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On November 8, 2016 Donald Trump (“Trump”) was elected to be the 45th president of the United States after making immigration one of his main platform points. Despite conveying an anti-immigration message, Trump’s campaign mostly lacked policy details. This lack of information has left immigrants and immigrant sympathizers nervous and afraid since his unexpected election.
Let's assume you are ready to file an application or petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). What can you do to ensure that CIS approves your application?
For typical family-based immigrants attempting to obtain a green card, the petitioning relative must sign a form I-864 Affidavit of Support. By signing this Affidavit, the petitioner is agreeing with the U.S. Government that if the immigrant obtains federal governmental benefits, the government has the right to seek reimbursement from the petitioner. Note that this is only with regard to federal governmental benefits for the immigrant only, and does not include any state benefits. It also does not include any benefits received by the immigrant's family members. This agreement is in effect for the shorter period of (1) the immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, (2) the immigrant dies, (3) the immigrant works 40 quarters (which would be 10 years straight employment), (4) the immigrant permanently leaves the U.S., or (5) the immigrant receives a green card based on a new Affidavit of Support. Note that divorce does not terminate the petitioner's obligations under the Affidavit of Support.
Last year, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") announced the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver ("Provisional Waiver") in hopes of common sense reform that would assist families to stay together. Traditionally, when a relative of an immigrant who entered without inspection filed an immigration petition on his or her behalf, the immigrant would leave the country for the immigrant visa interview, be denied due to inadmissibility, and then file for waiver of the inadmissibility bar outside the U.S. With the traditional waiver, immigrants were left outside the U.S. in a sort of purgatory while waiting on a decision from USCIS.
Many employers desire to hire foreign nationals in specialty occupations, but because visas for those workers are limited, many employers are unable to do so. Timing is critical to be able to obtain H-1B visas for qualified workers. The annual allocation of 85,000 H-1B visas starts on April 1 of each year. Last year the general H-1B visas (not cap-exempt) were oversubscribed in the first week of April. So it is imperative to file on April 1, or as soon as possible thereafter, to have a chance at an approved H-1B visa.
The Internal Revenue Service has issued a warning to consumers, especially immigrants, about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country. This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country.
Victims are told by the scammer that they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver's license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.
According to the recent Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse Report, Prosecutorial Discretion is on the rise in some immigration courts. Prosecutorial Discretion occurs in removal (deportation) cases when the Assistant Chief Counsel for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, or the Prosecutor) agrees to close a case prior to a decision by an Immigration Judge on whether to remove an immigrant. The Prosecutorial Discretion program began in October 2011 in an effort to reduce backlog. Prosecutorial Discretion is used primarily to allow low-priority cases to be dismissed so the Prosecutor can focus on prosecuting high-priority cases, e.g. when the immigrant has been convicted of a violent crime. The report indicates an overall 80% increase in the number of cases closed using Prosecutorial Discretion from fiscal years 2012 to 2013.
Every year the U.S celebrates Citizenship Day on September 17th. In honor of Citizenship Day, we would like to point out some public benefits available to citizens that may be limited or unavailable to noncitizens. This list addresses larger federal programs, but is not exhaustive of all benefits available to citizens.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform is still at the beginning, but it is never too early to start preparing. While it is up in the air whether comprehensive reform will have a pathway to citizenship, we know that if there is a pathway there will be tough requirements to "earn" citizenship. With what we do know about any possible pathway, there are a few things that undocumented immigrants can start doing today to make things easier when and if reform passes:
Recent developments regarding comprehensive immigration reform in our nation's capitol are intriguing, but the plans are still in infancy and vague. On January 28, 2013 eight U.S. Senators, led by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), unveiled the outlines of an immigration plan. The statement of principles is rather broad. It sets out "four basic pillars": 1) a "tough but fair path to citizenship . . . contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country as required"; 2) reform our legal immigration system with a greater eye toward our economic needs; 3) workplace verification; and 4) setting up a system for admitting future workers. In essence, the eight senators acknowledge that the U.S. cannot deport the 11 million (or any substantial fraction thereof) undocumented immigrants. The outline can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/bfksdrp. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on immigration reform in February, and some expect a bill in March 2013.
Grant Konvalinka & Harrison, P.C., serves clients in Tennessee cities such as Chattanooga, Cleveland, East Ridge, Red Bank, Jasper, Collegedale, Athens, Decatur, Altamont, McMinnville, Manchester, Dunlap, Winchester, Fayetteville, Soddy-Daisy, Etowah, Dayton, Charleston, Tullahoma, Fort Oglethorpe, Dalton, Chatsworth, Calhoun, Summerville, Lafayette, Ringgold, Chattanooga Valley, Chickamauga, Tunnel Hill and Trenton.
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