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As a refresher for our readers, earlier this week the federal government filed an expedited emergency motion to stay (prevent execution) of the injunction issued by the federal judge in Texas stopping implementation of expanded DACA and DAPA programs. The federal government warned in its motion that if judge Hanen did not act on the motion by the end of the business day on Wednesday (February 25), the government would move to the court of appeals.

As sources, such as Politico, report, the federal judge who issued the injunction indicated on Tuesday that he is not inclined to rush a decision on the federal government’s request to lift the injunction, which means that the next stop would most likely be the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal in New Orleans.

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Today, on February 24, 2015, USCIS announced that effective May 26, 2015 it will extend eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants to allow them to accept employment in the U.S.

Finalizing the H-4 work authorization was an important step toward implementation of the President’s executive action initiatives announced in November 2014 for a purpose to modernize and improve our immigration system.

Not all H-4 holders will benefit from the employment authorization. Under the new regulation, eligible individuals include H-4 dependents whose H-1B spouses:

  • Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • Have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. The Act permits H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status.

In other words, only those H-4 dependents whose H-1B spouses are in the process of obtaining a green card through employment will be able to benefit from work authorization.

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By Ekaterina Powell, Esq.

As you may already know from reading our prior posts, on February 16, 2015, the Texas federal district court issued a preliminary injunction to stop expanded DACA (expanded guidance concerning deferred action for certain individuals who came to the United States as children) and DAPA (deferred action for the parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents) from going into effect. The case is known as Texas v. United States, the Lawsuit Challenging DAPA and DACA Expansion.

The decision came only two days before USCIS was supposed to start accepting applications under Expanded DACA guidelines issued by the President in November of 2014.

The decision was a surprise to many of those who were prepared to file their applications on February 18, 2015.

What does the preliminary injunction mean?

Since the preliminary injunction was issued, USCIS cannot accept any applications under expanded DACA, which was supposed to become effective on February 18, 2015, and will not implement its policies regarding DAPA, the program that was set to start in May 2015.

This injunction also affects those who file for extension of their existing DACA. Since expanded DACA rules have not become effective, USCIS will continue to issue employment authorization documents (EADs) for renewals of existing DACA requests for two-year periods as opposed to three-year periods.

What is a solution?

After the preliminary injunction was issued, the federal government promised to appeal the decision of the Texas district court in the Court of Appeals. However, an appeal can take a considerable amount of time and delay can detrimentally harm millions of families, causing unnecessary deportation for those who could qualify under expanded DACA and DAPA relief.

In order to prevent the harm caused by the appeal’s delays, today, February 23, 2015, the federal government filed an emergency expedited motion to stay,  pending appeal, its February 16 Order.

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Earlier this year, California DMV has started issuing AB 60 driver licenses, which are available to California residents regardless of their immigration status. This change became effective on January 1st, 2015.

AB 60 driver’s license can be used for personal identification and gives the right to legally drive in California but does not grant any other privileges. An AB 60 driver license looks the same as a regular driver’s license except for one feature. In the right corner, there is a pre-printed notation “Federal Limits Apply”.

If you want to get AB 60 driver license, you need to prove your identity and residency in the State of California, pass the knowledge tests and behind-the-wheel driving exams. In order to apply for AB 60 driver’s license, you need to make an appointment or visit DMV office.

The identification information and residency address you provide when applying for AB 60 driver’s license do not become a public record. Even if you are unlawfully present in the US, the DMV may not disclose this information except when requested by a law enforcement agency as part of an investigation.

You do NOT have to provide a Social Security Number in the AB 60 application. Please do NOT use any SSN number that was not legally assigned to you as it is a federal crime. DMV will check legitimacy of your information and has a right to forward the SSN for verification.

You can find more information and frequently asked questions on the application for AB 60 Driver’s license here.

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On Monday February 16, 2015 Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court in Brownsville, Texas issued a preliminary injunction temporarily preventing President Obama’s executive actions on immigration (expanded deferred action) from going forward. The injunction does not make Obama’s executive actions illegal, however it does prevent the Obama administration from implementing expanded DACA and DAPA until the courts determine the constitutionality of the executive actions announced by Obama on November 20, 2014. According to Judge Hanen, 26 states brought the suit to his attention, all of whom he determined had standing to sue. A lawsuit against President Obama is expected to move its way through the court system in the coming months. The injunction claims that the President lacks the constitutional power to make such executive actions. As a result of the injunction, USCIS will no longer accept applications for DACA on February 18th the date that USCIS initially announced it would begin to accept applications. Additionally, plans to accept requests for DAPA will be suspended until further notice.

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson announced that while he disagreed with the injunction, that the Department of Homeland Security would be forced to comply. Nevertheless, the Department of Justice plans to appeal on behalf of the federal government.

Will the court order affect existing DACA?

The court order will only affect Obama’s executive actions for EXPANDED deferred action and DAPA. The court order will NOT affect existing DACA. Applicants for existing DACA can continue to apply for initial DACA or renewal of DACA pursuant to 2012 guidelines. The court order also does not apply to policies for apprehension, detention, and removal of undocumented immigrants per the Department of Homeland Security’s memorandum released on November 20, 2014, the day of President Obama’s execution action announcement available here. To read the complete injunction please click here. The White House Office of the Press Secretary also released a statement defending the administration’s actions available here. We will continue to keep you informed as further updates are available. For concerns and legal advice please contact our office.

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What is DAPA? DAPA allows eligible applicants, who do not have a criminal history, and who do not otherwise pose a threat to national security, to request deferred action having met certain conditions for a period of up to three years. DAPA allows parents of US Citizen or lawful permanent resident children to be granted an employment authorization card. DAPA also safeguards individuals against deportation.

To qualify under Obama’s executive action, an undocumented parent of a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident child must meet the following conditions:

  • The applicant must have lived in the United States continuously since January 01, 2010 to the present
  • The applicant must have had a son or daughter on November 20, 2014 irrespective of age or marital status, who is either a US Citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • The applicant must have been physically present in the United States as of November 20, 2014, the date of President Obama’s announcement
  • The applicant must have had no lawful status on November 20, 2014, the date of President Obama’s announcement
  • The applicant must have been physically present in the United States on November 20, 2014 and at the time of requesting DAPA with USCIS

If you have been convicted of any of the following you may not be eligible for DAPA:

  • Felony
  • Misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors
  • Are a threat to national security
  • Are an enforcement priority for removal

When Can I Apply? Currently applications are not being accepted, however USCIS has indicated that requests for DAPA will begin to be accepted in mid to late May of this year.

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USCIS has recently announced that applications for expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will begin to be accepted starting February 18, 2015. Applications will not be accepted before this date. President Obama has expanded the population eligible for DACA to unlawful individuals who entered the country before the age of 16, and who have continuously resided in the United States since January 01, 2010 regardless of their current age. The expanded DACA program will grant eligible applicant’s an employment authorization card and ‘deferred action status’ that is good for a period of three years. Previously, DACA was only good for a period of two years, had stricter age and residency requirements.

How is the Expanded DACA program different?

  • The initial DACA program was only good for a period of two years, now it is good for a period of three years
  • Expanded DACA removes the requirement that an individual must have been born before June 15, 1981
  • Expanded DACA removes the requirement that individuals must have resided in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007, the new marker is January 01, 2010

To be eligible for the Expanded DACA program you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have entered the United States before 16 years of age
  • You must have continuously resided in the United States since January 01, 2010, up to the present time
  • You can be of any current age to benefit
  • You must have had no lawful status on June 15, 2012
  • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS
  • Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a General Education Development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. Coast Guard; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

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This week the White House announced that President Obama’s executive action on immigration could stimulate California’s economy as much as $27.5 billion. According to White House advisor Cecilia Muñoz, the executive action could potentially increase wages and productivity in one of the country’s largest economies. The White House Council of Economic Advisors estimates the executive action could raise the country’s gross domestic product up to a figure of $90 billion over the next ten years.

This is not surprising given that Obama’s executive action will allow eligible applicant’s to receive employment authorization cards, thereby expanding the labor force and allowing immigrants the flexibility of seeking new jobs that were not previously available to them. A young, vibrant, employed immigrant population is sure to spark innovation and entrepreneurship at a rate that was not previously available with the restrictive DACA program. The order will allow some foreign workers who are occupying high-skilled fields the ability to benefit from employment portability while awaiting their permanent residency status. The acquisition of work permits will allow eligible immigrants to obtain better paying jobs. Higher incomes would result in greater expenditures and therefore a higher amount of taxes paid.

An analysis published by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) revealed that the executive actions on immigration would boost economic output by an estimated figure of 0.4 to 0.9 percent over a period of time years, increasing the country’s GDP from $90 billion to $210 billion by 2024. By allowing foreign workers to come out of the shadows, the productivity of the American workforce as a whole will increase, since workers will find jobs that are best suited to their skills and potential. The White House contends that this labor shift will also allow native workers to specialize in jobs that are best suited to their skills and ability. Altogether, greater productivity and a larger workforce will result in: wage increases for all workers, increased tax revenues, and a reduction of the deficit. The analysis makes the claim that the executive actions would not adversely affect employment options for native workers. To read the complete publication please click here.

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By Marie Puertollano, Esq.

Our firm has started to work on H1B visa applications for our clients. We want to be sure none of our clients miss the April 1st deadline. April 1 is the date when H-1B can be filed at the earliest. Only 65,000 visas are available for applicants with a Bachelor’s Degree and 20,000 for applicants with a Master’s degree. Last year, USCIS had received too many applications by April 11. Since the economy is improving, we expect that the H-1B cap will be reached very fast.

Once you apply on April 1, if your case is approved, you can start working on H-1B status as of October 1, 2015.

If you think you qualify for H-1B, here are some steps to follow for a successful H-1B application:

  • First you must have a H-1B petitioner:

You cannot petition yourself for a H-1B, unless you own your own company. A company must petition you, which will include providing their EIN number, signing the different forms and issuing the checks made payable to the U.S Department of Homeland Security. Once the H-1B is approved, the petitioner must abide by the conditions described in the H-1B application and do the proper recordkeeping.

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What is President Obama’s Executive Action?

It is not a path to permanent residency. It is not a permanent solution. It is not an option for felons, undocumented individuals with criminal histories, inadmissibility issues, and recent border crossers. In fact, recent border crossers will be made a priority for deportation under the order. The order also makes border security a number one priority, increasing the chances of apprehension for recent border crossers. If you commit fraud by knowingly misrepresenting or failing to disclose the facts, you may be subject to prosecution or removal from the United States. Always be truthful and careful when presenting information and documentation to USCIS. Eligible immigrants must demonstrate that they have resided in the United States continuously for a period of at least five years. Only immigrants who have been living in the United States for at least five years are allowed to reap the benefits under the executive action. The order grants eligible individuals a temporary status allowing applicants to remain in the United States legally without fear of deportation.

Eligible individuals must be either:

  • A parent of a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident as of the date of the President’s announcement of November 20, 2014, have been residing in the United States continuously for at least five years (beginning on January 01, 2010), must not be an enforcement priority, and not have inadmissibility issues

OR

  • Individuals who arrived in the United States before turning 16 years old and who can prove that they have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years (beginning on January 01, 2010) regardless of their age today. Applicants must not be an enforcement priority and not have inadmissibility issues.

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