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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is expected to run a study to determine whether privately run detention facilities are unsafe for migrants. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, has stated that the administration will evaluate whether or not the agency will end the practice of privatizing immigration detention facilities, issuing a recommendation by November 30th of this year.

The announcement comes following reports that private immigration detention facilities have unlawfully withheld proper mental health and medical care from persons being detained in their immigration facilities. Presently, the two major private companies running ICE immigration detention facilities across the United States are the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group. Together these private companies hold lucrative state and federal government contracts. It is estimated that the Corrections Corporation of America has earned $689 million alone from its contracts with ICE dating back to 2008, while the GEO Group has earned an estimated $1.18 billion from these contracts during that same period.

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Today August 26, 2016 we bring entrepreneurs around the world exciting news regarding a new measure USCIS plans to implement designed to benefit entrepreneurs of startup companies. USCIS has announced a new proposal that will make it easier for certain foreign entrepreneurs to receive temporary permission to enter the United States, also known as ‘parole,’ for the purpose of starting or scaling their start-up business enterprise in the United States.

The rule has been referred to as the ‘International Entrepreneur Rule’ which will give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) the authority to expand discretionary statutory parole status to eligible entrepreneurs of startup companies, who can demonstrate that the startup enterprise they are interested in creating, has a substantial potential to yield rapid growth, and job creation in the United States.

Under this new rule, DHS would be able to grant parole on a case-by-case basis to eligible entrepreneurs of startup companies who can demonstrate the following:

  • At least a 15 percent ownership interest in the startup enterprise in question;
  • That they take on an active and central role in the startup enterprise’s operations;
  • That the startup enterprise has been formed in the United States within the past three years; and
  • That the startup enterprise has proven to yield a substantial and demonstrated potential for rapid business growth and job creation as evidenced by:
  1. Having received a significant investment of capital of at least $345,000 from certain qualified U.S. investors that have a proven track record of success i.e. showing established records of successful investments;
  2. Having received significant awards or grants of at least $100,000 from federal, state, or local government entities; or
  3. By partially satisfying one or both of the above criteria, in addition to presenting other reliable and compelling evidence to show the startup entity’s substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation in the United States;

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Many of our clients are unaware that they may be eligible to receive a fee waiver upon demonstration of a clear financial need. Although USCIS receives much of its funding from the application and petition fees they charge to applicants, the service understands that applications can be very costly for applicants, and that some applicants will not be able to pay the necessary filing fees. Although not all applications and petitions are eligible to receive a fee waiver there are many petitions that qualify.

Who may apply for a fee waiver?

A fee waiver request may be submitted by persons who are unable to pay the required filing fees or biometric service fee(s) for any application or petition that is eligible to receive a fee waiver. In order to receive a fee waiver, applicants must demonstrate that they are unable to pay the filing fees by providing documented evidence of that need with the fee waiver request Form I-912. A fee waiver request, Form I-912, must be filed with all applications and petitions for which you are requesting a fee waiver.

You can request a fee waiver if:

  1. The form you are filing is eligible for a fee waiver (refer to list below) and
  2. You can provide documentation showing that you qualify based upon at least one of the following criteria:
  • You, your spouse, or the head of household living with you, are currently receiving a ‘means-tested benefit.’
  • Your household income is at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time you file.

You can verify whether your income is below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines by calculating your household size and household income, and reviewing the I-912P 2016 Federal Poverty Guidelines.

For example, if you are living in the state of California and you have a household size consisting of three people (you, your husband, and your child) and your total income is at or below $30, 240 you may file a fee waiver request by providing evidence that your income falls below the federal poverty guideline based on your household size and place of residence.

  • You are currently experiencing financial hardship that prevents you from paying the filing fee, including unexpected medical bills, emergencies, or other hardship.

Note: You are only required to file one Form I-912 for all family-related applications or petitions you would like to qualify for a ‘fee waiver’ at the same time.

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In this segment, we would like to keep our readers informed on Visa Bulletin projections for the month of October. Charles Oppenheim, Chief of the Visa Control and Reporting Division of the U.S. Department of State provides a monthly analysis of each month’s Visa Bulletin including discussion of current trends and future projections for immigrant preference categories.

Family-Based Categories:

An increase in returned unused visa numbers for the month of July and weak demand for the F-2A and F-4 categories will keep movements in family-based categories steady for the month of October.

F-4 Worldwide has advanced only slightly. All family Worldwide categories have experienced minor advances except F-2B Mexico.

The Department of State plants to comply with the Administration’s Visa Modernization Proposal, an initiative which aims to advance the dates of family-based categories as aggressively as possible during the first three quarters of the fiscal year, with the purpose of maximizing the usage of available numbers, and reducing available numbers for use in the final quarter. This initiative will likely cause similar retrogressions as in the F-4 China and India preference categories.

Employment Categories:

EB-4 and SR (Religious Worker) Preference Categories: For Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) applicants subject to priority date backlogs, it is recommended that applicants and/or their counsel request USCIS to forward their file to the National Benefits Center (NBC), at the conclusion of their I-485 interview. This will allow the applicant’s case to remain in a “pending demand” file, to give the Department of State a sense of the demand for this category, and streamline the approval process of these applications once the priority date has become current. While USCIS adjudicators cannot request a visa number for the applicant if the priority date is not current, the National Benefits Center (NBC) has the ability to request a visa number for the applicant upon receipt of the file.

EB-4 India and Mexico; Final Action Dates El Salvador/Guatemala/Honduras: New visa number for FY 2017 are expected to bring the EB-4 India and Mexico categories current in the month of October. The final action date for EB-4 El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras will fall somewhere around the summer of 2015 or beyond. There is high applicant demand for El Salvador which may advance the final action date for Guatemala and Honduras.

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On June 15, 2012 President Barack Obama first unveiled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative to the world. In his 2012 announcement the President divulged that the DACA initiative would allow certain undocumented individuals who came to the United States as children the opportunity to be shielded from deportation and the right to a temporary work permit. To be eligible individuals were required to meet several guidelines to receive ‘deferred action’ for a period of two years, subject to renewal. USCIS began to accept applications for the DACA initiative on August 15, 2012.

At its core, ‘deferred action’ is the use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal from the United States for a certain period of time. Although deferred action grants such deferment, it does not provide the individual lawful status and it is not a path to permanent residency.

On November 20, 2014 the President unveiled two initiatives that would expand the population eligible to obtain Deferred Action. Additionally, the President announced a new initiative called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). To be eligible for the expanded DACA program applicants were required to a) have entered the United States before the age of 16; b) demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010; and pass required background checks. The initiative would also extend the period of ‘deferred action’ and work authorization to three years rather than two years.

Similarly, parents of U.S. Citizens and LPRs would be also be eligible for deferred action and employment authorization for a three-year period if a) they could demonstrate continuous residence in the United States since January 1, 2010 and b) pass required backgrounds checks. On February 16, 2015 just two days before applications would begin to be accepted for the expanded DACA and DAPA programs, a temporary injunction halted these programs from going into effect. The controversy that followed regarding these programs led to a federal lawsuit known as United States v. Texas which made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. There the Supreme Court deadlocked in a 4-4 vote preventing these programs from going into effect.

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One of the biggest critiques of the U.S. immigration system is that there are very few options available to foreign nationals that create a direct path to permanent residency. Indeed, this is a very cruel reality for our clients. A reality that we struggle to overcome on a day to day basis. More often than not we speak to clients who simply cannot immigrate to the United States because of our antiquated immigration laws.

The immigration system boils down to two harsh realities. Generally, you may apply for permanent residence only if: 1) you have a qualifying family relationship to a legal permanent resident (LPR) or U.S. Citizen (family sponsorship) 2) you have secured employment with a U.S. company willing to sponsor your permanent residence (employment sponsorship) or 3) you belong to a special category of green card applicants and may immigrate on the basis of that category (VAWA recipients, asylees, diversity visa lottery winners etc.)

In order for you to understand the green card options available to you under the current immigration laws of the United States, we outline 9 of the most common ways to obtain permanent residence below:

Green card based on a qualifying Family-sponsorship

You are generally eligible to apply for permanent residence if you have a qualifying family relationship with a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident:

  1. If you are the immediate relative of a U.S. Citizen your relative can file Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative on your behalf, which will allow you to file the I-485 application for Permanent Residence. Immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens include spouses, unmarried children under the age of 21 of a U.S. Citizen, and parents of U.S. Citizens 21 years of age or older.

Immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens DO NOT have to wait in line for a visa number to become available to them in order to immigrate to the United States.

  1. If you are the family member of a U.S. Citizen and you fall under a qualifying “preference category,” your U.S. Citizen relative may file the I-130 Petition on your behalf. Family members of U.S. Citizens that fall into a “preference category” include: unmarried sons or daughters over the age of 21, married children of any age, and brothers and sisters of U.S. Citizen petitioners 21 years of age or older.

Immigrant visa numbers for these individuals are limited and are therefore subject to a waiting period. You must wait for your priority date to become current on the Visa Bulletin, based on your preference category and country of charge ability, before you are eligible to either apply for adjustment of status in the United states, or apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consular post abroad (if you reside overseas).

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At the Law Offices of Jacob J. Sapochnick we work closely with clients to address their specialized immigration needs, making their success our number one priority. Many of our clients have experienced immigration issues that could have easily been eliminated with the help of an experienced immigration attorney. Such was the case when our client, we will call him Ernesto, visited our San Diego office to discuss his naturalization case that had gone from bad to worse.

Ernesto had gained permanent residence through marriage to his U.S. Citizen spouse and was ready to apply for naturalization, having remained married to his spouse for at least 3 years before filing his application. Ernesto’s first problem was that he had relied on the assistance of a foreign attorney to prepare and file his application—an attorney who was not licensed to practice law in the United States and was not well versed in immigration law. The attorney had filed his naturalization application without carefully assessing his situation and pin pointing any potential issues he might experience. As a result of his foreign attorney’s incompetence, Ernesto’s application for naturalization was denied and his appeal—also filed by the foreign attorney– was also denied, leaving Ernesto in a very difficult position.

In the Notice of Intent to Deny Ernesto had received USCIS explained the reasons why he had been denied. The main issue was that USCIS was not convinced that he entered his marriage “in good” faith. Furthermore, USCIS argued that Ernesto had failed to present documented evidence proving that he had lived in marital union with his spouse for the 3 years preceding his examination. Due to the fact that USCIS had doubts about the legitimacy of the marital union, they conducted a home inspection at a time that Ernesto was not at his home. During the inspection, the field officers searched the bedroom he shared with his wife and discovered that his clothing was not present. Upon further examination, we found that the officers that conducted the home inspection failed to check the other bedrooms in the home and did not see that his clothing was located in an adjacent bedroom, and not in the room that he shared with his spouse. Ernesto had perfectly legitimate reasons for why he had not been at the home at the time of the inspection, and why his clothing was located in a different room of the house. Ernesto was a businessman and was typically out of town on business trips. On the particular day that the home inspection was conducted, he was out of town on a day business trip. Ernesto had also been traveling to the East Coast frequently for 4-5 months to pursue potential business investments and proposals, leaving his wife behind. Ernesto had been toying with the idea of starting a business on the East Coast, but was not certain if the plans would come to fruition, for that reason his wife had stayed behind across the country while he weighed his options. As a businessman, Ernesto maintained a non-traditional schedule that required him to work long hours, in addition to being apart from his wife. Due to the differences between his schedule and his wife’s schedule he decided to move his clothing to another bedroom so that he would not disturb his wife while he was preparing for his jam packed business schedule. In the end Ernesto’s business plans in the East Coast fell through and he returned to the state of California where he lived with his wife.

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Q: What qualifies as a bar of “Unlawful Presence?”

A: If you have accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence in the United States, you are subject to a 3-year bar preventing you from being re-admitted to the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Action Section §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I). The bar is triggered once you have departed the United States.

If you have accrued one year or more of unlawful presence in the United States, you are subject to a 10-year bar preventing you from being re-admitted to the United States under §212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II).

If upon your entry to the United States, you were not inspected, admitted, or paroled by a U.S. Customs Official, then you are ineligible to adjust your status to lawful permanent resident (LPR) within the United States, even if you have an approved visa petition. This means that in order to legalize your status, you are required to depart the United States and apply for an immigrant visa at a United States embassy or consulate abroad. Your departure from the United States will then trigger a 3- or 10-year bar to readmission, preventing you from returning to the United States, depending on the amount of “unlawful presence” you accrued prior to your departure.

There are ways to waive these 3- and 10-year bars to readmission only if you can demonstrate that your refusal of admission to the United States would cause an “extreme hardship” to your U.S. Citizen immediate relative or Legal Permanent Resident spouse or parent.

Q: Can I apply for the provisional waiver if I was previously deported, removed, or excluded from the United States?

If you received a final order of removal, deportation, or exclusion you may apply for a provisional waiver of unlawful presence, however you must first apply for the I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal, and the application must be conditionally approved.

If ICE or CBP has reinstated a prior removal order under 8 CFR §241.8, before filing of the provisional waiver application or while the application is in process, you are no longer eligible to receive a provisional waiver of unlawful presence. A provisional waiver approval would be automatically revoked if the applicant is found inadmissible under INA §212(a)(9)(C) for unlawful return to the United States after prior removal or prior unlawful presence.

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If you are a foreign entrepreneur, you have probably discovered that the United States immigration system is very limited in that there are very few visa options available to entrepreneurs that do not tie down the entrepreneur to a foreign employer, as is the case for the L and H visas. To make matters worse, if your ultimate goal is to obtain a green card to live and work in the United States permanently, you must work for an American employer willing to sponsor your adjustment of status. Although there are few exceptions, the main avenue through which entrepreneurs can gain permanent residence is either through family-sponsorship or employment-based sponsorship.

To obtain permanent residence through an employer you must either a) be a professional employed by a U.S. employer willing to sponsor your green card b) demonstrate extraordinary ability in your industry (science, arts, education, business, or athletics, c) work in a management or executive position abroad requiring international transfer to the United States or d) qualify as an EB-5 investor. In either of these cases, the U.S. employer must submit the I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker for you, before you can apply for permanent residence. If your ultimate goal is not to obtain a green card, then you have more options available to you.

We decided to write about this topic because we have found that many entrepreneurs that visit our office are not well-informed on other visa types that put them on a more direct path to permanent residence. Often times the topic of conversation leads to the E-2 Treaty trader visa, by far the most discussed visa type among entrepreneurs. Few entrepreneurs however have heard about the L-1 visa classification, that may in some ways be more beneficial to foreign entrepreneurs wishing to live and work in the United States permanently. Below we discuss both visa types and the advantages and disadvantages of both visas.

The E-2 visa, the most talked about visa:

Without a doubt, the most popular visa option entrepreneurs ask about is the E-2 visa. Many entrepreneurs however do not know that the E-2 visa is not available to everyone, and it is not a path to permanent residence. The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant treaty investor visa that is only available to foreign nationals from specific treaty countries. The E-2 visa allows foreign nationals to carry out investment and trade activities, after making a substantial investment in a U.S. business that the foreign national will control and direct. E-2 visa investors can either purchase an existing U.S. business or start a new business.

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The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a new final rule that will expand the class of individuals who are eligible to apply for a ‘provisional’ waiver of certain grounds of inadmissibility (Form I-601A) based on their accrual of unlawful presence in the United States.

The provisional unlawful presence waiver allows certain individuals, unlawfully present in the United States, to request a provisional waiver before departing the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visas.

Previously, only immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens were eligible for this waiver. The provisional waiver is beneficial because it does not require the applicant to wait until the consular interview, to apply for a waiver, as in the case of the I-601 waiver. Provisional waivers also substantially reduce the time of separation between the applicant and his or her U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR) relatives.

The rule was published in order to improve efficiency and reduce the amount of time that a U.S. Citizen/LPR spouse or parent is separated from his or her relatives while the relative completes the immigrant visa process. According to the 2013 rule, parents, spouses and children of U.S. Citizens were eligible to apply for provisional waivers of the 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars before departing the United States for their immigrant visa interviews. The new rule expands upon the 2013 rule extending that benefit to family members of LPRs.

Who benefits?

The rule will expand the provisional waiver process to certain individuals who are family members of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who meet the statutory requirements to be eligible for an immigrant visa. The rule will expand eligibility to all individuals statutorily eligible for the waiver. In order to qualify, applicants must be able to establish that their U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse or parent would experience an “extreme hardship” if the applicant was not allowed to remain in the United States. The final rule will take effect on August 29, 2016.

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