Articles Posted in Adjustment of Status

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In 2013, as a Polish citizen who worked in Ireland, I started very seriously considering going to the United States to become a student and receive education to excel at my job. Little did I know how difficult it could actually be to cross the doorstep of the US embassy and go through the interview process. My heart broke when I experienced denial. I remember walking out of the building crying and then running through the rain towards the bus station. It felt like some horrific movie scene. 

I wanted to give up and never try again. I went back to work and tried my hardest not to think about it. Within a few days, however, my friend and I, found Jacob Sapochnick’s website. I looked up reviews instantly, and I became very excited about the idea of talking to him and his team about my situation. 

My consultation was over the phone, but Jacob did a marvelous job outlining details, and, in fact, his prognosis was very positive. I couldn’t believe that I could still be able to fulfill my dreams and, perhaps, reapply. In 2014, while I was visiting the US on a tourist visa, I met with Jacob and his team in person and decided to file a change of status application. I didn’t think twice, and we gave it a go. Everyone did an incredible job filling out all the necessary paperwork. Whenever I was worried or felt down, I could call them and get a prompt calming answer. I still remember talking to Inese, one of Jacob’s employees, and hearing how positive she was about the outcome of my case.  

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In a continuing saga, the President is maintaining his hardline stance on immigration, this time expanding into the realm of legal immigration. Earlier this month, the Department of State released an amended version of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) used by governmental agencies and other federal agencies as a manual, which directs and codifies information that must be carried out by respective agencies “in accordance with statutory, executive and Department mandates.”

The new amended version of the manual expands the definition of misrepresentation, the types of activities that may support a presumption of fraud, and establishes changes to existing policies that federal agents must follow in making assessments of fraud or material representation.

The manual sets out a list of activities which may support a presumption of fraud or material representation by an individual applying for any immigration benefit:

  • Engaging in unauthorized employment;
  • Enrolling in a course of academic study, if such study is not authorized for that nonimmigrant classification (e.g. B status);
  • A nonimmigrant in B or F status, or any other status prohibiting immigrant intent, marrying a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident and taking up residence in the United States; or
  • Undertaking any other activity for which a change of status or an adjustment of status would be required, without the benefit of such a change or adjustment.

Old Rule: Previously, the rules set out by the Foreign Affairs Manual and USCIS imposed a presumption of fraud on persons who entered the United States with a non-immigrant visa type (e.g. as a tourist, business visitor, student, trainee etc.) and subsequently married a U.S. Citizen and applied for adjustment of status within the first 30 days of entering the United States.

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Now is a good time to file your green card application. Significant wait times are expected given a new policy passed by the Trump administration that will require in-person interviews for LPR applicants filing based on employment sponsorship

In yet another controversial move, the Trump administration has recently adopted a new policy change that will require an in-person interview for individuals wishing to obtain lawful permanent residency based on employment sponsorship. The new policy will be implemented beginning October 1st.
Previously, foreign nationals applying for permanent residency, based on employment sponsorship, were not required to attend an in-person interview, although this allowance was discretionary. In recent years, the in-person interview requirement was typically reserved for individuals applying for permanent residency based on a qualifying familial relationship, and not for individuals applying based on employment sponsorship.

A USCIS spokesperson announced the new policy change on Friday August 25th, a change that will delay the process of obtaining a green card significantly, given the increased number of individuals that will be required to attend an in-person interview. According to USCIS this change in policy will apply to any individual adjusting their status to legal permanent residency from an employment-based visa category.

What’s more, family members of refugees or asylees, holding a valid U.S. visa, will also be required to attend an in-person interview when applying for provisional status.

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On August 02, 2017, Republican Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) introduced a new Act called “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy” before the U.S. Senate, otherwise known as the RAISE Act, which is a new piece of legislation that has recently been backed by President Trump.

The RAISE Act aims to overhaul the employment-based immigration system and replace it with a skills-based system that awards points to immigrants based on the immigrant’s level of education, age, ability to speak the English language, future job salary, level of investment, and professional achievements. In addition, the RAISE Act would terminate the Diversity Visa Program, which awards 50,000 visas to foreign nationals from qualifying countries, and would ultimately reduce the number of family-sponsored immigrants allowed admission to the United States. The Act intends to focus on the family-based immigration of spouses and minor children and would reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States.

Among other things the RAISE Act would:

  • Terminate the Diversity Visa Program which awards 50,000 green cards to immigrants from qualifying countries;
  • Slash the annual distribution of green cards to just over 500,000 (a change from the current issuance of over 1 million green cards annually);
  • Employment-based green cards would be awarded according to a skill-based points system that ranks applicants according to their level of education, age, ability to speak the English language, salary, level of investment, and achievements (see below);
  • The issuance of employment-based green cards would be capped at 140,000 annually;
  • Limit the maximum number of refugees admitted to the United States to 50,000;
  • Limit admission of asylees. The number of asylees admitted to the United States on any given year would be set by the President on an annual basis;
  • Amend the definition of “Immediate Relative” to an individual who is younger than 18 years of age instead of an individual who is younger than 21 years of age;
  • Adult children and extended family members of individuals living in the United States would no longer be prioritized to receive permanent residence. Instead the focus would remain on the immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens and legal permanent residents such as spouses and children under the age of 18;
  • The Act would allow sick parents of U.S. Citizens to be allowed to enter the United States on a renewable five-year visa, provided the U.S. Citizen would be financially responsible for the sick parent.

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On July 26, 2017 Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced H.R. 3440 the House version of the Dream Act of 2017, a bill that would give young people who were brought to the United States as children, a pathway to obtain conditional legal permanent residence, provided these individuals meet certain requirements.

Under this act, certain qualifying individuals would receive cancellation of removal, and the opportunity to adjust their status to conditional permanent residence, provided the individual has been a long-term resident of the United States, entered the United States as a child, and has not been convicted of serious criminal offenses.

While this Act is still in its early stages, it has received widespread bipartisan support, signaling a serious commitment to shield DREAMers from deportation on both sides of the aisle.

Requirements:

Under this act, to qualify for conditional permanent residence an alien would be required to:

  • Have continuous physical presence in the United States (4 years before the date of the enactment of the act);
  • Have been younger than 18 years of age on the date on which the alien initially entered the United States without inspection;
  • Be admitted to an institution of higher education;
  • Earned a high school diploma, or a commensurate alternative award from a public or private high school, or obtained a GED under State law, or a high school equivalency diploma in the United States, or enrolled in secondary school, or in an education program assisting students in obtaining a regular high school diploma or equivalency, or passing a GED exam or other similar State-authorized exam;
  • The alien must have been found inadmissible under paragraph (2), (3), (6)(E), (6)(G), (8), (10) (A), (10) (C), or (10) (D) of section 212(a) of the INA;

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John came to our office distraught after receiving a notice of decision from USCIS indicating that his wife’s green card application was being denied, because the evidence John had submitted with the application was not sufficient to establish his wife’s eligibility for adjustment of status. Specifically, John had failed to provide the necessary documents for the I-864 Affidavit of Support, a form that must be filed along with the green card application to show that the U.S. Citizen Spouse or joint sponsor can financially support the intended beneficiary (in this case his wife), as well as to prove that the beneficiary will not rely on the government for financial support. The I-864 Affidavit of Support is very important for adjustment of status petitions. Failure to properly complete the I-864, and provide the necessary documents to prove that the petitioner is capable of financially supporting the beneficiary will result in a denial of the I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

During our consultation, John, the U.S. Citizen spouse, told us that he completed his wife’s green card application himself, and compiled what he thought were the documents necessary to go along with the application. Much to his surprise, he discovered that he had not completed the I-864 Affidavit of Support correctly, and had not included the proper documentation with the application. Because of this, his wife’s green card application was being denied, even though he did indeed have the financial means to support his spouse and had the necessary documentation to prove it.

Unfortunately, John did not do his homework to research how to complete the I-864 Affidavit of Support properly, and did not understand what documents he needed to include to prove his financial ability to provide for his spouse. Like many people, John thought that it was best to save himself some money and file his wife’s green card application himself without having to pay a lawyer to complete the paperwork. He told himself how hard can it be? While it is true that many people successfully file their green card applications on their own, it is important to know that if you decide to do the application yourself, you must read the instructions of each form to be filed with the I-485 application very carefully. Failure to do so is likely to result in the denial of your application. In that sense, you may be doing yourself a disservice by filing on your own. Lawyers have the knowledge and expertise to file a green card application seamlessly.

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With the onset of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, rumors have swirled about whether the newly elected President will terminate the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for undocumented persons who came to the United States as children, otherwise known as “Dreamers.” The DACA program was made possible by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, with the passage of an executive order signed into law in 2012. Although Trump has openly stated that he plans to dismantle the DACA program within his first 100 days in office, in the days following his election, he backtracked his stance on the issue in an interview for TIME magazine, and instead promised that in its place, Dreamers would receive temporary “protection” from the federal government which would allow them to remain in the United States lawfully without fear of deportation. Although Trump did not fully elaborate on the details of such governmental immunity, his remarks gave Dreamers hope that the DACA program might not end after all, or at the very least that similar temporary relief might be put in its place.

Aside from Trump’s political motivations, several senators have introduced bipartisan legislation in the form of the BRIDGE Act (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow our Economy). The BRIDGE Act was introduced in early December, before the inauguration of Donald Trump, and is designed to protect Dreamers from deportation by allowing them to obtain “provisional protected presence” for a three-year period similar to the “deferred status” given to Dreamers under the DACA program. If passed the BRIDGE Act will also allow Dreamers to keep their temporary employment authorization (EAD) benefits. It must be noted that at this time the BRIDGE Act is still only a bill. The BRIDGE Act has not yet been signed into law, and no other bill has yet been passed protecting Dreamers from deportation.

Many of our clients and readers are stuck in this “legal” limbo and are unsure of what the future of DACA may hold. The good news is that because the DACA program has not yet been dismantled, DACA recipients are still protected from deportation by the “deferred status” they have received from USCIS. If you have received deferred status which has not yet expired, it is recommended that you obtain a stamp in your foreign passport from the Department of Homeland Security that indicates that you have been “paroled” into the United States based on your grant of DACA or “deferred status.” A person who has been granted deferred status may seek temporary admission to the United States as a parolee. A parolee is an alien who is inadmissible to the United States, but may be allowed to enter the United States for humanitarian reasons or when the alien’s entry is determined to be for significant public benefit. The grant of “deferred” action allows a person who does not otherwise meet the technical requirements for a visa or is inadmissible to the United States, permission to enter the United States on “parole” for a temporary period of time. Dreamers may obtain a stamp in their passport as evidence of this temporary status or “parole” by appearing before a customs official at a port of entry (such as an international airport) with evidence of their approved DACA status and employment authorization card. Upon inspection, the stamp will indicate to immigration officials that you have entered the country legally and that you have been granted parole based on your DACA. Although parole will not grant Dreamers formal admission to the United States, it will grant an alien “temporary” status to remain in the country lawfully. The stamp, for now, will allow Dreamers to breathe a sigh of relief since it serves as proof of the alien’s “legal” admission to the United States. Dreamers who marry U.S. Citizens in the future may use their “parole” stamp and I-94 arrival/departure record as evidence of their legal admission to the United States to apply for permanent residency.

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On December 28, 2016, the Department of State announced that original or “wet ink” signatures are no longer required on Form I-864 Affidavit of Support for immigrant visa petitions. This new measure also applies to I-864 supplements such as the I-864A, I-864W, and I-864EZ. Beginning January 1, 2017 the National Visa Center will begin to accept photocopies and scans of signed I-864 affidavit of support forms. The I-864 will still need to contain the affiant’s signature, however the signature no longer needs to be a “wet ink” signature. Typed names and electronic signatures are not acceptable. Petitioners will be required to submit an amended I-864 form to the National Visa Center if the sponsor’s name and personal information is missing and there is no signature or missing pages. Petitioners who will need to send an amended I-864 will receive a “checklist” containing the information that must be corrected on form I-864. If you receive a checklist letter prior to January 1, 2017 asking for an original signature on form I-864 please contact the National Visa Center.

Such requests will contain the following language:

[ x ] In Part 8. Sponsor’s Contract, please correct the following…

[ x ] Item 6.a. You must sign the form and your signature must be original (in ink).

These improvements will simplify the immigrant visa “consular processing” by streamlining the submission of financial evidence in support of an immigrant visa application. The Department of State hopes that this new measure will reduce the amount of immigrant visas rejected at the interview stage. The NVC will continue to use an assessment type of letter to address other inconsistencies and errors found on the I-864 form. This assessment letter indicates which issues if any appear on the affidavit of support which could potentially delay the adjudication of the immigrant visa petition. Typically, this letter will indicate either that the sponsor has completed the form incorrectly or did not provide sufficient financial documentation in support of the affidavit of support. For example, if the petitioner does not meet the income requirement based on their household size, the assessment letter will indicate that more evidence is needed to establish that the income has been met, or a joint sponsor will be required. The assessment letter asks the petitioner to correct the issues before the immigrant is scheduled for their immigrant visa interview at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad. If NVC sends an assessment letter, follow the instructions on the letter. Typically, the immigrant is instructed to bring a corrected affidavit of support to the interview with the suggested documents.

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For years you have 8276375308_d5f2721898_zput your trust in our office for all of your immigration needs and for that we thank you. We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to serve you and your families. Throughout the years, we have helped thousands of immigrants from all over the world attain their American dream. Learning about their lives and their struggles has

always been an important part of our practice. Although many challenges lie ahead for immigration, we are confident that important changes will come about in the new year. Do not despair and know that our office will be with you every step of the way. We wish you and your families the happiest of holiday seasons.

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In this segment, we answer 5 of your most frequently asked questions received from our social media platforms and website. Please remember that every case is different and every immigration journey is unique. You should not compare your situation to anyone else’s. We hope that our answers will provide you with further guidance while you embark on your immigration journey. If you have any further questions, please call our office to schedule a free first time consultation. We serve international clients and domestic clients in all 50 states. We thank you for your continued trust in our law office. Do you want us to answer your question in a future segment? Please email nathalie@h1b.biz. For more information on the services we offer please click here.

Immigrating a Foreign Spouse: Incorrect Filing of the I-130

Q: I am currently at an impasse with my wife’s immigration process. We have moved on to the NVC stage of the process, and they have notified us that they will tentatively schedule her for her immigrant visa interview in her home country, although she is currently in the US on an expired visa. Thus-far, her I-130 petition has been approved and they denied the I-129 because of the approval. How can I get the interview location changed to the US without paying for and submitting the I-485?

A: Thank you for your question. More information is needed from you to fully assess your wife’s case such as a complete copy of the I-130 petition that was filed with USCIS. It appears that at the beginning of her case you elected to begin consular processing to immigrate your wife to the United States, and she later traveled to the United States while her I-130 petition was pending with USCIS. As you know, the first step of the consular process to immigrate a foreign spouse, requires you to file the I-130 petition for alien relative. This brings us to the main problem. The I-130 petition is the petition that determines where your wife will be interviewed, whether it be for adjustment of status in the United States, or to obtain an immigrant visa. In other words, the I-130 petition is intimately tied to the location where she will have her interview. On Part C. Item number 22 of the I-130 petition, USCIS specifically asks you to provide complete information regarding whether your relative is in the United States and will apply for adjustment of status, or whether your relative is not in the United States and will instead apply for a visa abroad at an American consular post or embassy abroad. If you responded that your relative was not in the United States and would apply for an immigrant visa abroad at the time of filing, it would be a very rare circumstance that USCIS would allow a change of venue for her interview.

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