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Wed, Nov 4 9:18 PM by Romona Paden

¿Qué necesitas para obtener la tarjeta verde? Aquí te lo decimos

La tarjeta verde es uno de los documentos más añorado por miles de inmigrantes que buscan una nueva vida en Estados Unidos. A continuación te hablaremos de algunos de sus aspectos más importantes.

La lotería de cada año y los requisitos para participar

Cada año el Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos de América organiza una lotería de visas. Si tú vienes de un país elegible y cumples con los requisitos de estudios y de trabajo puedes participar en esta lotería de visas.
En caso de ser seleccionado podrás solicitar lo que se llama un estatus de residente legal permanente en los Estados Unidos de América, también llamada Green Card. El registro para la lotería se abre una vez al año durante el otoño. A partir de ese momento tienes aproximadamente un mes para realizar el trámite antes de que se cierre el período de inscripciones. Lo único que necesitas es entrar a la página oficial (dvlottery.state.gov) y llenar el formulario correspondiente.
Al concluir el registro recibirás un formulario que también debes completar en el sitio web del Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos. Tendrás que contestar una serie de preguntas y dar información personal tuya, sobre tu esposa o esposo y tus hijos menores de 21 años.
También deberás presentar fotos digitales de cada uno de ellos y de ti. Recuerda que las fotos tienen que ser iguales a las que se solicitan para el pasaporte.

Un sorteo gratis pero de una sola vez

La inscripción en el sorteo de la lotería de visas es totalmente gratis, pero solo tienes una oportunidad para inscribirte al año. Si te inscribes más de una vez en el mismo año, automáticamente se anulará tu inscripción a la lotería de visas.
Eso sí, si tu esposa o esposo son elegibles para participar en este sorteo, él o ella puede presentar su propia inscripción a la lotería por separado. Si eres seleccionado para obtener la tarjeta verde, puedes incluir a tu esposa o esposo y a tus hijos solteros menores de 21 años.

La confirmación por parte del Departamento de Estado

Al presentar tu inscripción en el sitio oficial correspondiente,  el Departamento de Estado te responderá confirmando la inscripción. También recibirás un número de confirmación que debes guardar muy bien porque lo necesitarás para verificar su estatus de solicitud.
Para saber el estatus de tu solicitud de tarjeta verde debes visitar la página dvlottery.state.gov y usar los datos con los que te registraste. Es importante que compruebes el estatus al menos una vez al mes porque no recibirás ninguna notificación por ningún otro medio.

¿Qué hacer si eres seleccionado en la lotería?

Si eres seleccionado en la lotería tendrás que pagar la cantidad que te indiquen en la embajada o consulado de los Estados Unidos de América el día a la que asistas a tu entrevista.

Recomendaciones para evitar estafas.

Ninguna persona podrá elevar tu oportunidad de ganar la lotería. Aunque te encontrarás con mucha gente que promete darte la tarjeta verde, esto no es posible.
Ninguna persona puede asegurarte que ganaste la lotería. La única forma de saber si has ganado o no la lotería es revisando directamente el estatus de tu procedimiento en el sitio web que te hemos indicado.
En ningún momento el consulado te pedirá dinero por adelantado a la hora de asistir a la entrevista. Usualmente encontrarás estafadores en el consulado que buscarán convencerte de que son trabajadores oficiales. Si tienes alguna duda, pregunta a los guardias del edificio

Toma tu tiempo al momento de buscar la tarjeta verde

Nuestro mejor consejo es que te tomes el tiempo necesario para obtener la tarjeta verde. Mucha gente inicia el procedimiento creyendo que le llevará solo un par de meses. Sin embargo, no es raro encontrar personas que han tardado varios años en obtener este beneficio. También debes asegurarte de que toda la información que des sea correcta, veraz y esté bien redactada. En caso de que necesites ayuda o de que quieras resolver alguna dudas, llámanos y con gusto te asesoraremos.

Immigrants protest peacefully after green card mistake

Tue, Oct 6 1:37 PM by Romona Paden

Immigrants are protesting the unfavorable reversal in policy by sending flowers.

Immigrants are protesting the Department of Homeland Security peacefully to express their dissatisfaction with a recent reversal in government policy that will leave many immigrants, who came to the U.S. for jobs, in legal disarray. To show their frustration, they are delivering flowers with notes venting their opinions. 

In early September, the State Department issued a Visa Bulletin that encouraged visa-holders from China, India, the Philippines and Mexico to proceed with green card filings. But by the end of the month, there was an unexpected reversal in the Visa Bulletin that have left many scratching their heads.

According to CNN, the change in policy will delay almost 50,000 immigrants from filing the paperwork necessary for permanent residency and has already cost families an average of $2,000 to $5,000 each to prepare applications that have now been deemed worthless. Most of the immigrants who are affected are in the U.S. with H-1B visas, the visas awarded to high-skilled workers. 

In addition to the overload of flowers, a class-action lawsuit has been filed by three lawyers against the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry. Many large technology companies (Microsoft, Intel, Google, Hewlett-Packard) wrote a collective letter expressing their dismay with the change in policy and offer their support to immigrants.

Petici

Mon, Aug 10 3:39 PM by Romona Paden

Petición voluntaria de residencia permanente con VAWA

Si eres elegible para realizar la petición voluntaria de residencia permanente bajo el Acta contra la Violencia hacia las Mujeres, debes conocer este procedimiento.

El Acta contra la Violencia hacia las Mujeres o VAWA permite que las esposas e hijos de ciudadanos estadounidenses o residentes permanentes soliciten la residencia permanente cuando son víctimas de violencia. Este mecanismo es un sustituto del proceso tradicional que busca cortar con el abuso y dar protección a los inmigrantes afectados.

Muchos de los pasos de este procedimiento son similares al procedimiento tradicional de petición de tarjeta verde para familiar. Sin embargo, el proceso puede ser más tardado.

Paso 1. La petición de visa para familiares inmediatos y preferenciales

La persona que vive violencia por parte de su pareja o familiar debe completar el formato I-360 que puede conseguir directamente en las oficinas de Servicios de Ciudadanía y Migración de los Estados Unidos.
El formato debe entregarse con la evidencia correspondiente (certificado de nacimiento o matrimonio) que pruebe el estatus migratorio de la persona y de su maltratador.
A partir de este momento, existen dos posibles procedimientos. El primero es que los familiares preferentes entregan la petición de visa a la oficina de USCIS en un paquete y esperar un poco. Los familiares inmediatos pueden combinar este paquete de información con el ajuste de estatus para la tarjeta verde.

Paso 2. Enviar la petición de visa a USCIS

Debido a que los hijos y pareja de residentes permanentes no son elegibles de forma inmediata para la tarjeta verde, deberán llenar el formato I-130 o I-360 para continuar con el proceso.
Una vez que USCIS recibe el formato I-360 tarda 30 días en confirmar la recepción con el formato I-797 de "Noticia de Recepción". Este indica un número de recepción y una Fecha de Prioridad.
Si el solicitante envío el forma I-130 puede concluir su proceso mucho antes.
Los solicitantes con formato I-360 deben esperar más tiempo que los solicitantes con formato I-130 porque debe ser analizada más evidencia.
Cuando la petición sea aceptada, recibirás el formato I-797 de "Noticia de Aprobación". Esto no significa que has recibido la residencia permanente, solo significa que el proceso de solicitud ha iniciado correctamente.

Paso 3. Espera a la Fecha de Prioridad

Es importante armarse de paciencia porque la cantidad de visas solicitadas cada año es enorme y a veces pueden pasar años antes de que haya una disponible. Tu posición en la lista de espera va a depender de la fecha indicada en el forma I-797 que recibiste.

Paso 4. Completa el Ajuste de Estatus

Si eres un familiar preferente con un formato I-360 aprobado y una fecha de prioridad debes completar el formato I-485 de Aplicación de Ajuste de Estatus y los documentos correspondientes.
Hecho esto, serás considerado para un período de estadía autorizada. Si deseas trabajar, también debes completar el formato I-765.
Después de algunos meses, serás llamada a la oficina de USCIS para una entrevista. En la mayoría de los casos no será necesario que también acuda tu esposo o padre a la entrevista.

¿Hay límite de tiempo en el tiempo que se puede llevar este proceso?

No. Por desgracia las oficinas de USCIS tienen una gran carga de trabajo por lo que tu proceso puede ser muy tardado. En el mejor de los casos, si las evidencias de violencia son contundentes, puedes tener cierta preferencia.

Si tienes dudas o necesitas asesoría durante el trámite, contáctanos y con gusto te ayudaremos.

Trabajar fuera de Estados Unidos con la tarjeta verde

Fri, Aug 7 5:39 PM by Romona Paden

Trabajar fuera de Estados Unidos con la tarjeta verde

Quienes tienen la tarjeta verde y planean trabajar fuera de los Estados Unidos deben conocer las reglas para evitar perder la residencia permanente o para dejar de ser elegible para obtener la ciudadanía estadounidense.

Los residentes permanentes pueden perder su estatus incluso si visitan constantemente los Estados Unidos. Una vez que un inmigrante ha recibido este documento es común que desee viajar al extranjero. Esto no está mal siempre que sigas las siguientes reglas:

1.Demuestra que tienes la intención real de regresar a los Estados Unidos

Las autoridades entienden que abandonas la residencia cuando te estableces en otro país. Para comprobar que realmente tienes la intención de regresar a los Estados Unidos debes mantener o conservar los documentos que lo demuestren:

  • Hipotecas.
  • Registro de automóviles
  • Membresía de clubs deportivos o religiosos
  • Pago de impuestos
  • Estados de cuenta bancarios
  • Depósito o comprobante de pagos de rentas
  • etc.

2.No te ausentes por más de un año

La ley estadounidense señala que cuando pasas más de un año fuera de los Estados Unidos, la tarjeta verde queda sin vigencia. Existen algunas excepciones para este lapso de tiempo que puedes encontrar en el INA 316. Un ejemplo es cuando eres empleado del gobierno de los Estados Unidos y por tu trabajo debes viajar a otro país por más de un año.

¿Cómo evitar la interrupción de la residencia para obtener la ciudadanía?

Quienes ya obtuvieron la residencia tienen la posibilidad de adquirir la residencia. Un punto importante para lograrlo es evitar que la residencia se vea interrumpida por largos lapsos de tiempo. Para esto necesitarás:

1.Vivir al menos tres meses en el estado donde presentes la solicitud de ciudadanía.
2.Vivir en suelo o territorio estadounidense al menos 2 años y medio de los cinco años anteriores al momento en que se presenta la solicitud de ciudadanía.
3.Ser residente continuo de los Estados Unidos al momento del juramento. Toma en cuenta que se te dará una cita para la toma de huellas digitales y fotografía con pocos días de anticipación. Muchas veces, la Oficina de Servicios de Migración y Ciudadanía de los Estados Unidos agenda estas citas con un par de días de anticipación y no ven con buenos ojos que no estés disponible.
4.Evita los viajes largos (de seis meses a un año) mientras dura el trámite de obtención de ciudadanía. Si haces viajes así de largos, podrías perder incluso la residencia cuando no tienes empleo o familia en los Estados Unidos. Tampoco es buena idea rentar tu casa mientras estás fuera ni conseguir un empleo en el extranjero por más de seis meses.
5. Evita los viajes en el extranjero que duren más de un año ya que estos automáticamente cancelan la residencia para naturalización. Existen algunas situaciones en las que si puedes viajar sin problemas. Un ejemplo es que trabajes para el gobierno estadounidense y que esto te obligue a estar fuera del país.

Casos en los que podrás viajar al extranjero sin afectar el proceso para obtener la ciudadanía

Una de las excepciones a la interrupción de la residencia para el proceso de naturalización es cuando eres un empleado del gobierno o empresa estadounidense que debe salir del país para cumplir con sus obligaciones laborales.
En caso de que ya tengas más de un año viviendo en los Estados Unidos pero aún no recibas tu residencia, puedes completar el formato N-470 para evitar cualquier problema o mal entendido con el gobierno estadounidense.
Si trabajas para una empresa estadounidense, deberás demostrar que:

  • La empresa para la que trabajas es una empresa estadounidense o que ejerce el 50% de sus funciones comerciales dentro de los Estados Unidos.
  • Tu empleador es una corporación incorporada a algún organismo comercial en los Estados Unidos.
  • Si la empresa no es estadounidense, se debe comprobar que al menos el 51% de sus actividades se llevan a cabo en los Estados Unidos.

Trabajar fuera de los Estados Unidos puede ser un requerimiento obligatorio dentro de tu trabajo. Para hacerlo sin perder los derechos que ya has adquirido y sin perder la posibilidad de obtener la ciudadanía solo sigue las reglas que te mencionamos. En caso de que tengas alguna duda, recuerda que nos puedes contactar.

How to get a green card through marriage

Mon, Aug 3 11:37 AM by Romona Paden

Learn how to get a green card through marriage.

If you are marrying a U.S. citizen, you will be eligible to apply for a green card after the marriage is official. What you must do to obtain a green card will depend on where you currently reside. Let's have a look at what this process entails.

If you're in the U.S.
If you already live in the U.S., you can apply for permanent residence after your marriage is official. You will apply on Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Simultaneously, your spouse will need to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. If you do this concurrently, you will be able to undergo the entire process in one step.

If you would rather apply in two steps, you can have your spouse file Form I-130 and wait until it is received or approved, at which time you will receive Form I-797 from USCIS. This will show your spouse's form has been received or approved. Then, you can file your own I-485 application with a copy of the I-130 receipt or the I-797 notice. 

"Outside the U.S., you'll get a green card through consular processing."

If you're outside the U.S.
If you currently reside outside of the U.S., you'll need to get a green card through consular processing. This means USCIS and the Department of State will issue a visa on your I-130 petition when one becomes available. Then, you'll travel to the U.S. on that visa, at which time you'll become a permanent resident. After the Department of State receives your I-130, you will be notified that you are eligible to apply for a visa, which you must do within one year of that notification. Otherwise, you won't be eligible anymore.

In all cases
Filing to receive a green card through marriage will require you and your spouse to fill out the biographic information form G-325A. You'll also have to prove your marriage is in good faith (you may hear this referred to as "proving the bona fides of the marriage"). To prove this, you will need to submit copies of birth and marriage certificates, anything from the wedding you can use to prove it is genuine such as announcements and invitations, proof of jointly held assets and bank accounts and so on. Take the time to gather these documents together before you try to make your application so you are not delayed.

EB-5 program drawing new interest

Wed, Jul 22 10:36 AM by Romona Paden

Many participants in the EB-5 program choose to invest in construction.

Under the EB-5 immigrant investor program, someone who wants to become a U.S. permanent resident can do so if he or she invests $500,000 in a project in an area with high unemployment and creates at least 10 jobs in doing so. This benefit also extends to the investor's family. This is a popular avenue to a green card for those who can afford it – largely Chinese investors in the past, though interest from other countries is growing.

"We have seen markets growing that had not been EB-5 players in the past," Peter Joseph, executive director of industry trade group Invest in the USA, told The Wall Street Journal. People from Brazil, Russia and Vietnam are beginning to access the chance to get a green card through this avenue.

The program drew almost $2 billion to construction, film, mining and other industries in 2013, with construction by far the most popular investment. The program, which had only 486 applicants in 2006, saw 10,928 people apply to invest in the U.S. last year.

According to the Journal, Chinese investors continue to look for opportunities for U.S. permanent residency by investing in projects others run, while those from Brazil tend to want to control their own investments.

Recommendations to update immigration process revealed

Thu, Jul 16 11:35 AM by Romona Paden

A task force has suggested ways to make immigration processes digital.

As part of his efforts toward immigration reform, President Barack Obama called for federal agencies to begin to make the process of applying for a visa more modern and digitized. Currently, applying for a green card, visa or other necessary immigration document involves many steps and a lot of paper. A task force convened on this issue recently released its report, "Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century," and has quite a few recommendations for how the process could change.

The group followed applicants looking to get their visas for several months, according to WIRED. An official who spoke with the source said the legwork involved was daunting. "As a group of technologists, that stuff just killed us. It's insane we would do that in 2015. We invented these things called computers," the official said.

In place of the paperwork-heavy system now operating, the group recommended a few key changes. First among them was allowing applicants to pay all fees at once rather than having them pay out small amounts over time. Another key change would involve tailoring the application experience to the user – the needs of a permanent resident seeking citizenship are different than those of a student from abroad looking to come to the U.S. to complete his or her studies, and any digital system should reflect that.

C

Sat, Jul 11 4:17 PM by Romona Paden

Cómo probar violencia para obtener la tarjeta verde mediante VAWA

Las mujeres que sufren violencia por parte de sus padres o esposo pueden aplicar para obtener la tarjeta verde mediante la VAWA o Acta de Violencia Contra las Mujeres. Esta Acta aplica para mujeres que sufren abandono, negación de ayuda o violencia que debe ser demostrada con documentación.
Debido a que se trata de un tema sensible, las autoridades han establecido como requisito importante la presentación de pruebas de la violencia que la mujer sufre. Por ello, te hemos preparado esta pequeña guía.

¿Por qué se creó el Acta de Violencia Contra las Mujeres?

La violencia dentro de la familia es un problema muy serio en la actualidad. Esto lo han venido viendo las autoridades pero también se percataron de que entre los inmigrantes se presentan situaciones muy graves. Usualmente son las mujeres y niños, aunque no siempre, las víctimas de esta violencia por parte de quien tiene el poder de requerirlos ante las autoridades.
Es muy común que el abusador use su estatus migratorio para controlar y lastimar a la víctima. Esto puede ser mediante amenazas, retrasando la entrega de documentación para iniciar los trámites legales correspondientes o tratando de quitar la custodia de los niños.
Las autoridades también se dieron cuenta que las víctimas suelen estar alejadas de sus familiares, imposibilitadas para trabajar y con pocos medios para escapar de sus abusadores. Por estas razones se vio la importancia de crear el Acta de Violencia Contra las Mujeres.

¿Cómo ayuda el Acta de Violencia Contra las Mujeres?

El principal objetivo del Acta de Violencia Contra las Mujeres es dar una alternativa a las víctimas de abuso para que regularicen su estatus legal dentro de los Estados Unidos. Se le permite tomar control sobre su trámite para obtener la tarjeta verde a través del formato I-360.
En caso de que exista algún proceso migratorio contra la víctima de violencia, el Acta de Violencia Contra las Mujeres lo detiene. Esto es particularmente importante cuando la víctima está por ser deportada a su país de origen.

Primeros pasos del proceso

Si aún no has iniciado ningún procedimiento, necesitas iniciar completando el formato I-360. Si ya comenzaste un proceso y eres un residente condicional en espera de la residencia permanente, debes llenar el formato I-751. Estos dos formatos deben ser enviados por correo.
Una vez hecho lo anterior, se te agendará un cita para la entrevista en la oficina de Servicios de Migración y Ciudadanía de los Estados Unidos.
Si tu solicitud es denegada, puedes iniciar el proceso ante la corte al mismo tiempo que renuevas la solicitud para obtener la tarjeta verde.

Probar abuso bajo el Acta de Violencia Contra las Mujeres

Lo primero que debes saber son los tipos de abuso que te permitirán aplicar a la tarjeta verde bajo el Acta de Violencia Contra las Mujeres. Aquí se incluye:

  • Violencia física
  • Malos tratos
  • Intimidación
  • Abuso económico
  • Abuso sexual
  • Detención forzada
  • Abuso verbal
  • Etc.

Debido a que cada año se presentan millones de solicitudes para obtener la tarjeta verde, quienes la pidan en base al Acta de Violencia Contra las Mujeres deben entregar evidencia detallada y creíble de que ella o sus hijos son víctimas de abuso. Este abuso debe ser ejercido por la pareja, los padres de la solicitante o cualquier otra persona que tenga poder sobre la víctima o sus hijos.

Los documentos que se pueden presentar son:

  • Declaración personal de la víctima.
  • Registros médicos que indiquen lesiones derivadas del abuso.
  • Registros del psiquiatra o trabajador social sobre tratamiento ocasionado por el abuso.
  • Declaraciones juradas de los médicos, psiquiatras u otros que trabajaron con la víctima, indicando sus observaciones profesionales sobre el aparente abuso.
  • Declaraciones juradas de amigos, compañeros de trabajo, vecinos, asesores religiosos, maestros y otras personas relacionadas con conversaciones con la víctima en relación con el abuso.
  • Declaraciones juradas de amigos, compañeros de trabajo, vecinos, asesores religiosos, maestros y otras personas donde indiquen haber sido testigos del abuso del que es víctima el solicitante de la tarjeta verde.
  • Registros de ausencias de trabajo o escuelas que se relacionen con otras evidencias de abuso
  • Informes de la policía que muestren las incidencias de abuso
  • Declaraciones o registros de refugios de violencia doméstica donde la víctima buscó protección
  • Fotografías que muestran a las víctimas de lesiones
  • Copias de órdenes de protección o de restricción emitidas contra el abusador
  • Fotografías de pertenencias de la víctima que el abusador ha dañado o los objetos mismos si se cuenta con ellos.

Es posible que cuentes con otras pruebas que no encajan en ninguna de la lista anterior. Recuerda que se trata de presentar todo aquello que permita a las autoridades comprobar que eres una víctima, por lo que podrás presentarlas.

Si tienes dudas, acércate a nosotros y con gusto te ayudaremos en el proceso.

Los beneficios de obtener la residencia permanente

Sat, Jul 11 4:07 PM by Romona Paden

Los beneficios de obtener la residencia permanente

En Estados Unidos existen diversos procesos y tipos de reconocimiento para los extranjeros. Esto hace que sea muy común la existencia de confusiones y dudas sobre lo que cada uno implica. Esta vez te voy a explicar los beneficios de obtener la residencia permanente.

Lo primero que debes saber es que los residentes permanentes no tienen los mismo beneficios que los ciudadanos estadounidenses. Un ejemplo muy claro es que los residentes permanentes pueden vivir y trabajar sin problema en los Estados Unidos pero no tendrán derecho a votar. Es decir, la residencia permanente te da menores derechos y beneficios que la ciudadanía.

Sigue leyendo y conoce a fondo los beneficios de obtener la residencia permanente.

Licencia de manejo

Una vez que obtengas la tarjeta de residencia permanente podrás aplicar para obtener la licencia de manejo. Este es uno de los documentos más importantes dentro de los Estados Unidos porque te permite acceder a varios servicios y es básico para facilitar tu identificación dentro del país.
Para obtener la licencia de manejo debes presentar la tarjeta de residente permanente y toda la documentación que pida el departamento de vehículos automotores del estado donde vivas. También debes presentar una prueba de dirección y un certificado de nacimiento.
Casi todos los estados te pedirán una prueba de manejo y un examen escrito, si tienes dudas puedes preguntar a la oficina local correspondiente sobre el proceso para obtener la licencia de manejo.

Número del seguro social

Una vez que aplicas a la residencia permanente en los Estados Unidos puedes solicitar también el número de la seguridad social a través del Departamento de Estado del país. Para esto, necesitarás completar el formulario DS 230 Aplicación para visa de inmigrantes y registro de extranjero. Si lo prefieres, puedes completar la versión electrónica: Aplicación Electrónica de Visa de Inmigrante.
Los extranjeros que realicen este procedimiento recibirán un número del seguro social una vez que lleguen a los Estados Unidos.
En caso de que no solicites el número del seguro social en tu solicitud de visa, puedes acudir a la oficina de seguridad social del lugar donde vivas dentro de los Estados Unidos para solicitarlo. En este caso necesitarás presentar:

  • Pasaporte o tarjeta de residencia permanente.
  • Certificado de nacimiento.

Recuerda que si tienes dudas al completar lo formatos, puedes pedir ayuda al empleado que te atendió. Después de completar el formato, recibirás tu tarjeta de la seguridad social dos semanas después.

Programas de ayuda social

Aunque no eres un ciudadano estadounidense, existen algunos beneficios a los que podrás acceder con la residencia permanente. Es importante que investigues si cumples con todos los requisitos ya que algunos están enfocados a ciertos grupos mientras que otros son más generales. Entre los posibles beneficios a los que puedes acceder están:

  • Seguridad de ingreso suplementario
  • Asistencia temporal para familias necesitadas
  • Programa de asistencia de nutrición suplementaria
  • Medicaid y Medicare
  • Programa de seguro de salud para niños

Saca el máximo provecho a la residencia permanente

Obtener la residencia permanente no es un proceso sencillo y es común que algunas personas se sientan tan cansadas de los trámites que al final no investigan todos los beneficios que esta les da. Nuestra recomendación es que siempre vayas un paso más allá. Recuerda que nosotros te podemos facilitar el proceso para obtener la residencia permanente acompañándote en cada paso.

Obt

Sat, Jun 27 4:59 PM by Romona Paden

Obtén la residencia permanente por empleo

Existen diversos caminos para conseguir la residencia permanente en Estados Unidos y no es raro que muchos busquen la más fácil: a través de familiares que ya viven en el país. Sin embargo, quienes no cuentan con esta facilidad pueden optar por otras alternativas: servir en la milicia de los Estados Unidos y obtener el estatus de refugiado. Hoy te hablaré de la opción de obtener la residencia a través de un empleador estadounidense. Contrario a lo que se podría pensar, no es imposible de lograr.

Aspectos generales sobre la residencia permanente por empleo

  • Cualquier extranjero puede solicitar la residencia permanente por empleo cuando tiene una oferta de empleo permanente en Estados Unidos. Esto significa que puedes acceder a este beneficio sin importar tu profesión, oficio o carrera. La condición es que tengas una invitación de trabajo.
  • El empleador puede iniciar el trámite para patrocinar la residencia permanente por empleo para la persona que desea contratar. Esto se hace con la finalidad de garantizar que quienes obtienen esta residencia permanente realmente tengan una forma de ganarse la vida.
  • La residencia permanente por empleo te permite trabajar y vivir de forma libre en los Estados Unidos. Solo recuerda que siempre deberás respetar las leyes del país.

Los distintos tipos de residencia permanente por empleo

Existen varios tipos de empleo y al momento de solicitar tu residencia permanente por empleo, las autoridades de Estados Unidos toman esto en cuenta. Los Servicios de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de Estados Unidos clasificarán tu solicitud y caso de acuerdo al tipo de empleo, la importancia de tu profesión y el beneficio que puedes representar para el país. Las categorías existentes y clasificadas de mayor a menor importancia son:

EB-1

Este tipo de residencia se le da a los extranjeros con amplios conocimientos y habilidades en artes, ciencias, educación, deportes y negocios. Los perfiles elegidos para este trámite suelen ser profesores o investigadores con gran prestigio, empresarios, gerentes y altos ejecutivos.

EB-2

Se suele otorgar a personas con excelentes habilidades en los negocios, artes y ciencias que buscan obtener brindar grandes beneficios a la economía del lugar donde radicarán, al sistema educativo, a la cultura o a cualquier otro aspecto de relevancia nacional.
Las personas que entran en esta categoría suelen tener grados de estudios avanzados y trabajan en su área de estudios.

EB-3

Los extranjeros que tienen dos o más años de experiencia y han demostrado ser empleados con buenas aptitudes son clasificados en esta categoría. El grado mínimo de estudios suele ser el equivalente a licenciatura.
En esta clasificación también entran algunos trabajadores con menos de dos años de experiencia. En este caso solo se aceptarán aquellos con las habilidades necesarias para cubrir puestos que no tienen gran demanda entre trabajadores locales.

EB-4

Este tipo de residencia se le otorga a perfiles muy especiales: trabajadores religiosos, presentadores, traductores de Irak y Afganistán, iraquíes que hayan ayudado a los Estados Unidos, empleados de organizaciones internacionales, doctores, miembros de las Fuerzas Armadas, empleados de la Zona del Canal de Panamá, empleados retirados del NATO-6, hijos y esposos o esposas de empleados fallecidos del NATO-6.

Proceso de aplicación para la residencia permanente por empleo

Existen dos procesos para obtener este tipo de residencia. La diferencia es que uno está pensado para quienes viven en el extranjero y el otro proceso es para los extranjeros que ya viven en los Estados Unidos.

El proceso para quienes viven en el extranjero se debe realizar el trámite consular a través de la oficina de los Servicios de Ciudadanía e Inmigración de los Estados Unidos. El empleador debe completar el formato I-140 de Petición de Trabajador Inmigrante Extranjero y pagar la tarifa correspondiente.

En caso de que ya vivas en los Estados Unidos de forma legal, deberás solicitar un ajuste de estatus. Para esto, se deberá completar el formulario I-140 y una vez que seas notificado de que hay un número de visa disponible, te debes presentar con el formulario I-485 de Solicitud de Registro de Residencia Permanente o Ajuste de Estatus. 

El formulario I-485 debe ser acompañado por la siguiente documentación:

  • La evidencia de inspección, admisión y permiso para entrar a los Estados Unidos. Es el formulario I-94 que recibiste al registrar tu entrada al país.
  • La copia de notificación de aprobación enviada por la USCIS en caso de haberla recibido.
  • La carta con la oferta de empleo emitida por el empleador.
  • Dos fotos a color recientes.
  • El formulario G-325A de Información biográfica.
  • El formulario I-693 de Informe médico y de vacunación.
  • Cualquier evidencia complementaria que demuestre que eres elegible.

Sin dudas, parece que realizar el trámite estando en el extranjero resulta más sencillo pero no te desanimes si ya radicas en los Estados Unidos. Recuerda que siempre puedes contar con nuestra asesoría para hacer más fácil tu trámite.

How to file for permanent residence based on family petition

Wed, Jan 28 11:59 AM by Romona Paden

U.S. citizens can petition for family members to receive a green card.

Among the several varying paths to permanent residence, one of the most common ways to apply for a green card is through a family petition. This involves a family member of the foreign-born individual filing a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for an adjustment of status for the beneficiary.

Who can file a family petition?
To be able to apply for an adjustment of status for a beneficiary, you need to have American citizenship and be an immediate relative. That means the beneficiary must fall into one of the following categories:

  • Spouse
  • Child who is unmarried and under the age of 21
  • Parent of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old
  • Sibling of a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years old

Additional types of relatives may also qualify on a case-by-case basis. There are also other eligibility requirements that must be met by the applicant filing the petition:

  • Be physically present in the U.S.
  • Have been admitted or paroled in the country
  • Were inspected by a U.S. immigration officer

In some cases, you may have to wait to file the petition until a visa becomes available.

What forms must be filed?
To petition on behalf of an immediate family member, you must file form Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of the beneficiary. This is a simple document that establishes your relationship with the beneficiary, and it costs $420 to file.

Additionally, the foreign individual applying for a green card must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This documentation requires biographical information and must include:

  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
  • Copy of birth certificate with English translation
  • Copy of passport with U.S. admission stamp
  • Two passport-quality photos
  • Form I-693, Medical Examination of Aliens Seeking Adjustment of Status
  • Police and court records if applicant has ever been arrested or convicted

Applicants will also be required to submit fingerprints and go through an interview process. The filing fee for form I-485 can range from $635 for people under age 14 up to $1,070 to people ages 14 to 78, though the fee may be waived altogether in some cases.

What are my chances of petition approval?
USCIS determines the status of applications on a case-by-case basis; however, it does give preference to the unmarried children of U.S. citizens. Spouses and children of permanent residents take second rank, followed by married children of American citizens and siblings of those with U.S. citizenship.

How will US-Cuba diplomacy affect green cards?

Fri, Jan 16 7:05 PM by Romona Paden

Many Cubans are worried that U.S.-Cuba diplomacy will affect their ability to obtain green cards.

The Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 has allowed hundreds of thousands Cubans as well as their spouses and children to obtain permanent residence in America after settling in the country. However, many awaiting their green cards are now in fear that this act will be abolished as the U.S. and Cubans restore diplomatic relations.

While these concerns may be justified, experts believe that it's unlikely the Cuban Adjustment Act will go away anytime soon. Mario Urizar, a South Florida attorney, said in a written statement that the process of repeal would be too complicated and requires a bipartisan decision, according to the El Nuevo Herald.

"A lot needs to be done in order to repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act," Urizar said. "In order for this to happen the president and Congress need to work together in determining that Cuba has a democratically elected government – which is far from realization."

As Urizar stated, there are two main paths that could lead to a nullification of the act and devastate Cubans awaiting green card approval:

  • If a congressional action specifically repealed the law
  • If the president submitted a determination to Congress that Cuba was being controlled by a democratically elected government

Neither of these circumstances are likely. However, there could be repercussions for Cubans living in the U.S. who are under deportation orders.

"But, what is true, is these recent talks between the U.S. and Cuba could lead to Cubans being physically deported," Urizar said. "Currently, the majority of Cubans with Removal or Deportation orders … are not subject to physical removal because Cuba will not accept them. As these talks with Cuba continue, I don't see why the United States would pass on the opportunity to try to secure physical removals for these individuals back to Cuba."

How do I replace a green card?

Fri, Nov 14 1:59 PM by Romona Paden

There are many circumstances that may require you to apply for a replacement green card.

After the long process of applying for a green card, it can be a huge disappointment when you lose or damage yours. Not having proof of permanent resident status can lead to legal complications and fines. Fortunately, the process for replacing your green card is fairly simple and speedy. Learn more about replacing your stolen or lost green card:

When should I replace my green card?
There are certain circumstances when it's obvious that you need to replace your green card, such as when it is stolen, lost, destroyed or mutilated beyond readability. However, there are a host of other reasons you may need to apply for a replacement, including:

  • Your green card contains incorrect information.
  • Your name or personal information has been legally changed.
  • You never received the previous green card issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • It was issued before age 14 and you have just turned 14 (though some cards do not need to be replaced until age 16).
  • You've been commuting to the U.S. but now plan on taking up residence in the country, or vice versa.
  • Your status was automatically converted to that of permanent resident.
  • You have an outdated version of an alien registration card and must replace it with a current green card.

How do I apply?

Those in need of a replacement green card have the option of applying online.

After determining that you need a replacement green card, you can begin the application process. Those who are permanent residents can apply in one of two ways:

  • Using the online e-filing form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card)
  • Filling out the paper form I-90 and mailing it to USCIS

These same application methods can be used by conditional residents who need to replace their two-year green cards. Those who are living outside of the U.S. should contact the nearest U.S. consulate office, USCIS location or port of entry before filling out the I-90 form.

How do I check the status of my application?
After applying for a green card replacement, you must wait for your I-90 application to be approved before receiving your proof of permanent residence. You can check the status of your application at the USCIS "My Case Status" page. In the event that your request for a replacement green card is denied, you cannot appeal the decision. However, you can submit a motion to reopen or reconsider the application, in which case the office you applied through will reexamine your information.

11 million entered 2014 green card lottery

Fri, Nov 7 5:30 PM by Romona Paden

The green card lottery accounts for about 5 percent of legal immigration.

Each year, the U.S. Department of State holds the green card lottery, formally known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. This program awards permanent residence to some 50,000 applicants annually, drawing winners randomly from a selection of immigrants from nations with low rates of U.S. immigration.

It's an excellent opportunity to obtain the right to work and live in the U.S. while skipping ahead of the long waitlist for a green card. In fact, it accounts for about 5 percent of legal immigration to the U.S. But the number of applicants well outweighs the number of green cards available through this program, and in 2014, the lottery saw an astonishing number of entries.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. visa lottery program attracted more than 11 million applicants this year. That is a 21 percent increase from 2013, and this news means that less than 0.5 percent of those who entered will be awarded green cards.

While this number indicates rising interest in the lottery, this year is not a record breaker. The program has seen as many as 14.8 million applications in one year.

How to apply for a green card through a job offer

Fri, Oct 24 3:21 PM by Romona Paden

Securing employment in the U.S. is one way to qualify for a green card.

When U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services awards an immigrant a green card, it gives that person permanent residence in the U.S. This comes with the right to secure employment within the country. The application process can take a long time to be complete and is very complex and strict. However, USCIS offers several avenues through which you can apply, such as by meeting one of the categories outlined by the Immigration and Nationality Act. These include being an immediate relative of someone who holds U.S. citizenship, being a priority professional or holding refugee status. One of the most common routes of application is fulfilling the job- or employment-based INA category.

What is the job- or employment-based category?

This category allows people who have been offered permanent employment in the U.S. to become eligible for residence through a green card. In these circumstances, green cards are awarded to the most qualified individuals according to the rankings of applicants in order of professional status. Priority workers are at the top of the list – those with extraordinary skills or who have proven themselves professionally as teachers, researchers or executives in emerging industries. After that, applicants with advanced degrees receive their green cards, followed by skilled workers, employees in specialty fields and workers whose function is to create more jobs (investors, entrepreneurs, and so forth).

How to apply

Applying for a green card through an offer of permanent employment requires the employer to file a petition for the worker. This is done through Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. After this is done, you must go through one of two lines of action depending on your current location:

  • If you are living outside of the U.S., you have to go through consular processing, which is when USCIS works directly with the Department of State to grant a visa via the I-140 petition once a visa number becomes available. This will generally require you to complete additional steps, such as attending an appointment with the consular office.
  • If you live in the U.S., you can have your residency status adjusted to permanent by applying with Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You can fill out this form as soon as your I-140 form is approved and a visa number becomes available.

Eligibility requirements to apply for a green card

Fri, Oct 17 4:15 PM by Romona Paden

There are several ways that one can qualify to apply for a green card.

A green card gives the holder permanent residence in the U.S. – the ability to live and work in the country for the foreseeable future. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has implemented a lengthy and strict process for applying for permanent residence, but first you must qualify for a green card by meeting certain requirements. These generally include:

  • Being admissible to the U.S.
  • Having an immigrant visa immediately available
  • Having an immigrant petition filed and approved for you
  • Being eligible for an immigrant category established by the Immigration and Nationality Act

INA categories

To apply for a green card, you must fit into an INA immigrant category, which includes family-based, job- or employment-based, refugee or asylum categories.

Family-based
An immigrant can qualify for a green card if he or she is an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. This includes parents and spouses as well as children under the age of 21 who are unmarried. In some cases, applicants do not have to wait for a visa to become available to qualify under family-based circumstances.

Job- or employment-based
If someone is employed by an American company or has received a job offer to work in the U.S., he or she fits into this immigrant category. Immigrants can choose to apply for either a green card or an immigrant visa abroad. When a visa becomes available, it is granted to the most qualified individuals according to these rankings of preferences:

  • Priority workers such as immigrants with extraordinary talents, researchers in emerging fields, outstanding educators and multinational executives
  • Advanced degree holders and members of highly complex fields, like science and medicine
  • Skilled workers, professionals and other qualified employees
  • Immigrants in specialty fields, such as religion
  • Workers who serve to create more jobs, like certain entrepreneurs and investors

Refugee or asylum status
Those admitted to the U.S. as a refugee or as the spouse or child of a refugee must apply for a green card one year after being granted entry into the country. Those granted asylum are not required to apply, but it may be in the best interest of the immigrant to avoid extradition.

While these three categories are the most common ways that immigrants become permanent residents, there are also other options. For example, you can participate in the green card lottery, file an immigrant petition or apply through a special circumstance such as Armed Forces member or a victim of trafficking.

Notice to green card applicants: PERM passwords expire in November

Tue, Oct 14 12:41 PM by Romona Paden

All Program Electronic Review Management system passwords must be renewed by green card applicants.

The Program Electronic Review Management system is used in the first step of the green card application process: labor certification. It is an entirely electronic system that aims to cut down the labor certification time to 60 days or less. Those who use this web-based application program must create and save a password for future use, and that password is set to expire in November for all users.

According to the Association of Corporate Counsel, the U.S. Department of Labor announced on Aug. 25, 2014, that all PERM account passwords will expire in November 2014. These accounts are used to prepare and submit labor certification applications, the first part of the process to apply for a green card online. All users must create a new password by Nov. 23, and it must be changed every 90 days. The purpose of this new requirement is to enhance security. The PERM system will send users reminders several times as the password nears its expiration date.

Password guidelines
Each green card applicant must comply with a strict set of guidelines when selecting their passwords. These include:

  • The password must consist of eight to 15 characters.
  • These characters must consist of at least one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, a number and a special character.
  • You cannot reuse any of your previous 12 passwords.

How to change your password
When you're ready to select a new password, follow these steps:

  1. Log into your PERM account using your existing password.
  2. Click on the "My Profile" tab.
  3. Click on the "Login Information" tab.
  4. Check the option to change your password.
  5. Enter a new password using the PERM guidelines.
  6. Re-enter the password in the "Confirm Password" field.
  7. Click on "Save."

If you do not remember your existing password or need help saving your new one, contact the PERM help desk for assistance.

Everything you need to know to apply for the green card lottery

Thu, Oct 2 3:39 PM by Romona Paden

The green card lottery awards 50,000 immigrant visas every year.

The process for obtaining a green card can be a long and complicated one, and many people wait years to receive theirs. But the green card lottery is an additional opportunity to obtain a green card. Formally known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, it provides as many as 50,000 immigrant visas each year to people seeking American citizenship. In 2014, the program opened on Oct. 1 and will accept applications through the beginning of November, providing visas to citizens of particular countries to create a more diversified immigrant population in America.

How to enter
To enter the green card lottery for the 2016 year, apply online before noon (EDT) on Monday, Nov. 3, 2014. It is completely free to enter. The application must be submitted in English, though unofficial translations are available. No paper or late entries will be considered. After submitting your entry, you will be given a confirmation number. Print or write down this number so you can check the status of your entry and so you can complete the visa process if you are selected as a winner.

Exclusions
The 50,000 green cards awarded to applicants each year are intended for people from countries with low rates of U.S. immigration. The U.S. Department of State has determined that 19 countries have high immigration rates, and so citizens from those areas are not eligible for the green card lottery. These include:

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China (those born in the mainland)
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti, India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories
  • Vietnam

Despite these restrictions, you still qualify if you're married to someone from a country that is not on this list. Additionally, someone born in one of these countries may apply for a visa under the lottery program if neither of his or her parents were born or legally resided in the country.

Requirements
Applicants must meet a simple but strict set of guidelines to be eligible for the green card lottery. You must meet one of the following requirements:

Have at least a high school education
Have at least two years of work experience within the past five years; the position must be in an occupation that requires at least two years worth of experience or training

The selection process
The Department of State selects the winners at random from all entries according to how many visas are available for each region or country. On or around May 5 of the following year, the department announces the winners. To see if you were selected from the lottery, use your confirmation number to check the status of your entry on or after this date.

How to sponsor your relative for a Green Card

Tue, Sep 30 1:09 PM by Romona Paden

As a U.S. citizen, you can sponsor a foreign relative for a green card.

If you have a relative who lives outside the U.S. and is not a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S., you can help them get a green card.

In order to sponsor a foreign relative for a green card, you will be required to prove that you have enough income and assets to support them by filing out Form I-864. There will also be other documents you'll have to give to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

These are the types of relatives that U.S. citizens may help get a green card:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • A fiance residing outside of the U.S. and their children
  • Children of a spouse

Filing an I-130

To establish your relationship to the relative that you want to sponsor, you'll also be required to file Form I-130. If the relative that you're sponsoring lives abroad, then you must file Form I-130 with USCIS and submit proof of your own citizenship or permanent residency. Be sure to also include evidence proving your relationship to each person that you'll be sponsoring. 

Immediate relatives of citizens are not required to wait for any amount of time in order to immigrate to the U.S. These types of relatives include spouses, parents or unmarried children under the age of 21. However, other types of relatives may be required to wait while petitions that were filed on their behalf are processed. During this waiting period, when a visa number does become available, the U.S. Department of State will contact your relative and invite them to apply for an immigrant visa. 

In some cases, relatives of citizens or permanent residents may already be living in the U.S. with a visa. Those who have relatives already in the U.S. may be able to file Form I-485, an Application to Adjust Status. This form should be sent in at the same time at the I-130 and will help speed up the process of getting your relative a green card. 

Those sponsoring a relative should keep in mind that there is a $420 filing fee for submitting an I-130.

Immigration Direct can provide you with the assistance you need to file an I-130 to sponsor your relative for a green card. We offer step-by-step guidance for each question, an application online and in plain English, detailed filing instructions and a free quiz to determine your eligibility to sponsor a relative. 

A guide to the US Green Card lottery

Fri, Sep 5 2:57 PM by Romona Paden

There is an annual green card lottery that awards visas to 50,000 immigrants.

Each year, the U.S. government holds a green card lottery. It's also known as the Diversity Visa Program and awards 50,000 individuals a green card. 

U.S. green cards have another name: permanent resident cards. These documents are issued by the government and give immigrants the right to live, work and study in the U.S. 

When the Immigration Act was established in 1996, the goal of the legislation was to increase the diversity of American immigrants. Through the Immigration Act, individuals from all over the world are permitted to enter the U.S. if they follow the correct legal procedures. 

How it works

The registration process for the green card lottery usually begins in October and lasts through early November. Names are then selected at random from countries that have low immigration rates to the U.S. 

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, lottery winners must reside outside of the U.S. and immigrate to the U.S. by visiting the consulate in the country where they live.

In some instances, individuals who win the lottery may reside in the U.S. under a nonimmigrant visa or other legal status, meaning they have permission to live in the U.S.for a reason other than immigration. 

There is no cost to enter the Diversity Visa Program lottery, and prospective winners can enter to win by visiting the USA Green Card Lottery website.

Am I eligible to participate?

There is a list of requirements that those who want to enter the lottery must meet. 

Individuals must be born in a qualifying country in order to take part in the green card lottery. You may not participate if you were born in one of the following countries:

  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • South Korea
  • England
  • Wales
  • Scotland
  • Vietnam

However, those who are from these countries but have a mother, father or spouse from an eligible country can participate in the lottery. 

The other requirement is that prospective immigrants must have at least a high school diploma, or have completed 12 years of elementary and secondary school, or have two years of work experience within the last five years in a job that requires at least two years of training.

Get help from Immigration Direct

While it's possible to apply for the U.S. State Department's green card lottery on your own, working with a third party service like Immigration Direct can ensure that you're following all the necessary steps.

Immigration Direct can help you file forms and items such as the I-485, G-324, I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record), biographic information, passport-style photos and I-601 (Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility).

Phone and email support is available for those who are applying for the Diversity Visa Program through Immigration Direct.

Republicans threaten government shutdown over executive action

Thu, Aug 28 4:05 PM by Romona Paden

Republican members of Congress threatened a government shutdown if President Obama issues executive action on immigration.

Some Republicans in Congress have warned the White House that they will work to shut down the government if President Barack Obama chooses to use executive action to address the country's immigration crisis. According to The Hill, the White House issued a statement that threats of a shutdown won't stop the president and his administration from coming up with a solution for immigration reform

"The president is determined to act where House Republicans won't, and there is strong support for that all across the country," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, told the Des Moines Register that Republicans would not hold back against the president if he chooses to given millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. amnesty and a pathway to citizenship.

"If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear," King told the source. "I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that."

Sen. Marco Rubio,R-Fla., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell,R-Ky., reportedly said that Republicans in Congress would consider stopping upcoming budget discussions if President Obama uses executive action on immigration. 

Earnest also addressed last year's incident when Republicans voted to shut down the government over the economy, according to The Hill. 

The statements by Republicans came after news broke that the White House was considering increasing the number of green cards available for high- and low-skilled immigrants who come to the U.S. to work. The Hill reported that a proposal currently being considered by President Obama would double the number of available green cards to nearly 800,000.

The President is scheduled to meet with Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to discuss available options, including executive action.

How to renew a US green card

Mon, Aug 25 1:25 AM by Romona Paden

How to apply for a new green card.

When immigrants to the U.S. are granted permanent citizenship, they become green card holders. Individuals who are granted green cards are permitted to live and work in the U.S. permanently. However, you are required to renew your green card every 10 years.

Immigrants can be issued a green card through family, a job, or refugee or asylee status. There are a number of different types of green cards that can be issued to immigrants, as well as steps that must be followed if you want to have your green card application renewed.

How to renew your US green card

There are a number of steps to take if your 10-year green card has expired or will expire within six months.

If you won't be in the U.S. when your card expires but will return within one year, then you should file for a new one when you return to the U.S. If you didn't apply for a renewal card before you left, then you'll want to talk with the nearest U.S. Consulate, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office or U.S. port of entry. 

You can check the expiration date on your card to know when it's going to expire. Keep in mind that your I-90 form cannot be filed more than six months in advance of your green card's expiration date, but if it has already expired then you'll want to file a form immediately. Green cards issued before 1979 did not have an expiration date on them. If this is the case for you, then you are encouraged to apply for a replacement card using the I-90 form.

Follow these steps if you want to renew your green card:

  • File your paperwork at least six months before it expires
  • Fill in out your I-90 form issued by USCIS (this can be done electronically or by mail)
  • Send in your fee ($365 to file the I-90 plus $85 for fingerprinting, those who cannot afford the payment may be granted a waiver)

Once you've sent in your application, follow these steps:

  • Wait for a notification from USCIS stating that they received your paperwork
  • Attend the appointment where you'll provide your fingerprint and have your photo taken
  • Review the checklist sent by the U.S. Immigration Service and be prepared to attend an in-person interview

Need to replace your green card? You'll have to use the I-90 form to have it replaced if one of the following situations is true for you:

  • Your card was lost or stolen
  • Your card was mutilated or destroyed
  • Your name has changed
  • You never received your card
  • There is a mistake on your card
  • You became a Permanent Resident before your 14th birthday

There are a number of reasons that could lead to a denied greed card application. The most common reasons are for criminal activity and the adjustment of your immigrant category.

If you fail to renew your green card, you can be subject to a misdemeanor conviction with a $100 fine, up to 30 days in jail or both. More attention has been given to green card holders who are not carrying the required information since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Those who need a temporary green card while waiting for their application to go through can request an I-551 stamp on their passport.

President Obama considers increasing green cards and H-1B visas

Fri, Aug 22 1:10 PM by Romona Paden

President Obama may increase the number of visas available each year.

While in the midst of considering executive action to address the U.S. immigration crisis, President Barack Obama is also weighing the possibility of increasing the number of green cards and H-1B visas issued to immigrants by as much as 800,000 annually. According to Fox News Latino, technology businesses' request to expand the number of H-1B visas, which are given to immigrants who come to work in the U.S., may become a reality following a meeting with White House officials in early August.

The approach to immigration reform has not been finalized yet, as President Obama did not make a decision on the next steps. However White House spokesman Shawn Turner said in a statement that the president has a number of potential solutions he's considering. The Obama administration and immigration advocates would likely be surprised by an increase in available green cards and visas. The source reported that there would also be a relief in the number of deportations for some undocumented immigrants following failure by Congress to address the issue.

One of the requests from technology business leaders was to make changes to the way green cards are counted. By doing this, there would be a reported 800,000 additional H-1B visas available in one year. If green cards are used a different way, then there would be more H-1B visas available for international workers.

If this were to be the solution President Obama pursued, it would encourage immigrants to use legal avenues for coming to the U.S., make it less difficult for companies who want to bring in talent from overseas to do so, and lessen the wait time for sponsored relatives seeking a green card, Fox News Latino reported.

More than 20 meetings have been held with business groups in recent months to try and find a solution for the immigration crisis. The leaders from these companies are making suggestions on how to address the issue and working with the Obama administration on making the pathway to citizenship for immigrants more streamlined.

Many green card holders qualify for Obamacare

Thu, Mar 27 6:15 PM by Romona Paden

People living in the country on a green card often qualify for health care coverage through the Marketplace.

When an immigrant obtains permanent residency in the United States and is authorized to live and work in the country, they receive many of the benefits that people born here do. Many get Social Security after retirement and even federally funded financial aid for college. But some are experiencing trouble obtaining certain government-subsidized health care benefits, particularly Medicare.

While Medicaid – which is a need-based program – is generally not available to green card holders, depending on their location, immigrants on permanent residency can qualify for Medicare. This program, which is run in collaboration by the federal and state governments, is intended for people age 65 and older, and green card holders can apply for this health care coverage after having worked 10 years, or a total of 40 quarters. Those who reach this age but don't have enough work history may also be allowed to buy into the program.

Despite this, people who have recently come to the country on a green card are finding that they're being denied Medicare coverage. This is the effect of the new Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. The law means more affordable and higher quality health care for a majority of Americans, and it works to lower the nation's uninsured rate by required all people who are not insured by an employer or under another provider to obtain coverage through the Marketplace. Those who do not are subject to a fine.

The addition of the Marketplace provides immigrants with another option for health care coverage, which means Medicare agencies are less likely to approve their applications. However, green card holders who can't afford to pay the premiums on a plan purchased through the Marketplace can apply for a federal subsidy to help pay for the cost. Since the status of your health care is on the line, it's especially important to process your green card renewal on time to apply for coverage and avoid penalties.

Immigration reform should focus on green cards, not citizenship

Thu, Feb 20 1:22 PM by Romona Paden

Permanent residency cards should get more attention

A major source of contention for Republicans and Democrats when discussing immigration reform is how best to provide undocumented immigrants with a path to citizenship. Those opposed to immigration reform want to avoid "rewarding" those individuals who entered the country without permission by giving them citizenship. Advocates for immigrants' rights are fighting to include all immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, in the naturalization process.

Many people on both political sides believe more focus should be placed on permanent resident cards, known as green cards. Supporters of economic growth due to immigration reform argue that allowing more immigrants to work in the U.S. will boost the economy and strengthen America's presence in the global market. The majority of immigrants came to the U.S. to make a better life for themselves and their families. To do that they need to secure a green card so they can work legally.

Currently there are only a handful of ways to get a green card. One way is to be the spouse of a current U.S. citizen. Another option for immigrants to receive a green card is through the diversity lottery, in which random green cards are given to individuals from countries that do not otherwise send many people to the U.S. A third way to secure a green card is through an employer sponsorship, but these 140,000 annual spots are only available to very highly skilled applicants who have an employer that is willing to pay up to $35,000 in government and legal fees.

Advocates for immigrant workers believe the restrictions on naturalization should be greater than those placed on the process for receiving a green card so more people can come work in the U.S.

Immigrants can earn green cards through investing in green trucks

Wed, Feb 5 1:25 PM by Romona Paden

Immigrants can invest in green trucks to earn a green card faster

Immigrants to the United States have many different options when applying for visas or green cards, and some are more creative than others. One example of an innovative way for immigrant investors to earn a green card is a new idea created to benefit independent truck drivers in the American Northwest. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has approved a process for immigrants to invest money in more eco-friendly trucks for drivers who are required to manage the amount of pollutants their trucks emit.

The idea for this opportunity was created with help from the Pacific Northwest Economic Region's association with state legislators. It offers investors who can afford to provide $500,000 for new green trucks a fast-track path to a green card for them and their families. Their investment will help create at least 10 jobs in the U.S in the manufacturing and trucking industries.

Tougher emissions standards in the Northwest have forced many truckers to upgrade their rigs, but that is an expensive process. Credit for owner-operators is limited, so their need for flexible financing is the perfect opportunity to invite immigrant investors to contribute to eco-friendly technology and work on their path to citizenship at the same time. Older trucks need to be replaced with ones that run cleaner diesel engines. More than half of the heavy-duty trucks registered in the Northwest region are currently "non-compliant" and could be prohibited from driving into California where the emissions standards are the toughest in the nation. This new immigration business, named the Pacific Northwest EB-5 Regional Center, aims to address that issue and help immigrants who want to legally live and work in the U.S.

EB-1 green cards issued to individuals of extraordinary ability

Thu, Jan 23 2:59 PM by Romona Paden

Individuals with extraordinary abilities can apply for an EB-1 green card

The United States government offers many different types of options for people looking to immigrate to the U.S. Visas and green cards can address many different aspects of a person's lifestyle: employment, marital status, or even extraordinary abilities. The EB-1 green card is the document granted to individuals who have proven they have an exceptional ability in a certain field, and an employer's sponsorship is not required. Immigrants who wish to apply for this green card can do so themselves.

Immigrants who have extensive documentation to prove their extraordinary abilities can receive this kind of green card. Those who have received nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence are eligible. If material about the applicant was published in a major trade or professional publication, they are also good candidates. Also, if the applicant has contributed significant findings to a scientific, scholarly, athletic or business-related field, or if they have achieved commercial success in the performing arts, they may also have the opportunity to receive an EB-1 green card. Individuals who have won awards like Olympic medals, the Nobel Peace Prize or Oscar awards would have the option to apply for this kind of green card.

Other categories of individuals that are candidates for EB-1 green cards include award-winning or published professors, or multinational managers or executives. The time it takes to receive this form of green card is significantly shorter than other versions, because there is not much of a backlog of applicants. Immigrants applying for EB-1 green cards have to demonstrate they are working in the field in which they have the extraordinary distinction, and the professors or managers applying must prove they intend to continue to work in that field once the green card is granted to them.

Think tank evaluates Republican principles on immigration reform

Wed, Jan 15 3:21 PM by Romona Paden

Virginia Republican Robert Goodlatte recently laid out principles for a Republican immigration reform plan.

A recent report provided insight into how many undocumented immigrants could be able to earn citizenship under the Republicans' plan for immigration reform. The National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C., estimates that between 4.4 and 6.5 million undocumented immigrants could be eligible for citizenship as Congress ends up taking the step-by-step approach to reform favored by Republicans.

Estimates based on Rep. Robert Goodlatte's ideas
Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., has been a vocal opponent of the path to citizenship that was contained in the immigration reform bill that passed through the Senate in June 2013. However, he has been one of the most active House Republicans in developing an alternative to that legislation.

House Speaker John Boehner charged Goodlatte with leading the Republicans' efforts to draw up a policy on immigration reform that would be palatable to a broad coalition of legislators in their party. Under Goodlatte's current proposal, undocumented immigrants would be granted provisional legal status. Then, those immigrants who demonstrated they are eligible to apply for a green card through the system that is currently in place would be allowed to do so with the sponsorship of a family member or employer.

"We're trying to find a way to give the members of the House a way to see how all these things would work in our step-by-step approach," Goodlatte said in a recent interview on Telemundo. "And we think one way to do that may be to put forward a set of principles."

Based on those principles, the NFAP came up with its estimate of the number of immigrants who could be granted a path to citizenship. Part of the total number includes younger immigrants who would be allowed to apply for citizenship under some form of a DREAM Act.

Commerce Secretary backs immigration reform

Fri, Jan 10 11:58 AM by Romona Paden

Secretary Pritzker recently spoke about the positive impact immigration reform would have on the American economy.

On Jan. 9, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker once again spoke of the need for immigration reform in the United States. While attending an event for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Pritzker told attendees and reporters that immigration reform was both a moral and economic issue, and passing common sense legislation could be a boon for the American economy.

Immigration reform's impact on the economy
One issue that Pritzker focused on was the potentially enormous positive impact immigration reform could have on the economy. Referencing the comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate in June, Pritzker said she thought similar legislation could provide a $1.4 trillion boost to the American economy over the next 20 years.

In California alone, Pritzker says immigration reform could boost the economy by $7 billion "in the near-term," while creating 77,000 new jobs.

Foreign graduate students key to economy
One group Pritzker talked about extensively was foreign-born graduate students who are studying in American universities. She believes they can be key to American economic expansion, but under current U.S. laws many of them are forced to leave the country once they complete their degrees.

One aspect of the Senate reform bill included a way to encourage those students to stay in the U.S. after they finish school, and Pritzker believes that provision is a necessary component of any eventual legislation.

"It allows us to staple a green card to the degrees of graduate students, instead of forcing potential innovators and job creators to leave after being trained at our universities – a mind-boggling concept to me," Pritzker said during her speech at the Jan. 9 event.

Making an argument for immigration reform that is based on economics is one of many tactics that have been used by people on both the left and right side of the political spectrum. That could help make any potential reforms more palatable to both the general public and hardcore conservatives who have thus far been unwilling to budge on their opposition to reform.

Federal judge rules that the president’s uncle can stay in the US

Wed, Dec 4 11:58 AM by Romona Paden

A federal court judge recently issued a ruling allowing the president's uncle to stay in the country.

Recently, the issue of immigration reform hit particularly close to home for President Barack Obama. His uncle, Kenyan-born Onyango Okech Obama, was on the cusp of being deported from the Unites States after living in the country without documentation since 1970. But on Tuesday, Dec. 3, a Boston federal court judge ruled that he should be allowed to stay in the country.

Why Onyango was allowed to stay
Onyango, who is the half brother of the president's father, first came to the U.S. in 1963 on a student visa. That visa expired in 1970, and since it wasn't renewed, Onyango has been living in the country ever since. Most recently, he has been working as a grocery store manager in Framingham, Mass.

However, there is a specific provision in U.S. immigration law that allows immigrants who have been living in the country since before 1972, and who have exhibited "good moral character," to apply for a green card. Judge Leonard Shapiro, who presided over the case, cited that provision in his ruling, adding that Onyango had paid his taxes and been a good neighbor in his time in the U.S.

David Leopold, an immigration lawyer based in Cleveland, told the Los Angeles Times that the judge had ruled properly under the law, pointing out that Onyango's relationship to the president had nothing to do with the decision, saying, "The law is so clear-cut that it wouldn't matter who he is related to. All you have to do is behave yourself and have been here since 1972."

While this case ended with a positive result, it further serves to highlight the difficulties many undocumented immigrants face every day. Fortunately for Onyango, his case fell under a statute that virtually guaranteed he'd be able to stay in the country. 

Strict immigration laws in Alabama ruled unconstitutional

Tue, Nov 26 1:04 PM by Romona Paden

Seven provisions of Alabama's strict immigration law were recently struck down.

When the state of Alabama passed one of the harshest immigration laws in the country in 2011, known as House Bill 56, immigrants' rights activists, local businesses and even the federal government were up in arms. But on Tuesday, Nov. 26, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama weighed in on a settlement between the state and the federal Justice Department, accepting a pact that eliminates the law's most controversial provisions.

History of the law
When it was signed in 2011, Alabama's immigration law was considered the toughest in the country. It made it a crime for businesses to hire undocumented immigrants, required legal immigrants to carry documentation with them at all times and even had a "show me your papers" provision, which allowed police to detain people during traffic stops for the purpose of checking their citizenship status.

Not surprisingly, those measures, along with several others in the law, were met with anger by people not only in Alabama, but throughout the country. Legal challenges immediately followed, with the most powerful one coming from the Justice Department. Now, after two years of negotiations, a federal district judge has upheld a settlement that was reached by federal authorities and the state that strikes down most of the law.

Settlement details
The settlement bars the enforcement of those three controversial provisions, along with four others, putting Alabama more in line with the rest of the country when it comes to dealing with undocumented immigrants.

The seven provisions were deemed unconstitutional because they conflicted with federal immigration law and undermined federal immigration enforcement efforts. One of the most prominently cited examples of those conflicts was the undue burden that would be put on federal and state agencies charged with enforcing the nation's immigration laws, diverting resources away from policing more dangerous criminal activities.

Vice president speaks at naturalization ceremony

Fri, Nov 15 12:49 PM by Romona Paden

Vice President Biden delivered a speech at a naturalization ceremony in Atlanta where he continued to push for immigration reform.

Vice President Joseph Biden delivered the keynote address at a naturalization ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 14. There, he expressed his disappointment in House Speaker John Boehner's declaration earlier in the week that comprehensive immigration reform legislation has no chance of passing through Congress by the end of the year.

Biden makes pitch for immigration reform
Biden made his remarks in front of 104 newly naturalized citizens and their families at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. Along with expressing his frustration with Boehner, Biden urged the immigrants who had just received citizenship to help advocate for immigration reform.

"Don't pull up the ladder behind you when you come on board," Biden told the crowd, according to CNN. "There are millions of people who are already acting as decent Americans that deserve a chance, that deserve a path, to earn their way … so reach back, help as you move on, and don't be afraid."

Biden highlights economic positives of immigrants
In his speech at the ceremony, Biden not only focused on immigration reform as a moral issue – relating an anecdote about how his mother told him not to treat the Queen of England any differently than he would anyone else, because everyone is equal – he also spoke to the economic and social benefits immigrants bring to the country.

"Studies show that, for example, if those 11 million people are let out of the shadows, the GDP of the United States will grow by an additional 5.4 percent over the next five years," Biden said. "Another $1.7 trillion will be added to the economy. Social Security will be more solvent, not less solvent."

Biden took advantage of the opportunity to speak in front of a friendly audience to continue making the pitch for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. It was part of a campaign by the Obama administration to refocus national attention on the issue.

Colorado leading the way in granting rights to LGBT immigrants

Tue, Nov 12 1:56 PM by Romona Paden

Colorado is among the leading states in the nation when it comes to granting rights to undocumented LGBT immigrants.

While a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration system has been front page news lately, one thing that has been lost in the discussion is the status of LGBT undocumented immigrants and their legal rights.

According to an analysis by the Williams Institute, 30 percent of the nearly 1 million LGBT immigrants living in the United States are undocumented. That means they are caught in a no man's land of double minority status, hindering their ability to live and work in the country.

Colorado attempts to remedy situation
Colorado is one state that is working to bring many of those undocumented LGBT immigrants out of the legal shadows. Despite being a state that doesn't allow gay marriage, it responded to the recent Supreme Court ruling that overturned a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act by almost immediately enabling same-sex couples to sponsor their undocumented partners for citizenship or a green card, as long as they have a marriage certificate from another state that allows the practice.

"What that means is that if you live in a state that does not recognize marriage equality like Colorado, the federal government will still recognize immigration benefits in Colorado," Bryon Large, an immigration attorney in Aurora, Colo., told the Public News Service.

After the Supreme Court ruling, U.S. immigration officials began recognizing marriage licenses from states where the practice is allowed, instead of focusing solely on the couple's place of residence. That has opened up opportunities for couples in places like Colorado, which only performs civil unions, to grant the full rights of marriage to LGBT immigrants.

"Being able to sponsor a partner for citizenship has been a longstanding part of who we are as Americans," Mindy Barton, legal director of the LGBT Community Center of Colorado, told the Service. "So being able to have equal treatment of gay and lesbian spouses is vitally important to being able to achieve full equality."

The uncertain future of the green card lottery

Mon, Nov 4 1:24 PM by Romona Paden

The green card lottery, which might soon become nonexistent, won't award you millions of dollars, but it will take you one giant step closer to gaining citizenship.

Among the many issues under discussion in the debate over immigration reform is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the green card lottery. Some legislators who are working to overhaul the nation's immigration system want to see the lottery abolished, but there are others who view it as an integral part of that system.

What is the green card lottery?
Every year since 1995, 50,000 immigrants have been randomly selected to receive citizenship through a green card, or permanent resident visa. It's a free online application process, which makes it as easy as possible to apply.

Unfortunately, the registration period for the 2015 green card lottery recently came to a close. But that just means you can start preparing now to apply next year, assuming it remains in place in the event of comprehensive immigration reform.

In order to be eligible, you must have either the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma or have spent two of the past five years working in a qualifying occupation. If you want to find out if you fit the criteria, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online Database.

Ensuring diversity
By only allowing immigrants from countries that don't have large populations within the U.S. to apply – there are 19 nations from which immigrants are not eligible, all of them with large communities already in the country – the lottery is an effective way of making sure there is a highly diverse cultural environment in the U.S.

As was pointed out in a recent article in Businessweek that cited several academic studies, greater diversity tends to lead to more innovation and higher profits at companies that hire people with a wider range of cultural backgrounds. That ability to drive the nation's economic engine is yet another reason it's crucial to ensure people from a multitude of countries can earn U.S. citizenship. 

Supreme Court rulings bring couples out of the shadows

Mon, Nov 4 12:27 PM by Romona Paden

California is leading the way in affording greater rights and freedoms to gay couples where at least one partner doesn't have a green card.

Changes to both the nation's immigration laws and the statutes governing gay marriage are opening up a world of possibilities for couples across the United States. And California, which is leading the way in affording greater legal rights to gays and immigrants, offers many examples of how these new developments are making life for gay immigrants in America a happier, more fulfilling and more equal experience.

Marriage brings business out of the shadows
For years now, Alfred Cheung, of San Francisco, has been operating his tech company, which designs and sells software intended to help government and nonprofit organizations, in the regulatory shadows. That's because he's in the country without a green card.

But with the Supreme Court's 2013 rulings that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and California's ban on gay marriage, Cheung was free to marry his boyfriend of six years – which, according to SFGate.com, he did in October – and that will also help pave his way to full citizenship.

A native of Hong Kong, Cheung has long been afraid to promote his business and find new investors because of the legal gray area within which he had been living. Now, though, he is excited about being able to grow his operation without having a legal cloud hanging over his head.

Marriage frees couple from fear
According to a study from UCLA, there are an estimated 36,000 same-sex couples in the U.S. with one of the partners in the relationship being foreign-born and with that person waiting to get a green card as the spouse of a citizen. One such couple is Tom Knutson and Phan Datthuyawat of Sacramento, Calif.

The recent Court rulings also cleared the way for them to marry, which was of immediate concern because Knutson is suffering from pancreatic cancer, and Datthuyawat hasn't visited his mother in Thailand in 10 years. Now they can make better arrangements for Knutson's care, and Datthuyawat will finally be able to see his family without worrying about not being let back into the country upon his return.

How to obtain a green card through your job

Wed, Oct 23 2:28 PM by Romona Paden

obtain a green card through your U.S. job offer

Many people who enter the U.S. in order to work end up obtaining a nonimmigrant visa. However, if you received a job offer in the states, you may apply for permanent residency, better known as a green card. There are several paths to a green card, and right one for you depends on your circumstances.

Job offer
If an American business has offered you permanent employment in the country, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency. In this case, your employer must have labor certification through the U.S. Department of Labor. This certification allows them to hire foreign workers on a permanent basis. If your employer has this, he or she can file a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on your behalf. 

Investment
Investors and entrepreneurs looking to develop an enterprise in the U.S. that helps create jobs may also apply for a green card

Self-petition
If you don't have an employer who can petition for you, you can file for yourself by meeting two conditions.

Those two conditions are:

  • You have been granted a National Interest Waiver. The idea behind this waiver is that you have extraordinary skills that will benefit the U.S. 
  • Similarly, there is an O-1 visa, which is for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement. Like the National Interest Waiver, individuals who qualify have incredible talent in their field. You must be internationally recognized as an authority in a particular area of specialization, including arts, sciences and athletics.

Special job categories
You can be eligible for a green card if you have one of these positions: 

  • Afghan/Iraqi Translator
  • Broadcaster
  • International Organization Employee
  • Iraqi Who Assisted the U.S. Government
  • NATO-6 Nonimmigrant
  • Panama Canal Employee
  • Physician National Interest Waiver
  • Religious Worker

If you are applying, and have held one of these jobs, you must also file an I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. 

How to obtain a green card through your job

Wed, Oct 23 2:28 PM by Romona Paden

obtain a green card through your U.S. job offer

Many people who enter the U.S. in order to work end up obtaining a nonimmigrant visa. However, if you received a job offer in the states, you may apply for permanent residency, better known as a green card. There are several paths to a green card, and right one for you depends on your circumstances.

Job offer
If an American business has offered you permanent employment in the country, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residency. In this case, your employer must have labor certification through the U.S. Department of Labor. This certification allows them to hire foreign workers on a permanent basis. If your employer has this, he or she can file a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, on your behalf. 

Investment
Investors and entrepreneurs looking to develop an enterprise in the U.S. that helps create jobs may also apply for a green card

Self-petition
If you don't have an employer who can petition for you, you can file for yourself by meeting two conditions.

Those two conditions are:

  • You have been granted a National Interest Waiver. The idea behind this waiver is that you have extraordinary skills that will benefit the U.S. 
  • Similarly, there is an O-1 visa, which is for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement. Like the National Interest Waiver, individuals who qualify have incredible talent in their field. You must be internationally recognized as an authority in a particular area of specialization, including arts, sciences and athletics.

Special job categories
You can be eligible for a green card if you have one of these positions: 

  • Afghan/Iraqi Translator
  • Broadcaster
  • International Organization Employee
  • Iraqi Who Assisted the U.S. Government
  • NATO-6 Nonimmigrant
  • Panama Canal Employee
  • Physician National Interest Waiver
  • Religious Worker

If you are applying, and have held one of these jobs, you must also file an I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant. 

Benefits of gaining U.S. citizenship

Tue, Oct 22 1:25 PM by Romona Paden

citizens have the right to vote

Permanent residents of the U.S., or those with a green card, have many of the same rights as U.S. citizens. However, if you get your U.S. citizenship, you will gain a few key privileges and responsibilities. 

Voting
One of the most well-known privileges of being a U.S. citizen is the ability to vote. You will have a voice in the decisions the government makes by choosing lawmakers and leaders. 

Serving on a jury
People who stand trial in the U.S. have a right to a jury of their peers. By gaining U.S. citizenship, you have become one of those peers and can serve on a jury. This important responsibility will allow you insight into how the judicial system works as well as afford you the opportunity to decide the outcome of a trial. 

Travel with a U.S. passport
When you travel abroad carrying a U.S. passport, you can call on U.S. governmental aid if necessary. In emergencies such as international disasters, or in the case that you are a victim of a crime overseas, you can turn to an embassy or consulate for help. As a citizen, you will get the assistance you require. 

Bring family to the U.S.
U.S. citizens get priority when petitioning to bring a family member into the country. If you have children under 18 who are not citizens, they automatically naturalize once you do. 

Jobs
You can apply for government jobs in a wide variety of fields. You can also become an elected official by running for local, state and some federal offices. Not only can you vote for leaders who will make the changes you want to see, but you can be one of those leaders. 

Schooling
U.S. citizens have access to federal grants and loans for school.

Permanent residency
With U.S. citizenship, you will always be allowed to live in the country. No one can take your residency. 

Taking the Oath of Allegiance to become a citizen

Wed, Oct 16 1:02 PM by Romona Paden

Taking your Oath of Allegiance

You've been in the U.S. with your green card for at least five years. You've applied for citizenship and taken the test. Now USCIS has approved your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The next and final step is to schedule your naturalization ceremony. 

Types of ceremonies 
There are two types of ceremonies honoring the taking of your Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. – a judicial ceremony and an administrative ceremony. In a judicial ceremony, a court takes you through the oath. In an administrative ceremony, USCIS administers the oath.

If you are participating in the administrative version, you will receive a packet welcoming you to citizenship and taking you through the day. That packet will come in the mail.

You will also receive a notice giving you the date and time of your ceremony. If you cannot attend at that time, return Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, to a local USCIS office, along with a letter requesting a new date and an explanation as to why you cannot attend the scheduled naturalization ceremony. 

Before heading off on the day of the ceremony, be sure you have filled out the questionnaire on Form N-445. 

At the ceremony
Once you've arrived, you should check in with a USCIS officer and hand in the N-445 questionnaire. You will then hand in your permanent resident, or green card, identification. In its place, you will receive a naturalization certificate. Finally, you will take the Oath of Allegiance, which officially seals your citizenship. The oath can be found in your ceremony welcome packet.

Certificate
Now you've taken the Oath of Allegiance and become a U.S. citizen. Take a moment to appreciate how far you've come. You will receive your certificate of naturalization. Carefully review the details to be sure all the information is correct. With this certificate you can apply for a passport, register to vote and update your social security record. 

Taking the Oath of Allegiance to become a citizen

Wed, Oct 16 1:02 PM by Romona Paden

Taking your Oath of Allegiance

You've been in the U.S. with your green card for at least five years. You've applied for citizenship and taken the test. Now USCIS has approved your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The next and final step is to schedule your naturalization ceremony. 

Types of ceremonies 
There are two types of ceremonies honoring the taking of your Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. – a judicial ceremony and an administrative ceremony. In a judicial ceremony, a court takes you through the oath. In an administrative ceremony, USCIS administers the oath.

If you are participating in the administrative version, you will receive a packet welcoming you to citizenship and taking you through the day. That packet will come in the mail.

You will also receive a notice giving you the date and time of your ceremony. If you cannot attend at that time, return Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, to a local USCIS office, along with a letter requesting a new date and an explanation as to why you cannot attend the scheduled naturalization ceremony. 

Before heading off on the day of the ceremony, be sure you have filled out the questionnaire on Form N-445. 

At the ceremony
Once you've arrived, you should check in with a USCIS officer and hand in the N-445 questionnaire. You will then hand in your permanent resident, or green card, identification. In its place, you will receive a naturalization certificate. Finally, you will take the Oath of Allegiance, which officially seals your citizenship. The oath can be found in your ceremony welcome packet.

Certificate
Now you've taken the Oath of Allegiance and become a U.S. citizen. Take a moment to appreciate how far you've come. You will receive your certificate of naturalization. Carefully review the details to be sure all the information is correct. With this certificate you can apply for a passport, register to vote and update your social security record. 

Not all legal permanent residents become citizens

Wed, Oct 16 10:18 AM by Romona Paden

Not all apply for citizenship

The process of naturalizing in the U.S. takes time and effort. According to the New York Times, there are many factors that lead green card holders not to apply for U.S. citizenship. In fact, 40 percent of immigrants with permanent residency never apply to naturalize. 

Main reasons
One of the many reasons green card holders avoid applying for citizenship is because of the requirements of the application. In most cases, the person applying has to have lived in the country for five years. He or she must give proof of residency through tax forms. There is also a $680 application fee, which to many is enough to hold off in and of itself. Part of the citizenship test is an assessment of English proficiency. For those with a shaky knowledge of the language, this becomes a major point of stress. The other part of the test has to do with U.S. history. 

"I haven't become a citizen because I am terrified of not passing the exam," Maria Jimenez told the Wall Street Journal. 

Jimenez is a legal permanent resident working for a nonprofit organization in California. Like many before her, she has remained a resident without taking the next step to citizenship

Other factors
Some immigrants who hold a green card choose not to naturalize for reasons outside of the daunting requirements. Some countries don't allow their citizens to acquire a second nationality. Immigrants must then face a difficult decision to give up citizenship in their home country or decide not to naturalize in the U.S., their new home. Others feel that by becoming a U.S. citizen they are giving up a part of themselves. 

"I would feel that if I get the American citizenship, I would feel a little less Italian," Jonathan Wajskol, an Italian graphic designer who moved to the U.S. 30 years ago told the Times. 

Missing out
The 40 percent of legal permanent residents who don't become citizens miss out on several benefits, including the ability to vote. Like Wajskol, who has been in the U.S. for 30 years, many immigrants have an understanding of American politics and want to be involved. 

Not all legal permanent residents become citizens

Wed, Oct 16 10:18 AM by Romona Paden

Not all apply for citizenship

The process of naturalizing in the U.S. takes time and effort. According to the New York Times, there are many factors that lead green card holders not to apply for U.S. citizenship. In fact, 40 percent of immigrants with permanent residency never apply to naturalize. 

Main reasons
One of the many reasons green card holders avoid applying for citizenship is because of the requirements of the application. In most cases, the person applying has to have lived in the country for five years. He or she must give proof of residency through tax forms. There is also a $680 application fee, which to many is enough to hold off in and of itself. Part of the citizenship test is an assessment of English proficiency. For those with a shaky knowledge of the language, this becomes a major point of stress. The other part of the test has to do with U.S. history. 

"I haven't become a citizen because I am terrified of not passing the exam," Maria Jimenez told the Wall Street Journal. 

Jimenez is a legal permanent resident working for a nonprofit organization in California. Like many before her, she has remained a resident without taking the next step to citizenship

Other factors
Some immigrants who hold a green card choose not to naturalize for reasons outside of the daunting requirements. Some countries don't allow their citizens to acquire a second nationality. Immigrants must then face a difficult decision to give up citizenship in their home country or decide not to naturalize in the U.S., their new home. Others feel that by becoming a U.S. citizen they are giving up a part of themselves. 

"I would feel that if I get the American citizenship, I would feel a little less Italian," Jonathan Wajskol, an Italian graphic designer who moved to the U.S. 30 years ago told the Times. 

Missing out
The 40 percent of legal permanent residents who don't become citizens miss out on several benefits, including the ability to vote. Like Wajskol, who has been in the U.S. for 30 years, many immigrants have an understanding of American politics and want to be involved. 

Challenges faced by binational gay couples

Tue, Oct 15 3:01 PM by Romona Paden

Gay couples can petition for citizenship

According to NPR, there are approximately 28,000 homosexual binational couples living in the U.S. Before June of 2013, those couples did not have the same immigration rights as straight couples. But thanks to the Supreme Court's 2013 decision overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act, gay couples now have access to the same benefits – such as hospital visitation – that straight binational couples have enjoyed for years. 

DOMA 
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a 1996 law that defined marriage as being between a man and woman. However, when the act was deemed unconstitutional – the Supreme Court ruled that it  violated the Fifth Amendment's equal protection guarantees – homosexual marriages were given legal benefits and protections that are more similar to those awarded in heterosexual marriages. Now, same-sex married couples have hospital visitation rights, can claim joint ownership of assets and can petition for their spouse to get legal immigration status. 

Lingering issues
Same-sex immigration rights remain a tricky subject. Citizens can petition for their immigrant spouses to receive a green card. However, as gay marriage is not federally legal, couples must be married in states that recognize their union. Fortunately, couples can live in a state that does not recognize their marriage and still sponsor a spouse for citizenship.

Stories of success
A gay couple living abroad traveled 2,000 miles to be married in New York, according to WRCB, Chattanooga, Tenn.'s NBC affiliate. Richard Hurtado of Texas and Hugo Rendon of Mexico had been living abroad, unable to live as a married couple in the U.S. But when DOMA was overturned in June, Hurtado was able to sponsor his foreign husband for citizenship. The two drove to New York to be married in the U.S. 

Thousands of couples like Richard and Hugo can now file Form I-130 to petition for their spouse's citizenship. Supporters of same-sex immigration rights see the DOMA decision as a step toward federal acceptance of gay marriage. 

How companies deal with e-verify shutdown

Tue, Oct 15 10:07 AM by Romona Paden

some companies hiring without verification

As the federal government has still not reached a budget decision, all non-essential functions are still shutdown. One of the functions not available for use is e-verify, a program that allows employers to find out if new hires are eligible to work in the U.S. 

In limbo
When an employer inputs information about a potential new hire – things like social security, name and proof of citizenship – a message comes back verifying the employee's eligibility to work in the U.S. However, in the case of certain immigrants, the employer instead receives a Tentative Non-Confirmation message. This basically means that a more thorough check is required as social security information could not be verified. 

According to Fox News Latino, many employers were at this stage of the process when e-verify was put on hold. Employees waiting to start their job have to wait even longer, and employers cannot hire some of the workers they need.

Hiring on
In some cases, employers are allowing new hires in the Tentative Non-Confirmation stage to begin working. They plan to run checks in e-verify once the system is back online, the St. Cloud Times reported. Some companies may find out that they have been keeping an ineligible worker, which will lead to complications later. However, many companies feel hiring is worth the risk. 

"It is just adding to the administrative cost of hiring," Scott Wright, an attorney with the Minneapolis firm of Faegre Baker Daniels told the Times. 

The point of e-verify is to be sure companies are hiring those legally eligible to work in the U.S. Without the proper visa, green card or citizenship, employees cannot legally work and employers who hire them could get in trouble. The system is meant to protect employers from accidentally breaking the law. However, some fear companies will take advantage of the shutdown and hire an illegal worker knowingly, believing they can get away with it. 

Bed mandate keeps prisons full at taxpayer cost

Mon, Oct 14 12:53 PM by Romona Paden

Homeland security required to keep 34,000 immigrant prisoners

According to the Washington Post, under the congressional directive known as the "bed mandate," Homeland Security officials must keep an average of 34,000 detainees per day in custody. Established in 2006 by conservative lawmakers, this mandate was intended as a way to keep Homeland Security diligent in finding and holding illegal immigrants.

Meeting quota
As immigration levels have dropped during the recession, meeting the quota set by the bed mandate has been difficult. Enforcement officers have had to look through court information to find immigrants with a green card who were convicted of a crime that made them eligible for deportation. Traffic stops organized by local police have also been a way to find illegal immigrants to fill prison cells. Opponents of the bed mandate wonder why only U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is required to meet a prisoner quota

"No other law-enforcement agencies have a quota for the number of people that they must keep in jail," Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., told Bloomberg. "Mandating ICE detain 34,000 individuals a day does not secure our borders or make us safer."

Money matters
Though many who end up detained are later pardoned, critics of the bed mandate note that keeping people in prison is a significant cost to taxpayers. According to Bloomberg, one person in jail for one day comes at the price of $120. Many who are put in jail stay for several months. 

Cost concerns have led the Obama Administration to suggest lowering the quota and enforcing other policies. One idea was to have arrested illegal immigrants wear a tracked ankle bracelet to ensure they make their court appearance. However, lawmakers turned down the proposal. 

ICE officers were told in February that they were in violation of the mandate, as only 30,773 illegal immigrants were detained. The other 2,200 prisoners were released after the cost of keeping them proved too high. 

Should you apply for the 2015 diversity visa lottery?

Thu, Oct 10 3:12 PM by Romona Paden

Diversity visa lottery opens doors to US

To ensure that immigration into the U.S. is balanced, government immigration officials try to make green cards available for people from many different countries of origin. The way they do that is though the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. This program awards up to 55,000 diversity visas annually, which are available to those from countries with a historically low presence in the U.S. Applications for the 2015 lottery are available now, so find out if you are eligible. 

Requirements
You must have been born in a country accepted in the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Where you have citizenship is less important than where you were born. Countries not awarded Diversity Visas include Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom/Great Britain and its dependent territories, except Northern Ireland, and Vietnam.

However, a person born in one of the above countries may apply for a Diversity Visa if their spouse is from an approved country. You must also have the equivalent of a high school diploma and two years of work experience that required training, such as college or vocational school. You do not have to give proof of this, such a diploma or work references, unless you are chosen in the lottery. 

Application
To find out if you are eligible, you can apply online through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program website. The application must be filled out accurately and carefully. Any error will result in the disqualification of your application. The applications will be reviewed at the end of the year and the winners will be announced between April and June of the following year. In this case, that means the 2015 winners will be notified between April and June of 2014. 

The application must be filled out and submitted electronically. The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program does not accept any other form of application. 

What it means
If you are chosen, you will be awarded a green card. This will allow you to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely and unconditionally. 

Examining the path to earned citizenship

Thu, Oct 10 2:32 PM by Romona Paden

president's earned citizenship proposal

One of the topics featured in the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate earlier this year is the concept of earned citizenship. This would offer undocumented immigrants a path to legal citizenship that depends on the person assimilating into American life. As of the middle of October, the bill has passed the Senate but is stuck in the house, putting a halt on reforms such as earned citizenship. 

Step 1
The proposed process takes multiple steps in moving a person toward U.S. citizenship. The first step is to achieve a provisional status. To be awarded this status, one would have to register, submit biometric data, pass criminal background and national security checks, as well as pay fees and penalties. Once these stipulations are met, the person would be legal. However, they would not have as many benefits as someone with a green card. Provisional citizens would not be eligible for welfare, subsidies or tax credits. 

Step 2
The next step would be applying for a green card. Those who apply must pay their taxes, pass additional criminal background and national security checks, register for Selective Service and pay additional fees and penalties. They must also learn to speak the English language with proficiency and take a U.S. civics test. 

DREAM Act
With a green card, citizenship is the next step and can be obtained the same way that it is now. That requires filling out applications and paying fees. But those who applied for the DREAM Act program and were accepted have a few different options. Those who qualified and were accepted into the program were children brought into the U.S. illegally by a parent. By going to school or joining the Armed Forces for at least two years participants can become citizens. For many, this path opens up a world of opportunity. 

Obstacles
Provisional status can expire or be revoked, but decisions to remove the status or not grant it can be brought under judicial review. The case would require the applicant to prove their denial was unjust. The proposal also includes ways to weed out fraud.

How to renew your green card

Tue, Oct 1 11:30 AM by Romona Paden

Renew your green card online

If your green card 10-year period is about up, you should be sure to file for a renewal. It is important to file Form I-90 – which can be done online – six months before the expiration date. The online application for permanent resident renewal can be found through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) services website. 

Outside the U.S.
If you are outside of the U.S. and your green card has expired or is about to expire, you should file for renewal as soon as you return to the states. However, you must return to the country within one year of your departure and before the card expires. If you did not meet these conditions, you must contact the nearest U.S. Consulate, USCIS office, or U.S. port of entry before filing Form I-90. 

Conditional residents
Conditional residents whose status is expiring must go about renewal differently. If this applies to you, you must use Form I-751, the Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence. At 90 days before your two year card expires, you need to file to remove the condition, as these types of cards cannot be renewed. If you do not remove the conditions and your card expires, you loose your permanent resident status. 

Checking your status
Once you've filed the proper forms, you can check on the status of your application by visiting the My Case Status portal at the USCIS website. To access your status, you will need your receipt number, Alien Registration Number, name and date of birth. Your e-receipt number will not be available until 72 hours after filing your request. 

How to appeal
If your request is denied, you cannot appeal. You may, however, request to reopen the case by submitting a motion through the office where your approval was denied. For your case to be sound, you must prove that the denial went against immigration law. 

What the government shutdown means for immigration

Tue, Oct 1 11:03 AM by Romona Paden

What shutdown means for immigration

As the government goes into its first shutdown in over a decade, confusion continues over which departments are working and which programs will be put on hold. When it comes to immigration, The Department of Homeland Security will not be operating its E-Verify program. 

What does that mean for immigrants living in the U.S.? The E-Verify program allows businesses to check on the status of potential employees. While it is not operating, businesses will not be able to use the service. 

Most passport agencies with The State Department will remain open to review and process visa and passport requests. If, however, a building where one such agency is housed is not supported during the shutdown, then it will not continue processing those applications, leading to longer wait times. 

Although E-Verify has stopped, Border Patrol will stay on the job. The number of workers will decrease, however. 

Since it is funded through user fees – which is money collected at a U.S. port of entry – The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will stay open to process green card requests. As with visas, green card applications will take longer to review. Immigration courts will also take a while to run cases, as The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) will cut 70 percent of its employees during the shutdown, adding to an already large backlog of cases. 

The ICE will still be able to detain, arrest and deport undocumented immigrants. 

The way the shutdown is organized is that excepted and non-excepted categories of federal workers are created. The excepted will continue working, though eventually without pay. Non-excepted programs and workers will cease operations. Until Congress can decide on a bill to fund the government, these changes will remain in effect. 

When and how to replace your green card

Thu, Sep 26 5:11 PM by Romona Paden

replacing your green card

Accidents happen and things get lost, but when it's something as important as your green card, you might feel frazzled. Fortunately, you can apply for a replacement and release your anxieties.

Reasons to replace
If you're planning on applying for citizenship without a physical copy of your greed card, you'll need to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. You will want to fill this out if your green card was lost, stolen or destroyed. 

Another reason to replace your card is if it was issued to you before you were 14 years old and you are now 14 or older. If the green card has incorrect information, you have a previous version, your name or other biographic information, such as your address, on the card has been legally changed since you last received your card, or you never received the previous card that was issued to you by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you should go ahead and begin the process to obtain a new one. 

Checking progress
Once you've filed the I-90 form you can check the status of your application. Visit the "My Case Status" portal on the USCIS website. Have your receipt number, Alien Registration Number, name and date of birth at the ready when you check your status. 

If denied 
In the case that your application is denied, you will receive a letter explaining why. Although you cannot appeal a negative decision, you are allowed to submit a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider. You'll want to make that motion with the office that denied the application. If you plan to make the motion, remember that your case should prove the initial decision was made in breach of immigration policy. 

Many eligible residents avoid applying for citizenship

Wed, Sep 25 12:01 PM by Romona Paden

learning English is part of the citizenship test

Many legal permanent residents of the U.S., also known as green card-holders, are eligible to apply for citizenship. However, only a small percentage actually do so. For many, immigration and naturalization are daunting processes. Some eligible residents are unaware of the benefits of citizenship, USA Today reported. Between learning to speak English, filing paper work, paying fees and studying for the test, it is no wonder many put it off. The important thing to remember is that naturalization is a long process, so there is time to learn. And there are ways to make it easier. 

Paperwork​: The N-400 form can be filed online, giving you the option to work from home. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has created and posted a checklist online that allows you to plan ahead and keep track of your progress. You don't have to worry whether you have everything you need, as long as you have marked in that the task is complete on your list. As long as you stay organized and keep calm, you will get through the paperwork with only small amounts of stress.

Learning English: Attempting to learn a new language is difficult for anyone, but if you are reading through this, you are well on your way. Remember that practice makes perfect. Go through vocabulary everyday. The fastest way to learn is to speak to another person in English. Challenge yourself when you go out to the grocery store to speak to the clerk in English. 

Citizenship test: English proficiency is the first part of the test. The second part is a 10-question oral exam about the history of the U.S. You can take multiple choice self examinations on the USCIS website. The self-led quiz randomizes the questions so you will not be able to focus on the ones you struggle with. Although having to memorize information for an oral exam may seem difficult, the test is designed to focus on understanding concepts more than simply committing dates to memory. 

Favorable ruling for Charlotte, N.C., resident

Tue, Sep 24 11:25 AM by Romona Paden

Favorable ruling for Charlotte, N.C. resident

Luis Zarco of Charlotte, N.C., was recently awarded a green card after fighting deportation from the United States for the last two years. According to Charlotte NBC affiliate WCNC, Zarco was close to deportation, but with the help of his community and family members, the father of three will be allowed to stay in the U.S.

Since 2011, Zarco has been living with the fear of being deported by U.S. law enforcement authorities. He was arrested for running a red light two years ago. In addition to the traffic violation, Zarco was driving on an expired license, according to the source.

Zarco was driving on an expired license because undocumented residents cannot renew their credentials at a Department of Motor Vehicle facility. After a 2006 law, North Carolina residents who cannot show proof of citizenship are not issued a driver's license.

If Zarco had been deported, he would have left behind his wife and three daughters in the country. He works a construction job during the week and uses his weekends to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity.

The decision comes as a bit of a surprise even to Zarco's lawyer, who believes that without the help of community support and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, the ruling would not have been favorable for his client. According to Charlotte CBS affiliate WBTV, the support of local residents helped the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and the judge allow Zarco to stay in the country.

"I've been doing this 15 years, first time I've seen something like this where the judge was prepared to deny and they overrode that decision," Chris Greene, Zarco's lawyer, told WBTV.

Zarco will now have a green card, allowing him to live and work in the country. He will be eligible to apply for citizenship in five years.

The road to compromise on immigration reform

Mon, Sep 23 11:49 AM by Romona Paden

lawmakers attempting immigration reform compromise

With immigration reform bills sitting in the House, many legislators are beginning to seek compromise. The Republican-led House has some GOP lawmakers who are opposed to a pathway to citizenship, resulting in a stand still. However, leaders against broad citizenship rights for immigrants have expressed a willingness to seek a different option. 

Lawmakers have proposed, instead, that illegal residents who live and work in the U.S. for a set number of years would be given the opportunity to apply for a green card, or legal permanent residency. Though difficult to obtain, once a person is awarded the green card, he or she would automatically be given the chance to apply for citizenship at a later point in time. This route would be stricter than the current proposed path to citizenship, which is pleasing to many Republicans.

Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, urged Republicans to offer the compromise and for Democrats to approve, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Many fear that if negotiations extend into 2014, a bipartisan agreement may be a long way off as lawmakers face reelection. The Senate has already approved bipartisan legislation creating a 13-year path to citizenship. This is the focal point that is causing issues right now in the House. Last week, two more Republican leaders backed out of bipartisan talks, seeking instead to create a series of smaller bills to address the issues. 

"Indications from Representative Goodlatte and others are that they want to move on immigration, that doing nothing is not an option. I am of the belief, despite reports that immigration reform is dead, that it's very much alive," Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the source. 

Bob Goodlatte, a U.S. congressman from Virginia, has been working with a panel on four new pieces of legislation dealing with border control. His continued efforts have many advocates holding onto hope. 

The road to compromise on immigration reform

Mon, Sep 23 11:49 AM by Romona Paden

lawmakers attempting immigration reform compromise

With immigration reform bills sitting in the House, many legislators are beginning to seek compromise. The Republican-led House has some GOP lawmakers who are opposed to a pathway to citizenship, resulting in a stand still. However, leaders against broad citizenship rights for immigrants have expressed a willingness to seek a different option. 

Lawmakers have proposed, instead, that illegal residents who live and work in the U.S. for a set number of years would be given the opportunity to apply for a green card, or legal permanent residency. Though difficult to obtain, once a person is awarded the green card, he or she would automatically be given the chance to apply for citizenship at a later point in time. This route would be stricter than the current proposed path to citizenship, which is pleasing to many Republicans.

Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, urged Republicans to offer the compromise and for Democrats to approve, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Many fear that if negotiations extend into 2014, a bipartisan agreement may be a long way off as lawmakers face reelection. The Senate has already approved bipartisan legislation creating a 13-year path to citizenship. This is the focal point that is causing issues right now in the House. Last week, two more Republican leaders backed out of bipartisan talks, seeking instead to create a series of smaller bills to address the issues. 

"Indications from Representative Goodlatte and others are that they want to move on immigration, that doing nothing is not an option. I am of the belief, despite reports that immigration reform is dead, that it's very much alive," Kevin Appleby, director of migration policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the source. 

Bob Goodlatte, a U.S. congressman from Virginia, has been working with a panel on four new pieces of legislation dealing with border control. His continued efforts have many advocates holding onto hope. 

Reuniting families on U.S. soil

Thu, Sep 19 11:52 AM by Romona Paden

bring loved ones together with the correct immigration forms

Immigration is often a matter of urgency for families, especially when someone is left behind. Do not loose hope; there is a way to petition for relatives to receive a green card. 

The route to bringing over a family member is categorized based on your relationship. Is the family member a sibling, parent  or spouse? The USCIS website has links to the proper paperwork for each family member. 

Spouse: To petition for a spouse, fill out Form I-130. When turning in the form, you must also give proof of your citizenship, evidence of the relationship – in the form of a birth certificate or marriage license, etc – and proof of a legal name change if it applies. If a U.S. citizen is deceased and another family member would like to petition for the widow or widower, it can also be done with this form and the same documents. 

Immediate relatives: Immediate relatives are defined as "immigrant relatives of U.S. citizens" and include spouses, children and parents of the citizen. Immigrant relatives living in the U.S. can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and Form I-130 to be awarded a green card simultaneously. 

Preferences: Relatives falling outside the immediate relative category get broken down by preference. To petition for the spouse of a green card holder or a child of that individual over the age of 21 be sure to file Form 130. Family members are then reviewed by priority of their preference category. Relatives in preference categories are awarded visas in the order of their priority, once a visa becomes available. Preference category breakdown can also be found at the USCIS website. 

The next step: Family members already in the U.S. can file to become a green card holder by filling out Form I-485. Petitions for relatives living outside of the U.S. are sent to and processed by the National Visa Center (NVC). When a visa becomes available, the NVC will pass the petition on to a U.S. consulate and the relative will be notified. 

Reuniting families on U.S. soil

Thu, Sep 19 11:52 AM by Romona Paden

bring loved ones together with the correct immigration forms

Immigration is often a matter of urgency for families, especially when someone is left behind. Do not loose hope; there is a way to petition for relatives to receive a green card. 

The route to bringing over a family member is categorized based on your relationship. Is the family member a sibling, parent  or spouse? The USCIS website has links to the proper paperwork for each family member. 

Spouse: To petition for a spouse, fill out Form I-130. When turning in the form, you must also give proof of your citizenship, evidence of the relationship – in the form of a birth certificate or marriage license, etc – and proof of a legal name change if it applies. If a U.S. citizen is deceased and another family member would like to petition for the widow or widower, it can also be done with this form and the same documents. 

Immediate relatives: Immediate relatives are defined as "immigrant relatives of U.S. citizens" and include spouses, children and parents of the citizen. Immigrant relatives living in the U.S. can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and Form I-130 to be awarded a green card simultaneously. 

Preferences: Relatives falling outside the immediate relative category get broken down by preference. To petition for the spouse of a green card holder or a child of that individual over the age of 21 be sure to file Form 130. Family members are then reviewed by priority of their preference category. Relatives in preference categories are awarded visas in the order of their priority, once a visa becomes available. Preference category breakdown can also be found at the USCIS website. 

The next step: Family members already in the U.S. can file to become a green card holder by filling out Form I-485. Petitions for relatives living outside of the U.S. are sent to and processed by the National Visa Center (NVC). When a visa becomes available, the NVC will pass the petition on to a U.S. consulate and the relative will be notified. 

Diversity Visa 2015 Program

Mon, Sep 16 12:02 PM by Romona Paden

A guide to the 2015 Diversity Visa Immigration Program.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program will issue 55,000 diversity visas (DVs) in 2015. This program is unofficially known as the green card lottery system and individuals from around the world can apply for a U.S. Permanent Resident Card. The program will give foreign residents an opportunity to live and work in the U.S. Each year, the U.S. Department of State opens registration in October and applicants have the chance to fill out forms online until early November.

The Diversity Visa program is administered annually by the State Department under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990. Registration for the DV 2015 program will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 1 and end on Saturday Nov. 2.

While the application is open to the residents around the world, the program is specifically aimed at attracting those who meet eligibility requirements and are from countries with historically low immigration rates.

To be eligible for DV consideration, an applicant must have a minimum of a high school education and have worked for at least two years in the past five years. Additionally, the applicant must have gone through a minimum of two years' of training in his or her field.

Previous applicants from the 2014 program can check the status of their applications on the State Department's website. Applicants must use their confirmation number to check the website in order to learn whether their form has been accepted.

Applicants who have been selected for the program must fill out additional paperwork proving their eligibility, pay  $330 in fees, pass a medical exam and interview at the U.S. embassy in their home country. During the interview, applicants must present a selectee notification letter, valid passport and civil documents such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate or military records.

Natives of Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) are not eligible  for the DV-2015 program due to high immigration rates in the past few years.

For more information on the DV-2015 application process visit Immigration Direct.

Long Beach Assists Same Sex Couples with Visas

Mon, Aug 19 10:57 AM by Romona Paden

Immigration paperwork can be tricky to file, for same sex and heterosexual couples alike.

July marked the first time in the United States' history where same sex couple's visa applications would be treated in the same manner as heterosexual couples. During that month, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the organization would begin reviewing visas, green cards and other immigration documents for partners in same-sex relationships who were with current U.S. citizens. 

According to ABC News, there are currently approximately 28,000 binational same sex couples who need a visa to legally stay together.

While the policy change is being ushered in by much relief and happiness, the process of filling out and sending in a visa is still a tricky road for many couples to navigate. To assist couples who are currently or will soon be sending their visas off, local advocacy groups are providing assistance.

In Long Beach, Calif.,  many binational couples were assisted in the process through a workshop, according to local news source the Long Beach Press-Telegram. The workshop, entitled, "DOMA and Immigration Benefits," was held at the Long Beach LGBT Center on August 16.

The workshop was held due to the number of local residents who reached out for help.

"Within hours after the Supreme Court decision, I was getting calls from the center asking about immigration attorneys who are LGBT friendly and what is the process to petition for a gay or lesbian spouse," Miguel Montalva, an organizer with the Long Beach Immigration Rights Coalition told the source.  "Immigration law is pretty tricky, so we decided to do a workshop."

Local immigration attorney Maribel Reynoso Blunt told the Press-Telegram that the main purpose behind the workshop was to educate people on how complex immigration processes can be.

"People think everyone qualifies, but that's not true," Reynoso Blunt explained. "There are numerous potential obstacles – Did they come here illegally? Did they overstay their visa? Did they commit a crime, even a misdemeanor? There are a lot of issues."

Administration Set to Review Green Card Denial Cases Based on DOMA

Thu, Aug 1 11:55 AM by Romona Paden

USCIS and DHS are set to reverse green card denials for same-sex couples.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services along with the Department of Homeland Security are set to open an investigation into gay marriage immigration cases that were denied green cards due to the Defense of Marriage Act. According to The DOMA Project, same-sex marriage-based petitions filed in July 2010 and later will be reversed.

"USCIS will reopen those petitions or applications that were denied solely because of DOMA section 3," USCIS said in a statement announcing the reversal. "If such a case is known to us or brought to our attention, USCIS will reconsider its prior decision, as well as reopen associated applications to the extent they were also denied as a result of the denial of the Form I-130 (such as concurrently filed Forms I-485)."

The Department of Homeland Security is set to review green card denial cases for same-sex marriages that were filed after February 2011, according to Think Progress. According to the restrictions in the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples could not be green card spouses under the law. 

The source said DHS chose February 2011 because that was when the Obama administration stopped defending DOMA. The petitions will be reviewed following the new guidelines issued on July 26. 

USCIS Awards Green Cards to Same-Sex Couples

Thu, Aug 1 11:19 AM by Romona Paden

Two more gay couples were awarded marriage-based green cards by USCIS.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) honored the same-sex immigration rights of a gay couple living in San Francisco. The couple, Rick and Gonzalo, married in 2013 after spending years traveling between Buenos Aires and San Francisco.

According to The DOMA Project, the couple was awarded their green card just hours after their interview with USCIS. Rick filed the green card petition for Gonzalo in March 2013 and once the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), they were granted an interview.

The couple's lawyer was notified by the USCIS five hours after the interview and said by email that their green card case was granted, the article stated. After spending more than five years battling DOMA and traveling between the two cities, their rights as a couple were recognized.

Los Angeles Couple Issued Green Card
On July 21, Tom Bercu and Claus Andersbo of Los Angeles were awarded after an interview with a USCIS official. According to The DOMA Project, they became the fourth same-sex couple in the nation to receive a marriage-based green card.

Bercu filed the petition for Andersbo, who is originally from Denmark, in early 2013 as they knew the Supreme Court would make a decision regarding the recognition of benefits for same-sex couples, the source stated. 

Obama Administration Opens Green Card Investigation for Same-Sex Couples

Fri, Jul 26 2:33 PM by Romona Paden

The Obama administration will review the cases of same-sex married couples that were denied green cards.

The Obama administration recently announced it will begin a system-wide review of same-sex couples where the partners of U.S. citizens were denied green cards. According to USA Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said couples of the same-sex would be able to obtain a green card for their foreign spouse, just as heterosexual couples are able to do. 

The DHS will review all applications filed and denied after February 23, 2011, by same-sex couples, the source reported. February 23 is when President Obama announced his administration would not defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. The DHS has attempted to keep track of all green card denials based on DOMA.

Couples can also request the department to review their denied case even if the decision was made before the February 23 date, USA Today reported. As many as 36,000 gay and lesbian couples may receive a green card since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA. Although the marriage must be recognized, couples do not have to live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriages in order to be issued a green card, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

New guidelines for married same-sex couples trying to obtain a green card were issued July 26 by USCIS. The regulations will allow U.S. citizens to bring partners they're engaged to into the country before their scheduled marriages. 

If a citizen or permanent resident wants to bring their fianc​é he or she I-129F. Same-sex couples can also reduce the residence period required for naturalization under the new guidelines, similar to opposite-sex marriages. 

"As long as all other immigration requirements are met," the guidelines stated. "A same-sex engagement may allow your fianc​ée to enter the United States for marriage." 

Same-Sex Couples Receive Green Cards

Tue, Jul 16 1:48 PM by Romona Paden

Two more same-sex couples received marriage-based green cards following the defeat of DOMA.

A binational lesbian couple living in San Jose, Calif., was awarded a green card July 15 following the U.S. Supreme Court's defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act. According to The DOMA Project, Karin Bogliolo is from the United Kingdom and married to U.S. citizen Judy Richard. 

The couple was married in January 2012 and then filed a green card petition based on their marriage, The DOMA Project reported. However, because the federal government did not recognize same-sex marriage when the petition was filed, the couple was separated and Karin returned to the U.K. 

Bogliolo and Richard considered themselves "love exiles" as Richard spent six months out of every year to be with her wife outside the U.S. as Bogliolo's tourist visa limited the time she could spend in the country, according to the article.

The couple is the third to receive permanent residency on the basis of same-sex marriage, the report stated. 

California Couple Awarded Green Card
Another bi-national same-sex couple was awarded a green card from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). According to The DOMA Project, Shaun Stent, a U.K. citizen, was awarded a marriage-based green card. 

Stent married citizen John Catuara in January 2012 and the couple fought to stay together in the U.S. for 13 years. They filed their green card petition to keep from being torn apart. The couple would alternate between spending three months the U.S. and three months in the U.K. 

According to the article, Stent was prevented from entering the country and detained by immigration officials in 2002. After hours of questioning he was released but detained and interrogated several more times while trying to visit Catuara. 

After a green card interview with USCIS on April 23, their request was put on hold as the Supreme Court deliberated DOMA. Stent's application was approved July 11, according to The DOMA Project. 

"We are both happy and relieved that our 13-year battle has finally ended," the couple said in a statement to The DOMA Project.

F2A Visa Approvals to Begin in August

Fri, Jul 12 11:17 AM by Romona Paden

Adjustment of status for F2A visa holders can be changed beginning next month.

The spouses and children of green card holders in the U.S. currently under petition for F2A Visas could receive an adjustment of status in August, according to ABS-CBN News. The date for the petition filed by a green card holder would not affect when the adjustment could be issued. 

"That means regardless whenever the petition was filed, you can now file for adjustment of status, work authorization, obtain a driver's license, social security number if you're otherwise eligible," Citizen Pinoy host, Michael Gurfinkel, told the source.

The availability of petitions would be similar to a U.S. citizen requesting the documents for a spouse or child when the visas are issued immediately. By making the filed petitions current, the large amount of F2A visas wasted from 2009 to 2012 would be used, ABS-CBN reported. With the ruling by the Supreme Court, same-sex married couples whose marriage is recognized, could also receive an adjustment of status for their petition.

However, green card holders and immigrants should remember the restrictions that apply to the family-based F2A visa category. Any individual who's status is out of date or entered the country without inspection and do not have Section 245-I may not be eligible for adjustment of status even if their spouse has a green card, Gurfinkel told ABS-CBN.

There are also consequences for failing to comply with the privileges of the petition. Anyone in a fixed-marriage, regardless of sexual orientation, will result in a lifetime ban and no other petition will be approved if officials discover there is a fixed-marriage, the source stated. In order to have the adjustment of status approved, spouses and children with a pending F2A petition should have their status updated before dates are moved back. 

The Costs of Immigration

Wed, Jul 10 12:10 PM by Romona Paden

The cost of applying for naturalization in the U.S. is $680.

The cost of applying for naturalization in the U.S. is $680, according to TIME. Naturalization is the process that immigrants follow after they are issued a green card, in order to become a U.S. citizen. There are several politicians across the country, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, that are upset with the high price. 

To help offset these costs, organizations are helping out millions of the nation's 8.5 million immigrants that choose naturalization. TIME broke down the cost of becoming a citizen and found that $595 of the total price is for an application fee. The remaining $85 is a fee that's put toward costs used for fingerprinting and background checks. 

Another part of the naturalization cost that is upsetting organizations and politicians is that immigrants are required to pay the fee even if their application is denied. According to TIME, there were 65,000 immigrants naturalized in April after the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approved their applications. However, there were about 8,000 who paid the fee and were denied green cards. 

While other government organizations are issued a budget with funds from taxpayers, the USCIS is a fee-based agency. This means they operate using funds collected through fees. TIME said more than 90 percent of the agency's operating costs are covered by fees, which means that the money collected from immigrants are used to pay for things like employee salaries.

There are those politicians who oppose the fees and claim that the high cost is discouraging to legal immigrants who want to become citizens. Financial and administrative barriers were cited as the third top reason for Latino permanent residents who had not yet applied for naturalization, the source said when citing a 2012 Pew survey. Approximately 18 percent of those permanent residents cited these barriers as the main reason for not applying. 

Then there are those who support the high cost of naturalization. According to TIME, USCIS Press Secretary Chris Bentley argued the fees are there because the organization needs to break even and use the money to run to agency. The fee for a naturalization application in 1997 was $95. The fee jumped from $320 to its current price in 2007.

Millions Still Waiting for Green Cards

Mon, Jul 8 2:35 PM by Romona Paden

The backlog of immigrants waiting on green cards could take 20 years to clear with today's legislation.

Passing the Senate's immigration reform bill would clear the backlog of immigrants seeking to become legal residents of the United States and receive green cards. According to an opinion piece by The Washington Post's Editorial Board, at least 4 million newcomers would receive "normal" legal immigration in a decade beginning in 2015 – a number that would take 25 years under today's legislation. Communities throughout the country would see a surge in legal immigration, and this surge would also help national as well as local economies. 

Because current annual limits for green cards cannot meet demand, there's a backlog full of millions of potential immigrants that are waiting years. Some of those on the backlog include brothers and sisters and married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. The source stated that some of these individuals have been waiting for more than 20 years to receive a green card. Due to the time it takes to receive a card, some have lost interest in becoming American citizens while others have died waiting. 

The bill will re-unite families who have been torn apart and also clear the exceptionally long backlog, the Editorial Board stated. Also included in the bill is an aim to avoid the creation of these backlogs in the future. The Senate wanted to create additional opportunities of highly qualified workers by establishing a merit-based system assigning points to those interested in obtaining a visa with advanced education and fluency in English. The bill will also award points for attributes that help to better America's competitive edge in the global economy. 

According to USA Today, there were more than 4.4 million people waiting to receive a green card on November 1, 2012. However, because the State Department doesn't include immigrants already in the U.S. with a pending green card application, that number could be as high as 5.5 million.

Same-Sex Denver Couple Awarded Green Card

Mon, Jul 8 2:29 PM by Romona Paden

A lesbian couple in Colorado was issued a green card after DOMA was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

A lesbian couple from Boulder, Colo., was awarded a green card by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services July 3, according to The DOMA Project. The couple is one of the first in the nation to receive a marriage-based green card since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) June 26. The court determine that the federal government must recognize legally married same-sex couples for any and all purposes including immigration benefits. 

Cathy Davis is a citizen of Ireland and married Catriona Dowling last year in Iowa. The DOMA Project said the couple, who is raising three children, were at risk of being torn apart due to the laws denying same-sex, bi-national couples the same rights as straight couples. Davis had previously been issued a work visa by a San Antonio, Texas, hospital. However, when the hospital applied for an extension of Davis' work visa, the Immigration Service denied the request. 

"At 10:55 a.m. we were called to the window," Dowling told The DOMA Project. "The officer at the other side of the window began to log our information into the computer when another officer appeared, introducing herself as the Supervisor, and declared that 'as of one minute ago' Cathy's green card had been approved. The time was 11:00 a.m. I immediately yelled out and began to cry, Cathy was more stunned with the news and quiet for that moment, which led the Supervisor to assume that I was the immigrant spouse. She explained that production of the green card had been ordered and it would soon arrive by mail; she also explained that Cathy could apply for American citizenship in three years, on July 3, 2016."

The DOMA Project said Davis is the first same-sex spouse in America to receive a green card. The couple's lawyer, Lavi Soloway, said the issuing of the green card is the U.S. government recognizing the "inherent dignity" of the family, according to The Denver Post

Gay Couple Wins Green Card Petition After DOMA Defeat

Tue, Jul 2 1:02 PM by Romona Paden

A gay couple in Florida had their immigration benefits request approved after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA.

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a gay couple in Florida is the first to have their application for immigration benefits approved. Traian Popov is Bulgarian and in the United States on a student visa. According to the Associated Press, the benefits approval means he will be able to apply for a green card and eventually receive U.S. citizenship

Popov and his husband Julian Marsh were notified by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services on June 28 that their green card petition was approved. The AP said the government began reviewing applications for green cards and immigration benefits for same-sex couples on July 1. Lavi Soloway of The DOMA Project said his organization has filed nearly 100 green card petitions since 2010 and in the wake of the Supreme Court decision expects approvals to increase. 

"Now all of those cases can go forward in the way they should with the government respecting the fact that there is a legally recognizable marriage there," Laura Lichter, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the AP.

Popov and Marsh are just one couple of about 36,000 where one spouse in a same-sex marriage is a U.S. citizen and the other is not. The couple began dating in 2011 and Popov was only allowed to remain in the United States as long as he was enrolled in school studying for his master's degree in social sciences. However, the AP said that when he graduated he would have been required to leave the country if not for the DOMA ruling – something the couple was willing to do. 

"We were willing to do that," Marsh told New York Magazine. "We were planning on doing that. We were discussing where to move to. Thanks to the Supreme Court we can stay in our home now. We can be in the country that we love."

More Green Cards for STEM Graduates Proposed

Fri, Jun 21 4:35 PM by Romona Paden

Representative proposes more green cards for STEM graduates.

Currently, the United States has a long backlog of green card applicants who are waiting for the key step toward citizenship to take place. The Wall Street Journal found that not all applicants have been created equal over the past 20 years, as some have had to wait nearly 24 years before gaining permanent residency status. However, Rep. Darrell Issa introduced a bill June 20 that would grant up to 55,000 green cards for foreign-born students with STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – degrees.

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the proposed legislation would increase the annual number of visas distributed to high-skilled workers from 65,000 to 155,000. The SKILLS Visa Act, or Supplying Knowledge-Based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act, would make it possible for foreign-born graduates who attended U.S. universities to stay and grow the technology sector.

Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate that the number of computer information and technology jobs will grow by 22 percent between 2010 and 2020 and math-related occupations will increase by 17 percent by 2020.

"Although high-skilled immigrants are often in demand by American employers, many of them end up on the green-card waiting list for years," Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said June 20. "Consequently, many of these foreign workers and students go back to their home countries and work for one of our global competitors."

Additionally, the new bill would repeal the current cap that limits the number of green cards distributed to residents of a specific country. Currently, the law allows for 675,000 green cards to be available to all countries for employer- and family-based applicants. Each country is limited to 7 percent of the annual total of green cards that are given out. 

This bill is one of the most recent in a number of individual bills submitted to the House, but is separate from the comprehensive legislation moving through Congress.

Green card lottery may be cut with new immigration bill

Mon, May 13 11:58 AM by Romona Paden

African nations are just some of the countries that rely heavily on the green card lottery. The lottery is eligible to be eliminated in the new immigration reform legislation.

The annual green card lottery, which has been going on since 1995, could be cut with new immigration legislation, according to reports. The lottery system awards permanent residency to 50,000 people from countries that have citizens who do not emigrate to the U.S. in large numbers. This lottery has recently been under attack from the House of Representatives, which plans to eliminate the lottery in the coming months as the new immigration bill is underway. 

According to The Washington Post, the program aims to give a more diverse group of immigrants a chance to gain U.S. citizenship. The source reports that the lottery is popular among immigrants because it allows citizenship with almost no strings attached. Last year alone, 8 million individuals applied. Countries that send more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States each year are not eligible to participate in the lottery. 

"In my country, whole cities wait to hear the results of this lottery," Ermais Amirat, an Ethiopian lottery winner living in Alexandria, Va., told the source. "I can't believe they would take it away. We may not earn a lot, but on $200 a month, your whole family can survive back home."

As a compromise from the Senate in the ongoing immigration debate, the lottery would be "quietly" eliminated by 2014. Lawmakers have said that the lottery has become a place for scam artists to earn citizenship, and it has lost the original goals it was used for in the past. Others argue that it promotes legal immigration and it is one of the only ways for African immigrants to gain citizenship. If the "Gang of Eight" legislation passes in the House of Representatives, the last lottery would have been in October 2012. Those participating in the lottery are required to apply for citizenship online almost two years before being potentially selected. 

Supporters of the lottery say that the program is small and it wouldn't do any harm to keep it around. 

"Diversity visas are one of the few ways people from Africa and the Caribbean can come to this country," Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) said in an interview, as told to The Washington Post. "… But why do we need to cut a program where millions of people are competing for only 55,000 visas? I'm sorry, but I just can't accept that."

The numbers show that almost half of the lottery spots are reserved for individuals from countries in Africa, where applicants only need a high school diploma or two years of work experience for eligibility. 

"It has proven to be a way of helping those who come from the continent of Africa, those who come from a number of other areas where it is very difficult to get a visa," Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told The Economic Times.

Others say that the lottery relies on the "luck of the draw," and that every person should have an equal chance to get citizenship. The odds of winning are slim, but a lucky ticket could mean citizenship for an entire family. 

"Participating in the lottery was, for me, a way to take the fast lane to immigration," Nathaniel Assayag, a French engineering student, told the Daily Nation.

Although a clean criminal record is necessary to get a lottery ticket, some argue that because there are such low requirements, it could help terrorists enter the United States. However, most winners are just happy to have gotten lucky and look forward to improving their lives. 

"I'm still in shock," Mamina Ezra told Agence France-Presse after winning the lottery on her 11th try. "I was so used to losing that this has really shocked me."

Senate close to immigration deal, solves key issues

Mon, Apr 1 11:16 AM by Romona Paden

The Senate is close to reaching a final agreement on the new immigration reform bill, but there are still a few problems to work through.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest labor federation in the country, reached an agreement on a guest-worker program on March 29, meaning that a final bill is now in the works of being written and agreed upon. 

The bill will include an earned pathway to U.S. citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, increased border security and ways for businesses to meet the need for both high-skilled and low-skilled workers.

"With the agreement between business and labor, every major policy issue has been resolved," New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer​ told NBC's 'Meet the Press,' according to Reuters. "We've all agreed that we're not going to come to a final agreement until we see draft legislative language and we agree on that."

After much conflict between business and labor, legislature expects there to be a final draft of the new immigration bill so all eight senators in the group can review it.

"There are a few details yet," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told CNN's 'State of the Union' program, according to Reuters. "But conceptually we have an agreement between business and labor, between ourselves that has to be drafted. It will be rolled out next week. I think we've got a deal."

However, there are still a few issues to work out between legislature before the bill can be drafted. One of these issues is cost. That is, the price of securing the border is expensive. People involved in the talks are hopeful that the cost can be balanced with increased visa fees. But Republicans are more concerned about the burden undocumented workers could put on the nation's entitlement structure, or the massive costs that are absorbed officially into the nation's new healthcare system. The GOP is considering demanding that language be inserted into any bill to make it clear that 11 million new immigrants cannot get added onto the nation's social safety net. Legislature calls this procedure a "pathway to status."

This pathway to status could take more than two decades to reach, which is another source of debate among members of the Senate. According to Politico, under the House plan, it would take more than 10 years to get a green card, and the process requires paying back-taxes . Undocumented immigrants would also have to gain proficiency in English.

Some republicans said that a pathway toward U.S. citizenship would create "amnesty," and attract even more undocumented immigrants into the United States.

However, some have voiced confidence that the "earned pathway" toward citizenship that they drafted will attract Republican support.

"I hope that we can pull some Republicans our way," Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona told Reuters. "I think a number of them are with us already."

Another problem that has caused some bumps in the road towards an agreement is the issue of a guest-worker program, which would include a new "W visa" for employers to petition for foreign workers in lesser-skilled, non-seasonal and non-agricultural occupations. Some fear that this would cause a huge boost in low-wage immigrants moving to the U.S. and taking away jobs from American citizens. 

Still, after almost four years of debates over the immigration reform, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said the senators had made "substantial progress" on a deal.

"I'm encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers," Rubio said in a statement issued by his office. "I believe we will be able to agree on a legislative proposal that modernizes our legal immigration system, improves border security and enforcement and allows those here illegally to earn the chance to one day apply for permanent residency contingent upon certain triggers being met."

New ruling could earn gay couples green cards

Wed, Mar 27 11:39 AM by Romona Paden

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in opposition to DOMA on March 27, which could help same-sex couples get green cards.

A Supreme Court hearing on March 27 could change immigration laws for same-sex couples. The hearing will challenge the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that currently states that marriage is between one man and one woman. DOMA denies benefits to same-sex couples and does not recognize gay marriage in individual states. If DOMA is opposed by the Supreme Court, this could mean benefits for gay couples, including the right to receive a green card for a foreign-born partner. 

This ruling could help immigrant couples like Santiago Ortiz and Pablo Garcia, who spoke to ABC about their struggles living an undocumented life and Garcia's inability to travel to visit his sick mother in Venezuela or work in the United States due to green card restrictions. 

"We believe that, if the High Court finds DOMA unconstitutional, that couples like Pablo and Santiago will be immediately eligible to petition for all federal benefits including immigration status," Steve Ralls,a spokesman for the Immigration Equality advocacy group, told ABC. "And Immigration Equality is prepared on the day that ruling comes to begin asking for green cards on behalf of families."

The Supreme Court case, called United States v. Windsor, will debate whether Congress can pass laws that treat married same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples. While the case doesn't consider the constitutionality of gay marriage itself, the ruling against DOMA could help immigrants like Ortiz and Garcia. Since the federal government doesn't recognize the two men as a couple, Garcia cannot get a green card. He has been living in New York City for more than 20 years without papers.

"It has been a long, long struggle to survive like this as a couple," Garcia told ABC. "I am very proud, very, very proud. Through my life and our lives, I've realized it's important to say what you are, like, this is me."

Department Of Homeland Security Announces H-4 Proposal

Thu, Mar 14 1:18 PM by Romona Paden

The Department of Homeland Security announced a proposal that would allow the spouse of H-1B visa holders to gain employment.

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced a proposal that would allow dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders, who hold an H-4 visa, the ability to gain employment while waiting for green cards. This news comes as a welcomed surprise by Asian couples living in the United States. According to the Global Times, more than 50,000 India-natives who live in the U.S. and hold H-4 visas are jobless.

"It will be a boon especially for Indian women in the U.S.," Mrs. Prasad, an H-4 visa holder who requested not to disclose her first name, told the Global Times. "I have been here nearly three years after my marriage to a software engineer in a leading IT consultancy firm in California. My H-4 visa does not allow me to take up employment. And, being jobless is depressing, boring and makes me feel excluded."

Currently, many individuals who are in the same situation as Prasad suffer from depression and other emotional issues because they are far from their families and unable to contribute to society.

More good news was announced for individuals in China who wish to visit the United States, as well. The U.S. Embassy in China will begin streamlining the visa application process by implementing a new fee payment, visa appointment and document delivery system beginning March 16. This online system is already being used by several countries, according to Northwest Asian Weekly.

Applicants will be required to pay the existing fee of $160, but will no longer need to pay additional costs for scheduling appointments and arranging for the return of their passports. There is now an option to pay online, and check the status of an application via the internet.

Survey Finds Majority Of CFOs Agree On Immigration

Wed, Mar 13 12:44 PM by Romona Paden

The majority of surveyed CFOs agree to offer path to citizenship for STEM graduates.

An overwhelming majority of business executives have put their support behind immigration reform, according to the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook survey. Many of the participants agreed that individuals who have the right sets of skills in science and technology-based industries should be put on the path to U.S. citizenship based on merits.

The survey found that 88 percent of chief financial officers at more than 500 U.S. companies favored the switch from a lottery-based immigration system; however, the consensus dwindles when talking about immigrants who have entered the country illegally or are not skilled in high-tech industries.

Just above 80 percent of CFOs believe that foreign-born undergraduate students in STEM fields should have access to H1-B work visas, and 78 percent say these individuals should have streamlined access to green cards.

However, much of the debate begins with low-skilled workers who are considered to be equally important to the farming and agricultural industries. MoneyWatch reported anonymous responses to the survey, one of which noted the importance of workers in the Midwest for manufacturing and construction.

Bryan Derreberry, president and CEO of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce in South Carolina, told ABC News that without a comprehensive immigration reform, businesses in the state will not be able to grow. State Senator Lindsey Graham has decided to join the bipartisan group of lawmakers crafting a proposal.

"Lindsey Graham is a great leader on this issue," Jeremy Robbins, director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, told ABC News. "The way the media and other folks often talk about this, they talk about the costs of immigration, not the benefits of it. We have to give voice about the arguments on how this will help the economy."

Brazilian Nationals Show Interest In Florida Investments

Fri, Mar 8 12:31 PM by Romona Paden

Brazilian nationals are showing increased interest in investing in Miami businesses.

Brazilian nationals are showing increased interest in the EB-5 program because it offers a fast track to U.S. citizenship, according to Emigrate.co.uk. Affluent Brazilian nationals have scooped up a large amount of luxury real estate in the market, and experts believe this trend will continue upward.

The Regional Centre project allows foreign-born investors an opportunity to gain citizenship if they invest at least $500,000 in a company in an area with a high unemployment rate. According to the source, the Miami Herald reported that Brazilians spent approximately $1.345 billion in Miami-Dade County in 2011 alone.

Riviera Health Resort, an EB-5 project, is a high-end nursing facility in Coral Gables that has a history of success in management of healthcare facilities. The group that runs the resort is offering foreign nationals the opportunity to gain U.S. citizenship if they employ at least 10 locals within two years of investment.

Association to Invest in USA (IIUSA) recently announced its third annual EB-5 International Investment and Economic Development Forum, which is a network and showcase event welcoming industry-leading EB-5 professionals from across the globe. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to economic growth in the United States, and improvement of the EB-5 program.

"I look forward to personally welcoming our global industry to this year's Forum," said Peter D. Joseph, IIUSA executive director. "Dynamic events such as these catalyze progressive reform and development, further enabling the success of the rapidly growing EB-5 industry. IIUSA's vision for this year's event is to strengthen the global network of EB-5 industry professionals, enabling effective action towards ensuring the permanence of the EB-5 Program."

Foreign-Born Entrepreneurs

Thu, Mar 7 2:36 PM by Romona Paden

A panel of successful foreign-born entrepreneurs spoke to a group of students on March 3.

As part of Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Week, a panel of foreign-born innovators connected to the school spoke to nearly 200 students. The Peninsula Press reported that the March 3 event was intended to teach students how to start a company while gaining legal status as a U.S. citizen. The panelists, who all achieved legal, permanent status differently, described the importance of starting the green card process early and getting a lawyer.

Pablo Diaz-Gutierre, co-founder of Appfluence, a software company aimed at making people more productive, explained to the audience that being a foreigner in innovative industries has many benefits, including the connections to outsource work in a native country. In a competitive global economy, it can be extremely beneficial to have cohorts across the world working on a start-up.

"If you're going to start a start-up you need to be ready to do everything yourself. From accounting to taxes to immigration – absolutely everything," Montse Medina, co-founder of Jetlore, told the audience. "But, you do want a lawyer that is going to give you ideas, who'll say, of course this is what everybody does, but there's also this other option. This is the lawyer that you want."

Trinidad-native Davyeon Ross came to the United States in the late 1990s and graduated from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, in 2000. He had high hopes of starting a business in the States, which was made possible after he was recruited by Sprint as a software engineer. The company paid for his green card, allowing him to establish Digital Sports Venture, which was bought by Digital Broadcasting Group in 2011, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.

Panelists at Stanford argued that this path does not work for everyone and being proactive is the key to success.

USCIS Begins

Mon, Mar 4 1:28 PM by Romona Paden

Illegal immigrants can now apply for the Form I-601A to reduce time away from family members.

On March 4, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin to accept applications for the new Form I-601A, the Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. This form is intended to reduce the amount of time families are separated from one another while trying to gain lawful permanent residence.

Green card applicants who are currently in the United States unlawfully can apply for the waiver, which would ensure they are not penalized for their presence. Under current law, the I-601A must be filed while the green card applicant is in his/her country of origin, but the new procedure allows applicants to file before departing the United States.

"This rule is not going to apply to everyone," said Evelyne Hart, a Southern California immigration attorney. "It's only going to affect some people, those who are married to a U.S. citizen or have a parent who is a U.S. citizen and have an approved I-130 or I-360 petition. It's complicated paperwork, immigrants who are trying to apply for this hardship waiver are going to need help. They should consult with an immigration attorney who is familiar with the processes."

A green card applicant must be over the age of 17 and an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen in order to be eligible for the provisional waiver. Applicants must also have an approved Form I-130, green card interview scheduled after January 3, 2013, no other issues that could prevent a return to the United States and the ability to prove that their family will experience true hardship while they are away. Lastly, they must have all removal proceedings administratively closed.

USCIS Announces Final Rule Supporting Family Unity

Fri, Feb 22 11:06 AM by Romona Paden

New final rule will reduce the amount of time a family is separated when a member is applying for a green card.

On January 2, 2013, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced the final rule in the Federal Register that reduces the period of time that U.S. citizens are separated from family members who are in the process of gaining permanent legal status. The process will allow certain individuals to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver before departing the United States, and must notify the Department of State's National Visa Center.

Current laws state that immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are not eligible to adjust their status to become permanent lawful citizens, and must first leave the country and obtain an immigrant visa abroad. If an individual has been in the U.S. for more than six months total, they must obtain a waiver to overcome the unlawful presence inadmissibility bar before being able to return to the United States after getting an immigration visa abroad.

This law will create a new Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, for green card applicants to avoid penalization for their unlawful presence. Under current laws, this form would be filed when the person is back in their home country after they have appeared for an immigrant visa interview, which prolongs their separation from family. The new rule states green card applicants can apply for the Form I-601A before leaving the United States.

"The law is designed to avoid extreme hardship to U.S. citizens, which is precisely what this rule achieves," USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas said. "The change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon."

The new rule will not be effective until March 4, and the USCIS will not accept applications until that day.

Study Shows Fees, Language Barriers

Wed, Feb 20 1:24 PM by Romona Paden

Language barriers and high cost for applications are among the top concerns for individuals applying for U.S. citizenship.

A study released by the University of Southern California's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (USC-CSII), entitled "Nurturing Naturalization: Could Lowering the Fee Help?," found that language obstacles and the high price tag required to apply for U.S. citizenship are the top reasons holding illegal immigrants back from applying. According to The Capital Times, the $680 fee required by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for citizenship hinders low-income immigrants from participating fully in the community.

According to the USC-CSII study released on February 14, in the last decade and a half the fees have dramatically increased, creating a barrier for individuals who work in low-income jobs. In 1997, the fee was $95. Janice Beers, director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Jewish Social Services of Madison, Wisconsin, told The Capital Times that some people who are working cannot afford to pay the fee and it can be waived if a family is in need.

"Previous research has demonstrated that naturalization can improve incomes and enhance civic participation," the study's authors explained. "For a nation of immigrants, encouraging naturalization and full participation in our civic and economic life would seem to be one of those goals on which many Americans can agree – and so it seems entirely appropriate to change the fee structure to reduce the financial barriers to integrating fully into our society, economy and democracy."

Older immigrants often struggle with learning English, even though there are free and low-cost classes available throughout the country. Applicants are required to take a civics and English test, but this overwhelming task is often impossible for older adults. Waivers are available if applicants meet specific requirements, including proof of a medical condition that would hinder their ability to learn a new language.

Community Bands Together To Keep Store Owners In United

Tue, Feb 19 1:18 PM by Romona Paden

Local grocer in Central Florida may be shut down after owners are denied green cards.

Loyal customers of Eat More Produce, an organic grocer in Orange County, Florida, are rallying behind the owners who will likely have to shut down their Winter Park location because they were denied green cards by immigration officials. Central Florida ABC affiliate WFTV reported that Canada-natives Katja and Troy Gage, who employ 20 workers, were denied green cards because their employees are not considered professionals.

In 2009, the business started as a distribution center for the owners' farm in Canada, and it has grown into a store that sells fresh produce, wine, cheese and Boar's Head meat. The Gages recently signed a lease to open a second location because the business was doing so well.

"I've been told by several lawyers I'm on the right visa program," Troy Gage told the Orlando Sentinel. "I'm not going to start trying to go on visas that aren't really the appropriate one for me."

Locals have started an online petition that has gathered hundreds of signatures to keep the Gages in the country and Eat More Produce up and running. Troy Gage is also calling on Florida senators and Representative John Mica to save his store.

Venezuela

Tue, Feb 12 4:05 PM by Romona Paden

After a long fight, Venezuela native becomes legal citizen.

After years of struggling, Venezuela native Juan Jose Correa Villalonga received a green card to become a permanent legal citizen. His mother, Helene, is a known activist against the Hugo Chavez government, and she fled the country in 2000 in search of a safe life for her and her child, according to The Miami Herald. They sought political asylum in the United States, but were not represented properly by two lawyers.

Villalonga graduated from high school with honors in 2007 and was accepted to the Florida International University with a scholarship. Unfortunately, his undocumented status prohibited him from using the award, and he decided to attend college in Canada, where he was offered several scholarships at different universities.

On his drive from Florida to Canada, Villalonga was stopped by a highway patrol officer, who informed him of a deportation order, which the family was never notified of by their lawyer. Villalonga spent two months in three different prisons before being deported to Venezuela. During his time in Venezuela, he was beaten by men who came to his aunt’s home where he was staying.

Villalonga’s mother played a large role in his process of becoming a U.S. citizen. She campaigned for her son to be returned home in fear of his safety, and was able to sway authorities to expedite his case. 

“I feel very fortunate for this,” Villalonga told The Herald days after receiving his green card. “I know there are many people being separated from their families and they never reunite again, so for me this is a blessing.”

Under the proposed immigration reform, illegal immigrants would be given probationary legal status until they receive green cards, and the waiting time is expected to be about 10 years. According to The Spokesman-Review, government officials said border security is a top priority.
 

Manufacturing Companies Need Higher Cap On Work Visas

Mon, Feb 11 2:05 PM by Romona Paden

Manufacturing companies are in need of H1-B visas to remain competitive in a changing market.

Major U.S. manufacturing companies such as Caterpillar and Cummins are struggling to recruit and employ researchers and engineers to stay competitive in the global market. With immigration reform as a top priority for the Obama administration, companies from the heartland to Silicon Valley are seeking an increase in H1-B visas, according to the Financial Times.

For the last 30 years, manufacturing jobs have been sent overseas. Offshoring, or outsourcing, is often practiced to take advantage of the low cost of labor in foreign countries. According to Forbes, this commonality has destroyed U.S. jobs, the ability to innovate and the competitive nature of the United States. The industry has changed dramatically over the past few years, which is why it is becoming increasingly important for manufacturing companies to have the same immigration reform benefits as the STEM sector.

“We expect to hire thousands of engineers over the next five to 10 years and it’s quite possible that many of them will be born outside the US,” Lorrie Meyer, executive director of global talent management at Cummins, told the Financial Times. “So to have the flexibility for us to be able to employ them here would really let us plan and get rid of some of the uncertainty that we face today.”

For a business to grow at a global scale, it is important to hire individuals from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Meyer told the Times that Cummins seeks to employ the best candidates for the job, whether they are born in or outside of the United States.

Unfortunately, some manufacturing companies have been forced to let skilled employees go because of the wait time for green cards. Caterpillar has employees from India and China who have been waiting more than eight years for papers to process for green cards.
 

Investor Visas Skyrocket

Thu, Feb 7 1:06 PM by Romona Paden

Foreign investor visas have skyrocketed in the past decade by more than 50 times.

Over the past decade, the number of approved applications for EB-5 visas has increased dramatically, according to Bloomberg. EB-5 visas give immigrants the opportunity to become U.S. citizens if they invest at least $500,000 in a business and employ at least 10 people. Foreign-natives are asked to invest in areas that are rural or have high unemployment rates..

The number of green cards “purchased” by foreign investors increased from 69 in 2002 to 3,677 in 2012. During that same time period, immigrant visas increased from 389,157 to 482,300. Since the EB-5 program was established, more than $6.8 billion was generated from U.S. investments and more than 49,300 jobs were created. Expanded plans for investor visas were included in the immigration reform proposal released on January 29.

“Taking a job from an American is not an issue here,” Edward Alden, a senior fellow specializing in visa and immigration policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Bloomberg. “If you look at investment in the U.S. economy over the past decade, it’s been fairly weak. Anything you can do to strengthen investment, even at the margins, is valuable.”

However, individuals who are not investing in the United States economy are forced to wait decades for green cards. Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, said that its immigration package will include a plan to speed up the process for the undocumented population who want to gain U.S. citizenship, according to Talking Points Memo. 

Currently, the administration is planning to work through backlogs of applicants, but the legal process and quotas have kept the process moving slowly. Expanding the green card process would provide a more reliable, streamlined path for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrations to gain. 

Obtaining Green Card for STEM Grads May Get Easier

Wed, Jan 30 12:30 PM by Romona Paden

Immigration reform proposal would enable STEM graduates to obtain a green card.

Following the announcement of the U.S. immigration reform proposal spearheaded by a bipartisan group of senators, key principles are gaining traction as possible major contributions to the United States’ economy. Rewarding foreign students with a green card upon graduating from U.S. universities, which was cleared by the House of Representatives last year, is also being backed by the Senate.

This law would be particularly beneficial to India-natives who come to the United States in large numbers to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Current laws enable these individuals to pursue an education in the States, but they are often forced to leave after graduation because they are not able to promptly obtain green cards.

The new legislation would enable an immigrant who received a PhD or Master’s degree in a STEM field to be rewarded with a green card so that highly-skilled individuals are able to contribute to the U.S. economy following graduation. 

“It (immigration) keeps our workforce young, it keeps our country on the cutting edge, and it has helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known,” President Barack Obama said in a speech in Las Vegas. “After all, immigrants helped start businesses like Google and Yahoo. They created entire new industries that in turn created new jobs and new prosperity for our citizens.” 

The proposed reform would authorize the employment of a H-1B visa holder’s spouse, which has been a looming concern. It would also allow the recapture of green cards that were approved by Congress but not used.

If more highly-skilled workers are attracted to the United States, it will likely create more jobs for the unemployed or underpaid workforce. The president also proposed a start-up visa for entrepreneurs who are interested in starting or growing their business in the U.S.
 

New Rule Allows Immigrants to Stay With U.S. Citizen Family Members

Fri, Jan 4 10:24 AM by Romona Paden

Family Reunitification Act is helping illegal immigrants gain a green card to stay with their family members in the United States. On January 2, 2013, the Obama administration ruled that thousands of foreign spouses and children who are in the country illegally can stay with their U.S. citizen family members while applying for green cards. The Family Reunitification Act is an effort that hopes to reduce the amount of time that families are separated from one another because of deportation. The administration announced the proposal last year, but sought comments for several months before making it a rule to be published in the Federal Register. The policy will officially take effect on March 4.

Many Chicago-area immigration advocates are welcoming this step forward in the overhaul of immigration reform, and there are several thousand people in the Chicago area who are expected to benefit from this. This rule gives an illegal immigrant the ability to sign up for a "provisional unlawful presence waiver" if he or she has overstayed a U.S. visa or entered the country illegally.

In light of this announcement, the National Immigrant Justice Center attorneys are getting ready for an influx of cases come March. When applicants apply for the waiver, they will be required to return to their native country for an interview at the U.S. Consulate after the waiver is approved. However, this process can take as long as a year, forcing individuals to be separated from their families for a short period of time.

"If you have this waiver approved and then go down and have your visa interview, unless something else arises at that visa interview, there is a pretty high likelihood that your case will go through pretty smoothly at that point," Lisa Koop, a managing attorney with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, told the Chicago Tribune.

Federal Program Grants Green Cards to Investors

Wed, Jan 2 4:59 PM by Romona Paden

A federal program is giving foreign nationals a green card for an investment of at least $500,000. The federal EB-5 Program offers foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in the United States a green card, and Bill Stenger, co-owner of the Jay Peak ski area in Vermont, is taking advantage of the policy. According to the Boston Business Journal, Stenger has raised $275 million from 550 foreign investors living in 60 countries to improve the area considered the Northeast Kingdom.

The first phase of development will include a hotel, indoor water park, ice hockey arena, restaurants, condominiums and stores. The $865 million development will span much of Jay Peak and nearby Newport, and it will create approximately 10,000 direct and indirect jobs over several years. There are also plans to construct a biomedical research firm, window manufacturing plant, extend the runway at a local airport and rehabilitate much of Newport. Stenger reported that 75 percent of the workforce would be Vermonters.

The second and third phases of the project are now underway. The New York Times reported Stenger's effort is the biggest economic development project that Vermont has ever seen.

Steve Green, 49, is also considering participating in the program for a green card. The Englishman has been successful in banking and reinsurance and has lived in Bermuda for 25 years.

"The reason to explore this and potentially to do it – and I'm more than 50-50 inclined to do it – is that it would give me an opportunity to relocate in the United States, keep a small home in Bermuda, spend the majority of my retirement in the United States and confer those rights on my children," he told the Times.

Although there are some critics of this program, Stenger told the Times that having the opportunity to invest in a green card is allowing foreigners to have an incredibly positive impact on the community.

Nigerian Immigrant Gains Rare Private Bill

Mon, Dec 31 3:44 PM by Romona Paden

A Nigerian immigrant who came here for medical therapy gained a rare private bill for a green card. Victor Chukwueke, a Nigerian immigrant, came to the United States to undergo treatment for massive face tumors 11 years ago. He has lived in Michigan under an expired visa, but President Barack Obama signed a private bill on December 18 that will grant him permanent residency in the United States, the first of this kind to pass in Congress in two years. 

When living in Michigan with Rev. Mother Mary Paul Offiah, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy cared for Chukweuke, who lost his eye to the tumors and has undergone seven surgeries.

In Nigeria, Chukwueke was left at an orphanage after his family took him to the nation's best facilities for treatment of neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes life-threatening tumors. The 26-year-old was thrilled with the news of his green card, which will allow him to attend the University of Toledo's medical school. He previously attended Wayne State University in Detroit majoring in chemical biology and biochemistry with a 3.82 grade-point average.

"My own personal struggles to receive treatment have motivated and encouraged me to pursue a medical career … to alleviate the pain and suffering of others," he told CNN. "A medical career will allow me many gratifying years of making a difference in the health and lives of others."

Attorney Thomas K. Ragland took Chukwueke's case pro bono because he was inspired by the story of struggle and perseverance. 

The visa that Chukweuke obtained to come to the United States expired 10 years ago, and he was under the threat of being deported until July, when the bill passed the Senate. 

Diversity Lottery Gets Scrapped After House Bill Passes

Thu, Dec 6 11:03 PM by Romona Paden

The elimination of the diversity lottery got eliminated in the House of Representatives on November 30.

On November 30, the House of Representatives passed a bill to scrap the annual green card lottery that randomly distributes green cards to 55,000 applicants. Created in 1986, the law technically called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program does not heighten the skills of the American workforce, reunite families or serve humanitarian function.

The bill would instead give immigrants the ability to become citizens based on their skills and community ties. This would increase the acceptance of those with advanced science or technology degrees who wish to start businesses in the United States.

A 245-139 vote backed the plan, although it is unlikely for it to become a law. Both Democrats and Republicans are in favor of helping foreigners with STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – skills to drive innovation.

"In a global economy, we cannot afford to educate these foreign graduates in the U.S. and then send them back home to work for our competitors," Lamar Smith, who introduced the bill, said in a speech before the vote.

However, some lawmakers are concerned the bill raises issues in the effort for a comprehensive immigration reform. Many lower-skilled immigrants serve a vital role in the economy as well, and many advocates argue that they should not be rejected based on their education levels. Some individuals come here seeking U.S. citizenship with hopes of pursuing their education further.

President Obama recently renewed the EB-5 Regional Center Program, or the Immigrant Investor Program, for three more years. This encourages the use of foreign investment to create more American jobs. Investors, their spouses and children under the age of 21 can earn green cards if the investment creates a minimum of 10 jobs for American workers.

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government's deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

House of Representatives To Vote On STEM Jobs Act

Fri, Nov 30 9:49 AM by Romona Paden

The House of Representatives will vote on a new version of the STEM Jobs Act that has a provision for family-based green cards.The House of Representatives will soon debate and vote on a new bill called the STEM Jobs Act, according to Elizabeth Llorente's recent Fox News Latino article.

When the bill was originally introduced in September 2012, it focused primarily on expanding the number of green cards available to international students who receive advanced degrees in science and technology from universities in the United States.

However, the updated version of the bill includes a provision that would allow spouses and children of these green card holders to come to the U.S. before their residency applications are completed. If passed, the STEM Act would allow eligible family members to enter the United States one year after they apply for green cards even if the cards have not yet been issued.

The United States currently offers approximately 80,000 family-based green cards, but the supply does not meet the demand. More than 300,000 families remain separated, and some must wait more than two years to reunite.

"American companies need these workers and our economy needs this legislation to help create jobs," Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and chief sponsor of the bill, told the source. "According to a recent poll, 76 percent of Americans support the goal of this bill. And over 100 national organizations, U.S. employers and state and local organizations have endorsed the STEM Jobs Act."

In spite of the number of families who have been separated, political experts believe it is unlikely that the bill will become a law. Democrats believe that Republicans did not consult them on the legislation, which could halt the bill's progress when it reaches the Democratic-majority Senate, the source reported.

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government's deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

Immigrants Receive More New Jobs Than Native-Born Americans, Study Shows

Mon, Nov 26 10:00 AM by Romona Paden

A new Center for Immigration Studies report shows that immigrants receive more new jobs than native-born American citizens.The Center for Immigration Studies recently released a new report showing that over the past four years, 67 percent of U.S. employment growth came from immigrants. Since January 2009, the number of immigrants working with and without green cards or work visas has risen by 1.94 million, from 21.2 million to 23.2 million. Native-born Americans, on the other hand, saw employment rising by 938,000 jobs to a total of 119.9 million.

As the 2012 election season come to a close, experts are surprised that these figures were not mentioned in many campaigns.

“It’s extraordinary that most of the employment growth in the last four years has gone to the foreign-born, but what’s even more extraordinary is the issue has not even come up during a presidential election that is so focused on jobs,” Steven Camarota, co-author of the report, said.

Experts believe that immigrants are doing so well in a weak economy because they naturally gravitate to jobs in profitable areas of the workforce. The agriculture and high-tech industries are currently hiring, and immigrants are often overly represented in these fields. These workers commonly jump into rebounding job markets that grow at a slower pace, and because they do not have access to government benefits like welfare and unemployment payments like native residents, they work hard to move ahead in the industry.

Immigrant workers have also been successful because they are more willing to relocate than native North Americans. As natives often have strong ties to the communities where they live, they are often hesitant to move for a new job even if they do not live in a prosperous area.

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government’s deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

Documentary, Report Shed Light on U.S. International Students

Tue, Nov 13 3:04 PM by Romona Paden

Policymakers are looking for ways to help international students work in the United States upon completion of their higher education degrees.A new documentary entitled "Will Work for Words" premiered at the Virginia Film Festival, and explores the difficulties that international students have while trying to find a job after graduation, according to Inside Higher Education.

The filmmaker, Ayşehan Jülide Etem, is an international student from Turkey who is currently pursuing her third degree in the United States. After noticing problems with the United States' policies toward foreign students, she decided to shed light on the issues to help make a difference.

Leaders in business and higher education have noticed the problems as well. In the past few years, they've begun lobbying for expanded opportunities for students who complete their university degrees in the United States and wish to work here after graduation. They wish to mirror the visa programs that other western nations use to attract graduate students to put their education and talents to work to benefit the national economy, the source reported.

A new Partnership for a New American Economy report called for new categories of green cards for foreign students with STEM degrees and foreign entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in the United States, as well as an increased number of H1B visas for highly-skilled foreign nationals seeking legal entry into the country. A letter accompanying the report was signed by the presidents of 166 American universities, and called on government officials to reform these policies.

"After we have trained and educated these future job creators, our antiquated immigration laws turn them away to work for our competitors in other countries," the latter read. "Low limits on visas leave immigrants with no way to stay or facing untenable delays for a permanent visa."

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government's deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

USCIS Approves Unconventional E11 Visa

Tue, Oct 23 1:58 PM by Romona Paden

E11 visas are given to individuals like John Lennon who show extraordinary abilities in certain fields.The United States has a little known immigration rule that offers green cards to individuals who prove to be the “best of the best in their field,” according to the New York Daily News.

Known as the Green Card Through Self Petition, the E11 work visa applies to individuals who show extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, business, education or athletics. Applicants are immigrant workers who self-petition for consideration and do not need a job offer or employer to sponsor them through the process, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

If an individual lives outside of the United States, USCIS works with the State Department to petition for the alien worker with an approved Form I-140 after the visa is accepted. For those already living in the United States, a Form I-485 allows the individual to adjust his or her status to become a permanent resident.

E11 visas are usually given to famous artists, top athletes, Nobel Prize winners and public figures like the winner of the Miss Universe pageant, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. However, in a bold move, USCIS recently granted an E11 visa to Canadian burlesque dancer Bettina May.

“We certainly had to go the distance to convince USCIS that she qualified under their criteria,” said Jan Brown, May’s lawyer. “The bottom line is she really is one of the best pin-up models and burlesque artists.”

Brown created a six-inch-thick application on May’s behalf, and believes that she is now the first woman to be accepted for her extraordinary burlesque ability. With awards that include the Golden Pasties from the New York Burlesque Festival, press clippings and appearances in ad campaigns for PETA, Brown was able to secure a green card for his client who calls herself a Canadian burlesque ambassador, the New York Daily News reported.

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government’s deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

2014 Diversity Visa Program Now Accepting Applications

Thu, Oct 4 5:09 PM by Romona Paden

The 2014 Diversity Visa Program for foreign nationals is now accepting applications.

The United States government recently announced the start of the 2014 Diversity Visa Lottery Program. Rather than complete the traditional U.S. green card application process, entrants can submit an application and hope to be a lucky winner in the DV lottery.

"The visas are distributed among six geographic regions, with a greater number of visas going to regions with lower rates of immigration, and with no visas going to nationals of countries sending more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the period of the past five years," the U.S. Department of State explained in a press release. "No single country may receive more than seven percent of the available Diversity Visas in any one year."

For DV-2014, natives of Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom and Vietnam may not apply, due to their high number of immigrants. However, restrictions against Guatemalan natives have been lifted and they are once again invited to apply.

Individuals can apply to the green card lottery, and if chosen, should note that only certain family members will be eligible to come along. The only way to obtain a family-based green card is to be sponsored by a family member who is already a United States citizen. 

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery Program will accept online applications from October 2, 2012, through November 3, 2012. DV-2014 entrants may begin checking the status of their applications online on May 1, 2013. Those chosen will receive information on how to proceed with applying for immigrant visas and confirming visa interview appointments.

The Diversity Visa program is congressionally-mandated and administered annually by the Department of State under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990.

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government's deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

USCIS Announces EB-5 Visa Extension

Tue, Oct 2 2:18 PM by Romona Paden

The USCIS announced that the EB-5 program for immigrant investors will be extended through September 30, 2015.The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced that the federal EB-5 green card program will be extended for another three years. USCIS limits the  number of visas for the program to 10,000 each year, and the program is rapidly gaining popularity. With strict immigration laws in the United States, many wealthy foreign nationals may be wondering what the program entails and if applying for an EB-5 visa is the right decision.

The EB-5 program for immigrant investors allows foreign nationals to obtain a U.S. green card if they invest in a new commercial enterprise that creates 10 jobs in the United States. It presents a great opportunity for qualified immigrants to live in the United States while making a large, much-needed contribution to the economy. The investor, spouse and minor children are granted two-year permanent residency as well, which is contingent on meeting EB-5 business regulations.

To obtain an EB-5 visa, a person must find a commercial enterprise to invest in. The enterprise can be any for-profit business, including a partnership, holding company, sole proprietorship, joint venture, corporation or other business, according to the USCIS website. An investor may choose to fund a smaller project on their own, or join other investors in funding a larger business venture.

The Capital Investment Requirements vary based on the location of the proposed business. For rural areas or those with a high unemployment rate – at 150 percent more than the United States average –  the minimum investment required is $500,000. For urban areas, the minimum required investment jumps to $1 million.

The federal EB-5 program will remain in effect through September 30, 2015.

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government’s deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

Courts Rule In Favor Of Child Status Protection Act

Thu, Sep 27 12:55 PM by Romona Paden

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that immigration officials must give precedence to thousands of green card applicants who, when they turned 21, lost their figurative "space in line" for U.S. residency.

In a vote of 6-5, the courts decided that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services officials wrongly determined that a number of individuals were no longer eligible for special visas given to green card holders. USCIS made many applicants file new paperwork, which was then placed at the bottom of the large pile of applicants.

Under the Child Status Protection Act, U.S. immigration law mandates that children can immigrate under their parents’ green card applications until the age of 21, at which time each individual will “age out” of the process.

“Congress recognized that many beneficiaries were aging out because of large backlogs and long processing times for visa petitions,” the USCIS website explained. “CSPA is designed to protect a beneficiary’s immigration classification as a child when he or she ages out due to excessive processing times. CSPA can protect “child” status for family-based immigrants, employment-based immigrants, and some humanitarian program immigrants.”

“We conclude that the plain language of the CSPA unambiguously grants automatic conversion and priority date retention to aged-out derivative beneficiaries,” Judge Mary Murguia wrote.

However, not all of the judges agree with this decision. Prior to this case, a trial court judge threw out a class-action lawsuit filed by residents whose children were removed from the residency consideration pool after they turned 21. Further, Judge Milan Smith wrote in a dissenting opinion that he sees CSPA as an ambiguous law, and believes that priority consideration will bump other applicants seeking residency further down the line.

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government’s deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

Proposed BRAINS Act Could Help U.S. Economy

Wed, Sep 19 3:12 PM by Romona Paden

Senator Chuck Schumer proposed the BRAINS Act, which would offer 55,000 new green cards to foreign students who graduate with a higher degree from a U.S. university in the STEM fields.New York Senator Chuck Schumer announced a new immigration bill called The Benefits to Research and American Innovation through Nationality Statuses Act that would help foreign students stay in the United States after graduation. The BRAINS Act will operate at the federal level and provide opportunities in New York City, Silicon Valley and other important science and technology regions across the country.

Aimed at foreign-born STEM students who obtain advanced degrees from U.S. universities, the BRAIN Act proposes that the government offer an additional 55,000 green cards each year.

“It makes no sense that America is educating the world’s smartest and most talented students and then, once they are at their full potential and mastered their craft, kicking them out the door,” Schumer wrote in a press release on September 18, 2012. “We should be encouraging every brilliant and well-educated immigrant to stay here, build a business here, create wealth here, employ people here, and grow out economy. Fixing our broken green card system will help ensure that the next eBay, the next Google, the next Intel will be started in New York City, not in Shanghai or Bangalore or London.”

While current immigration policy encourages foreign students to study in the United States, there is no option aside from the limited H1-B temporary visa to help them establish a permanent home here. Many foreign-born students are unable to start companies, change jobs or earn promotions, and usually end up having to leave the country before using their potential to contribute to the business landscape. The BRAINS Act sets out to boost the economy by eliminating this critical obstacle and providing a legal channel for permanent residency.

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government’s deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

Experts Propose Green Cards for International College Graduates

Fri, Sep 7 2:25 PM by Romona Paden

Immigration experts advocate the idea of giving green cards to international students after graduation to keep them in the United States.With all of the attention that foreign nationals have received in the media lately after the implementation of President Barack Obama’s deferred action program for youth, the spotlight has shifted to international students.

Immigration experts have been advocating the idea of giving green cards to highly skilled international students to keep these individuals and their talents in the United States.

“Highly skilled immigrants are productive, net-positive members of American society, just like highly skilled Americans,” Craig Montouri wrote in a recent article for Forbes. “This country has a certain median production per capita, and anything that increases that median means more economic growth for America. More economic growth means more and better opportunities for native-born Americans.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is at the forefront of the initiative, saying that offering green cards to students could be a viable way to fix economic problems in the United States.

“I know of no ways to help our economy as quickly and as cost-free as opening up proper ways to help people who will come here, create jobs, create businesses, help our universities, “ Bloomberg told The Associated Press. “Immigration is what built the country, immigration is what kept this country going for the last 235 years and now we seem to have walked away from it.”

Bloomberg published an editorial in Bloomberg News citing specific proposals that could help fix immigration policy and the economy. The ideas included giving green cards to top international graduate students at U.S. universities and creating a new visa specifically for entrepreneurs and guest workers doing seasonal labor.

While several elected officials are working to make it easier for college graduates to get green cards, Congress has yet to act on this initiative.

This article is brought to you by Immigration Direct, a trusted resource for matters related to the government’s deferred action program. Take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz online today.

Tips for employers who want to hire immigrants

Mon, Jul 30 6:20 PM by Romona Paden

Employers that want to hire immigrants have to prove the immigrant is eligible for the position. 

Since the birth of our country, the United States has been built on immigration. Many business owners across the country support hiring recent immigrants, but not all of their employees have green cards. Acquiring a green card can be a tough process for many, as current immigration laws are becoming increasingly strict.

In order to bring an immigrant to the United States for work, employers will have to show that the worker is qualified for the position and that there are no United States citizens qualified or available for the position, according to Reuters. If there is no visa available in the system, the employee may have to wait months and even years until the immigrant will be able to enter the country legally.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there are several ways that immigrants can qualify for a green card. In addition to getting a green card through a job offer, individuals are able to apply to receive one if U.S. entrepreneurs are making an investment in a company that will create U.S. jobs; through self petition, where certain individuals will be granted a National Interest Waiver or through specific categories of specialized jobs, which the person would be able to receive a green card based on a current or past jobs.

If an employer does decide that they would like to bring a foreign worker on board, in addition to prior suggestions, they will also have to provide a labor certificate, which has also been proven tricky in the past, according to Reuters.

Employers that are interested in going through this process may consider hiring an immigration law expert so they can go through the process without having to jump through any extra hurdles.

South Carolina Teen Threatened With Deportation

Fri, Jul 27 4:07 PM by Romona Paden

17-year-old Javier Stephens hopes to gain U.S. citizenship after a DSS mistake made ten years ago threatens his legal status.Javier Stephens of Simpsonville, South Carolina, currently faces the risk of being deported to Mexico because of mistakes made by South Carolina Department of Social Services, or DDS, during his adoption process 10 years ago. When he was 3, the now 17-year-old was brought to the United States illegally by his birth parents, who later abandoned him. The Stephens family took him in as a foster child and adopted him four years later, unaware that Javier’s legal status would cause numerous problems down the road.

It is United States policy that when an undocumented child is in the care of the state, the child will apply for citizenship before being put up for adoption. In Javier’s case, this did not happen, creating what father Thomas Stephens describes as an emotional and financial burden, as reported by South Carolina Fox News affiliate KPTV.

When they brought Javier to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for his citizenship, the Stephens learned that DSS should have completed the forms years ago. As a result, USCIS cannot process Javier’s paperwork because he does not have a green card or birth certificate.

South Carolina CBS affiliate WSPA reported that the Stephens family calls their journey a “nightmare,” as the DSS is doing little to fix the mistakes they made during Javier’s adoption.

Javier told WSPA that although he feels like a U.S. citizen, he is frustrated with the things his current status prohibits, like driving a car and getting a job. “I’d like to work as a lifeguard,” the honor student said.

The family may soon need to travel to Juarez, a very dangerous city in Mexico, to appear in court with the Mexican Central Authority for Adoptions and petition to legally immigrate Javier to the United States through adoption, as explained in Mexico’s Intercountry Adoption procedure.

The Mexican government does not recognize United States adoptions, so the family is now required to go through the adoption process again in Mexico to legally gain citizenship for their son and keep him in the United States.

DOMA Threatens to Separate Lesbian Couple

Thu, Jul 26 3:05 PM by Romona Paden

Many same-sex binational couples are not afforded the same rights as heterosexual binational couples in the United States.A lesbian couple in New Haven may be forced to separate or relocate due to federal government restrictions that refuse to recognize their marriage. According to the New Haven Independent, Francesca Martin and her wife, German native Gudrun Scheffler, have been together for the past 12 years. However, United States citizens in same-sex relationships cannot sponsor their spouses for a green card as their heterosexual counterparts can with a K-1 visa. The state of Connecticut – where the couple resides – recognizes gay marriage, yet Scheffler is still threatened with having to leave the United States when her work visa expires in September, reported the source.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed in 1996 and defines marriage as being only between a man and a woman, excluding the union of gay couples for consideration. After 16 years of discrimination under DOMA, same-sex couples like Martin and Scheffler may soon gain equality with legal policy change on the horizon. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has joined the likes of President Barack Obama and New York’s U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones in declaring DOMA to be unconstitutional and a violation of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection to all citizens.

“Government has no business treating one group different than another and New York City will continue to stand against DOMA for such discrimination,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement. At his LGBT Pride celebration, the mayor announced that the city plans to file its own brief against DOMA to protect the thousands of same-sex couples living in New York, reported the source.

Businesses Owned By Immigrants On The Rise

Wed, Jul 25 9:02 AM by Romona Paden

A new report shows that immigrants own a significant amount of businesses in the United States.A new report sheds light on an aspect of immigration that isn't always been taken into consideration: business owners.  The Fiscal Policy Institute's Immigration Research Initiative shows that one in six small business owners in the United States is an immigrant.

The source reported that immigrant business owners make up 18 percent of the country's population, a considerably high figure when compared to the fact that small businesses make up 30 percent of the United States' economy.

According to the EGPNews, James Parrott, chief economist and deputy director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, said that the types of businesses that immigrants own range from healthcare facilities to grocery stores and car dealerships.

One area in the country that has seen a boom in small businesses owned by immigrants is Metro Orlando. According to the Immigration Research Initiative, the number of immigrant-owned small businesses in Metro Orlando has risen 13 percent since 1990, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The report shows that in 2007, businesses owned by immigrants were responsible for employing 35 million people in the United States.

Many experts agree that these numbers may help U.S. born individuals look past stereotypes of immigrant residents. The figures may even prompt change in the policies surrounding green cards and U.S. visas in the future. 

"People often seem to have the misimpression that immigrants are taking jobs from U.S.-born workers,'' David Dyssegaard Kallick a senior fellow for the Fiscal Policy Institute, told the Sentinel, "and are puzzled by economic research that consistently shows that that's not the case for most workers."  

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