Due to the year 2000 problem (Y2K) the State Department has asked the consulates not to issue any non-immigrant visas (so no tourist visas either during the first 2 days of the year 2000 and no immigrant visas (no green cards) for the first two weeks. So also the visa issuing process for green card winners will be slightly delayed that year.
In the last fiscal year (October 1998 to September 1999) the INS has deported a total of 176,990 persons from the US due to their illegal status. About one third of them has been deported due to committed crimes, the rest for other reasons. Another 1.5 million people has been captured at the US borders and returned to their home country more or less ‘voluntarily.' Another 72,000 persons inside the US left the country after having been asked to do so by the INS.
The extremely long waiting times for naturalization applications (for US citizenship) are to be shortened from 28 months to one year, according to the INS. However, many people are afraid that this will have a negative effect on the processing times for other visas and green cards. Already more than 1 million people are waiting for their green cards, with an average waiting time of 33 months (lottery winners, however, will have to wait no longer than one year).
The INS has a new phone number for inquiries of all kinds as well as notifications and address changes for pending green card and naturalization processes. The number 1-800-375-5283, however, can only be called from the US.
Don't worry about applying for US social welfare - even if you have to prove that you have enough money when applying for a green card, these rules no longer play a role once you have a green card. Many people are afraid to apply for the benefits, food stamps and money for medical services because they are afraid of being a person receiving income support and lose their green card. However, you will only lose your green card if you have been lying about your financial situation during the application process.