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The United States Attorney General is Reviewing Administrative Closure of Immigration Cases

In the past, immigration judges could place an immigration case on administrative closure depending on the facts of the case, which effectively gave the person facing removal proceedings a reprieve from the risk of deportation. The person who received the reprieve through administrative closure could stay in the country for as long as the case was in administrative closure, and would not be deported or otherwise detained during that time. While immigration judges can still order cases administratively closed, it is unlikely that they will do so now that the process is under review.

Other than allowing the person to stay in the country longer, administrative closure, as practiced in the past, did not confer any legal status to a person who was illegally in the country. However, if a person had prior work authorization or other benefits, these benefits would be continued as the person was allowed to stay longer than he or she may have if the case had gone forward and been decided on its merits. A judge could grant administrative closure in a case even when the government or the immigrant facing deportation opposed the move.

Administrative closure was used as part of the immigration priorities approach taken by the former administration, and if a person was not an immigration priority, there was more of a chance that the person’s case would be administratively closed. Generally, a person whose case had been administratively closed could expect the case to remain closed unless he or she engaged in any conduct that flagged him or her as a threat or dangerous. In that case, the case could be reopened and the person could be deported.

The Department of Justice has announced that it will review the practice of administrative closure, and its effect on the slow movement of immigration cases currently before judges. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is currently reviewing a case in which an undocumented immigrant’s case was administratively closed. The Attorney General will review the case to decide whether or not immigration judges have the authority to administratively close immigration cases, and provide guidance about how the process will be handled going forward.

Depending on the decision from the Attorney General, hundreds of thousands of cases that are currently on administrative closure may be reopened for adjudication. This could mean a great number of deportations will be carried out after the cases are decided. The end of administrative closure will also mean an addition to the backlog of immigration cases, which is already estimated at 650,000 cases.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

If your case was administratively closed, the end of the practice of administrative closures could mean that your case is will be reopened and you will once again face removal proceedings. This may not happen for some time, but you should be prepared for the possibility of having to present your case to avoid deportation. For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can assist you, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

The 90-Day Rule and a Presumption of Misrepresentation

When a person travels to the United States on a non-immigrant visa, he or she makes certain representations to the immigration officials regarding an intent to immigrate to the United States and settle there permanently. Essentially, by applying for a non-immigrant visa, a person is telling immigration officials that he or she intends to stay in the United States on a temporary basis, and has no intention to live or work in the country beyond the period of his or her non-immigrant visa. If the visa does not authorize employment in the country, then the person is also expressing an intent to refrain from working.

After a person is granted entry into the United States on a non-immigrant visa, his circumstances may change in a way that requires the person to adjust their status to an immigrant. This could be because the person gets a job offer or gets married and qualifies for different visas or for permanent residency. The adjustment of status usually comes with a lot of scrutiny depending on how long a person was in the country on the non-immigrant visa before seeking to adjust his or her status.

Previously, if a person on a non-immigrant visa sought to adjust his or her status within 30 days of arriving in the United States, there was an automatic presumption that the person had made misrepresentations to immigrations officials concerning his intent to immigrate to the United States. In 2017, a change was implemented extending the 30 day rule to a 90 day rule. This presumption is also applicable when a person works without authorization or engages in other conduct that violates the terms of his or her non-immigrant visa within the first 90 days of arrival on a non-immigrant visa.

The presumption does not mean that the immigrant is automatically found to have misrepresented his or her intent. If this presumption of misrepresentation applies, the immigrant still has an opportunity to present evidence that rebuts the presumption of misrepresentation. The person can present information showing that at the time of making the application, it was his or her true intent not to permanently immigrate to the United States. This may involve presenting documentation and testimony or affidavits, and it may be better to seek the assistance of an immigration attorney in order to prepare this evidence.

There are serious consequences for a person who is accused of having willfully misrepresented the intention not to permanently immigrate to the United States when applying for a visa. In addition to being deported, the person may be banned from the United States, either for a period of time or permanently. It could also affect the person’s changes of applying for other immigration benefits, including United States citizenship at a later date.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

If you are alleged to have intentionally or willfully misrepresented your immigration intent while seeking a non-immigrant visa, and want to challenge the 90-day presumption, you need to contact an experienced immigration attorney. For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can assist you, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

How do I Prepare for an USCIS Interview?

With the recent changes to the application forms and procedures for people seeking lawful permanent residency in the United States, it is important for all applicants to prepare for their interviews with the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) officials. Generally, anyone applying for a green card is required to attend an in-person interview as part of the application process. This interview is usually that last step before the application is granted or denied.

Where a person attends the interview depends on wherehe or she is at the time of the application. If an applicant is outside the United States, the interview is conducted at a U.S. consulate. If the applicant is in the country and is seeking an adjustment of status to lawful permanent residency, the applicant is usually interviewed at a USCIS center or regional office. Whatever the setting, remember to dress well and be on time for your interview.

Review Your Application

For all applicants, it is crucial to review your application and any documents you submitted before attending the application. If you do not review the application, you may be caught up in a question about a minor detail in your records and look like you are lying because you do not know the answer or because you provide a different answer.

Tell the Truth

Another important thing to remember is to tell the truth. Lying about an aspect of your background or personal information, either in the application or in the interview could be grounds to revoke any benefits you receive as a result of the lie, including your green card. If you are worried about how negative information in your background may affect you, you should always consult an immigration attorney before filling out the forms to discuss how you should answer the questions.

Interviews of Married Couples

If your application is based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, the interview may feel more like an interrogation at times. The questions asked to married couples may be personal and could range from small minor details about everyday life living together, details on how the couple met, to the couple’s long term goals. In addition, it is not uncommon for the spouses to be interviewed separately, and the spouses tested to see if their answers will match up. If the marriage is bona fide, and not solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits, the couple will generally be comfortable answering questions without studying the answers. However, details may be difficult to remember, therefore the couple may benefit from going over certain details of their relationship that they may have forgotten.

Consult an Attorney Before the Interview

If possible, you should schedule some time to prepare for the interview with your immigration attorney. This preparation could help you anticipate the tone of the interview and the kind of questions to expect.

Contact Us for Legal Assistance

If you are in the process or applying for an adjustment of status to legal permanent resident status, you should consult an experienced attorney to assist with the process. The application forms have changed and become more complicated, and providing the wrong information could lead to your application being denied. For more information on how we can help you, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

Court Rules No Further Delay to the Implementation of the International Entrepreneur Rule

In an effort to grow the economy, the Obama administration proposed the International Entrepreneur Rule, which would allow foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the United States for up to five years in order to grow their startup businesses. The rule was supposed to go into effect in July of 2017, but was delayed under the current administration to 2018. According to news reports, on December 1, 2017, a federal judge ordered the Department of Homeland Security to rescind its delay of the rule.

The judge’s ruling was based on the fact that the Department of Homeland Security had not followed the proper procedure before delaying the implementation of the rule. Therefore, there is no guarantee that if the proper form is followed, a similar court ruling would result. In addition, the current administration has already indicated that it is unlikely to continue the rule, and will probably get rid of it all together.

Currently, entrepreneurs are eligible to stay in the United States under the rule if they can show that their admission and stay in the United States would provide a significant benefit for the country through business growth and job creation. Entrepreneurs who are allowed to stay in the country may not be eligible for other visas that would allow them to work in the United States, for example the H-1B visa, for which the entrepreneur would need to be an employee with an established company. Small business owners who have already established their businesses and owners of businesses that could not otherwise operate legally in the United States are not eligible to apply to stay under this rule.

If the rule is allowed to continue, or is implemented pending its cancellation in 2018, entrepreneurs and their immediate family members will be allowed to stay in the country with permission to work. However, it is not clear what the next move will be for the Department of Homeland Security. The Department may appeal the decision and cause further delay to the rule’s implementation, or simply get rid of the rule.

Additionally, although the judge ruled that the Department of Homeland Security should start accepting applications without further delay, there was no order to grant parole under the rule. There may be internal administrative hurdles that could practically frustrate the implementation of the rule. Being granted parole under the rule is a matter of discretion, and the rule does not operate in the same way as a traditional visa.

Foreign immigrants seeking to enter the United States may be eligible for other visas that could help them set up their businesses. For example, under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, foreign investors looking to invest in a commercial venture in the United States may be eligible for a green card.

Contact Us for More Information

If you are a foreign citizen looking to immigrate to the United States to pursue business opportunities that could benefit the country, contact  our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California to discuss your options.

Temporary Protected Status Ended for Haitian Citizens

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke recently announced that tens of thousands of Haitians living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status have until July 22, 2019, to return to Haiti.

The Haitian citizens were given protected status to live and work in the United States after Haiti’s infrastructure was heavily damaged in a 2010 earthquake. Since then, the status of those protected and their ability to safely return to their country was evaluated periodically and the status extended. After the most recent review, the Department of Homeland Security announced its decision to end the protected status for the Haitian citizens, who must now return to Haiti by the July 22, 2019, deadline or face deportation.

Temporary Protected Status may be granted to citizens of a foreign country who are already in the United States and cannot return to their countries due to temporary conditions that make it unsafe to return, or because their government cannot handle their return. The status is granted by the Secretary of Homeland Security. Even undocumented immigrants in the country illegally when a Temporary Protected Status is designated for their countries are protected.

Haitian citizens are not the only group that is protected under the Temporary Protected Status. In addition to Haiti, there are other large groups from nine other countries that are allowed to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation. Citizens of El-Salvador living the United States under Temporary Protected Status are reported to represent the largest group of people living in the United States under this status, and will be next to hear if their status will be extended.

As the name suggests, the program is supposed to offer temporary relief for humanitarian reasons. The situations for which Temporary Protected Status may be approved for citizens of a foreign country include:

  • Ongoing armed conflict,
  • An environmental disaster, or an epidemic, and
  • Other extraordinary and temporary conditions

Depending on the country in question however, these situations may not be temporary, and may impact the ability of the foreign government’s’ ability to receive its citizens for a long time. This is part of the criticism against the program, that it is not temporary, and is used as a back door to allow immigrants to settle in the country.

Because most people who are granted the chance to live and work in the United States under this program have children and otherwise settle into their lives here, going back to their countries of origin is not an easy task. For those with children who were born in the United States and are therefore citizens, the decision to take their children back or leave them in the United States will be a very difficult one to make. The parents will either have to find others who are willing to take care of their children, or stay beyond the deadline and face deportation. People who are facing this choice should explore their options in terms of adjusting their status in order to stay in the United States legally.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can assist you in reviewing your options to change your status and stay in the United States, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

How the Issue of Competence Affects an Immigration Proceeding

In criminal proceedings in which a person is charged with a crime, the prosecution cannot go on if a person is found to be incompetent or suffering from a mental illness. This is usually done in order to protect the defendant and ensure that the person is afforded constitutional due process rights. In immigration proceedings, a person’s incompetence due to a mental illness or condition can affect a person’s removal or deportation, but not in the same way as in a criminal trial.

In a deportation hearing, the person to be deported is presumed to be competent for purposes of the proceedings. However, if there is an indication that the person is not competent, for example because the person shows signs of mental illness, then the immigration judge has to make a determination of the person’s competency before the proceedings can go on.

A person who is able to communicate with his or her attorney and rationally understand the deportation proceeding is generally deemed to be competent, and the immigration proceedings can proceed without a legal challenge.

Once the judge makes a determination that a person who is facing deportation is not competent, the deportation proceedings do not stop as a criminal case would if the judge found a defendant incompetent to stand trial. The immigration judge is supposed to ensure that certain safeguards are in place, and then the removal proceedings can go on.

Some of the safeguards include ensuring that the person facing deportation is assisted by another person in presenting his or her case, not accepting admissions or other incriminating confessions from the person, and closing the hearing to the public. These safeguards do not truly address the issue of the person’s incompetence, and are therefore inadequate to offer real protections for a person suffering from mental illness and facing deportation.

Immigration judges make determinations of whether or not someone is incompetent by reviewing the evidence provided by the person facing deportation, as well as by the government. Neither the government nor the person facing deportation has a formal burden to provide the evidence upon which the judge relies. The judge also reviews all the evidence under a standard of proof that is lower than that required in a criminal case. This means that the person facing deportation cannot rely on the fact that the government has not produced evidence of competency to prove incompetency.

A person can prove that he or she has a mental illness that makes that person incompetent for purposes of the proceeding by calling witnesses to testify on his or her behalf, or by introducing medical records and evaluation reports that support the claims. If there is a long history of treatment and an indication that the treatment should be ongoing, it is likely that the immigration judge may find the person incompetent for purposes of the immigration proceeding.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Having an attorney during an immigration proceeding is extremely important, especially for someone who cannot truly represent himself or herself due to mental illness. For more information on how a person’s mental illness can affect him or her during deportation proceedings, you should contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.

Effect of Expunging or Sealing a Criminal Record on Immigration

A criminal conviction can have a negative effect on a person’s application for immigration to the United States. Certain convictions immediately disqualify a person from migrating to the United States or changing status in order to stay in the country.

In most states, including California, there are certain procedures a person can follow to have a criminal record sealed or expunged, which wipes away some of the person’s criminal record. Even in situations where the person’s conviction has to be revealed to an employer, the employer is not allowed to discriminate on the basis of the criminal record. While this is a helpful process in terms of getting a job, it is not applicable for immigration purposes.

Even when a California arrest or conviction is removed from a person’s history, it still has to be reported as part of an immigration-related application. When applying for any visa, permanent residency, or citizenship, a person is required to disclose all criminal convictions both in the United States and abroad. This includes convictions that have been sealed or expunged either in California or in another state or country. When applying for permanent residency or citizenship, the applicant has to reveal even more, and reveal arrests in his or her history.

Revealing a conviction for some misdemeanors, for example driving under the influence of alcohol, does not necessarily mean that a person will be denied entry into the country if holding a nonimmigrant visa. However, if a person has multiple convictions, this could definitely affect the person’s ability to enter the country.

Providing false or incomplete information in order to immigrate to the United States could lead to the revocation of a visa, lawful permanent residency, and in extreme situations, the revocation of citizenship if the citizenship was obtained through naturalization. A person who provided false information on an immigration application may also be prosecuted criminally.

Expungement may also create a problem for an applicant who has to provide certified copies of a conviction or disposition of an arrest. Immigration officials require applicants to provide this information as part of providing evidence to prove good moral character. Expungement removes most records from central databases, and so it can make it difficult to get this information.

Not all convictions can be sealed, dismissed, or expunged, and these procedures generally only apply to some misdemeanor convictions. Sealing or expunging a criminal history in California does not take care of arrests or convictions from other states. If a person has multiple convictions in several states, he or she has to pursue sealing and expungement in all those states following the laws in those states. No matter where the expungement takes place, it still has to be reported to immigration officials as outlined above.  

Contact an Experienced Immigration Attorney

If you have been convicted of crimes in the United States or in another country and are thinking about applying for permanent residency or U.S. citizenship, you need to contact an experienced immigration attorney to discuss how the convictions could affect your application. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to experienced immigration attorney Nathan Wei from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.