President Obama is Preparing to Give Millions of Immigrants Relief - Are You Prepared?

Posted by on Saturday, November 15, 2014

Immigration Reforms We don’t know the exact nature of Pres. Obama’s likely Executive Order that will give relief to many immigrants in the U.S.  However we know it will probably benefit millions of people.

The Executive Order will Probably Be Like DACA

There is a very good chance that the new Executive Order will be similar to the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) which benefited young immigrants. Under DACA, many young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US under age 16  qualified for legal protection from deportation and were given work permits for two years. About 500,00 young people have applied for and received DACA across the U.S. 

Categories of People Who Will Probably Benefit

It’s possible, in theory, for the president to give legal status to the roughly 11,000,000 undocumented immigrants currently in the US. However, nearly everyone agrees that would be too sweeping a change. It’s also conceivable that President Obama could provide relief for up to 8 million undocumented immigrants who would have had eligibility for benefits under the Senate bill that was passed in 2013. But this bill never became law because it wasn’t passed by the House of Representatives.

Overall, it’s most likely that between 3,000,000 to 6,000,000 immigrants would be positively impacted by Pres. Obama’s upcoming order. Who might fall into the groups that will benefit?

Here Are Some of the Categories of Immigrants Who Could Be Affected:

Undocumented immigrants with US citizen children. Estimates show that there are about 3.8 million undocumented immigrants who have US citizen children. Under current law, a child needs to be at least 21 to petition for his or her parents. In addition, there are complex rules that prohibit a parent from becoming a permanent resident. The president could change the rules to prevent families with US children from being broken apart.

Undocumented Immigrants Married to US Citizens or Permanent Residents.  There are about 1.5 million immigrants who are married to spouses who are either U.S. citizens or have green cards. Obama could include this group of people as well and point out the benefits that come from not breaking up families who are well established already in the U.S.

More Details About Traveling with a New Passport

Posted by on Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We have previously confirmed that  – if you currently have a valid visa in your original passport – you do not need to get a new visa simply because you got a new passport.  The good news is that you should keep your old passport with the valid visa and and present it along with your new passport when you enter into the United States. Of course, since nearly everything is complicated about immigration law, here are some additional key things to keep in mind if you're traveling with both your old and new passport:

  • Make sure your visa is the correct type for the purpose of your visit to the US (for example, you cannot use a visitor visa to conduct business in the United States).

  • Confirm that your original visa is not damaged, is legible, has not expired, and will not expire soon.  A CBP officer may not allow you into the country if your visa will expire within a few weeks or so.

  •  When you are inspected at the United States port of entry, and if you are admitted, your new passport will be stamped and the following special code will be added: "VIOPP" (visa in other passport).

  • Keep in mind that it is a bad idea to try to take out your visa from your original passport and add it to your new passport. Attempting this will invalidate your visa.

  • Finally, both your new passport and your old passport must be from the same country and must be the same type of passport (for example, you cannot have a diplomatic passport and a regular passport and hope that a CBP officer will accept this.)

Can I Keep Using My Visitor Visa to the U.S. After I Get a New Passport?

Posted by on Tuesday, February 11, 2014

If you took all the time-consuming steps to receive a B-2 visitor visa to the United States, you certainly want to be able to keep using that visa even if you need to replace your passport.

For example, if your passport expired - but your visitor visa has not - what do you need to do to travel to the U.S.? Is it necessary to apply with the U.S. consulate all over again and get a new visa placed in your new passport? Thankfully, the good news is that you can continue to use your original visa together with your new passport. How do you do this?

After you receive your new passport - because the old one expired or because your name changed, for example - you can simply present both your old passport (which contains your valid visa) along with your new passport to US customs officers when seeking entrance to the U.S.

For example here's what the US Embassy in Honduras recommends you do:

What should I do if my visa is still valid but my passport is not?

You may travel with a valid passport and a valid, unexpired visa in an expired passport. You can staple or clip the two passports together. If you want, you may also apply for a new visa with your new, but you must go through the regular visa application procedure.

Therefore, take heart: by clipping the two passports together, you'll be able to continue traveling on your valid visa even if it's contained in your original expired passport. (Of course, keep in mind that a valid visa is no guarantee that you'll actually be admitted to the U.S. You still need to satisfy a CBP officer that you don't have immigrant intent and that there are no other reasons you are "inadmissible.")

How Do I Renew DACA?

Posted by on Thursday, February 06, 2014

You Have Been Granted DACA Now How Do You Renew It?

USCIS has proposed some new DACA application instructions. Based upon what we've seen so far, we can make an educated guess at the likely process for renewing DACA. However, we need to make sure to follow their official guidance as soon as they issue it. In the meantime, here's what we think will happen:

When should a DACA recipient apply for renewal?

If you have DACA already, you can apply to renew it starting 120 days before your current DACA and employment authorization (EAD) card expire. To confirm the date when you can apply, count backwards from the expiration date on your EAD card. Keep in mind, however, that USCIS has not started accepting renewal applications yet.

How do I know if I'm still eligible for DACA?

You must not have left the US on or after August 15, 2002 unless you were first granted advance parole in. You also must have resided continuously here in the US from the time you submitted the initial DACA request up to the present time.

What forms do I need to submit and how much will it cost?

You may get a bit of déjà vu because you will need to fill out the same form I-921D and form I-765 application for employment authorization along with the I-765WS Worksheet.

 Sadly the government is asking you to come up with another $465. This includes an $85 fee for fingerprints ("biometrics") and the $380 application fee for work authorization with the I-765 form.

Updated 06 Feb 2014.

 

The Full Text of Republicans' Principles on Immigration Reform

Posted by on Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives released their "Principles on Immigration" in late January, 2014. Although there are significant differences between the bill the Senate passed in 2013, there is quite a bit of optimism since there is still a lot of shared common ground. Here is the full text below:


Standards for Immigration Reform

PREAMBLE

Our nation’s immigration system is broken and our laws are not being enforced.Washington’s failure to fix them is hurting our economy and jeopardizing our national security. The overriding purpose of our immigration system is to promote and further America’s national interests and that is not the case today.The serious problems in our immigration system must be solved, and we are committed to working in a bipartisan manner to solve them. But they cannot be solved with a single, massive piece of legislation that few have read and even fewer understand, and therefore, we will not go to a conference with the Senate’s immigration bill. The problems in our immigration system must be solved through a step-by-step, common-sense approach that starts with securing our country’s borders, enforcing our laws, and implementing robust enforcement measures. These are the principles guiding us in that effort.

Border Security and Interior Enforcement Must Come First

It is the fundamental duty of any government to secure its borders, and the United States is failing in this mission. We must secure our borders now and verify that they are secure. In addition, we must ensure now that when immigration reform is enacted, there will be a zero tolerance policy for those who cross the border illegally or overstay their visas in the future. Faced with a consistent pattern of administrations of both parties only selectively enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, we must enact reform that ensures that a President cannot unilaterally stop immigration enforcement.

Implement Entry-Exit Visa Tracking System

A fully functioning Entry-Exit system has been mandated by eight separate statutes over the last 17 years. At least three of these laws call for this system to be biometric, using technology to verify identity and prevent fraud. We must implement this system so we can identify and track down visitors who abuse our laws.

Employment Verification and Workplace Enforcement

In the 21st century it is unacceptable that the majority of employees have their work eligibility verified through a paper based system wrought with fraud. It is past time for this country to fully implement a workable electronic employment verification system.

Reforms to the Legal Immigration System

For far too long, the United States has emphasized extended family members and pure luck over employment-based immigration. This is inconsistent with nearly every other developed country. Every year thousands of foreign nationals pursue degrees at America’s colleges and universities, particularly in high skilled fields. Many of them want to use their expertise in U.S. industries that will spur economic growth and create jobs for Americans. When visas aren’t available, we end up exporting this labor and ingenuity to other countries. Visa and green card allocations need to reflect the needs of employers and the desire for these exceptional individuals to help grow our economy.

The goal of any temporary worker program should be to address the economic needs of the country and to strengthen our national security by allowing for realistic, enforceable, usable, legal paths for entry into the United States. Of particular concern are the needs of the agricultural industry, among others. It is imperative that these temporary workers are able to meet the economic needs of the country and do not displace or disadvantage American workers.

Youth

One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home. For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degree, we will do just that.

Individuals Living Outside the Rule of Law

Our national and economic security depend on requiring people who are living and working here illegally to come forward and get right with the law. There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws – that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).Criminal aliens, gang members, and sex offenders and those who do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible for this program. Finally, none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced.


Do You Qualify for a U Visa or T Visa?

Posted by on Monday, October 07, 2013

Volunteering to Help Victims of Crime

Yesterday I joined a number of other attorneys from the Oregon AILA chapter to help potential victims of crime. Volunteering for a good cause is always gratifying and we have a superb group of dedicated, friendly immigration lawyers here in Portland.

Although we were glad to be able to help determine the eligibility of many people for U or T visas, it's always sad to see the large number of people who suffer so much at the hands of others. Undocumented individuals are more at risk of being abused by those who take advantage of their reluctance to not report their bad treatment to the police.

You May Qualify for a U Visa

The good news though is that individuals who have suffered serious physical or mental abuse as the result of a crime may be eligible for a U visa. You need to have information about the crime and be helpful to law enforcement as they prosecute or investigate the crime. The type of crimes that qualify include domestic violence, extortion, kidnapping, sexual assault and more.

Victims of Human Trafficking Can Get Help from a T Visa

If you are a victim of human trafficking (either because you were forced to provide sexual services or labor) you may be eligible for a T visa. Depending on your unique situation, you may want to pursue a U visa rather than a T visa (many people who are trafficked are eligible for both). To receive a T visa, you also would need to provide assistance to law enforcement and show you would suffer extreme hardship if you were removed from the U.S.

Survivors Who Suffered Abuse Should Investigate Their Options

For those who have suffered such horrible treatment, either a U visa or T visa can provide many people needed relief and a radically positive change in their lives. The volunteer immigration attorneys here in Portland just yesterday saw many individuals who had the courage to step forward. Quite a few did qualify for relief. 

There are many requirements for a U or T visa - more than the brief overview listed above - so we recommend you speak with an immigration attorney to confirm whether you qualify.

I Was Convicted of Shoplifting - Can I Still Become a U.S. Citizen?

Posted by on Thursday, July 18, 2013

You made a mistake and got in trouble for shoplifting. Now you're wondering if you can still naturalize and become a U.S. citizen. 

One of the requirements for naturalization is that you can show good moral character. Unfortunately, committing a crime like shoplifting can bar you from showing this good moral character. Overall, the type of offense committed makes a big difference in determining if you can naturalize - as does the amount of time that has passed since the conviction or offense.

Among other things, it's key to check whether your crime falls under the "petty offense exception." Very basically, this exception applies if a person is convicted of only one crime involving moral turpitude (like shoplifting), where the maximum sentence possible doesn't exceed one year and where this person is not sentenced more than 6 months (even if the sentence was suspended).

So the good news is that if you do qualify for the petty offense exception then you are not necessarily barred from showing good moral character and this (by itself) won't keep you from becoming a U.S. citizen. However, green card holders need to be very careful when they have any criminal convictions and want to apply to become U.S. citizens. There are many tricky considerations to navigate and the rules are complex.

Keep in mind that the facts of your own unique case will determine if you can and should apply for naturalization. Definitely consult with an immigration lawyer before you move ahead. But, overall, it's still a good thing that you may be able to become a U.S. citizen (either soon or after waiting a few years) despite the shoplifting.

- Updated 5/2/13 -

I'm a U.S. Citizen - Will My Child Born Outside the U.S. Become a U.S. Citizen Too?

Posted by on Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I suspect you'd be disappointed if the answer to this question was clear-cut and easy. Like so much in immigration law, the answer "depends."  Here are some basic guidelines for this question - but keep in mind that this is only a starting point.

What's good is that since the passage of Child Citizenship Act (CCA) in 2000, the rules have actually been simplified. The current rule is that if your child was born abroad to at least one U.S. citizen parent, she will automatically receive U.S. citizenship when all of the following requirements are met:

  • Your child is under 18 years old;
  • Your child is either admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident or receives this status through the process of "adjustment of status";
  • Your child is permanently residing in the U.S. with you, the U.S. citizen.

However, if you and your child reside outside the U.S., then your child will not automatically receive citizenship. You will have to formally submit an application for naturalization for your child and also meet other requirements. In particular:

  • The U.S. citizen parent must have lived within the U.S. for at least five years (this can be cumulative - broken up by trips abroad - and doesn't have to be a continuous five years);
  • The U.S. citizen parent must have lived at least two of those five years in the U.S. before the U.S. citizen parent's fourteenth birthday;
  • Your child must be under the age of 18;
  • Your child will need to be in the U.S. to complete the naturalizatio process and recite the oath of allegiance (unless the child is very young, and then the oath can be waived). 

Overall, these rules have changed frequently and note that the law at the time of your child's birth will be what applies to her regarding citizenship. So be sure to research what the current rules are or consult with an attorney whenever your child is born. 

I have J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa. Can I stay in the US as a Student?

Posted by on Friday, June 14, 2013

Many people who come into the U.S. on the Exchange Visitor Program have a great experience and decide they'd like to pursue further opportunities here. 

In fact, if you've built great friendships and see additional excellent educational and work options available in the USA, you are wise to confirm what your options are.

Yes I'd Like to Foster Global Understanding but That Doesn't Mean I Have to Leave, Right?

If you're already here on a J-1 visa, you know that the purpose of the program is to "foster global understanding through educational and cultural exchanges."

You also probably know that after the standard period of time is up, you're expected to head back home to share the exciting things you've learned and thus spread some positive goodwill about how wonderful the U.S. is.  

But if you're convinced that staying in the U.S. as a student is a great choice for you, you understandably want to know what to do.

If You're Going to Stay Longer You Need to Carefully Monitor the Dates

Keep in mind that you need to carefully monitor the dates you're authorized to stay in the U.S.  You may not stay beyond the time listed on your Form DS-2019 - plus a period of 30 days to give some time to do a bit of domestic travel and get ready to leave.

Most importantly, look closely at the white I-94 card that is typically stapled in your passport. (Note: in the near future, these will become electronic records and you won't have a white card.

But one way or the other be aware you need to be very aware of this important deadline!) The U.S. government is very strict about making sure visitors actually depart on the departure date listed on the I-94.

If you don't leave when you're supposed to - and you haven't extended or changed your status as we describe below - then some undesirable things will happen: you will be "out of status," your visa could be voided, and you probably will find it difficult to apply for another visa in the future.

Many J-1 Visa Holders Have to Return Home for Two Years

The U.S. government set up this exchange program with the requirement that most participants return to their home country for two years after the program is finished. If this applies to you (look on your J-1 visa and also at the "Exchange Visitor Skills list" amongst other places) then you will need to seek a waiver. 

This waiver is difficult to secure and - among other things - you must show "exceptional hardship" and persecution for certain reasons if you returned home.

If You Aren't Subject to the Two-Year Home Residency Requirement, You Can Apply to Be a Student

After confirming it isn't mandatory for you to return home, you can move ahead with securing an F-1 visa. Here are some key steps to take:

  • Apply for a full-time program that is definitely certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)
  • Receive an I-20 form from the school or university.
  • Change to F-1 status either by applying for and receiving an F-1 entry visa from a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. and or through changing your status with the USCIS. This first option requires filling out Form DS-160 online and the second option requires filing I-539 with USCIS.

You May Have Some Great Options Awaiting You at a Stellar U.S. University

Overall, there's a good chance you may be able to stay in the U.S. after your J-1 stay is up as long as you meet the government's criteria and carefully follow the rules. 

The steps are complex and keep in mind that the explanation above has been greatly simplified and doesn't account for any of your unique circumstances. 


For an Immigrant, What Is the Impact of Committing a Crime?

Posted by on Monday, June 03, 2013

If you're an immigrant to the U.S., you know that the legal rules affecting you make your life complex.  This is especially true if you've ever committed a crime.

Quite often, the immigration consequences of committing a crime are much worse for a green card holder or non-immigrant visa holder than the related sentence or penalty. Immigrants in many ways have many more pitfalls to avoid than U.S. citizens who may have done exactly the same thing. But the non-citizens have to watch out for offenses deemed to be "crimes involving moral turpitude" or "aggravated felonies" which have dire consequences for immigrants.

Therefore, it's very important for a lawyer defending a non-citizen to make sure to pursue options that avoid deportation or grounds of inadmissibility. In fact, the U.S. Supreme court recently required all defense lawyers, in 2010, to give their immigrant clients advice on the consequences of pleading guilty or no contest to a crime.

The complexities continue: even if your record was "expunged" in state court, your record is not wiped clean in the eyes of the federal government for immigration purposes. Further, the federal government defines "conviction" differently and broadly so, for example, a suspended sentence or probation can be deemed a conviction affecting your immigration status.

 In addition, an immigration lawyer should closely examine the following issues if her lawful permanent resident client has been convicted of a crime:

  • Does the conviction affect an immigrant's ability to travel? (For example, you don't want to be subject to mandatory detention when trying to come back in to the U.S.)
  • Does the conviction cause the immigrant to be removable (deportable)?
  • How might a conviction impact the immigrant's ability to become a citizen?

Overall, the intersection of criminal and immigration law is extremely complex. The stakes are high so make sure to find qualified help to give you the advice you need.