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In this post, we bring our readers important information regarding revisions to the Notice to Appear “NTA” policy guidelines. On June 28, 2018, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new policy guidance outlining the Department’s priorities for enforcement and removal of undocumented immigrants from the United States.

Form I-862 also known as a Notice to Appear is a document that is given to an individual to initiate removal proceedings. The Notice to Appear instructs the individual of a date and time to appear in immigration court for removal proceedings.

To better align with the President’s Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” USCIS has revised its NTA policy expanding the class of individuals who may be referred to ICE and issued a Notice to Appear. Under the revised policy, USCIS may now refer cases “with articulated suspicions of fraud to ICE prior to adjudication,” of cases filed with USCIS. The revised policy does not apply to recipients and requestors of Deferred Action (DACA) when (1) processing an initial or renewal DACA request or DACA-related benefit request; or (2) processing a DACA recipient for possible termination of DACA. For this class of individuals the 2011 NTA guidelines will apply.

The President’s Executive Order 13768 specifically calls on DHS to “prioritize the removal of aliens described in INA §§ 212(a)(2), (a)(3), (a)(6)(C), 235, and 237(a)(2) and (a)(4) … who are removable based on criminal or security grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, and aliens subject to expedited removal.”

In addition, the Executive Order prioritizes the removal of individuals who:

  • (a) Have been convicted of any criminal offense;
  • (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense that has not been resolved;
  • (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense;
  • (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency;
  • (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits;
  • (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but have not departed; or
  • (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security

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A recent Supreme Court decision may enhance the pool of individuals eligible for cancellation of their removal proceedings. Cancellation of removal is a form of relief granted to individuals unlawfully present in the United States, who have been physically present in the United States continuously for a period of no less than 10 years, immediately preceding the date of an application for cancellation of removal. Under 8 U.S.C. section 1229(b)(1)(A), however the period of continuous presence ends when the alien has been served with a notice to appear in immigration court, also known as an “NTA.” A notice to appear is a document issued by the government that initiates a noncitizen alien’s removal proceedings.

Section 1229(d)(1)(A) mandates that the United States government must serve noncitizens in removal proceedings with a written “notice to appear,” specifying the time and place where the removal proceedings are expected to take place.

However, the Department of Homeland Security has followed a regulation dating back to the year 1997 wherein the agency has failed to notify noncitizens of the time, place, or date of initial removal hearings “whenever the agency deems it impracticable to include such information.”

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has held that even though these notices do not specify the time and date of removal proceedings as required by 8 U.S.C. section 1229(b)(1)(A), the period of continuous presence is still considered to have ended at the time the notice to appear (NTA) is served on the noncitizen alien.

The 1997 regulation along with the BIA ruling has created problems for individuals who would otherwise qualify for cancellation of removal under section 1229(d)(1)(A) of the law, because a deficient NTA served upon a noncitizen would mean that the individual would continue to remain physically present in the United States, despite being served with a deficient NTA.

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Earlier this week, the United States Supreme Court handed down a controversial decision upholding the President’s latest travel ban in the case Trump, President of the United States, Et Al. v. Hawaii Et Al. The 5-4 decision reflected a deeply divided court, but ultimately the conservative justices on the court banded together ruling in favor of the Trump administration.

Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, ruled that the latest travel ban was “squarely within the scope of Presidential authority.” Justices Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Ginsburg dissented. Despite concurring with the majority opinion Justice Kennedy added, “An anxious world must know that our Government remains committed always to the liberties the Constitution seeks to preserve and protect, so that freedom extends outward, and lasts.”

As you may recall in September of 2017 the President issued Executive Order No. 9645, entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats.” The purpose of this executive order was to identify any deficiencies from several foreign countries needed to adequately assess whether nationals from particular countries seeking to enter the United States presented security or safety threats to the United States. The order specifically called for global requirements for information sharing among these countries, and increased immigration screening and vetting of individuals from particular countries of concern. The President exercised his broad authority under the constitution to place entry restrictions on nationals of eight foreign countries whose information systems for managing and sharing information about their nationals was deemed inadequate by the current administration. These countries included—Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and Somalia.

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Return of Unselected Petitions for H-1B Applicants FY 2019 Begins

H-1B applicants who were not selected in the H-1B visa lottery for fiscal year 2019 will begin to receive their rejected applications from the Vermont Service Center and California Service Center. Our office expects to receive returned packages within the next few months. If you were not selected in the lottery, there are several alternatives that you may be interested in. To read all about these alternatives please read our helpful blog post here.

USCIS Adjustment of Status Filing Dates July 2018

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On Wednesday June 20, 2018, President Donald Trump signed executive order, “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation,” in response to mounting outrage over the administration’s controversial policy of separating immigrant parents from their children at the border.

The executive order clarifies that it will remain the policy of the United States to detain and remove aliens who have unlawfully entered or attempted to enter the United States outside of a designated port of entry, and that such individuals remain subject to a fine or imprisonment under U.S. law. The administration however promises to maintain family unity “by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”

What the order does

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In this post we discuss the top five most common reasons your adjustment of status application may be denied.

Financial Reasons

One of the requirements to receive adjustment of status in the United States is to prove that the petitioner (the U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse) has sufficient income or assets to support you based on the petitioner’s household size when filing the I-864 Affidavit of Support. The petitioner must meet at least 125% of the U.S. poverty guidelines in order to sponsor the beneficiary of the adjustment of status application. If the petitioner does not meet that income requirement, they may be able to use assets such as properties, a 401(k), mutual investment fund, ownership of stocks, ownership of two or more automobiles to supplement their income. However, if the petitioner will be using the value of their assets to supplement their income, the total value of the assets must be equal to at least three times the difference between the total household income and 125% of the U.S. poverty guidelines for their household size. For an example of how to use assets to supplement income, please review the I-864 affidavit of support instructions.

If the petitioner does not meet the income requirement and cannot supplement the shortage with their assets, they must obtain a joint sponsor who does meet 125% of the U.S. poverty guidelines based on their income. A joint sponsor can be anyone that is a U.S. Citizen or LPR that satisfies the poverty guidelines.

One of the most common reasons for a denial of the adjustment of status application is that the petitioner and/or joint sponsor does not meet the required income requirement. Failure to respond to a request for evidence with satisfactory evidence will mean a denial of the application, even before the couple gets to the interview stage.

Public Charge

If USCIS believes that the beneficiary will likely become dependent on the U.S. government for long-term care or financial support, the green card application will be denied. USCIS reviews the I-864 affidavit of support and income documentation closely to determine whether the beneficiary is likely to become a public charge. Factors that may be considered to make this determination include the total income of the petitioner, the joint sponsor, assets, resources, and general financial status at the time of filing.

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In this post, we share with our readers the top five things you need to know before applying for the I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.

  1. You must file the I-751 Removal of Conditions if you were granted Conditional Resident status (a 2-year green card) based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident

A conditional permanent resident receives a green card that is valid for a 2-year period. Conditional permanent residence is given to foreign nationals who have been married for less than 2 years, on the day that the application for permanent residence was approved. Conditional permanent residents have “conditional” status instead of “permanent” resident status, because they must prove that they did not marry the US Citizen or LPR spouse solely to obtain an immigration benefit. These individuals must go through the additional hurdle of filing Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence to obtain a permanent resident card (10-year green card).

  1. You must file the I-751 petition in a timely manner

The I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence must be filed during the 90-day window immediately before the conditional residence will expire (see the conditional green card’s expiration date and subtract 90 days).

  1. Consequences of Failing to File

If you fail to remove your conditions before the 90-day window closes, you will automatically lose your permanent resident status on the second anniversary of the date you were granted conditional status. You are then subject to removal from the United States. You may only file an I-751 petition after the expiration date of your conditional residence if you demonstrate that your delay in filing the petition was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control

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Today, Monday June 11, 2018, in an unprecedented move, the Trump administration announced that it would be dropping asylum protection for survivors of domestic violence. The announcement was made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions this afternoon in the case Matter of A-B- 27 I&N Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018), which explained that victims of domestic violence would no longer be eligible to receive asylum in the United States.

Matter of A-B- 27 effectively reverses a decision formerly made by the Department of Justice immigration appellate court which granted asylum to a woman from the country of El Salvador on the basis of allegations of rape and abuse by her husband.

In his decision, dated June 11, 2018, the Attorney General overruled a separate but similar decision in Matter of A-R-C-G-, stating that the case was “wrongly decided” by the appellate court and should not have become precedent. The Attorney General was able to make such a binding decision on immigration courts across the country because their authority derives directly from the Department of Justice, instead of the judiciary branch.

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In this post, we share with our readers the top five things you need to know before filing for citizenship.

  1. You must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States for a required period of time to apply for citizenship

In order to apply for citizenship, you must be a lawful permanent resident of the United States for a specified period of time. The period of time you must wait before filing for citizenship depends on how you acquired your permanent residence.

If you acquired your permanent residence based on marriage to a United States Citizen spouse, and you are still married to that individual, you may apply for citizenship once you have reached a 3-year period of continuous residence as a legal permanent resident.

If you are no longer married to the U.S. Citizen spouse through which you gained your permanent residence, or if you did not gain your permanent residence based on marriage, you may apply for citizenship once you have reached a required 5-year period of continuous residence as a legal permanent resident.

  1. You must demonstrate that you have been physically present in the United States and maintained continuous residence for a required period of time in order to file for citizenship

Physical Presence

In order to apply for citizenship, you must demonstrate that you have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months in the 5 years preceding your citizenship application.

Continuous Residence

In addition, you must demonstrate that you have maintained continuous residence in the United States for a 3- or 5-year period depending on how you obtained your permanent residence. This means that you must not have taken any trips outside of the United States that lasted more than 6 months out of the year in the 5 years preceding your citizenship application. Trips outside of the United States include trips taken to Mexico.

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TPS Updates: Re-Registration Period is Now Open for Hondurans with TPS

Current beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under the Honduras country designation, who wish to maintain their TPS benefits, such as ability to continue working in the United States through the official termination date of the TPS program on January 5, 2020, must re-register for TPS benefits between June 5, 2018 and August 6, 2018.

Re-registration instructions are now available on the USCIS TPS website.

Re-registration Procedure:

Applicants must file Form I-821 Application for Temporary Protected Status as well as Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization, preferably at the same time, but applicants may also file Form I-765 separately at a later date.

New EADs with a January 5, 2020 expiration date will be issued to Honduran TPS beneficiaries who apply within the re-registration period ending on August 6, 2018. USCIS will make every effort to issue new EADs before current EADs expire, however there are no guarantees given the amount of time required to process TPS re-registration applications.

USCIS has automatically extended the expiration date on EADs issued under the TPS designation of Honduras for 180 days, through January 1, 2019. This extension applies to individuals who have EADs that expired on January 5, 2018 and applied for a new EAD during the last re-registration period but have not yet received a new EAD.

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