The efforts of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) helped lead to the successful sentencing of a San Gabriel immigration consulting business and one of his employees for participating in a long-running scheme to prepare and file fraudulent asylum applications that made phony claims of religious persecution on behalf of hundreds of Chinese nationals. Haoren Ma, 50, of San Gabriel, the owner of New Arrival Immigration Service, was sentenced April 28 to 4½ years in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy, immigration document fraud and aggravated identity theft. Ma’s employee, Minghan Dong, 49, of San Gabriel, was sentenced on Monday, May 5 to one year and one day in prison for conspiracy to commit immigration document fraud.

USCIS learned about activity in January 2009 when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers intercepted a package containing a stuffed animal that contained five fraudulent Chinese passports. The package was being shipped to an address used as a mail drop by New Arrival Immigration Service. This package tipped the USCIS Los Angeles Asylum Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to further investigate filings by the New Arrival Immigration Service. Officers from the L.A. Asylum Office worked with HSI agents to bring the case to prosecution.

Many of the asylum applications prepared by the defendants contained nearly identical accounts of purported persecution, including descriptions of underground church meetings that led to arrests and torture by Chinese authorities. As part of the scheme, Ma and Dong provided their clients with detailed written materials and audio tapes on Christianity to help them prepare for their asylum interviews.

“We are very pleased with this outcome,” said David Radel, Acting L.A. Asylum Office Director with USCIS. “It is an excellent example of federal agencies working together to combat fraud and maintain the integrity of our immigration system. USCIS is committed to identifying those who may have illegally obtained asylum through this fraudulent scheme and providing this information to our investigative colleagues.”

Haoren Ma operated an immigration business, but was neither an attorney nor an accredited representative. USCIS encourages people who need help filing an application for immigration benefits to seek assistance from the right place and from people who are authorized to help. For ideas on how to find legal services and avoid scams, go to www.uscis.gov/legaladvice.

Thanks to USCIS efforts, HSI investigators linked the defendants to more than 800 asylum applications filed since 2000, making it one of the largest asylum fraud cases uncovered in the Los Angeles area in recent years.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is highly experienced in working with employment-based visas, adjustment of status, green cards, and PERM labor certification. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

A year ago, the Department of Homeland Security published a Notice of Proposed Rule which, if implemented, would have made some spouses of H-1B visa holders eligible to work in the United States. The proposal at that time would have extended employment authorization only to those H-4 visa holders whose H-1B spouse had obtained an extension beyond the six-year limit under either 104(c) or 106(a) of AC-21. No action has been taken on that proposed rule since March 2013. However, a new announcement from the Department of Homeland Security, which followed an earlier White House statement promoting President Obama’s commitment to entrepreneurs, indicates that a new Notice of Proposed Rule will be forthcoming. The importance of this new proposal lies in the details. According to the DHS statement, this proposal would extend employment authorization to even more H-4 visa holders. The new provision allows an H-4 spouse of an H-1B holder with an approved I-140 petition to also obtain an EAD. This is huge! This version of the rule would mean that an H-4 holder does not need to wait until the H-1B holder has exhausted the six year limit to be eligible. As soon as the H-1B holder has an approved I-140, the H-4 holder becomes eligible for employment authorization, even if the H-1B holder has only spent one year in H-1B status.

Our office has previously set forth several reasons why starting the green card process early is critical. First, in most cases the H-1B six year limit cannot be exceeded unless a Labor Certification has been filed before the end of the fifth year. Second, it is helpful to allow enough time for both the Labor Certification and I-140 Immigrant Petition to be approved before the six year limit is reached. This will allow the H-1B to be extended for an additional three years instead of only one year. Third, denials happen. If the process is started early enough, a denial will not be fatal. Whereas, a denial when the six-year limit is near can mean that the H-1B cannot be extended and leaving the country may be the only option. Now there is an even better reason to begin: if this proposal is implemented, those with an approved I-140 will have spouses who can work!

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Our experienced team of immigration lawyers in Houston & Dallas advises clients throughout the H-1B visa application process, including responding to various requests for evidence and consular processing issues. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), released 'SEVIS by the Numbers', a quarterly report of international students studying in the United States, Wednesday. The report is based on data from the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a Web-based system that includes information on international students, exchange visitors and their dependents while they are in the United States.

As of April 1, almost 1.02 million international students were enrolled in nearly 9,000 U.S. schools using an F (academic) or M (vocational) visa. This marks a two percent increase from January. Seventy-five percent of all international students were from Asia, with 29 percent from China. Saudi Arabia and India had the greatest percentage increase of students studying in the United States at 10 and eight percent, respectively, when compared to January statistics. The top 10 countries of citizenship for international students included: China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Mexico and Brazil.

The April report also included key insight into which international students pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) coursework. Sixty-seven percent of international students studying STEM fields were male. Forty-three percent of all international STEM students studied engineering. Seventy-eight percent of international students from India studied STEM fields, while only eight percent of international students from Japan studied STEM fields.

Other key points from the report include: 77 percent of SEVP-certified schools had between zero and 50 international students; 72 percent of international students were enrolled in bachelor's, master's or doctoral programs; and California, New York and Florida had the most SEVP-certified schools. A school must be SEVP-certified before it can enroll international students.

The full report can be viewed here. Report data was extracted from SEVIS April 1. It provides a point in time snapshot of data related to international students studying in the United States. Data for the previous "SEVIS by the Numbers" was extracted from SEVIS Jan. 15.

SEVP monitors approximately one million international students pursuing academic or vocational studies (F and M visa holders) in the United States and their dependents. It also certifies schools and programs that enroll these students. The U.S. Department of State monitors exchange visitors (J visa holders) and their dependents, and oversees exchange visitor programs.

Both agencies use SEVIS to protect national security by ensuring that students, visitors and schools comply with U.S. laws. SEVP also collects and shares SEVIS information with government partners, including CBP and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, so only legitimate international students and exchange visitors gain entry into the United States.

HSI reviews potential SEVIS records for potential violations and refers cases with potential national security or public safety concerns to its field offices for further investigation. Additionally, SEVP's Analysis and Operations Center reviews student and school records for administrative compliance with federal regulations related to studying in the United States.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is highly experienced in working with employment-based visas, adjustment of status, green cards, and PERM labor certification. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has increased the functionality of the I-94 website by adding non-immigrant visitors’ five-year travel history. The electronic availability of the travel history may eliminate the need for a non-immigrant visitor to file a Freedom of Information Act request for the information. Non-immigrant visitors have been able to access their most recent I-94 arrival/departure record number on the website since April 2013.

“CBP has seen a steady growth in trade and travel in recent years – including a nearly 9 percent increase in non-immigrant arrivals since 2011,” said Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. “We continue to work to manage these growing volumes by automating processes, going paperless, and employing mobile technology to maximize our resources and ease processing times for the traveling public.”

CBP expanded the functionality of the I-94 website after positive public response to the automation of the I-94. The automated I-94 system has been used at air and sea ports of entry since April 2013.

Form I-94 provides non-immigrant visitors evidence they have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. which is necessary to verify alien registration, immigration status, and employment authorization. A non-immigrant traveler may need their travel history if they are trying to obtain benefits from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or another agency. Travelers can access their most recent I-94 and travel history at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.

 

Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is an immigration law firm in Houston, Texas. For over 15 years, our firm has successfully represented corporate clients across the United States in their efforts to bring foreign workers and business professionals to the United States. Reddy & Neumann, P.C. is highly experienced in working with employment-based visas, adjustment of status, green cards, and PERM labor certification. From filing, through approval, and on to appeal, we do everything possible to ensure that your company can bring the best and brightest in the world to the United States.