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Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Supreme Court to Rule on the Travel Ban

The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear a case involving the implementation of the travel ban proposed by the Trump Administration earlier this year. The travel ban was originally supposed to exclude people seeking to enter the United States from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, from entering the country. This included visitors on travel visas, workers, students, and even those who had previously been vetted by the government and given permission to enter the United States. Refugees from all countries were to be banned from entry for a period of time.

While the Supreme Court will hear the full case later this year, it allowed the travel ban to go into effect restricting the entry of some people, but allowing those with “bona fide relationships” to the United States to be allowed entry. The problem that is developing with this ruling is that there was no exhaustive definition of what made up those bona fide relationships.

The Supreme Court did give some examples of the kinds of relationships that would meet the definition, but the rules that are developing are more restrictive than most people expected. In the examples of bona fide relationships, the Supreme Court listed close family members, students, and workers who have an offer of employment.

The new guidelines that have been issued by the administration following the court’s ruling have restricted close family members to people who belong to a traditional nuclear family, as well as some in-laws. This has excluded grandparents, cousins, and others who may otherwise have been close family members. Fiancées were later added to the list of those who would be allowed to travel to the country despite the ban. For people wanting to come into the United States with a bona fide relationship with an entity, the relationship has to be formal and long established, not a relationship created to avoid the travel ban.

Refugees will still remain largely restricted from entering the United States, but those with bona fide relationships will likely be allowed entry. For example, if a father already entered the United States as a refugee, his wife and children will not likely be affected by the ban. On the other hand, a family of refugees whose only tie is to an aid agency is unlikely to be allowed entry under current rules.

The new rules have cleared up some of the confusion that came with the implementation of the first travel ban. Therefore, those with legal permanent residence in the United States should not have any issues coming into the country, as well as those with student or work visas that were previously granted and are still valid.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

More legal challenges are expected as the government begins to implement the new rules related to the travel ban. If you are concerned or confused about how the partial implementation of the travel ban will affect you or your family members in the six countries, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP today.

U.S. Guest Worker Programs

The United States has various visa programs aimed at letting foreign nationals work in the United States for a period of time. The two main guest worker programs for low skilled jobs are the H-2A program and the H-2B program. The H-2A program is for workers who take up temporary agricultural work, and H-2B program is for workers who will take up temporary nonagricultural work.

Employers usually recruit guest workers, some of whom may already be in the United States, for temporary work usually meant to be for less than a year. In order to obtain visas under these guest worker programs and allow foreign workers to legally work in the United States, the employer has to show that the need for the worker is temporary. The employer also has to show that there are not enough U.S workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available meet the need. The guest worker visas issued under H-2A and H-2B do not lead to legal permanent residence.

Because of the way the programs are set up, there have been reports of major abuses of immigrant workers by the employers and contractors who supply the workers to employers. These abuses generally relate to workplace abuses, such as time and pay issues, and even sexual harassment. In some cases, workers are also cheated out of large sums of money by contractors and recruiters who assure them that the guest worker programs lead to green cards or lawful permanent residence.

Unfortunately, most temporary guest workers do not know that they have rights even as temporary workers in the United States. Having these rights means that when employers do not pay the applicable minimum wage, cheat their workers out of hours worked, or engage in other employment abuses, the workers can sue or file complaints to enforce their rights.

For most workers who do know or are at least aware of their employment rights, there is a fear that they will not continue to get work after they complain or file a lawsuit. An employee generally cannot be fired for filing a lawsuit to enforce employment rights. However, employers under the guest worker program can terminate an employee at any time, which leads to the employee losing his visa and ability to stay in the country illegally. Employees who are fired in this way can still file lawsuits to enforce their rights against abusive employers.

If you are an immigrant looking to work in the United States under a guest worker program or any other employment visa category, you should do as much research as possible before signing on with a contractor or employee. Ask around in your community for any information about a prospective employer before you take on the job. While having an opportunity to work legally in the United States may seem an attractive offer, if you are working for the wrong person, it can quickly turn into a nightmare.

Contact us for Legal Assistance

If you need assistance with a visa application or immigration status change, an experienced immigration attorney may be able to assist you. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California and schedule a consultation.

DAPA Withdrawal Ends a Path to Legalization for Undocumented Parents of U.S. Citizens

This week brought some disappointing news for undocumented immigrants who would have qualified for deferred action under a program known as the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. President Barack Obama authorized DAPA in 2014 as a way to protect the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. However, the program never kicked off because it was blocked by courts. This week, the current administration withdrew the program, effectively ending any further litigation, and cutting off the possibility of deferred status for millions of eligible immigrant parents.

Like with DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, eligible parents who received DAPA status would have been able to apply to live in the U.S. and apply for work authorization for an initial period of three years. There was a lot of opposition against the grant of deferred status under DAPA, and it does not come as a surprise that the measure was blocked. However, with the withdrawal of DAPA comes the question of what will happen to the DACA recipients.

Fortunately, there does not seem to be any current move to revoke DACA, which means that those who are eligible under DACA can continue to apply for deferred action and work permits. DACA recipients are supposed to be protected under the program, but as we have previously discussed, some DACA recipients have recently been arrested and deported. This does not mean that it is not safe to apply for DACA; cases of DACA deportations seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

With the withdrawal of DAPA, there is currently no clear path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in the country. It is uncertain if congress will take action to craft an acceptable law that would provide the path to citizenship and allow undocumented immigrants to live without fear of deportation. It is unlikely that the current administration will take action through Executive Action as was done with DACA.

There are other alternatives for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens to gain citizenship or lawful permanent residence. One way is through the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident children filing an application for an adjustment of status for their parents to be granted a visa or to receive a green card. However, this is not always easy depending on how the parents first entered the country, and if they were previously deported and reentered the country again illegally. There are several other issues that could come up when making these applications and it is often necessary to have an experienced immigration attorney handle the application.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

When weighing the advantages of applying for the benefits available under DACA versus the risk of deportation, it is important to speak to an immigration attorney about your individual situation. If you want to discuss your DACA application, or have received a removal order for your deportation, you should contact us for legal assistance. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP today.

Changing or Adjusting Visa Status While in the United States

People visiting the United States for a temporary purpose, such as tourism or to attend school, usually obtain different visas that are grouped into a category known as nonimmigrant visas. The nonimmigrant status usually means that at the time the visa is granted, the person has represented that he or she has no intention of staying in the country long term. However, when a nonimmigrant visa holder changes his plans and wishes to stay longer, he is required to apply for a change or adjustment of status.

A person may adjust status from a nonimmigrant visa status to an immigrant visa status, or change status from one category of a nonimmigrant visa to another. For example, if a visitor on a nonimmigrant tourist visa wishes to change status in order to attend school in the United States, he or she can apply for a nonimmigrant student visa. Similarly, if a visitor on a nonimmigrant visa wishes to get married, he or she can apply to adjust his status to an immigrant visa or lawful permanent residence.

You cannot change your nonimmigrant status if your nonimmigrant visa is expired. You would have to leave the country and reapply for the visa you need from outside the United States. However, if your visa expired and you stayed in the country for a long period of time out of status, leaving the country is no guarantee that you will receive another nonimmigrant visa.

There are some nonimmigrant visa holders who may not change status while in the United States. These include finance visa holders and people who are granted nonimmigrant visa for helping the United States government by informing on terrorism and organized crime. If you cannot change status while in the United States, it does not mean that you cannot change status by leaving the country and reapplying for a different visa from your home country or from another country.

Additionally, some nonimmigrant visa holders, for example under the J-1 visa, are required to return to their home country for a minimum of two years after the end of their program. This means that they are not allowed to change or adjust status before fulfilling the two-year requirement if it applies to them. There is a waiver available under certain conditions. If the person holding a J-1 visa and his or her family members believes they will be subject to persecution based on race, religion, or political opinion upon returning to their home country, they may qualify for a waiver of the requirement. If a waiver is applicable, it may be possible to change or adjust status.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

Life can be unpredictable, and your reason for visiting the United States may change during your visit, and you may have to apply for a new visa in order to avoid immigration issues down the road. If you need to change your visa from one nonimmigrant visa to another, or from a nonimmigrant visa to lawful permanent resident status, contact us for more information and assistance on filing your application. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP.

Undocumented Students Access to Financial Aid

Generally, undocumented students are not eligible for federal financial aid to help pay for the cost of a college degree or other forms of higher education. This does not mean that the students do not have other options, and these come mainly in the form of institutional aid and state assistance.

In California, undocumented students who meet certain criteria qualify to pay in-state tuition in California schools. This can make a big difference, with students saving thousands or tens of thousands a year in tuition costs. Undocumented students who attended a California high school for at least three years may be eligible.

Additionally, California provides undocumented students with an opportunity to borrow money to pay for their educational costs. This loan, known as a DREAM loan, has a relatively low interest rate and allows a student to borrow a maximum of $20,000. Students who receive scholarships and other grants and aid can use the DREAM loan to bridge any gap in aid and pay for their education in full, even though the student has to pay the loan back.

Undocumented students have to complete annual applications in order to apply for aid and certify their eligibility for paying lower tuition fees. This does require providing a lot of identifying information to the state and to the school the student is attending. This may make some undocumented students or their parents hesitate because of a fear that this information may be used to target them for deportation.

Generally, the information that students provide for student aid purposes is not shared with federal immigration officials. Additionally, several cities and schools in California have declared they are sanctuary cities and schools, and would not likely share this information with immigration officials except in serious circumstances, or where it is required by law.

Students who have registered under DACA, sometimes referred to as DACA-mented, are not eligible for federal financial aid in the form of either loans or grants. These students still have an advantage of being able to work in the U.S. legally, which could help them earn money to help them pay for the cost of tuition and room and board. DACA-mented students can also apply for in-state tuition and the DREAM loan discussed above.

The opportunities discussed above do not generally apply to students who are seeking to attend school in California under a nonimmigrant student visa such as a J-visa or F-1 visa. Students who are on a non-immigrant visa generally pay nonresident tuition rates, and are restricted in the forms of financial aid they receive. These students typically receive private or school grants and scholarships.

Contact Us for Legal Advice

If you are the parent of an undocumented student and are worried that enrollment in school could cause problems for the student and put him or her at risk for deportation, you need to discuss what legal options your child has with an experienced immigration attorney. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.