCIS) recent change to stop stamping Forms I-20/DS-2019.