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New Developments in Naturalization Procedures

USCIS will soon announce that they will no longer require passport-style pictures with N-400 (naturalization) petitions. This is a big change, as the usual practice is that the passport style pictures must be submitted along with the N-400 petition. Also, applicants usually must sign their name on the passport style pictures during their interview.

USCIS has indicated that this change is due to N-400 petitions now being processed electronically. As a result, each applicant will have their photograph being captured during their biometrics appointment with the Application Support Center.

Another change is that applicants over the age of 75 will be scheduled for a biometrics appointments now, but they are still exempt from paying the $85.00 fingerprint fee.

Please continue to follow the requirements and procedures found on www.uscis.gov when filing your N-400 petition and continue to attach the passport style pictures until the above becomes effective. USCIS will update this change on their website in the near future.

The above does not constitute legal advice and also the above posting and reading of the above posting does not create an attorney / client relationship.

October 2016 Visa Bulletin for Family Sponsored Cases

The Visa Bulletin is a bulletin that has chart(s) with dates that the USCIS will accept the green card petitions listed for each category for family based immigration cases. The Visa Bulletin is issued by the U.S. Department of State and it is issued every month with updated information.

When reviewing the Visa Bulletin for Family based cases, you will see that there are two different charts currently being listed. The first chart is called “Final Action Dates,” and this is the original chart before President Obama added another more generous chart to the Visa Bulletin. The second chart called “Dates for Filing” has more generous dates, which means that applicants can file their petitions earlier than expected. Their green card petitions will not be finalized until their date is current according to the original chart, but the second chart provides them with an opportunity to file earlier and obtain benefits earlier, such as obtaining an employment authorization card, etc.

If the above is not confusing enough for non-lawyers, it is important to note that every month USCIS will determine if we are permitted to file under the second chart. For the month of October 2016, we ARE permitted to file under the second chart, called “dates for Filing” as noted above.

We have not been allowed to make use of the dates on the second chart for months now, and so the above is very good news for many applicants that can now file their green card application(s) sooner than expected.

An example of a case where this is helpful is a beneficiary in the U.S. on a valid student visa who is married to a green card holder. Instead of waiting approximately another year before she can file for her green card, we will now be permitted to file her adjustment of status petition in the month of October of 2016. Her priority date is before November 2015, and since she is in category 2A, she will soon be eligible to file for her green card.

It is important to note that I am not sure whether this will still be valid for November 2016, as a new Visa Bulletin will be issued by then and will have its own instructions. You can obtain the new information every month at www.uscis.gov/visabulletininfo.

For further information as to whether the above helps you or a family member, please call my office and schedule a consultation.

The above does not constitute legal advice and the above does not create an attorney / client relationship.

Asylum Interview Scheduling Time Frame for the State of Florida

One of the questions I receive most often from my clients is when will they be scheduled for their asylum interview. The asylum interview is a critical event in their application, as the asylum case cannot be approved without first having a successful interview with the USCIS asylum Officer assigned to their case.

Therefore it can be very helpful to know what date the USCIS asylum office in your jurisdiction is working on so that you can know when to expect your interview to be scheduled. The list of interview scheduling dates can be found at this link: www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum/affirmative-asylum-scheduling-bulletin. Please note that if this link does not work, the list can be found on the USCIS.gov website and is entitled Affirmative Asylum Scheduling Bulletin.

For the Florida applicants, our asylum office is headquartered in Miami, FL. The Miami asylum office was currently scheduling interviews in July 2016 for cases that were affirmatively filed in May 2013. This is a long wait, and therefore applicants should apply for an employment authorization card after 150 days of the initial filing of their application. With this employment authorization card, they can also apply for and receive a social security number and driver’s license.

The list noted above also includes other asylum offices located throughout the U.S., and so please check the list if you do not reside in Florida. Please note that asylum applications filed by children and those whose interview was rescheduled are not subjected to this lengthy waiting period noted above, according to USCIS.

As you may already be aware, asylum law has many complex rules and regulations, and therefore it is good advice to seek counsel when preparing and filing your asylum application.

This Article does Not constitute Legal Advice and does Not create an attorney / client relationship. You are advised to seek legal advice based on your own particular facts and documents.

Extension of TPS for Syrians has been Issued

TPS for nationals of Syria has been redesignated effective August 1, 2016. TPS stands for Temporary Protected Status, and approval of an applicant’s TPS petition will result in employment authorization issued for an 18-month period.

For individuals who already have TPS issued on their behalf and need to extend their TPS status, they must send in their extension paperwork during a 60 day period running from August 1, 2016 until September 30, 2016. Please note that your TPS extension petition must be RECEIVED and properly filed before or on September 30, 2016. USCIS’s Memo regarding this matter encourages applicants to file as soon as possible after August 1, 2016.

For those whose TPS is extended, their new legal status and employment card will be issued until March 31, 2018. They can also apply for and obtain a social security number by presenting their employment card and other identity documents to their local Social Security Administration Office.

If you are a national of Syria and do not currently have TPS, you may still qualify for this protected status. Nationals of Syria and those of unknown nationality who last resided in Syria habitually can still obtain TPS and you may call our office or call USCIS to see if you qualify for TPS. Please note that deadlines apply, and so I urge you to take care of this matter as soon as possible to avoid losing eligibility to apply as a first time applicant for TPS from Syria.

Please note that this Article does Not constitute Legal Advice and does Not create an attorney / client relationship. You are advised to seek legal advice based on your own particular facts and documents.

DACA is Still Available Despite the Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling

At my law office, I choose to always look for the light of hope in our country’s immigration laws. As you might be aware, the Honorable Supreme Court recently issued a ruling on June 23, 2016 that had consequences for several of Obama’s programs that he attempted to implement. Namely, the expansion of DACA to include parents of American citizens and lawful permanent residents, called DAPA, that Obama attempted to implement is still on hold and the injunction against the implementation of the program still stands.

Although DAPA is not implemented, the shining light is that at least applicants eligible for DACA can still apply and receive a 2 year employment card. The USCIS website indicates that DACA does not confer lawful status, but DACA does provide an employment card and thus eligibility to legally obtain a social security number and a driver’s license. DACA was initially implemented in 2012 and the Supreme Court’s ruling does not affect the eligibility of applicants to apply for DACA as first time applicants or to renew their benefits.

DACA is a program that offers benefits to individuals that entered the U.S. before they were 16 years old, were less than 31 years old as of June 15, 2012, have lived in the U.S. continuously since June 15, 2007 until now, had no legal immigration status on June 15, 2012, and are currently in school or have completed a GED or completed high school in the U.S. and have not been convicted of a serious criminal offense or have more than a certain amount of criminal convictions. If you have been arrested and want to seek DACA benefits, it would be a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to insure that you are eligible. Those individuals that are denied for DACA may be placed in removal proceedings or other serious consequences. There are other important eligibility requirements that can be found at www.uscis.gov.daca or you may call my law office to obtain legal advice on whether you qualify for DACA.

This Article does Not constitute Legal Advice and does Not create an attorney / client relationship. You are advised to seek legal advice based on your own particular facts and documents.

LA TIMES Reporting that Immigration Reform Is Still Possible

The LA Times Newspaper has recently reported on July 25, 2014 that a new immigration law is expected to pass by the end of the summer 2014. The immigration law being considered could help over 5 million of the estimated 11 million illegals residing in the US at this time. The newspaper article states that President Obama is going to make this immigration law take place via executive action.

From other news sources, it appears that the Republicans will likely oppose immigration reform, and so we will need to wait and see what eventually takes place. Immigration has been a hot topic in the news lately due to the influx of a large number of illegal children entering the US and needing immigration help.

We will keep our fingers crossed that immigration reform will take place, as millions of people are in need of immigration reform. Immigration reform also helps native born Americans, by ensuring that drivers on the road will have a license to drive (rather than driving without a license and therefore without insurance causing potential liability) and also hopefully have car insurance.

I will keep you updated as to any new immigration law reform that takes place, as I am carefully following any changes or updates in immigration law.

False I-9’s Can Constitute Claim to U.S. Citizenship and Bar Relief

A recent decision issued by the Board of immigration Appeals (BIA) finds that even if the Respondent does not speak English and does not complete the I-9 employment form herself, she will still be found to have made a false claim to US Citizenship. In this unpublished BIA decision, the Respondent claims that she did not make a claim to be a US citizen because she did not complete the I-9 employment form on her own and she did not understand the contents of the I-9 form. The I-9 form is also known as the Employment Verification Form, and it is used to show that a person is able to legally work in the U.S.

The BIA disagreed with the Respondent’s argument, stating that the Respondent made a false claim to US citizenship. The BIA relied on the facts that the Respondent accompanied the woman preparing the I-9 form on her behalf, the Respondent posed for the picture, she possessed the ID and used the false ID to work, and she also used the false name. The BIA held that these actions show that the Respondent was a willing participant and fully understood what was taking place.

The Respondent used the false name of Carmen Colon and claimed to be born in Puerto Rico. She had a U.S. Birth Certificate with the name of Carmen Colon. The Immigration Judge and the BIA, on appeal, both held that the Respondent’s actions show she made a false claim to US citizenship. Therefore the Respondent was found removable from the U.S. and her appeal was dismissed.

The Immigration Judge previously found that the Respondent, having made a false claim to US citizenship, “…is not eligible for most, if any, relief from removal from the United States.” The Respondent’s attorney attempted to file a claim for Asylum as a last resort, but the Immigration Judge did not grant that application, stating that if her claim was valid and sincere, she would have filed for asylum upon her entry into the U.S. and not seven (7) years later while she is in removal proceedings.

IMPORTANT Update Regarding Spouses of Green Card Holders

As of the upcoming date of August 2013, the category of spouses of lawful permanent residents will be CURRENT!  What this means is that there is no longer any waiting time period for spouses of green card holders to file for their green card.

Please note that there previously was a two to four year wait that spouses of green card holders had to wait before the spouse could file for the green card.  It is important to point out that the green card applications should be promptly and correctly filed in the month of August 2013, as the priority date could potentially fall backwards again as we have seen in the past.

If you are a spouse of a lawful permanent resident, please call my office and I will assist you in obtaining the green card based on your bona fide marriage to a green card holder.  Again, time is of the essence, so do not delay.  Also, you should Not file your green card application before August 1, 2013.  The above Great News applies to applicants from all countries, including China, India, Mexico, and Philippines.

This is great news in terms of the waiting period; however this change does not affect any requirement of maintaining status, etc.  Therefore, you should consult with an immigration lawyer to make sure this change applies favorably to you.

 

 

 

 

TPS HAS BEEN EXTENDED FOR SYRIANS

Syrian nationals are now able to file for TPS status whether it is to extend the applicant’s current TPS status or whether to file a new application for TPS as a Syrian national. If the applicant’s TPS status petition is approved, then USCIS will issue work authorization valid from October 1, 2013 until March 31, 2015. USCIS has issued guidelines for the different types of scenarios possible, as explained below:

1. Applicants that have TPS status: You must re-register during the time period from June 17, 2013 until August 15, 2013. This deadline is fast approaching, so please do Not delay in completing and mailing the application to USCIS, along with all the USCIS filing fees, etc.

2. Applicants that do Not currently have TPS status: You may apply for TPS from June 17, 2013 until December 16, 2013.

3. Applicant currently has TPS pending: Call USCIS ASAP to see whether you need to file anything to follow up or consult with a lawyer to check the status.

You should consult with an immigration lawyer to obtain further information on how to file for TPS and whether you are eligible, etc. Please also note that any criminal convictions in your past can affect your TPS application, so be sure to consult with an immigration lawyer first especially if you have any criminal convictions in your past.

No More I-94 Cards – CBP Has a New System

The I-94 card, known by those in the immigration field as your most important proof of last entry into the U.S., is no longer going to be issued for the majority of travelers entering the U.S. U.S. Customs and Border (CBP) officials have created a new online, automated system that will replace the I-94 card paper system. The new system is called the CBP Trusted Traveler Program, and it has been established to expedite entry for international travelers into the U.S. This program applies to all travelers entering the U.S. by air or sea.

The most important point to remember is that travelers Must still retain proof of their last date of travel into the U.S. Instead of an I-94 card, CBP will now place a stamp in the person’s passport. There will also be an electronic record made, and I strongly encourage everyone to log into www.cbp.gov/I94 to print out the electronic record made of their last entry into the U.S. For filings with USCIS, the stamp in the passport may be enough in some circumstances, but I still strongly encourage travelers to log into the www.cbp.gov website and obtain secondary proof as well. I am an immigration lawyer, after all! The paper print out may also be needed when applying for a driver’s license or social security number, etc.

A paper print out of the proof of entry is also important in case CBP’s electronic system is down and the record cannot be accessed by government officials when needed, etc. Therefore, it is wise to print out the proof of your last entry into the U.S. at your earliest convenience. Be sure to hold onto this proof just like you would keep your I-94 card safe and sound.

This new requirement does not affect individuals traveling into the U.S. via a land border, asylees, refugees or those being paroled into the U.S. These individuals will still get a traditional I-94 card.
For those especially careful, they can request a paper I-94 card from CBP at the port of entry, but the applicant must go to secondary inspection to obtain the paper I-94 card. The paper I-94 card will be the electronic print-out accessed at www.cbp.gov/I94.

Also, as a side note, it is the name on your passport (not the name on the applicant’s visa) that CBP will enter into the system. If there is a mistake in the record or you cannot access your record even though you entered the name on your passport, then contact CBP directly at deferred inspection or seek the assistance of an immigration lawyer so that you can obtain proof of your last entry into the U.S. and proof of your expiration date.