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Category Archives: Immigration News

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.

 

 

 

 

Removal Cases: What is Prosecutorial Discretion and Am I Eligible for this Benefit?

At my law office, I have been receiving many calls from individuals in deportation / removal proceedings asking whether a new law has been passed that helps them avoid removal from the U.S.  There has been a change, but it is not a new law per se.  Basically, the Obama administration has issued a policy change in how they will treat OPEN deportation and removal cases by setting “low priority” and “high priority” case standards. Those individuals with what are considered low priority cases are eligible for prosecutorial discretion, which means that the Immigration Court can “administratively close” or even terminate removal proceedings.

The new policy change is that John Morton, Director of ICE, has explained the benefit called Prosecutorial Discretion and has even created a system whereby an immigration lawyer can file a prosecutorial discretion request on behalf of their clients.  The request is usually made to the Chief Supervising Attorney at the Office of the Chief Counsel.

I have filed many requests for prosecutorial discretion on behalf of my clients, and I have received calls directly from the Chief Supervising Attorney about some of those pending applications.  I mainly look for the following factors when choosing whether an individual is a good candidate for prosecutorial discretion:

  • Length of time in the U.S.
  • Any family in the U.S. especially immediate relatives
  • Any health conditions for the applicant or his / her U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relatives
  • Completing an education in the U.S.
  • Entering the U.S. at a young age
  • Lack of a criminal history as well as other factors detailed in a Memo issued by John Morton OR
  • Any other “humanitarian” type of factors

It is important to note that you do not need all of the above points to qualify for prosecutorial discretion.  I look for one or more of the above factors, and I organize our request in a way that maximizes our chances of success by attaching legal arguments and documentation.

The reason for this policy change is that there are more removal cases than the current immigration court system can handle. In other words, Obama wants to focus on criminal aliens more than the aliens that have no criminal record and the aliens that have a possible means to obtain immigration relief.

We have noticed an increase in the cooperation of the trial attorneys for cases where the individual has no criminal history, and we are thankful for this new policy change.  For individuals who already have a Final order of removal, we have been successful in filing a prosecutorial discretion request asking the Office of Chief Counsel to Join our Motion to Reopen based on other grounds, and they can cite this policy change as a reason for the Judge or the BIA to have mercy on them and grant their request.

The above policy is in line with the thoughts reiterated by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has stated that the work raids where hundreds are arrested will stop, and focus of immigration officials will turn to prosecuting and removing criminal aliens.

News regarding U.S. Embassy in Chennai, India

Nationals of Brazil and China are recipients of a new policy enacted by the State Department that they are now welcome to visit the U.S. The State Department has enacted this new policy because it has realized that more visitors from China and Brazil mean more American jobs.

In Brazil, consular officers have issued 59 % more visitor visas this year than they did last year. This means that 555,000 visitor visas were issued during a period of time in the year of 2012, while only 350,000 visas were issued last year during the same period of time in Brazil. New Consulates were also opened in Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre.

In China, the consular officers have issued 46 % more visitor visas than they did last year for the same amount of time. The State Department is now also considering adding Visa services in Wuhan, China.

In addition, the wait times for the application processed have also been drastically reduced. In Brazil, the wait times have been reduced to less than two weeks for their visa appointments. In China, the wait times have been reduced to five days (yes, 5 days) for an appointment at the U.S. Consulates in China.

The above is great news for Americans, since these tourists have money to spend at our local businesses, shops, restaurants, etc. We welcome this new policy.

Great News for Syrian Nationals: TPS Designation soon available

USCIS has recently issued a notice that Syrian nationals will soon be eligible for TPS, which is an 18-month status that allows beneficiaries to receive employment authorization. TPS is short for “Temporary Protected Status” and is available for certain countries where there is national disaster or country conditions, etc.

The registration period has not yet opened, so we need to check www.uscis.gov for updates to determine when Syrian nationals can actually file for this relief.

New Filing Location for Appealing a Naturalization Denial

Until recently, if an applicant’s naturalization petition was denied, he or she would be instructed to file the appeal with the USCIS office that made the Decision. Now, however, it appears that appeals of naturalization denials need to be filed with the USCIS lockbox in Phoenix, Arizona.

The USCIS denial letter should also contain an instruction as to where to file the appeal. All applicants only have thirty days to file the appeal, and so it becomes extremely important to file the appeal with the correct USCIS office in order to avoid missing the deadline.

Syrian Nationals can Now File for TPS

The USCIS has released a notice that Syrian nationals may now apply for TPS starting on March 29, 2012 until the deadline of September 25, 2012. The notice initially stated that the deadline is September 30, 2013, but this is incorrect. USCIS has released a new notice that clarifies that the deadline is in September of 2012. It is a good idea to file sooner than later, given the confusion over the correct deadline.

Individuals who habitually resided in Syria and are without nationality are also eligible for TPS. All applicants must present proof of residence here in the U.S. on March 29, 2012. Applicants with a criminal record may not be eligible for TPS, so individuals who have a criminal record and wish to apply for TPS should seek legal counsel before filing for TPS.

Examples of other countries eligible for TPS include El Salvador, Sudan and South Sudan, Somalia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti.

Estimates of the Number of Illegal Immigrants in the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has, through the Office of Immigration Statistics, issued its estimate of how many illegal immigrants are residing in the U.S. The report indicates that there are approximately 11.5 illegal immigrants residing in the U.S. during in January of 2011. The Report further estimates that more than half of these illegal immigrants entered the U.S. during the years of 1995 and 2004, and that since 2007, it is unlikely that the illegal U.S. population has significantly increased.

The Report indicates that since 2007, there is no real significant increase in the number of illegal immigrants due to the U.S. suffering from high unemployment and due to the economy in Mexico improving. The Report indicates that despite the greater levels of border enforcement, fewer apprehensions are taking place. The Report attributes the lower number of apprehensions at the U.S. border being due to lower demand for Mexican nationals to enter the U.S. for employment reasons.

The number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. has not always remained the same. In 1980, the number of illegal immigrants doubled from 2 million to 4 million in the U.S. This number jumped to over 8 million by the year of 2000. The numbers indicated above reflect an approximation of illegal immigrants, and not immigrants that have authorization to remain in the U.S.

I-601 Provisional Waiver Not Yet Available

Earlier this year, USCIS announced good news that it will allow certain applicants to file their I-601 waiver here in the U.S. and to therefore receive their decision, before they depart the U.S. A Form I-601 is a waiver needed by certain applicants that must be approved before he or she can receive a green card. The Form I-601 is needed in cases where there has been unlawful presence or illegal entry into the U.S., and therefore there is an unlawful presence bar against the applicant that needs to be waived.

Previously, applicants would need to depart from the U.S. and file the I-601 waiver request with a U.S. Embassy that has jurisdiction over their case. The problem of course is that the applicant has departed the U.S. and if the waiver is denied, he or she will be denied entry back into the U.S. Further, even if the I-601 is granted, the applicant has now been separated from his U.S. citizen relative(s) for a long period of time.

The USCIS has indicated that it will allow applicants to apply for the I-601 waiver here in the U.S. rather than requiring them to file the I-601 through an interview overseas with the U.S. Embassy that has jurisdiction over the case.

The USCIS has indicated that it will publish its rule and place into effect the provisional waiver program in the “…coming months.” The provisional waiver is NOT yet available, and so USCIS has announced a news release that lets the public know to be careful and not hire immigration consultants that claim this waiver has been placed into effect.

In order for the waiver to be approved, the applicant must show through much documentation that the U.S. relative will suffer extreme and unusual hardship. This waiver is available for spouses, children, or parents of a U.S. citizen.

U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria is suspending Operations

While I have been expecting this news for some time now, the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria has officially announced that it will be suspending its operations as of February 06, 2012. The announcement also indicates that all U.S. personnel have already left Syria.

The reason is, of course, the escalating violence now in Syria. The announcement indicates that the U.S. Embassy personnel reached out to the Syrian government regarding their concerns for their safety, and that according to the announcement the Syrian government did not “respond adequately.”

With the cases that I am handling for Syrian nationals, many of these cases are now being transferred to the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan for processing.

TPS has been extended for Salvadorans

USCIS has recently announced that Temporary Protected Status (TPS) has been extended for nationals of El Salvador. The extended period is from March 10, 2012 until Sept. 09, 2013, which is an 18 month extension of time.

Current nationals of El Salvador that have TPS have only a 60 day window within which to extend their status. The deadline is through March 12, 2012. USCIS is NOW accepting applications, so please file as soon as possible if this applies to you. TPS applicants will also receive employment authorization as well that will be valid until September 09, 2013.

To re-register, applicants must file form I-821 and I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Both forms must be filed together. People who are extending their status do not need to repay the filing fees for the I-821 form, but they must submit the biometrics fee or fee waiver form if they are over 14 years of age. They also must pay the employment authorization filing fee or a fee waiver form if they are eligible for that fee waiver. The fee waiver form is Form I-912.

All of these forms can be downloaded at www.uscis.gov.