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Chinese Wealth Taps Out Investor Visas

October 20th, 2014 by Romona Paden

EB-5 Investor VisaWealthy Chinese looking to buy into a better lifestyle are moving outside their country’s border to do so. As the last five years has seen explosive growth in the request for EB-5 visas from Chinese investors, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced nationals had reached their limit, a first in the visa program’s 20-plus year history.

EB-5 visas require an investment of between $500,000 and $1 million in US business—often local development projects. Applicants who can demonstrate their funds created at least 10 jobs are eligible to receive permanent residency—a green card.  In fiscal year 2012, USCIS estimated close to 50,000 jobs have been created out of the program and that more than $6.8 billion in investment has been generated from the program since its inception in 1990.

Of the annually allotted 10, 667 EB-5 visas, 85 percent of those awarded in 2014 went to Chinese nationals. The statistics has high correlation with results of a wealth management survey from financial service company Barclays.  According to the report, which surveyed individuals with more than $1.5 million in China and 16 other countries, more than half of Chinese millionaires plan to leave the mainland in the next five years.

The predominant reason—78 percent– cited to leave China, according to the survey, is to secure education and employment opportunities for children. As the high demand translates to longer wait times for the visas, however, wealthy Chinese might look to invest elsewhere in order to expedite the process for children who need an education or who are close to the age of majority and who can no longer dovetail on parent visas.

Besides education and employment opportunities for children, other quality of life elements factor in to Chinese nationals’ desire to move abroad. A preferable economic climate that offers greater security, for example, was cited by 73 percent of wealth survey respondents while 18 percent cited health care and social services. These reasons for migration are self-explanatory in the context of notorious pollution across China’s largest cities as well as the communist government, which dictates a state-ownership mentality.

Chinese desire for EB-5 visas looks to trend across North America in general. Like the United States, Canada now caps the number of Chinese investors coming into the country at 1,200 per year. Canada is also more than doubling the required investment for the visas.

Undocumented Education

October 15th, 2014 by Romona Paden

Citizenship testWhile living in fear of deportation to a foreign land has subsided for undocumented immigrants who have applied for and received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), fulfilling the American dream can still be a daunting and elusive task for these young people. It’s this predicament that’s outlined in the documentary film “A Dream Deferred,” which tells the story of three undocumented students at Harvard University.

“A Dream Deferred” is a 40-minute film collaboration of two Harvard students who came together as dormitory roommates in their freshman year at the Ivy League institution. Student newspaper, The Crimson, reports filmmaker Alex Boota says he was “shocked” to learn Dario Guerrero-Meneses was undocumented. Identifying a compelling story, the two young men documented the stories of three Latin American immigrants.

Mexican-born Guerrero-Meneses didn’t find out about his undocumented status until he was 16. Enrolling in engineering classes at his local community college while still in high school, Guerrero-Meneses describes getting a phone call where he learns of problems in processing his paperwork. In a Washington Post editorial, Guerrero-Meneses recounts hearing his parents tell him, “Son, we overstayed our visa when you were three. You don’t have a social security number.”

In a story that pulls at the heart strings and has readers cheering for him in his underdog position, Guerrero-Meneses describes his longstanding desire—and expectation—that he would attend college. He tells of his heartbreak as his dream of attending the acclaimed Massachusetts Institute of Technology slipped away. He notes admission counselors were always sorry to deny him entry.

Harvard gatekeepers opened its hallowed halls by providing a full-ride scholarship paid through the school’s private endowment. As it turns out, undocumented immigrants in Harvard’s student population is significant, and the school’s endowment has been generous in its support of them. While the school doesn’t segment its undocumented students, activist students are working toward developing specialized services to serve the undocumented student population.

While the seemingly natural next step for smart and talented young people is enrollment at a college or university, holding DACA paperwork does nothing in terms of opening educational opportunities. For students from families with modest means, tuition and fees are often out of reach. And because public funds are typically only available to those who have a social security number, the opportunity to attend college is a dwindling proposition for DACA students.

Columbus Day Celebrates Nation’s Immigrants

October 13th, 2014 by Romona Paden

13Colonies copyAlthough the honorable aspects surrounding Columbus Day are often viewed with skepticism, a more generous take on the October holiday– named after Italian explorer Christopher Columbus— tends to come forth when considered within the wider context of immigration to the New World. And while Christopher Columbus and Columbus Day each fall short in terms of modern political correctness, the idea of honoring those with the courage and fortitude to build a new life in a foreign land is one that strikes the common chord of liberty among people around the world. More than remembering a single individual who stumbled on the shores of America as he searched for a shortcut to India, Columbus Day more accurately acknowledges a whole array of early settlers throughout the Americas and in the United States.

From the socially-evolved vantage point of the twenty-first century, criticism of Columbus comes easily. Clearly, Columbus was more concerned with professional and personal success than the incorporation of altruism in his work. Heading up the expeditions of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, the story of Columbus journey some 500 years ago is rife with blatant inaccuracies that ignore historical truth. Vikings, Spanish, French and Dutch explorers were among the nationalities of European explorers who sailed to American shores before Columbus. Chinese explorers likewise touched the Pacific coast—modern-day California—before Columbus made it to America. And that Columbus’ discovery of America so blatantly discounted the existence of Native American culture on the land is yet another infraction.

Still, exploration and discovery are qualities worthy of acknowledgement. It was these characteristics that were recognized by President Benjamin Harrison when he issued a proclamation to acknowledge the 400-year anniversary of Columbus arrival on American shores in 1892. And while many states followed suit with their adoptions of Columbus Day, Hawaii opted instead to implement Discoverer’s Day; South Dakota has Native American Day. The notion of the New World’s discovery is likewise celebrated in other countries around the world. In some Latin American countries, it’s Día de la Raza; the Bahamas celebrate Discovery Day; it’s Día de la Hispanidad and Fiesta Nacional in Spain.

Regardless of the name, the courage and fortitude of immigrants in the United States are of undeniable importance to every aspect of this country. The establishment of individual liberty and the personal pursuit of happiness are the foundations of the American melting pot.

USCIS Offers Relief to Nationals of Ebola-Outbreak Countries

October 8th, 2014 by Romona Paden

EbolaAs the pandemic threat of Ebola becomes more widespread, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is taking steps to offer relief to West African nationals from the countries at the center of the deadly virus.  Specifically, USCIS is offering special permissions to nationals who are currently in the United States from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Relief measures available to the West African country nationals on request include:

  • A change or extension of nonimmigrant status for individuals currently in the United States—even if the request is filed after the authorized period of admission has already expired;
  • An extension of certain parole grants given by USCIS;
  • An expedited review and approval of off-campus employment authorization requests by F-1 students who are experiencing severe economic hardship;
  • The expedited processing of immigrant petitions for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens when petitioner are currently in the United States;
  • An expedited review and approval of employment authorization applications in appropriate cases;
  • Waiver consideration for fees associated with USCIS benefit applications

The gravity of the Ebola situation was underscored with the arrival of Thomas Eric Duncan in the United States. Getting sick after just a few days after his arrival in the country, the Liberian man ultimately died of the disease. Duncan spent around two weeks in isolation being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas before succumbing to the illness. Duncan was the first person on U.S. soil to be diagnosed with the disease.

USCIS monitors world events and conditions in order to create and implement immigration and visa policy that is appropriate to current global and personal situations. As natural catastrophes and extreme situations can affect personal situations, USCIS “will do our best to help you get the benefits for which you qualify,” according to a discussion on special situations on the agency’s site.

USCIS encourages foreign nationals who are looking for more information to reach out to its National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

Mexican-American Beauty Crowned Miss USA

October 7th, 2014 by Romona Paden

Crowned Miss USA 2014, Nia Sanchez’s Mexican-American heritage is just one aspect that made the 24-year-old beauty queen a winner in the eyes of pageant judges. Now preparing to compete in the Miss Universe contest, Sanchez’s international flair could prove to be a real advantage as she goes head to head with some of the most beautiful women in the world.

Making it a point to travel to Mexico during mission trips as she was growing up, Sanchez has always emphasized her heritage. Although not the first Latina to hold the Miss USA title, Sanchez acknowledges her Mexican background as a crucial element in establishing a connection with those she comes across through community outreach efforts.

In particular, Sanchez outreach goes toward those living in women’s shelters. In part, this is because Sanchez herself lived in a shelter for a time after her parents’ divorce when she was a young child. Now as a regular volunteer at shelters, Sanchez says women she talks to identify with her and that her title gives these women hope.

“It’s brought tears to my eyes before, many a time,” she says. “They say you know, ‘you’re Mexican-American and so am I. Like if you can do it, I know I can do it’.”

Although not the first Latina to win the Miss USA title, Sanchez could be the first pageant winner to hold a fourth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Practicing the martial art since age 8, Sanchez says the beginning the practice was crucial to building her confidence.

“I have learned, or come to learn over the years, that Tae Kwon Do is more than just a physical sport, more than just the discipline,” Sanchez says. “It’s really a way of life.”

Adopting that way of life is likely what gave Sanchez the strength to get out of an “aggressive relationship” that put a hand-print bruise on her arm. It’s this kind of strength she hope will inspire other young women.

“I know that it’s hard because you feel like you’re in love with somebody,” she says.

The whirlwind of holding the Miss USA title is one Sanchez continues to embrace as she prepares to compete in the Miss Universe pageant later this year. Beyond pageants, Sanchez will also stay busy as reports say the model is newly engaged.

USCIS Celebrates Constitution Week With $10 Million in Grants

October 2nd, 2014 by Romona Paden

Citizenship testCelebrating 227 years after the signing of the U.S. Constitution, the privilege and responsibility of citizenship remain top of mind for many of the nation’s immigrants. It’s in this light that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) celebrated Constitution Week in September by awarding $10 million in grants to help permanent residents prepare and apply for U.S. citizenship.

Distributing the money across 40 organizations in 24 states and the District of Columbia, federal funding to support citizenship services for permanent residents will be awarded to these organizations through September 2016. Currently in its sixth year, the USCIS Citizenship and Integration Grant Program has so far helped more than 93,000 permanent residents with citizenship preparation services. By September 2016, 32,000 additional permanent residents will receive preparation service help.

Besides the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program, which has awarded $43 million since its inception, another important part of USCIS citizen preparation outreach is its Citizenship Resource Center, a web resource. It provides learning materials geared toward the naturalization process. USCIS also partners with federal and municipal agencies to raise awareness of the rights responsibilities and importance of U.S. citizenship. These are lessons that can be tapped by any of the estimated 8.8 million permanent residents around the country who are eligible to apply for naturalization.

According to information on the USCIS site, grant recipients represent:

  • Most of the states with the largest permanent resident populations—18 out of 20: California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Washington, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona, Ohio, Minnesota, Colorado, and Connecticut
  • Most of the top metropolitan areas—eight of the top 10—with the most new permanent residents in the past decade: New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, greater Washington, Chicago, Houston, Boston, and Atlanta
  • Most of the top states for the highest number—nine of the top 10— states for naturalizations over the last two years: California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Georgia and Pennsylvania

In sum, USCIS received and reviewed 160 grant applications.

DV Program to Begin October Registration

September 24th, 2014 by Romona Paden

LotteryBesides the changing colors of leaves on the trees and a nip in the air, autumn is a time of great change. For the hundreds of thousands  of people around the world who dream of living and working in the United States, however, the season is also a time of great hope. This hope will begin to manifest next week as the Department of State (DOS) is slated to open a 30-day window to register for the Diversity Visa (DV) 2016 Program.

The DV Program—more commonly called the green card lottery— allots 50,000 visas to nationals living in countries around the world that are typically underrepresented in the immigrant community. Potential immigrants can register their green card lottery entry at noon, Eastern Daylight Time, on Wednesday, October 1, 2014. Registration for the diversity visas ends noon Eastern Standard Time on Monday, November 3, 2014. Although the registration opportunity is open for about a month, DOS recommends users complete their entry sooner rather than later because “heavy demand may result in website delays.”

Among the DV program’s other rules are that all entries must be made in the electronic format—no paper entries allowed—and entries must be submitted before the end of the registration period. DOS also allows only one entry per person. Using technology that detects multiple entries by registrants, DOS disqualifies those with multiple entries as well as entries that are incomplete. DOS has made the registration forms available in multiple languages, including: EnglishArmenianPolishSpanishTurkish and Uzbek. Each is available in .pdf format  No fees are associated with registering for the DV Program. Your entry is free

After completing an entry, takes registrants to a confirmation screen that lists entrants’ name along with a unique confirmation number. DOS suggests printing the confirmation screen for recordkeeping purposes. Starting next spring—on May 5, 2015—those who register for the DV Program can check entry status at www.dvlottery.state.gov.

Immigrants Facing Higher Money-Wire Costs

September 22nd, 2014 by Romona Paden

bigstock-A-Global-Emphasis-On-Funding-R-12406415Sending more than $50 billion to loved ones still living in their native countries, immigrants in the United States are among the heaviest senders of remittances.  Because institutions in the business of sending international wire transfers are now faced with ensuring against money laundering or terrorist funding, however, at least a few banks are discontinuing the service. The combination of elements means massive repercussions on multiple fronts: immigrants, banks and global economics.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of United Nations and World Bank numbers, a “rising share of international migrants now lives in today’s high income countries such as the United States and Germany, while a growing share was born in today’s middle-income nations such as India and Mexico.” Middle-income countries are defined as those with per capita income of between $1,036 and $12,615.

While many immigrants struggle financially in the United States and in other nations considered “high income countries,” economies of scale many times makes even the poorest of these better off than most of the population of poorer countries. On a global scale, middle income countries like India and Mexico has seen an increase in their share of global remittances, growing from around 57 percent at the beginning of the century to an estimated 71 percent in 2013. In countries defined as poor – those with per capital incomes of less than $1,036 – remittances doubled in the same time frame, building from 3 percent to 6 percent.

In 2012, according to published reports, Mexican immigrant sent around $25 billion – almost half – of global remittances. Although Mexico is the country most heavily affected by regulation on international wires, the whole of Latin America is affected as well as many countries in Africa.

The regulatory scrutiny placed on the wire transfers however, means business operations are becoming more cumbersome and more expensive. JP Morgan Chase, Bank America and Citigroup are among the institutions that have either scrapped or modified international wire transfer services in response to compliance issues. And while money can still be sent from other banks and other services, the reduced numbers of players likely means the cost to send funds across borders will only go up.

Underwater Dreams Tells Underdog Tale

September 17th, 2014 by Romona Paden

Deferred ActionWhen four high school science and technology geeks go up against college kids from around the country in a robotics competition, no one really takes notice if the younger students lose. This means Oscar Vazquez and his three robotics-team peers from Phoenix-based Carl Hayden High School—all undocumented—were free to enter a contest to create an underwater robot in 2004 without the fear of complete public humiliation. The team called their robot Stinky. But instead of walking away unnoticed from the NASA- and U.S. Navy-sponsored competition, Vazquez and his cohorts emerged as engineering rock stars.

Tenacious high school students from working-class families who have enough smarts to triumph over some of the most prestigious academic institutions in the country is a romantic and inspiring tale, indeed. Captured in the documentary Underwater Dreams, the film explores the irony of desert-dwelling kids who build a robot that can function underwater. What’s more, Stinky was made with materials purchased at Home Depot—not with the latest gizmos developed by tech companies. The kids leaned on sheer innovation to address problems. When leakage threatened Stinky’s circuitry, for example, a tampon provided protection.

The people behind Underwater Dreams are as interesting as the story of the Hayden High robotics team. The film’s director is Mary Mazzio, a former Olympian and a self-described “recovering lawyer,” according to her Twitter profile. Mazzio and Vazques appeared on The Colbert Report in late July.

Jeb Bush, Jr., the son of the former governor of Florida and the nephew and grandson of presidents of the United States, acted as one of the film’s executive producers. He told National Public Radio over the summer that his interest in immigration stems from his mother’s Mexican heritage. The subject combined with the story of the Hayden High team was simply too compelling to pass up.

“If you take a step back and realize that they’re literally in the middle of the desert in Phoenix, Arizona, that are entering an underwater robotics competition – not a lot of places to practice out there,” Bush said. “So they enter this competition and go out to California and compete against the best colleges in the country – schools like MIT and come out victorious. It’s really an incredible story.”

The story is important in current discussions around immigration, because, “At the end of the day, we’ve got to step back and realize these are kids that are trying to seek a better life,” he said.

Child immigrants Pose Big Issues

September 15th, 2014 by Romona Paden

ImmigrationIn an effort to escape violence and poverty, a growing number of children from across Latin America are showing up on the nation’s doorstep. Although kids have often trekked thousands of miles in making their way to the United States, thin resources means these special immigration cases don’t always get the care and attention needed. While organizations with the purpose of helping minor immigrants maneuver through the system do exist, a study by Syracuse University reports that more than half the 57,000 underage immigrants currently in the country will go through their immigration hearings without legal representation.

“If they don’t have an attorney, it’s up to them to understand this very complicated system,” a representative with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) told Latino USA.

Just as adult immigrants appearing in court are not guaranteed legal representation, children are likewise left to their own devices. Because these children don’t have the education or maturity to even have a true understanding of the immigration process, however, the problems within the immigration system are exponentially magnified.

Immigration officials are professionals trained to understand laws related to entering and exiting the country. During court appearances the attorney for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the judge presiding over the immigration court are not expert on child welfare. Because these children were forced to escape their native home, however, immigration courts are forced to handle child welfare issues. USCRI works to provide lawyers at no cost to underage immigrants.

With a backlog of around 400,000 cases, minor immigrants awaiting appearance in immigration courts makes up only 11 percent of cases in the category, according to Syracuse University. This is the case even though underage immigrants in the court system reached a record high in April-June 2014, more than doubling over the six-month period of October 2013-March 2014.

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