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:



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.


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.

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If you are adjusting your status to permanent residency, based on your marriage to a United States citizen, chances are you are already thinking and may even be dreading your interview.

All green card applicants, who have filed Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, based on their marriage to a US citizen, can expect to receive an initial interview notice scheduling both the green card applicant and their US Citizen Spouse to appear at a local office on the date and time indicated on the appointment notice. The initial interview notice typically arrives in the applicant’s mailbox about 3-4 months from the receipt date. The actual interview takes place about one month after receiving the initial interview notice.

Many of our clients begin to wonder about the marriage interview early on and it is a reoccurring topic in our consultations with couples who are ready to start the process. Couples have asked us countless times ‘so are they going to ask me what side of the bed my spouse sleeps on, what color my spouse’s toothbrush is, or about the last time we were intimate.’ The answer to this question is no, not at the initial marriage interview. Like the thousands of couples who have already gone through the interview process, and the thousands more who will go through the very same process in the future, your interview will also be successful with the right preparation and representation.

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By Lupe Lopez

Just a few weeks ago, Maria Elena came in to get information for her parents.  Her brother, a U.S. citizen, had just turned 21 and they wanted to know if the parents would be able to get their green cards when their son filed a petition for them.

While discussing the issues related to their parents’ case, we spoke to Maria Elena about her status as well.  We found that Maria Elena was 29 years old and had been in the U.S. since she was 5 years old.  She did attend school in the U.S. her entire life and was just a few credits short of fulfilling the requirements for her high school diploma when she had to drop out of high school due to pregnancy.

Maria Elena was now married to Jorge, her baby’s father but he, too, had entered the country illegally as a child and has not obtained legal status.  Jorge graduated two years before Maria Elena and was able to finish two years of community college before he had to stop going to school so he could support Maria Elena and the baby.  Even though Jorge had an Associate’s Degree in biology, he could not get a job.  His friends who had graduated with him were able to get jobs at local biotech firms, but he did not have a social security number or legal work authorization.  Both he and Maria Elena struggled to find consistent and meaningful work.

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Start-up entrepreneurs who wish to come to the U.S. to open a business have several immigration options. It is important that you understand the requirements, benefits, and downsides of each and choose the one that best fits your situation.

B-1 Business Visa

A B-1 business visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to those who wish to enter the United States for a business purposes. You are eligible to apply for a B-1 visa if you want to consult with a business associates, participate in a required medical clerkship without any remuneration, embark on independent research which does not benefit any U.S. institution, or participate in educational, professional scientific or business conventions, seminars, or conferences.

The validity period for this visa will differ depending on your country of origin. If you are seeking entry into the U.S. for business reasons for the first time, you may be allowed to stay in the U.S. for a period of time long enough to enable you conduct your business. However, the maximum period of stay allowed per visit is 6 months. But you can also apply for another six-month extension if you needed. A B-1 visa can be used for multiple entries in so far as it has not expired.

There are certain tasks that you are and are not allowed to do while in the U.S. on a B-1 visa. If you are in the U.S. with a B-1 visa, you are allowed to negotiate business, discuss planned purchases or investment, solicit sales or investment, attend and participate fully in meetings, conduct business research, and interview and hire staff. You are not allowed to look for employment, run a business in the U.S., or to take part in sporting and entertainment events as a professional.

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The O-1 visa is a great option for those who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in their field. In order to obtain an O-1 visa, one must be an alien with a proven track record of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Proving that you are extraordinary in your field is not always an easy task. However, there are several steps you can take to help ensure that your application for an O-1 visa is approved.

Include all required documentation

First, you need to ensure that you completely and accurately fill out the O-1 visa application, Form I-129. Next, you need to make sure that you include in your application package all of the other required documentation, such as a written advisory opinion from a peer group, a copy of the written contract between you and your employer, and your itinerary. If you accidentally forget to include these documents, you risk having your application delayed or even denied.

Provide sufficient and convincing evidence

The most important step in filing your O-1 visa application, however, is including sufficient and convincing evidence that you are an alien of extraordinary ability in your field. The evidence you include needs to prove that you have received a major, internationally-recognized award or, if you have not done so, you need to prove at least three other listed achievements.

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By Lupe Lopez


Richard and Micaelina met when they both first started attending school at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).  It was easy to see why Richard had fallen in love with Micaelina, an articulate and funny Italian beauty.  After two years of dating they decided to get married and begin the immigration process for Micaelina.  They had everything in order except one little thing; well, maybe not so little.  Being a full time student, Richard did not earn enough money to fulfill the requirements for the Affidavit of Support.  They would need a joint sponsor; that is, a person with enough annual earnings or assets to qualify for the affidavit.

Richard had not thought of this.  Both he and Micaelina had depended upon student loans and their parents for most of their expenses.  Although Micaelina’s parents were well off and could continue to help the young couple, they were foreigners with no legal status in the U.S. thus disqualifying them as joint sponsors.  Richard’s parents are hard-working middle class people with other children they need to support.  They are not poor, but because they already claim several dependents, they, too, did not qualify.  Most of Richard and Micaelina’s friends were students just like them and they did not earn sufficient money to help the young couple.  After many months of searching for a suitable sponsor and one who was willing to sign the Affidavit of Support contract between the sponsor and the U.S. government, Richard and Micaelina finally found a person willing to help them.

Richard and Micaelina are not alone.  In our constantly busy office, there is not a single week that goes by where we do not run into this same problem.  When the Petitioner, in this case Richard, does not earn enough or have enough assets to fulfill the requirements for the Affidavit of Support it can be more difficult than expected to find a joint sponsor.

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On September 19, 2014 the California Department of Motor Vehicles released a statement detailing the progress it has made to date in order to implement Assembly Bill 60, operative January 01, 2015. Assembly Bill 60 was signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr on October 2013 for the benefit of all California residents. The bill promises to improve public safety, for all Californians, by requiring undocumented persons to go through the same licensure requirements as legal permanent residents and U.S. Citizens, residing in the state of California. In addition, applicants will be required to provide satisfactory proof of identity and California residency, though exact documentation requirements are still being deliberated and have not officially been made public. To view the proposals on documentation required please click here. The fee for the AB 60 driver’s license will remain the same as the fee for original driver’s licenses at $33.00. Before AB 60, applicants could not apply for a California driver’s license because of their inability to submit the required proof of legal presence in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security recently notified the DMV that the state’s most recent AB 60 driver’s license design had met the standard required to move forward to the production stage.

Since its adoption, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has held over 80 public outreach events throughout California, educating local communities on the implementation of the new law. Additionally the DMV has hired new staff, organized department-wide training, and opened temporary offices, with the purpose of facilitating extra appointments for the nearly 1.4 million anticipated new driver’s that will apply during just the first three years of AB 60’s implementation.

The DMV has launched such outreach events with the support of foreign consulate offices, community and church organizations, law enforcement, and other local officials. At these events the DMV has explained the licensing requirements under the new law, encouraged the undocumented community to study for the written driver’s license examination early on, and provided tips to the undocumented community on how to study for the exam.

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The O-1 visa is quickly becoming a popular immigration solution for talented entrepreneurs who have already started or are about to start a new business in the United States. Many of Silicon Valley’s top companies owe their creation and success to foreign-born entrepreneurs, including Google, Intel, and Yahoo. In fact, more than 40 percent of American Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or child of an immigrant.

In order to obtain an O-1 visa, one must show that he or she is an alien of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. This visa allows individuals to come to the United States for up to three years, with extensions available after that period has elapsed if the applicant is able to prove that he or she is still outstanding in the field. This is a great option for those in technology-related fields.

The O-1 visa has proven to be a better option for many entrepreneurs than the more popular H-1B visa. This is especially true for those entrepreneurs who do not qualify for the H-1B visa or when the H-1B visa cap has already been met, as there is no cap to the number of O-1 visas granted each year. In addition, unlike most H-1B visas, the O-1 visa does not require a college education. This is an important difference, since there are many young and innovative entrepreneurs who bypassed formal education in order to begin their careers. Another benefit of the O-1 visa over the H-1B visa is that it does not tie the immigrant to any employer or sponsor or have any of the other strict requirements, such as a prevailing wage. An O-1 visa applicant can be sponsored by his or her own U.S. company. This gives the entrepreneur more freedom to conduct their business as they choose, including investing any profits early on back into the business instead of paying themselves the prevailing wage salary. The O-1 visa is also a better option than the E and EB “investor visas” for many entrepreneurs, as the O-1 visa does not require any particular amount of capital to be invested into the business.

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