The 27th AILA (American Immigration Lawyer Association) California Chapter Conference was held between the 13th and 15th of November 2014 at San Jose, California. Attorney Yingei Zhou, Esq. was in attendance on behalf of our law firm. The conference concentrated on several trending topics such as status of comprehensive immigration reform, consular processing and updates with border posts in Mexico and Canada, driver’s licenses for undocumented workers, unaccompanied alien children (UAC), H-1B/L-1A/O-1/EB-1 adjudications, federal litigation, and advanced family immigration issues, as well as staple subjects like evidentiary issues in removal proceedings and PERM applications.

This article provides you several important updates from the conference addressed at the conference, especially the government open forums with AILA practitioners, USCIS representatives, CBP officers, and San Francisco Asylum officers.

In the following weeks, we will post more articles to address the trends on each specific visa applications and immigration proceedings discussed in the conference.

Continue reading

4097702175_2000b12d31_z

President Obama’s executive order is looming on the horizon, as part of an alleged 10 point plan the president plans to announce as early as Friday, November 21. According to a draft proposal released by a U.S. government agency, the plan may suspend removal proceedings for millions of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, as well as parents of U.S. Citizen children residing in the United States illegally, and parents of green card holders, by allowing them to benefit from a reprieve that will expand deferred action for these individuals. Among its 10 initiatives, firstly, the plan proposes to bolster border security, secondly, to improve pay for immigration officers, thirdly, to provide a 50% discount to the first 10,000 applicants whose income levels are below 200% of the poverty level in order to encourage participation, fourthly, to establish a program designed to stimulate the tech industry which could potentially offer millions of immigrants and their dependents a path to citizenship, and lastly, to prioritize removal proceedings on the basis of the severity of an immigrant’s criminal history, calling an end to the program known as ‘Secure Communities.’ This 10 point plan makes anyone who entered the United States before turning 16 and before the date of January 01, 2010, eligible for naturalization. Such a plan would thereby suspend deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The proposal has not yet been announced, we would like to inform our audience to please be wary of fraudulent schemes. At this time ONLY preliminary information has been released.

Please continue to follow our blog for further updates, for more information please contact our office.  It is our goal to provide you with the most up to date immigration reform developments.

By Yingfei Zhou, Esq.

The federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently ruled that a noncitizen’s grant of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) qualifies as “inspection and admission” into the United States. This decision follows the similar decisions issued by the Sixth Circuit of Appeals and the District Court for the Western District of Washington. This new ruling will affect a group of TPS beneficiaries who fall within the geographic boundaries covered by the court and are seeking to become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen.

The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to the conditions (such as ongoing armed conflict, environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions) in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately.

The sole issue in the matter is whether the grant of TPS is sufficient to meet the requirement of being “inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States for purposes of adjustment of status. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), inspection and admission are eligibility requirements for adjustment of status to LPR. In other words, only individuals who were “inspected and admitted or paroled” into the U.S. by an immigration officer may apply for LPR status from inside the U.S. Those who crossed the border without passing through an official checkpoint must leave the country to have their paperwork processed by the U.S. consulate abroad to obtain the LPR status. Departing U.S. to have paperwork processed from abroad might cause penalties to the immigrants or have them facing the dangerous conditions that merited the TPS designation.

Continue reading

5163933978_2a5f257ae7_z

By Yingfei Zhou, Esq.

In July 2014, we updated our readers regarding newly released guidance by USCIS, on adjudication of H-1B petitions for nursing occupations. In the guidance, USCIS acknowledged that the nursing industry has changed and that the private sector is increasingly showing a preference for more highly educated nurses. Although it seems that USCIS has shown its willingness to entertain H-1Bs for nurses, the adjudicatory standards remain high. In our practice, we have found that USCIS adjudicators set very high standards in adjudicating H-1B petitions, arguably higher than what the regulations require, for certain occupations, including nursing.

For Registered Nurses, the key to filing a successful H-1B petition is to differentiate the duties of a nursing position that requires at least a bachelor’s degree in Nursing. USCIS relies on the OOH, as an authoritative source for outlining both the educational requirements, and duties for H-1B specialty occupation cases. The OOH has listed a number of areas in which a nurse may focus: addiction nurses, cardiovascular nurses, critical care nurses, etc. and states that “depending on the facts of the case, some of these Registered Nurse positions may qualify as specialty occupations.” In other words, positions that focus on a particular area, or a particular population, are more likely to be classified as ‘specialty occupations’ than a more general practice nurse.

For Advance Practice Registered Nurses (APRN), USCIS has previously recognized that positions requiring APRN certification will generally be considered specialty occupations due to the advanced level of education and training required for this certification.

Continue reading

513153112_79ea77011e_z

On October 28, 2014 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a policy memo regarding the effect of assisted reproductive technology (ART) on Immigration and the Acquisition of Citizenship under the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) in an effort to shed light on the issue of genetic relationships between parents and children.

The memo outlines that under the INA, if a non-genetic gestational mother has carried and given birth to a child, and is also the child’s legal mother, that mother would possess the same legal status as that of a genetic legal mother’s under the Immigration and Nationality Act. This is groundbreaking news given that prior to this policy change, a genetic relationship between a U.S. Citizen parent and their child was required in order for the child to gain an immigration benefit and acquire citizenship at birth via their parents.

Under this policy for the purposes of immigration the following has changed:

  • A natural mother or father is a genetic parent or gestational parent
  • A natural mother of a child that has been worn out of wedlock is considered a non-genetic gestational mother only if the mother was the legal parent of the child at the time of their birth
  • A gestational mother can petition for their child even if she does not have a genetic relationship to the child. The only requirement that must be fulfilled is that the gestational mother be the child’s legal parent at the time of the child’s birth
  • Non-genetic gestational legal mothers who are US citizens can transfer their citizenship to their children at birth and after birth if all other citizenship and naturalization requirements have been met

For further guidance and legal advice please contact our office.

6886069226_c51dae64e0_z

According to new reports released by the U.S. Border Patrol, the surge in Central Americans crossing into the United States is dropping at an alarming rate—approximately 60% fewer unaccompanied minors were apprehended during the month of August, in comparison to the summer months, a time when the migration crisis was in full effect in Central America. These unaccompanied minors make the perilous trek north from their Central American countries due to the violence they have encountered right at home.

The report suggests that the primary reason for the sudden drop is owed to the Mexican government’s crackdown on Central American immigrants. According to the report, increasing pressure on Mexico to instill effective deterrents has resulted in increased arrests and deportations of thousands of Central Americans, making it harder for such migrants to reach the American border.

Bowing to American pressure, the Mexican government recently announced a plan to militarize the southern border by placing federal forces along it. As part of these plans, the government will be setting up interior checkpoints, whereby authorities can inspect buses and vans carrying passengers into northern Mexico. Setting up checkpoint will also allow the authorities to ID passengers and question them. Additionally, Mexican authorities have forbidden migrants to board the infamous lumbering freight train known as ‘La Bestia,’ or the Beast in English. Many Central Americans and children have died while attempting to board such freight trains bound for the United States border. What does this mean for Central American immigrants journeying north? A longer and more dangerous journey ahead of them. According to the Mexican interior ministry, since the crackdown, approximately 30,000 Central Americans have been apprehended and sent back home; 20,000 of which were minors. Central Americans who have sought shelter from authorities in Mexico say that they are afraid of being turned in by Mexican authorities, according to news reports by NPR. Pro-immigrant activists argue that the work being done by Mexican authorities should be done by United States authorities which are better staffed and have better resources. Moreover, they argue, that despite the crackdown, nothing has changed in Central America. Central American countries remain impoverished, and innocent children are left to suffer the consequences of living in a country where impunity and violence run rampant. These critics argue that much more must be done and the issue is much more complex than the American and Mexican government are admitting. Critics insist that the issue is bilateral and humanitarian in nature. Congressional oversight will be necessary to tackle the issue.

Continue reading

marie

From preparing clients for their citizenship and marriage interviews to successfully filing I-601A waivers and I-360 applications, Attorney Marie Puertollano Esq. is definitively a prized asset for our law office. Marie Puertollano specializes in the case processing of various types of applications with USCIS including the successful processing of H1-B’s, I-751 waivers, religious worker visas, asylum, I-601A waivers, F-1 reinstatement, B-2 tourist visitors, B-1 business visitors, H-3 trainees, I-360 abused spouses, etc.

Bio: Marie Puertollano was born and raised in France. She earned two Master Degrees in Law at California Western School of Law; one in France in Public Law and one in the United States in Comparative Law (LL.M). Marie Puertollano is fluent in French, English and Spanish. Marie has been with the law offices of Jacob Sapochnick since March 2012.

Marie developed a passion for the protection of immigrants’ rights, while being a social worker in Gainesville, GA. Marie worked with an organization helping battered women to obtain their visa and for an organization helping detained and non-detained people seeking cancellation of removal proceedings.

In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband and her son, swimming, biking, and dancing. She regularly serves food to the homeless and is a motivational speaker.

Prospective clients often ask our law office, how long does the adjustment of status to permanent resident usually take? At what point can I legally work in the United States? How can I obtain my social security number and driver’s license? When can I travel internationally?

Below is an approximate timeline that will give you an idea on what the current wait times are for the adjustment of status process, based on your marriage to a U.S. Citizen:

Capture

 

During the 2-3 month mark, the applicant will receive a very important document in the mail, known as the employment authorization card. The employment authorization card is important for a variety of reasons:

First, it allows the applicant to work in the United States legally.

Secondly, if Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) was filed in conjunction with the I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization), the applicant can also travel internationally with their valid UNEXPIRED passport. Our office also recommends that the applicant have in their possession their original receipt notices and copy of their marriage certificate when traveling domestically and internationally.

NOTE: YOU SHOULD NOT TRAVEL INTERNATIONALLY UNTIL YOU RECEIVE THE ADVANCE PAROLE/EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZATION CARD COMBO IN THE MAIL.

You will know if you are eligible to travel internationally if your employment authorization card is issued with the following text on the bottom center of the card which says ‘Serves as I-512 Advance Parole’ . If the Employment Authorization card does not indicate on the bottom center that it also serves as an advance parole card, then you cannot travel internationally. It is strongly advised that you consult with an attorney before making any travel plans. In some circumstances, it is not advisable for the applicant to travel even with a valid passport and employment authorization/advance parole card combo, because the interview date comes very close to the issuance of such card. Re-scheduling an interview is possible but can delay the case significantly.

Thirdly, the employment authorization card allows the applicant to obtain their social security number by visiting their local social security office. Applicant’s can also mail the social security card application and supporting documents to the social security administration, but it is best to visit the office in person in order to expedite the process. Obtaining a social security number is important for tax, health care, and insurance purposes. To download the application and read the required supporting documentation  please click here.

Lastly, in addition, the applicant can obtain their state driver’s license once they have the employment authorization card in their possession. Please contact your local department of motor vehicles office to inquire about this process and the supporting documents that must be provided. The requirements vary by state.

The interview stage is naturally the most important part of the process. In the majority of cases the employment authorization/advance parole combo card is received by the applicant prior to the interview, but in some circumstances it may arrive after or very close to the interview notice.

It is very important to be well organized and well prepared for the interview. To read all about the interview stage please click here to go to our previous blog.  For legal representation and to schedule a consultation please visit our website. Remember to follow us on our social media platforms which you can access to the right of this page.

Creative Company Conference 2011

Start-up companies face several legal concerns when first starting out, from choosing the best legal entity option to drafting airtight contracts. Below is a list of some of the common legal concerns and pitfalls that start-up companies should consider and address when opening its doors in the United States.

Immigration and Visa Issues

The most important concern of any U.S. start-up company should be making sure that its founder can stay in the U.S. Without the presence of the founder, the company will suffer or even fail. Therefore, it is imperative that start-up company founders ensure that the proper immigration procedures have been followed and that a proper visa application has been submitted and approved. Hiring an immigration attorney offers you the best chance of success and alleviates the concern of a minor error delaying or causing a denial of your application. There are several immigration visa options available to entrepreneurs and business owners wishing to come to the U.S. It is important that you understand the benefits and downsides of each one and chose the best visa that fits you. In addition, the founder should keep track of the expiration date of his or her visa and request an extension as necessary.

Intellectual Property

Start-up companies need to address and protect their intellectual property at the very outset of their business. This avoids the prospect of getting a couple years into the company only to realize that it must change its name or the name of a popular product or service because another person realized the company is using a variation of their name and wishes to sue you. Therefore, you should trademark your company’s name and products at the beginning. You should also address any patent, service marks, or copyright concerns, if applicable to your start-up, for the same reasons.

Continue reading