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Emma, la nueva asistente virtual de USCIS

Mon, Dec 14 4:32 PM by Romona Paden

Emma, la nueva asistente virtual de USCIS

La tecnología es cada vez más usada por el los Servicios de Migración y Ciudadanía de los Estados Unidos. Esta vez ha dado origen a la creación de "Emma", la nueva herramienta que funcionará como asistente virtual de los usuarios de la página web de USCIS.

¿Quién es Emma?

Aunque podrás reconocer a Emma como la chica que aparece en la parte superior derecha de tu pantalla en el sitio web de USCIS, no se trata de una persona real. En realidad es una asistente que se generó a través de un programa informático para ayudar a los usuarios a encontrar las respuestas a sus dudas o el lugar dentro del sitio donde están esas respuestas.
Este programa fue nombrado Emma en honor a Emma Lazarus, quien escribió el poema de la Estatua de la Libertad sobre la ayuda a inmigrantes. Lo cierto es que quién mejor que Emma Lazarus para inspirar a esta nueva asistente de los Servicios de Migración.

Las funciones de Emma

Emma está creada con la intención de manejar y poner a tu alcance la información básica sobre los distintos temas de migración. A través de ella, podrás resolver tus dudas de forma más rápida sin esperar a ser atendido por los call center.
Podrás realizar todas las preguntas sin cambiar tu vocabulario porque Emma está configurada para entenderte sin problemas. Además, Emma puede:

  • Responder tus dudas sobre los servicios migratorios disponibles. De ahora en adelante podrás olvidarte de tener que acudir directamente a las oficinas de USCIS o esperar a que en el call center te den la información que necesitas. Bastará con preguntarle a Emma para recibir una respuesta inmediata. Solo recuerda que ella no está programada para darte información personal como tu estatus y otros datos similares. Pero sí puede indicarte dónde y cómo hacerlo.
  • Guiarte por el sitio de USCIS. Si ya conoces el sitio web de los Servicios Migratorios sabes que a veces resulta complicado encontrar la información que necesitas. Entre tantas páginas y ligas disponibles es muy fácil perderse entre información que no soluciona tu problema. Emma te ayuda justo con esto, solo debes preguntarle sobre el procedimiento específico que necesitas y ella te llevará a él. Así de sencillo y sin complicaciones.
  • Encontrar información basada en las preguntas y términos que búsqueda que usas. Recuerda que Emma es un programa informático por lo que si solo ingresas un término muy general, te dará gran cantidad de información. Te recomendamos que busques términos más precisos para reducir tus resultados. En este caso, sería una mala idea pedirle a Emma que busque el término "inmigración" porque seguro que hay miles de resultados. En su lugar, te recomendamos ser todo lo específico que puedas, por ejemplo, "requisitos para inmigración de menores de edad". Aunque los resultados sean varios, seguro que te aportan información más útil que con el término anterior.
  • Emma preguntará si ha resuelto tu duda. Una vez que Emma te de la respuesta a tu pregunta querrá saber si has encontrado lo que buscabas. Si no es así, no te preocupes porque debajo de su pregunta puedes responder y buscar información más detallada o con otro término. Para tener una mejor funcionalidad es ideal usar una computadora de escritorio o laptop aunque algunos teléfonos celulares de última tecnología funcionan bastante bien con Emma cuando tienen grandes pantallas.
  • Sugerir algunas preguntas frecuentes. Como te imaginarás, cada día miles de personas entran a la página web de los Servicios de Migración de Estados Unidos para buscar información. Esto permite que Emma tenga algunas preguntas frecuentes listas como sugerencia para ti. Te recomendamos que primero revises aquí si no está tu pregunta. Esto te facilitará bastante el proceso de búsqueda. En caso de que no encuentres la respuesta que necesitas, Emma hará su mayor esfuerzo para darte lo que buscas.

La principal ventaja de Emma

Contrario a lo que pasa con los las oficinas de los Servicios Migratorios de Estados Unidos y sus call centers, Emma está disponible para atenderte los 365 días del año las 24 horas. Esto es muy bueno porque las personas que tienen horarios complicados en sus empleos no siempre podían acceder a la información que necesitan.
Además, ahora ya no tendrás que ir hasta las oficinas y hacer largas filas para encontrar cierta información. Emma te da la posibilidad de ir solo cuando ya tienes claro el trámite y sus requisitos. Quizás aún debas hacer fila pero ya no tendrás que regresar varias veces a pedir la misma información.

La mayor desventaja de Emma

Aunque los Servicios Migratorios de Estados Unidos están haciendo lo posible por facilitar el acceso a su información a hispanoparlantes, Emma solo está disponible en inglés. Esto no representará ningún problema si tienes conocimientos de este idioma.
Aunque los programas de traducción en línea no son los más eficientes en su traducción, en este caso sí pueden ser de gran ayuda. Emma está configurada de tal forma que es capaz de entender las frases más comunes aunque lleven errores ortográficos, así que no deberías tener ningún problema en este sentido.
En el último de los casos, recuerda que en Immigration Direct siempre estamos dispuestos a ayudarte con los trámites que necesitas. Acércate con nosotros y deja que nos encarguemos de todo.

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.

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.

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.

Your guide to same-sex spousal visas

Thu, Jul 9 1:58 PM by Romona Paden

The recent Supreme Court decision means same-sex spouses can obtain visas.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage was a landmark. It changed the lives of millions of Americans and has been heralded by many as a step in the right direction in the fight for equality. However, not as many news outlets have pointed out that it is a serious advance in immigration reform as well! Because of the ruling, same-sex couples of which one member is not a U.S. citizen will have the ability to obtain a spousal visa for this person.

"You can sponsor your same-sex spouse for a visa."

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared same-sex marriage legal and ensured it is recognized on the federal level, possibilities have opened up for same-sex couples in the world of immigration. A same-sex couple with one spouse who needs a U.S. visa now has recourse to the same processes available to opposite-sex married couples. Here's a quick review of how to file for a spousal visa for your same-sex partner:

Remember that the process is no different
Though the country and perhaps certain officials are still getting used to fully recognized same-sex marriage, the process you'll use to apply for a spousal visa as part of a same-sex marriage is the same as a man and a woman who are married would use. There are resources available to you if you encounter officials who are hostile to you as a couple because of your sexual orientation, but hope for the best – after all, this is simply a spousal visa application.

Are you married yet?
If you are not married to your partner yet, you may apply for a nonimmigrant visa for a fiance(e), known as a K-1. You will need to fill out an I-129F fiance(e) petition to acquire this visa. Once your partner has arrived in the U.S., you can then marry and pursue citizenship through applying for an immigrant visa for a spouse of a U.S. citizen, known as IR1 or CR1. You will need to fill out a Petition for Alien Relative, Form I-130.

If you are already married
If your spouse currently lives in the U.S. and you are married, that is the point from which you will start the process of obtaining a visa. You will need to fill out an approved I-130 petition for your spouse to obtain the IR1 or CR1 visa.

Note also that these steps apply to any of your immigrant spouse's minor children as well.

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.

Cuando obtienes la autorizacion para el empleo en EUA

Sun, Apr 19 10:35 PM by Romona Paden

Cuándo obtienes la autorización para el empleo en EUA

Estados Unidos ofrece grandes posibilidades a cualquiera que tenga los conocimientos y las habilidades necesarias. Por ello, miles de extranjeros apuestan por viajar a este país para buscar un empleo que les permita vivir dignamente. Si eres una de estas personas debes saber que antes de hacer las maletas tendrás que obtener la autorización para el empleo en EUA.

Requisitos básicos para trabajar en Estados Unidos

Las leyes estadounidenses obligan a los empleadores a revisar el estatus migratorio de sus posibles empleados. Esto se hace con la finalidad de asegurarse de que consiguen trabajo solo quienes están autorizados para ello. De esta forma se busca proteger a quienes han hecho todo de forma legal. Algunos visitantes temporales pueden aplicar a la autorización para el empleo con el formato I-765.

De esta forma puedes obtener el Documento de Autorización para el Empleo (DAE) y conseguir trabajo de forma legal en el país. Esto te puede facilitar bastante la búsqueda de empleo porque tus datos serán ingresados a una base de datos gubernamental que revisan los empleadores. Este sistema se llama E-Verify y permite que los empleadores revisen en segundos tu estatus legal.

En caso de que seas un ciudadanos americano, de que cuentes con la tarjeta verde o si eres un residente condicional, no necesitarás obtener el Documento de Autorización para el Empleo.

También podrás obtener un empleo cuando llenes el formato I-94 y el Registro de Llegada y Salida. En este caso es importante que revises en tu embajada si te basta con estos dos documentos, ya que para algunos países, puestos y categorías también es necesario obtener el Documento de Autorización para el Empleo.

¿Qué incluye el Documento de Autorización para el Empleo?

Desde 2014, el Documento de Autorización para el Empleo es una tarjeta de tamaño estándar con una gran cantidad de características de seguridad. Además contiene información personal muy importante como:

  • Nombre
  • Fecha de nacimiento
  • Sexo
  • Categoría de inmigración
  • País de nacimiento
  • Foto
  • Número de registro de inmigrante
  • Número de tarjeta
  • Condiciones y términos de la estancia
  • Fechas de validez

Renovación y cambio del Documento de Autorización para el Empleo

Cuando la fecha de vencimiento de tu tarjeta está por llegar debes acudir a los Servicios de Migración y Ciudadanía de los Estados Unidos. Toma en cuenta que el cambio debe hacerse en los 120 días previos al vencimiento de la autorización.
También podrás realizar este trámite cuando tu tarjeta haya sido robada, perdida o dañada seriamente.
Para evitar que pierdas una oportunidad de trabajo, asegúrate de que tu tarjeta siempre esté vigente. Recuerda que para tu futuro empleador puede ser un tema muy serio en el aspecto legal. En caso de que tu renovación o cambio se retrase por la carga de trabajo del USCIS, siempre puedes presentar el recibo que te dieron al iniciar el proceso. Tiene la misma validez para demostrar tu estancia legal y posibilidad de obtener empleo.

Los costos del Documento de Autorización para el Empleo

Puedes descargar y completar el formato I-765 de la página de los Servicios de Migración y Ciudadanía de los Estados Unidos. Pero toma en cuenta que existen algunos gastos obligatorios:
Servicios biométricos que cuestan alrededor de $90 dólares.
Pago por proceso y evaluación que cuesta unos $380 dólares.

Aunque puede parecer un proceso caro, toma en cuenta que te dará la posibilidad de conseguir un empleo y al final resulta una inversión. Para aumentar tus posibilidades de recibir el Documento de Autorización para el Empleo te recomendamos aprovechar los servicios de nuestros especialistas. Es cierto que esto aumenta tus gastos pero también evita muchos casos de rechazo.

Recuerda que puedes contactarnos aquí.

Nuevo formato para la Accion diferida de los llegados en la infancia

Mon, Feb 16 2:39 PM by Romona Paden

El Formato I-821D lo puedes usar si cumples con todos los requisitos necesarios y buscas ser beneficiario de la Acción Diferida por primera vez o ya cuentas con ella y está próxima a expirar.

Antes ya hemos hablado sobre la Acción Diferida (DACA), una nueva política que busca ayudar a que aquellos que llegaron a los Estados Unidos sin permiso cuando eran niños logren continuar su vida en el país. En esta ocasión te hablaré sobre el Formato I-821D que sirve para solicitar por primera vez la DACA o renovarla cuando está por expirar.

¿Quiénes usarán el Formato I-821D?

El Formato I-821D lo puedes usar si cumples con todos los requisitos necesarios y buscas ser beneficiario de la Acción Diferida por primera vez o ya cuentas con ella y está próxima a expirar.

En caso de que busques obtener la Acción Diferida por primera vez deberás cumplir con los siguientes características:

  • Haber ingresado a los Estados Unidos antes de los 16 años.
  • Haber vivido dentro del país de forma continua desde enero 1 de 2010 hasta la actualidad.
  • Haber estado en los Estados Unidos el 15 de junio de 2012 y seguir viviendo en el país al momento de presentar el Formato I-821D.
  • No tener estatus migratorio legal al 15 de junio de 2012.
  • Ser estudiante regular, haber concluido sus estudios de secundaria con certificado, haber obtenido un certificado de estudios GED o haber servido en las Fuerzas Armadas o en las Fuerzas Navales de los Estados Unidos.
  • No haber sido condenado por algún delito ni haber puesto en peligro la seguridad nacional.

Si buscas renovar tu Acción Diferida debes cumplir los siguientes requisitos:

  • No haber salido de los Estados Unidos después de recibir la Acción Diferida.
  • Haber vivido en los Estados Unidos de forma regular desde tu última solicitud para la Acción Diferida.
  • No haber sido condenado por ningún delito ni haber puesto en peligro la seguridad nacional.

Otros formatos que deben presentarse con el I-821D

Debido a que el Formato I-821D busca darte un estatus de legalidad, hay otro formatos que debes completar y entregar para asegurarte de tener una vida estable dentro de los Estados Unidos. Estos formatos son:

  • Formato I-765. Este formato es el Documento de Autorización para el Empleo (EAD por sus siglas en inglés). Es usado cuando estás de forma temporal en los Estados Unidos y te permite trabajar sin restricciones si el permiso te es otorgado. I-765WS​ Este formato es un complemento al I-765 y solo se usa para la solicitud de Acción Diferida y su renovación. Te sirve para indicar las razones por las que necesitas trabajar dentro del país. Es un pequeño resumen de tu situación económica actual.

Consideraciones al solicitar la Acción Diferida o su renovación

  • Firmas en los documentos. Aunque es un paso muy sencillo firmar este documento, no es raro encontrar que muchos solicitantes lo hacen mal y se encuentran con que su solicitud es rechazada por ello. Si eres mayor de edad, la firma debes hacerla con una pluma normal, no se permiten impresiones, sellos, etc. Si eres menor de edad, tu tutor legal deberá firmar.
  • Evidencia y documentos extra. Recuerda que debes adjuntar toda la evidencia que se requiere al momento de enviar tu solicitud. Debido al gran número de solicitudes que se presentan cada día, las autoridades consideran más fácil desechar una solicitud incompleta.
  • Acude a tus citas puntualmente. Debes acudir a todas tus citas de forma puntual. Esto es muy importante en el caso de la cita para toma de muestras biométricas. Es muy raro que si faltas a una cita se te agende una segunda oportunidad por lo que el proceso podría verse reiniciado.
  • Copias legibles. Un hecho tan sencillo como una copia de mala calidad puede complicar el trabajo de las autoridades. Siempre asegúrate de que tus copias son legibles haciendo una comparación con los originales.
  • Traduce lo que no esté en inglés. Ya que vienes de un país donde se habla español, lo común es que todos los documentos se encuentren en ese idioma. Por desgracia, las autoridades pueden encontrar problemas al leer los textos. Para evitar cualquier situación que retrase el procedimiento contrata los servicios de un traductor facultado. Puede parecer algo caro pagar por estos servicios, pero facilitan y ahorran mucho tiempo.
  • Evita los viajes al extranjero. Si viajas al extranjero después del 1 de enero de 2014 y aún no se te ha otorgado la Acción Diferida puedes perder el derecho a ella.
  • Completa de forma legible todos los formatos. Las prisas, los nervios y la emoción pueden jugarte en contra si no los controlas. Al momento de llenar los formatos, hazlo con la mejor letra posible y evita equivocarte.

Si quieres más información sobre DACA, las condiciones para ser beneficiario y otros temas de interés relacionados no te olvides de leer nuestra sección especializada aquí.

Visa K1: todo lo que debes saber

Mon, Feb 9 4:43 PM by Romona Paden

Visa K1: todo lo que debes saber

Con el gran número de visas que existen en Estados Unidos, no es raro que surjan las dudas sobre la más adecuada para tus necesidades. En esta ocasión te hablaré de la Visa K1 o Visa de Prometido. Este documento permite la entrada de un extranjero a los Estados Unidos por 90 días para casarse con un ciudadano americano. Una vez que se ha llevado a cabo el matrimonio, el ciudadano extranjero puede solicitar un ajuste de estatus a residente permanente.

¿Qué es un "prometido"?

El prometido es una persona extranjera soltera que va a casarse con un ciudadano americano. Las dos personas deben ser libres para casarse y cumplir con todos los requisitos que señala la ley. Uno de los requisitos es que el prometido y el ciudadano estadounidense se hayan conocido en persona en el último año.

¿Quiénes pueden realizar el trámite para obtener la Visa K1?

Los trámites los puede iniciar el ciudadano americano al presentar los documentos de solicitud en las oficinas correspondientes. El prometido extranjero también puede realizar el trámite presentando su solicitud y documentación en la embajada correspondiente.
Los formatos necesarios para obtener la Visa de Prometido

1. I-129F
2. G-325a
3. G-1145 (opcional)

Aunque estos formatos puedes completarlos tú mismo, debes asegurarte de hacerlo con mucho cuidado. Actualmente existen servicios especializados que te pueden facilitar el proceso evitando retrasos y errores al completar los formatos.

Documentación necesaria

La documentación que deberás presentar como prometido extranjero en la entrevista para la visa es:

  • El Formato DS-160 completado.
  • La Solicitud de Visa de no inmigrante (el original y dos copias de la página de confirmación).
  • Un pasaporte para viajar a los Estados Unidos válido por al menos seis meses.
  • Acta de divorcio, acta de anulación de matrimonio o certificado de defunción de la pareja anterior si has estado casado antes.
  • Certificado policíaco de tu país de residencia y de todos los países donde hayas vivido por 6 meses o más desde que tenías 16 años.
  • Examen médico.
  • Evidencia de situación financiera y Formato I-134.
  • 2 fotografías de 2×2
  • Evidencia de la relación con tu prometido americano.
  • Pago de las tarifas correspondientes.

¿Pueden negarme la Visa K1?

Sí. Existen ciertas condiciones o actividades que te hacen no elegible para la visa. Básicamente cualquier actividad ilegal te pondrá en esta situación:

  • Historial de tráfico de drogas
  • Haber permanecido en el país en una visita anterior cuando tu visa ya había expirado
  • Enviar documentos falsos
  • Tener historial de delincuencia en tu país de origen.

Si te enfrentas a alguna de estas situaciones, procura informar al Oficial Consular. En algunos casos existe la posibilidad de analizar la causa de no elegibilidad y buscar una solución.

¿Cuánto tiempo tardan en aprobar o negar la Visa K1?

Es importante que una vez que tu pareja y tú deciden casarse, se tomen un tiempo antes de planear la fecha de la boda. A partir del momento en que se entrega la documentación, el proceso puede detenerse en varias ocasiones. Hay parejas que se enfrentan a retrasos porque enviaron la documentación incompleta o mal. En otros casos se solicitará información o documentación extra. Por todo esto, puede pasar de 6 meses a 1 año para recibir la Visa K1.

¿Qué recibiré?

  • Si te autorizan la Visa K1, recibirás un paquete con los siguientes documentos:
  • Pasaporte con la Visa K1.
  • Los documentos que entregaste al inicio del proceso.
  • Otros documentos que el Consulado otorga para demostrar la autenticidad de tu Visa K1.

Si estás pensando en obtener la Visa K1 recuerda que siempre es buena idea contar con la asesoría de especialistas que tengan experiencia en el procedimiento. De esta forma evitarás errores o confusiones que retrasen por semanas o meses el trámite.

Hiring a foreign national for short-term employment

Thu, Feb 5 4:27 PM by Romona Paden

Simplifying the process of hiring foreign nationals for short-term employment.

For many employers, reductions in the overall workforce or availability of skilled workers may be cause to look outside of the U.S. to find employees without full American citizenship. When this situation arises, it's important that both the employer and the potential employee are aware of what steps must be taken to ensure that the process is legally documented. Though this may seem daunting, there are a number of pivotal points to be aware of and basic resources to utilize to ensure that the hiring is carried out correctly. Take a look at these guiding principles to follow when hiring a foreign national for short-term employment.

Employing a foreign national abroad
One of the most common ways that employers enlist the service of foreign nationals is by seeking out employees who can work for them in their home country. This remote work can save both the employer and employee travel costs as well as expand the reach of certain businesses. If you are involved in this sort of hiring, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says that you must file form I-129, also known as "Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker." This form allows you to enlist services benefiting an American business from an individual without U.S. residence for a set period of time.

Employing a foreign national in the U.S.
For many companies, employing an individual who lives abroad won't interface well with the nature of their work. With that said, hiring a foreign national who is already located within the U.S. is also a common option. In order to do this, you'll need to determine the nonimmigrant status the individual already has and change it to match the needs of your business. Determining and altering this designation requires numerous steps carried out with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you know you or your potential employee's nonimmigrant status, you can read more about this here.

Special circumstances and abilities
If the nature of your work requires an incredibly specifically skilled or knowledgeable individual, you may be able to gain O-1 status for your employee. According to Wayne State, O-1 status designates a person of "extraordinary ability," and is used in the hiring of professors and other highly skilled positions.

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.

The basics of filing for permanent residence based on employment

Mon, Jan 5 5:00 PM by Romona Paden

Depending on the type of work and eligibility, one may obtain permanent residence through a job offer.

One can take several different paths to obtain permanent residence, which allows people without U.S. citizenship to live and work in the country indefinitely. The most common way to apply for a permanent resident card, also known as a green card, is through family, but one may also apply through asylee or refugee status, by serving in the U.S. military or via the annual diversity immigrant visa program. Another popular way is through a job offer by an American employer.

Employment-based immigrant categories
When an applicant is being considered for permanent residence based on a job offer, the type of employment is taken into consideration. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ranks cases according to the importance of the profession in terms of how it can benefit the nation. The employment-based categories in order of most to least important are:

EB-1
• Foreign-born individuals with exceptional knowledge and skills in science, arts, education, business and athletics
• Prestigious professors or researchers
• International CEOs, other executives and managers

EB-2
• Applicants who have exceptional abilities in business, the sciences or the arts and are expected to benefit the economy, education system, culture or other aspect of national improvement
• Those who have earned advanced degrees and work in the profession for which they studied

EB-3
• Foreign-born applicants with two or more years of experience as skilled workers
• Professionals with bachelor's degrees
• Other workers with fewer than two years of experience, like unskilled workers who perform jobs that generally cannot be filled by workers with U.S. citizenship.

EB-4
• Religious workers
• Broadcasters
• Iraqi/Afghan translators
• Iraqis who have helped the U.S.
• Employees of international organizations
• Doctors
• Members of the Armed Forces
• Employees of the Panama Canal Zone
• Retired employees of NATO-6
• Children and spouses of deceased NATO-6 employees

The application process
The employer takes most of the responsibilities for completing the application for permanent residence through a job offer. He or she must first obtain a labor certification through the Department of Labor. This allows one to hire a foreign individual to work and live in the country indefinitely. After obtaining this certification, the employer must also file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, selecting the correct employment-based immigrant category for the position. Once approved by USCIS, it is up to the foreign-born individual to obtain an Employment Authorization Document.

Gaining U.S. citizenship from permanent resident status

Mon, Dec 29 10:51 PM by Romona Paden

Becoming an American citizen gives you the right to live, work and vote in the U.S.

Permanent residency allows immigrants the right to live and work in the U.S., but another big benefit is that, after a certain amount of time, this status may make one eligible for U.S. citizenship. The process, known as naturalization, comes with the right to vote, among other privileges. However, there are other requirements and steps to naturalization, which you can learn about in advance to prepare yourself for the application process.

Requirements for U.S. citizenship
To be eligible for naturalization, you must be a permanent resident five years. However, those who have been permanent residents for only three years may qualify if they have been and still are married to someone with American citizenship for the duration of their residency. Those who have honorably served in the U.S. military may also apply after three years.

Additionally, you must fulfill the following basic requirements for citizenship:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Be of good moral character
  • Be able to speak, read and write basic English (this excludes seniors who have lived in the country a certain number of years and people with impairments that make them unable to fulfill this requirement)
  • Have a basic understanding of American government (this excludes people with impairments that make them unable to fulfill this requirement)
  • Have a period of physical presence and continuous residency in the country

While a permanent resident must have a period of physical presence in the U.S., this does not  mean that he or she must necessarily be located in the country when applying.

How to apply for naturalization
If you fulfill all of the requirements to be eligible for U.S. citizenship, you must fill out and file form N-400, Application for Naturalization. There is a filing fee of $595 as well as $85 for fingerprinting, if necessary. Those who are 75 or older do not have to pay the fingerprinting fee, while all fees may be waived for certain military applicants.

You may be required to appear at an Application Support Center to have your fingerprints taken and to submit a photograph and signature for display on your naturalization certificate. You will also be required to pass a naturalization interview, which involves an immigration officer asking you questions about your personal history and application. During this time, you can expect to sit for an English test made up of three components (speaking, reading and writing) as well as a civics test that assesses your knowledge of the U.S. government and history.

Common questions when getting ready to file

Wed, Dec 17 5:33 PM by Romona Paden

Learn how to obtain a form and where to file before beginning your application process with USCIS.

Filing an application or petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can be a lengthy and complex process. However, people interested in obtaining the right to live and work in the U.S. can make the process less overwhelming by preparing in advance and learning the answers to these common filing questions:

How do I obtain a form?
USCIS provides all necessary forms for applications and petitions for free on its website. They are also available to order in hard copy via the mail or over the phone by calling 1-800-870-3676. However, you can also fill out a form through Immigration Direct and get step-by-step help filling it out to ensure that it is complete and accurate.

How much does it cost to file an application?
The fees set by USCIS change periodically. As of November 2010, the price to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status was $1,070 for people between the ages of 14 and 78. This includes the form filing price as well as the fee for fingerprinting. Children and the elderly had the fingerprinting cost waived, and certain categories of applicants had lower or no filing fee. Depending on your status and eligibility, you may be able to have your filing charge waived altogether using the Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.

How long does it take to process a form?
Processing times vary greatly according to the form. Applications and petitions are generally processed in the order in which they are received, and you can check the estimated time of completion for yours using the USCIS processing times chart. To do so, you will need the following information, which can be found on your receipt notice:

  • The type of form
  • The ISCIS office that is reviewing your form
  • The date that the office received the form

Where do I file my form?
Each USCIS form provides instructions for how to properly file, including where you should send the document. However, these instructions can change, so you may want to verify this information with the USCIS. Additionally, you can rely on Immigration Directs' up-to-date forms for this information.

Los Angeles mayor’s office to hold immigration application workshops

Mon, Dec 15 4:27 PM by Romona Paden

Undocumented immigrants in California can get attend immigration application workshops for guidance.

Immigration reform activists and supporters across the nation are still celebrating Obama's historic executive decision to protect some 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. But those interested in taking advantage the president's decision are concerned about the application process, asking questions such as, "What will it require?" and "How long will it take?"

To provide these people with the help they need, the Los Angeles Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs will begin holding workshops throughout the next six months, according to MyNewsLA.com. The mayor's office will coordinate these workshops to help Los Angeles residents living in the country without documentation apply for a federal program that allows them to live and work in the country for three years.

As Linda Lopez, chief of Immigrant Affairs, told the City Council, these workshops are being developed to ensure all residents have a fair shot at utilizing the executive directives the president announced in late November 2014.

"The mayor's goal … is to ensure that we enroll all eligible populations in the key programs that have been announced by the president, and to be successful in this effort to support our undocumented population here in the City of Angels," Lopez stated.

Who is eligible?
The workshops will provide application assistance to undocumented immigrants who came to the country Jan. 1, 2010, per the restrictions outlined by the president's executive decision. In Los Angeles, about 155,000 people may qualify for the program. Additionally, an estimated 66,000 residents could qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was also extended with Obama's executive decision.

What will the workshops consist of?
The federal government will develop an official application process expected to be introduced to the public in the next six months. However, in the meantime, these workshops will provide applicants with general information about gathering documentation. This includes proper ways to prove their identity to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, as well as demonstrating one's relationship to someone with American Citizenship.

The first workshop was held Sunday, Dec. 14, 2014, and the turnout was overwhelming. According to the Boston Globe, thousands gathered at the Los Angeles Convention Center to receive advice about the application process. Future workshops will be held in various locations across the country, including schools, community centers and churches.

Your guide to applying for an adjustment of status

Tue, Dec 9 5:10 PM by Romona Paden

Adjustment of status grants U.S. citizenship to immigrants without having to go abroad to apply for a visa.

There are several paths through which to obtain American citizenship, one of which is via adjustment of status. This procedure, permitted through the Immigration and Nationality Act, allows eligible applicants residing in the U.S. to obtain permanent residency without having to return to their home country and apply for a visa or go through consular processing. This is a strict process that requires several steps. Read on to learn more about adjusting your status from a nonimmigrant to a permanent resident.

Eligibility requirements
Before you begin the application process, you must determine if you are eligible for an adjustment of status. To qualify for American citizenship through this means, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be physically present in the U.S.
  • Have entered the country legally.
  • If applicable, have an approved alien's immigration petition.

Steps for applying for an adjustment of status
To apply for an adjustment of status, you must take the following actions:

1. Determine your basis for immigration
You must fit into a specific immigrant category to qualify for U.S. citizenship through an adjustment of status. The categories include family-based, employment-based and special-class immigration, all of which require a petition. You can also apply under the humanitarian programs category, which does not require a petition, but doing so may entail other additional requirements.

2. File the immigrant petition
If you're required to file a petition, be sure to use the correct form. Family-based petitions generally require Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, while those applying through employment must have file Form I-140, Petition for Alien Worker, filed for them by the potential employer. Special classes can use Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), and Special Immigrant. In addition to these category-specific forms, you are also required to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

3. Check visa availability
You can't file Form I-485 until a visa becomes available in your specific category. Availability can be checked through the Visa Availability & Priority Dates page.

4. File Form I-485
Once a visa becomes available, file the form to adjust status. Be sure to submit all required documentation to avoid delaying the process or being denied a status adjustment.

5. Go to an Application Support Center appointment
You will receive notification of your Application Support Center appointment after filing Form I-485. During this time, you'll have your signature and picture taken and give fingerprints.

6. Go to an interview
You may be called in for an interview at your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. You will be expected to confirm personal information, answer questions under oath and submit any requested documentation.

After all these steps have been completed, you will receive a final decision in the mail.

Avoiding common immigration application scams

Tue, Dec 9 2:31 PM by Romona Paden

Immigration reform has led to increased activity of scammers targeting undocumented immigrants.

Following the Nov. 20, 2014, announcement of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration reform, a new issue reared its head: undocumented immigrants being targeted by scams. As the Los Angeles Times reported, con artists have been soliciting illegal services, including unauthorized assistance filing immigration paperwork and advice concerning immigrant status, a form of fraud provided by what is widely known as "notario publico." With this issue, concern about other common scams has resurfaced, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services warns the public to be wary when it comes to these regular outlets for scammers:

Telephone
Scammers may call people claiming to be employees of USCIS or other government agencies, asking for personal information such as your passport, alien registration or social security numbers. These con artists may claim to be calling in order to identify problems with immigration records or to collect payment to resolve issues with records. Note that the USCIS will never call you to request any form of payment over the phone. If you believe you're being contacted by a fraudulent caller, say "No, thank you," and hang up.

Local businesses
Some community businesses advertise services and make guarantees to USCIS benefits, such as visas, green cards and employment authorization documentation. These businesses tend to charge application and filing fees higher than USCIS. However, their guarantees are generally false.

Immigration and Naturalization Service
Some businesses, websites and callers claim to be from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This agency no longer exists, and was dismantled in 2003 when the Department of Justice took over. USCIS is now the component that handles all immigration benefits.

Those who believe they have been the target of a scam or fraudulent activity should report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

How to apply for a green card through refugee or asylee status

Mon, Dec 1 2:38 PM by Romona Paden

Those applying for a green card through refugee or asylee status must fill out form I-485 in addition to other steps.

There are several avenues available to apply for a green card, such as through family or a job offer. One of the lesser-known ways to obtain the right to live and work in the U.S. is by applying via refugee or asylee status. Depending on whether you're a refugee or an asylee, the process of applying has specific eligibility criteria and requires slightly different steps. 

Applying as a refugee
A refugee is someone who was forced to leave his or her native country to escape persecution, war or a natural disaster. To qualify for a green card under this status, you must have been living in the U.S. for at least one year after being admitted as a refugee. You must not have had your refugee status terminated or already obtained permanent residency in the past. Then, you can apply for a green card by following these steps:

  • File form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, selecting box "h" for refugee.
  • Submit supporting evidence, including two photos, form G-325A and the vaccination portion of form I-693 (signed by a civil surgeon), as well as proof of legal name change, if applicable, and evidence of refugee status. You may also need to fill out form G-28 if you had legal assistance in the application process and form I-693 in the case of being denied due to medical reasons.

Applying as an asylee
An asylee is someone who is currently in the U.S. and is no longer able to return to his or her native country or fears returning due to persecution. These immigrants can apply for green cards after a year of being granted asylee status. It is not mandatory that an asylee obtain a green card, though it may be in his or her best interest, as asylum status can change if he or she no longer meets the definition of an asylee or the conditions within his or her home country changes. You must also not have abandoned your status and not be resettled in a foreign country, as well as being admissible to the U.S., to obtain a green card by this means. You can then apply by following these steps:

  • File form I-485.
  • Provide supporting evidence, including two passport-style photos, forms I-693 (vaccination information) and G-325A (biographical information), a copy of your I-94 card to prove asylee status and, if you've been arrested, certified copies of court records.
  • Pay an application and fingerprinting fee.

A helpful guide to consular processing

Thu, Nov 6 3:31 PM by Romona Paden

When applying for a green card, you may be required to go through consular processing.

When applying for a green card, there are many options available to immigrants. However, the way you appeal for the right to live and work in the U.S. depends on your circumstances. For example, someone living within the country seeking permanent resident status through an offer of employment can petition to have their residency status adjusted. But if someone is living outside of the country, he or she may be required to go through consular processing. Learn more about this method of green card application and the step-by-step process.

What is consular processing?
Consular processing is a means of applying for a green card. It is one of two primary paths for obtaining permanent resident status as outlined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (the other is the adjustment of residency status). One would apply through consular processing if he or she has an immigrant visa number and is the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition but is not currently living in the country. The U.S. Department of State is responsible for granting green cards, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services works closely with the department to process these consulate requests.

How do I apply for consular processing?
The course of action for applying through the consular process is a strict one that requires quite a bit of paperwork and patience. Follow this step-by-step procedure:

  • Determine your basis for immigration: You must fit into one of the INA immigrant categories to be eligible for a green card. The most common way is through a petition filed by an employer who wants to hire you (employment-based) or an immediate relative (family-based). Other categories include special classes of immigrants and humanitarian programs.
  • File a petition: After you have determined the correct category, you must file a petition or have one submitted on your behalf. You should check with the consulate regarding the right status before submitting a petition.
  • Wait for a decision: You will receive a decision regarding your petition in the mail. It will either say that you have been approved, in which case the petition will be sent to the National Visa Center to be held until an immigrant visa number becomes available, or it will be denied. If denied, you can appeal the decision. The reason for rejection will be stated on the letter.
  • Attend an appointment: When a visa number is available, you will be required to sit for an interview, during which you will complete any additional paperwork.
  • Notify the National Visa Center of changes: You must contact the National Visa Center to alert them of your status in the consular process and inform them of any changes to the application.
  • Receive your visa packet: You will receive a packet of information in the mail. It should not be opened. Rather, when you arrive in the U.S., you will give it to the Customs and Border Protection officer to obtain entry.
  • Receive your green card: You should receive your green card within 45 days of arriving in the country.

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.

Silicon Valley pushes to digitize immigration forms

Thu, Oct 16 3:23 PM by Romona Paden

While immigration reform may be at a standstill, Silicon Valley is trying to make the application process easier and more efficient.

Immigration reform has largely come to a standstill on Capitol Hill, much to the distress of those seeking American citizenship. But leaders in Silicon Valley are finding new ways to stimulate debate surrounding the subject and revolutionize the process for applying for a green card or visa.

According to The Hill, San Francisco-based FileRight has been meeting with officials from the Obama administration about ways to make immigration forms easier to fill out. This would involve developing a new online system and moving away from paper-based application processes. The new applications would be similar to guided tax return programs that take you through each step and simplify the language. That could be essential for many immigrants who don't speak English as their native language but want to apply for citizenship online.

The development of such a system would be a drastic change to the way people fill out their immigration forms. Currently, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services lets people apply online, but most of the filing is still done through a paper system. With 11 million immigration forms and applications every year – a number expected to continue to increase exponentially – that's a lot of paperwork to process by hand.

The Silicon Valley company is still in talks with the government concerning the system, but as The Hill reports, USCIS doesn't intend on taking things further at this very moment. Before the government can consider an overhaul of its online system, it must tie up other loose ends. 

"[We must] concentrate on the core system to ensure it supports our operations and electronic filing," USCIS told the source. "There are no plans at this time to accept submissions from third-party systems."

Your guide to filing for naturalization

Fri, Oct 10 1:41 PM by Romona Paden

To become a permanent resident of the U.S., immigrants can apply for naturalization.

The process of filing for American citizenship is known as naturalization. Citizenship comes with a whole host of responsibilities, including the right to vote. That's why U.S. immigration law implements a strict process for naturalization. Applying for U.S. citizenship can be a complex and lengthy process, but with time, effort and this handy guide, you may soon be able to call yourself a citizen of America.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify for naturalization, you have to meet a specific and strict set of requirements. You must:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Have been a permanent resident for a minimum amount of time (generally three or five years depending on how you gained resident status)
  • Be of good moral character
  • Have a basic understanding of the U.S. government
  • Have a period of physical presence and continuous residence in the U.S.
  • Be able to read, write and speak English at a basic level

These rules come with some exceptions based on age, length of permanent residency and mental ability. Additionally, those who have completed honorable service in the U.S. military and their spouses may also bypass some of these guidelines.

The process

If you meet the eligibility requirements for naturalization, you should prepare yourself for the elaborate and time-consuming process of applying for U.S. citizenship. It includes these steps:

Complete the application form
You will fill out either form N-400 or N-600. Remember to submit any requested documents and include any certified translations of documents.

Get your fingerprints taken
After you submit the application form, you will get a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) telling you when and where your appointment for fingerprinting will be. Follow the instructions carefully and make sure you're on time for the appointment.

Attend an interview
You will be required to sit for an interview with a USCIS officer, and you will be informed of the details via an appointment letter. During the meeting, the officer will ask you questions about your application information and personal background. You must also take a civics and English test. USCIS offers practice quizzes to help you prepare.

Wait for the USCIS decision
Your request for naturalization will be granted, denied or continued depending on the results of your tests, interview and application review. The next step will depend on the decision:

  • Granted: If your application is accepted, you may attend an oath ceremony during which you will receive your certificate of naturalization.
  • Denied: Those who are denied will receive a letter explaining why the application was declined. You have the option of filing an appeal of the immigration decision with the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office or the Board of Immigration Appeals.
  • Continued: A case is generally "continued" when the applicant failed the civic or English tests or did not supply the proper documentation. In such circumstances, USCIS will let you retake the tests or resubmit your documents.

Your guide to filing for naturalization

Fri, Oct 10 1:41 PM by Romona Paden

To become a permanent resident of the U.S., immigrants can apply for naturalization.

The process of filing for American citizenship is known as naturalization. Citizenship comes with a whole host of responsibilities, including the right to vote. That's why U.S. immigration law implements a strict process for naturalization. Applying for U.S. citizenship can be a complex and lengthy process, but with time, effort and this handy guide, you may soon be able to call yourself a citizen of America.

Eligibility requirements

To qualify for naturalization, you have to meet a specific and strict set of requirements. You must:

  • Be 18 or older
  • Have been a permanent resident for a minimum amount of time (generally three or five years depending on how you gained resident status)
  • Be of good moral character
  • Have a basic understanding of the U.S. government
  • Have a period of physical presence and continuous residence in the U.S.
  • Be able to read, write and speak English at a basic level

These rules come with some exceptions based on age, length of permanent residency and mental ability. Additionally, those who have completed honorable service in the U.S. military and their spouses may also bypass some of these guidelines.

The process

If you meet the eligibility requirements for naturalization, you should prepare yourself for the elaborate and time-consuming process of applying for U.S. citizenship. It includes these steps:

Complete the application form
You will fill out either form N-400 or N-600. Remember to submit any requested documents and include any certified translations of documents.

Get your fingerprints taken
After you submit the application form, you will get a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) telling you when and where your appointment for fingerprinting will be. Follow the instructions carefully and make sure you're on time for the appointment.

Attend an interview
You will be required to sit for an interview with a USCIS officer, and you will be informed of the details via an appointment letter. During the meeting, the officer will ask you questions about your application information and personal background. You must also take a civics and English test. USCIS offers practice quizzes to help you prepare.

Wait for the USCIS decision
Your request for naturalization will be granted, denied or continued depending on the results of your tests, interview and application review. The next step will depend on the decision:

  • Granted: If your application is accepted, you may attend an oath ceremony during which you will receive your certificate of naturalization.
  • Denied: Those who are denied will receive a letter explaining why the application was declined. You have the option of filing an appeal of the immigration decision with the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office or the Board of Immigration Appeals.
  • Continued: A case is generally "continued" when the applicant failed the civic or English tests or did not supply the proper documentation. In such circumstances, USCIS will let you retake the tests or resubmit your documents.

What is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals?

Mon, Sep 22 4:31 PM by Romona Paden

Deferred Action allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to avoid deportation.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was established in 2010. This policy was designed to allow individuals who unintentionally violated immigration laws to continue living their lives in the U.S.

Parents often bring their children into the U.S. with them from another country, and as a result, the whole family becomes undocumented immigrants when they don't follow the proper legal channels. Since children typically do not embark on the journey to the U.S. with their parents to break any immigration laws, the Obama administration worked with the Department of Homeland Security to establish DACA.

The administration decided that the children are not responsible for what happened when they were young and found that it would be unreasonable to punish them for living in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants. 

Through DACA, the Department of Homeland Security can stop eligible immigrants from being deported from the U.S. if they meet certain guidelines. 

Eligibility for DACA

The following is the list of criteria that undocumented immigrants must meet in order to be eligible for DACA:

  • Childhood immigrants must have entered the U.S. when they were younger than 16 years of age.
  • Immigrants must have been under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012.
  • They must have been in the U.S. for five years prior to June 15, 2012.
  • Those who wish to be granted Deferred Action must undergo a background check and have a clean record. This means no felonies, misdemeanors or any evidence that they are a threat to the U.S. 
  • Immigrants must have graduated from a high school or received their GED, be enrolled in school or be a veteran of the U.S. military.

If you want to be issued Deferred Action, then you'll be required to provide the proper documentation that proves you qualify. Documents such as financial records, medical records, school records, military records or employment records can serve as proof that you've been in the U.S. since before turning age 16 and have lived in the U.S. for at least five years

Applicants can show that they are in school or graduated from high school, or are in the military or were honorably discharged, by providing a diploma, General Education Development certificate, high school transcript, report of separation form, military personnel records, military health records or a report card.

How to apply for Deferred Action

Immigration​ Direct can provide you with the step-by-step guidance you need to fill out your application for Deferred Action. You'll be given personalized application forms as well as filing instructions from live, U.S.-based customer service representatives. 

When you use Immigration​ Direct you'll save thousands on legal fees and you can take a free quiz to determine if you're eligible for Deferred Action.

I-129: Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker

Tue, Apr 1 3:55 PM by Romona Paden

Information on I-129 Application for Nonimmigrant Worker

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides many different types of visas to immigrants who want to enter the U.S. under various specific circumstances. The visas that are available through an application process can be for vacations, permanent relocation or employment purposes. One of the forms USCIS offers regarding employment is the I-129 Petition, which is a request to hire a nonimmigrant worker.

Business employers who want to request that an nonimmigrant worker be allowed to enter the country for a temporary period of time file I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker forms. This petition permits the nonimmigrant worker to perform specialized services or labor or to receive training in a specified field. The I-129 petition may also be used by an employer to request an extension of stay for a worker, or to change the status of an already-admitted employee from a different visa type, like the E-1, E-2 or TN visas, to the I-129.

Businesses are required to fill out the 26-page form and pay the filing fee of $325. Additional fees may apply depending on individual situations, but the prospective employer is responsible for paying those fees. To avoid any problems with filing, employers must determine whether the immigrant worker is currently in the U.S. or abroad. They must then check the proper box to instruct USCIS to either send the approval letter to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in the worker's home country, or to change or extend the worker's status if they are currently residing in the United States. There are some cases in which the worker may be in the U.S. but is not eligible to change or extend their status, so the company should verify the employee's location and then check the appropriate box on the form.

USCIS updates the Application for Naturalization

Mon, Mar 31 1:56 PM by Romona Paden

The Application for Naturalization has been updated

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is implementing an initiative to make their forms easier to use for immigrant applicants. It is releasing an updated version of the Application for Naturalization form, known as Form N-400. The revisions to the application were brought about by USCIS's initiative to make their forms more understandable for immigrant applicants. The revised N-400 form will provide USCIS with additional tools to make decisions about the applicant's eligibility for citizenship and present clearer instructions. New technology will also be included in the updated application process to improve efficiency as well as accuracy for both USCIS and applicants. Although the N-400 form is being revised, the eligibility requirements remain the same.

The revised verbiage on Form N-400 includes more questions to conform with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) of 2004 and Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2008. More specific instructions will be provided for applicants to help them complete each section of the naturalization application, as well as highlight general eligibility requirements.

The new technology being used with the N-400 form includes 2-D barcode technology at the bottom of each page that scans data more efficiently and inputs it directly into USCIS's systems. Data quality is expected to improve with the use of this technology, as is the processing efficiency and overall integrity of the naturalization process.

Immigrants who apply for U.S. naturalization are permitted to continue to use the previous versionof all the documents USCIS is updating, including the Application for Naturalization for a 90-day transition period. As of May 5, 2014 however, USCIS will no longer accept the old versions of the forms, and those older versions will be returned to the applicant.

U.S. government to extend status for Haitians

Tue, Mar 11 2:47 PM by Romona Paden

Haitians will continue to be protected under the U.S. government

Haitians living in the United States will continue to be protected under U.S. law by Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which will be extended an additional 18 months, according to the U.S. government. The Department of Homeland Security has designated places in the world where civil unrest or risk of natural disasters makes living there unsafe. The DHS grants Temporary Protected Status to undocumented individuals from those designated countries.

Haitians were granted 18 months of TPS after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck and destroyed much of Haiti early in 2010. The Department of Homeland Security extended Haitian immigrants' status 2011, and again late in 2012. According to a press release from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson plans to extend the status for eligible Haitian nationals from July 23, 2014 through Jan. 22, 2016. USCIS recorded more than 2,600 Haitians living in New Jersey alone as of December 2013.

Haitians who have received an extension on their status will also be allowed to apply for a new Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This is a form issued by USCIS that permits an undocumented immigrant to work in the U.S. for a specific period of time, the standard length being one year. EADs are also called work permits, and they are issued in the form of a card with the individual's name, photo and work eligibility expiration date. Immigrants holding an EAD card may legally work in the United States for any employer.

Current TPS beneficiaries will not be required to pay a fee to re-register for the extension. They must submit Form I-821, which is the Application for Temporary Protected Status. USCIS provides extension applications for free online, or applicants are invited to contact USCIS by phone for explanation or interpretation.

Immigrants protected under deferred action have the chance to renew

Mon, Mar 10 1:38 PM by Romona Paden

Deferred action status holders can now renew with USCIS

For two months following the approval of President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) in 2012, immigrants could not register for protection with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – they were required to register with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Today, those eligible immigrants have the opportunity to renew their status and extend it for another two years, and the individuals that received deferred action from ICE will be the first to renew. USCIS says that only a small number of the people who applied for deferred action applied through ICE.

Deferred action status protects young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors, and allows them to legally remain in the country and work for two years. Those seeking a renewal of their status must apply through USCIS, no matter which agency granted them deferred action initially. If a beneficiary lets their status lapse without renewing every two years, they will no longer be able to work legally in the U.S. USCIS has suggested that deferred action status holders send in their applications at least four months before the expiration date of their status.

As of December 2013, more than 500,000 young immigrants had been approved for deferred action by USCIS. The majority of immigrants granted this status hail from Mexico, at 77 percent. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are the three other countries that make up more than 2 percent of the total population of eligible young people. South Korea is the next most common country of origin, with more than 7,100 approvals making up 1.4 percent of the total population of deferred action eligible immigrants in the U.S.

For status holders, the renewal application fees total $465, and that number has remained constant throughout the program, since its inception in 2012. 

DACA policy prompts thousands to apply for licenses

Thu, Feb 27 4:32 PM by Romona Paden

Thousands of young immigrants have applied for Georgia driver's licenses

A spokeswoman from the Georgia Department of Driver Services said that nearly 10,882 immigrants who were granted temporary citizenship under President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status have applied for Georgia drivers' licenses since August 2012.

President Obama's program was created to protect young immigrants who were brought to the United States when they were minors from being deported. These young people have the opportunity to stay in the country for up to two years and earn a work permit. According to information provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), by the end of 2012, more than 16,000 young immigrants living in Georgia were officially approved for protection, or deferred status. 

Although undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive driver's licenses in the state of Georgia, the attorney general in that state announced that being granted deferred action status made it possible for an individual to earn a license.

However, there are some obstacles for immigrants who are granted deferred status and want to receive a license. One Republican senator in Georgia has proposed a bill to prevent people protected by deferred action status from earning a driver's license. The Senate has not yet voted on this bill. Another Republican senator has suggested an amendment that would make English the official language of Georgia, and also make it mandatory to take the driver's license exam in English. Currently the written section of the text is available in 11 other languages besides English, while the driving test is conducted solely in English.

Federal immigration authorities can also grant deferred action status to undocumented immigrants at their discretion. This means that the young people who qualified for the 2012 program are not the only ones eligible for deferred action in their immigration cases. Therefore, more people in Georgia may be applying for driver's licenses in the future.

What is the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?

Fri, Feb 21 5:20 PM by Romona Paden

Diversity Immigrant Visa Program information

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers a program that is run by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) called the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program). This program provides up to 50,000 visas for immigrants each year. The visas are drawn from a random selection among all the entries and granted to individuals who are from countries that typically see low rates of immigration to the United States. The majority of diversity visa lottery winners live outside the U.S. and immigrate through consular processing and by receiving an immigrant visa.

Some visa lottery winners, however, reside in the U.S. at the time of "winning the lottery." These individuals are living in the U.S. with a nonimmigrant or other legal status, which means USCIS is required to process an adjustment of their status application. Those applicants who are living in the U.S. when they win must establish that they have been selected to win the visa lottery and have an immigrant visa immediately available at the time of requesting an adjustment application.

Immigrants to the U.S. should be aware that fraudulent websites exist posing as U.S. government entities to scam individuals out of money. Some companies have requested money from users in order to "complete" DV entrance forms, but immigrants should know that there is no charge to download and complete the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form. Emails that claim to be from the Department of State should be suspected as fraudulent as well, because the DOS does not notify winning DV applicants by letter or email. Applicants can check the status of their entries by accessing the lottery website at www.dvlottery.state.gov to find out if they were or were not selected.

Understanding Form I-130

Wed, Feb 19 4:27 PM by Romona Paden

Form I-130

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides a form called I-130 for immigrants who want to invite their spouse or family member to live and work in the U.S. Those family members, once they obtain a visa to come to the U.S. can then potentially earn permanent citizenship rights.

The I-130 document can be completed by either a citizen of the U.S. or a legally recognized permanent U.S. resident. Completing this form signifies the applicant has a familial bond with an individual living abroad. Filing this form with USCIS formally begins the process of allowing the petitioner's family member to obtain a visa to travel to the United States and possibly begin their path to citizenship. Separate forms must be completed for each relative, and USCIS processes each document as visa numbers become available. Family members and spouses must wait until a visa number is available before they are permitted to petition for an immigrant visa or to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident.

The applicant is required to complete the two-page form, pay a fee of $420 and file the document with USCIS. If the spouse or family member of the applicant is able to find and hold employment in the U.S. and the I-130 form is correctly filed, the family member may eventually be allowed to obtain a Permanent Residency Card, a document officially referred to as I-551 or green card.

Although some forms provided by USCIS are available online, the I-130 form must be submitted in paper form. However, once the agency receives the application, the petitioner can opt to receive an email or text confirmation.

Longer naturalization form being released by USCIS

Thu, Feb 13 2:03 PM by Romona Paden

The USCIS is releasing a longer naturalization form

In May 2014 a new, longer N-400 form will be released by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This is the form that immigrants who have legal permanent resident status must use to apply for naturalization. The changes to the N-400 form include clearer instructions for applicants and the incorporation of technology to make the process of applying for citizenship more accurate and efficient. The new version of the form will allow the USCIS to make important eligibility determinations, but the requirements for eligibility will not change.

The South Asian Network (SAN) discussed the new form which is double in length and may make the application process more difficult for the millions of individuals holding green cards who are eligible for citizenship. According to the SAN, there are priceless benefits of naturalizing for Indian American and other South Asian green card holders. People in these communities can expect wage increases, as well as increased rates of homeownership.

However, barriers to achieving naturalization like limited levels of English language proficiency, limited access to transportation and financial woes still exist for South Asians. According to the South Asian Network, one in five South Asians has a limited knowledge of English, which in turn creates problems for older South Asian green card holders who need assistance to pass the naturalization exam. The SAN plans to provide free ESL services to support those individuals who need help with their English to pass the naturalization exam, with speakers proficient in six different South Asian languages to help them. South Asian green card holders nationwide are encouraged to contact the SAN with any questions they might have about the elongated form.

Currently there is a 90 day window for green card holders to apply for citizenship before the new form is implemented.

L1 petitioners to be included in USCIS site visits

Tue, Feb 11 1:01 PM by Romona Paden

More site visits of L1 employers will combat fraud

L1 visas allow organizations in the United States to transfer an overseas employee to the U.S. to work for the same company, its parent or subsidiary. This visa grants working immigrants, along with their spouses and children, temporary residence in the U.S. Many L1 visa holders eventually apply for a green card.

As of January 2014, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began to conduct worksite inspections of L1 employers under the USCIS's Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) Division's Site Inspection Program. The Department of Homeland Security released a report that studied the L1 intracompany transferee program, and discussed concerns over fraud within the L1 program. Their report is the first step in addressing the instances of wrongdoing and is an attempt to make the L1 system more efficient and fraud-proof. Some offices that apply for L1 visas for their overseas employees, or extensions for immigrant workers already in the U.S., have falsified documents that were incorrectly approved. For this reason, the USCIS intends to be more rigorous with their worksite inspections before renewing L1 petitions.

Employees working under an L1 visa may be interviewed on these site visits, but an immigration manager is requested to be present to answer any questions the interviewer or the employee may have. Immigration managers are there to defend the rights of immigrant workers and are expected to contact legal counsel if they feel the site inspector is taking inappropriate liberties. The site inspector is charged with asking the immigrant employee for details about his or her employment, such as job duties, job title, work hours, work location and salary.

L1 employers visited by a site inspector will not be notified if they passed the inspection, and if no fraud was suspected the employer will likely hear nothing more. If the inspector reports an instance of wrongdoing, petition denials or revocation could occur.

When to apply for advance parole documentation

Tue, Jan 21 2:43 PM by Romona Paden

The advance parole document allows immigrants in the U.S. to travel internationally

Immigrants in the U.S. who have begun the process of applying for a green card or certain visas are advised not to leave the country while their application is in progress. Those individuals who have not completed the necessary paperwork may be denied re-entry into the country, so applying for the proper documentation is very important.

Emergency situations do arise that require an immigrant to travel while waiting for their green card or visa application to be accepted. In these cases an advance parole document is what they would need to complete in order to make short international trips. The advance parole document, also known as the travel document, is not a requirement for departure from the U.S. However, border authorities, upon an immigrant's return, might assume the green card or resident application that was submitted before the immigrant's departure was abandoned, and authorities may not allow that individual to return to the U.S.

It is advised that immigrants applying for a green card fill out the advance parole document at the same time. Because green card applications take a long time to be processed (anywhere from nine months to a year), having the travel document completed ensures the safety of that green card application. There are many reasons an applicant would request to leave the U.S. while they wait to be granted permanent resident status, from weddings to funerals, business trips and family emergencies. The U.S. government does not ship travel documents overseas, so it's a good idea for immigrants to complete the advance parole document before taking an international trip. 

The document that is needed is called Form 1-131, commonly known as the Application for Travel Document, and is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Deferred action seen as temporary alternative to immigration reform

Tue, Dec 10 11:08 AM by Romona Paden

In New York City, immigrants' rights advocates have been scouring neighborhoods trying to sign people up for deferred action.

With comprehensive immigration reform legislation stalled in Congress, many advocates are turning to a little-known option for keeping undocumented workers in the United States legally.

The 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program instituted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in 2012, allows some undocumented immigrants to stay in the country for up to two years, while also granting them work eligibility. For many immigrants who are caught in a legal gray area, DACA is one way to continue living the American Dream.

What is DACA?
On June 15, 2012, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security announced a change in the way the cases of some undocumented immigrants would be handled. Namely, the secretary made it possible for undocumented immigrants who had been brought into the country as children to apply for deferred action, which would grant them two more years in the U.S. as long as they met certain requirements. That deferred action is then subject to renewal after the two years is up.

Advocates promote DACA
In New York City, a group called Atlas: DIY, which works on social and economic causes related to undocumented immigrants, has been sending people out into the city to try to spread the word about deferred action.

So far, that effort has been running up against some roadblocks, as many undocumented immigrants are reluctant to register with federal authorities in the first place. Susan Pan, a legal fellow at Atlas, described the process of trying to get people to sign up as "chipping away at the ice," in an interview with The New York Times.

Nonetheless, as Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, also explained to the Times, "It's [DACA] the only game in town right now for undocumented immigrants, and we need to do everything to maximize participation in the program."

Arizonans fight for immigration reform to save their parents

Mon, Dec 9 11:21 AM by Romona Paden

Arizona has long been an important part of the immigration reform debate.

Arizona has long been a key player in the immigration debate. As Congress gets set to adjourn for the year without having passed immigration reform legislation, its actions on the issue in 2014 will be heavily affected by some of the stories coming out of the Grand Canyon State.

Fighting to save her mother
Maria "Guadalupe" Arreola has been in extreme danger of being deported for almost a year now.

Arreola's daughter, Erika Andiola, who was brought to the U.S. without authorization at age 11, had been serving as a district outreach director for Rep. Kyrsten Sinema after receiving a work permit under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. She spent her time there working on immigration reform, and became increasingly frustrated with the inaction she saw in Congress. But with her mother in peril, Andiola recently left that position to fight full-time to keep her in the U.S.

"Unfortunately for me, a year has passed and we haven't passed immigration reform and I became very frustrated," Andiola told the Arizona Republic. "I wasn't just a staffer there trying to make a career out of it."

Rep. Sinema has been one of the most active members of the House on immigration reform, fighting for a path to citizenship and a national DREAM Act.

Fighting for his father
Gabriel Zermeno, a member of the Arizona Army National Guard, has a similar story to Andiola's. He also serves his country under the threat of seeing a parent deported. In his case, it's his father, who has been living in the country without documentation for 30 years.

Zermeno's told the Arizona Republic that his fear of being overseas fighting for his country and finding out his father has been deported hangs over him on a daily basis, and it shows how current immigration laws can potentially tear families apart.

Filipinos in the US may get temporary protected status

Wed, Dec 4 12:39 PM by Romona Paden

Natives of the Philippines who are living in the U.S. may get temporary protected status as a result of the effects of Hurricane Haiyan.

In the wake of Hurricane Haiyan, which hit the Philippines with devastating force in November, immigration reform advocates and a group of U.S. senators are urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant temporary immigration status to Filipinos who are currently living in the U.S.

Temporary protected status
Temporary protected status is granted to foreign nationals after natural disasters or civil war. If granted in this case, it would allow Filipino students and tourists who have valid visas, as well as those who are living in the U.S. without documentation, to stay and work in the country for a designated period of time.

"It's meant to help people who are in the U.S. and whose conditions in their home country prevent them from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately," Claire Nicholson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) told the Los Angeles Times. "It allows them to stay in the U.S. and work until they can safely return home."

While the Philippines government has yet to formally apply for temporary protected status for its citizens, 20 U.S. senators recently signed a letter asking the DHS to grant that right. And with an estimated 800,000 to 1 million Filipinos currently living in the U.S., according to Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, that move would allow them to work and send money home to friends and family who have suffered from the hurricane and its after-effects.

And as Aida Rivera, Pennsylvania chairwoman of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations, told Philly.com, there would be other positive effects as well. Namely, it would allow freedom of travel, even for Filipinos in the U.S. with expired visas, allowing them to go home and bury the dead and help surviving victims without worrying about not being allowed back into the country.

USCIS announces new upgrade to the E-Verify system

Thu, Nov 21 1:25 PM by Romona Paden

A recent enhancement to the E-Verify system is intended to ensure that Social Security Numbers are not being misused, and that workers are fully documented.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced a major enhancement to its E-Verify program that should significantly decrease the incidences of identity fraud.

E-Verify upgrade
On Nov. 18, Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS, released a statement detailing the E-Verify enhancement, which uses a new safeguard to "lock" any Social Security numbers (SSNs) that have apparently been "stolen, borrowed, purchased or otherwise misused … and prevent further abuse of the compromised number in E-Verify records," according to the announcement.

The new feature resembles the protections credit card companies use to prevent theft and fraud. By using a combination of algorithms, analysis and detection reports, USCIS can track misuse and disable a SSN it thinks is being used fraudulently.

In the announcement, Mayorkas noted that the new measure is another step in the agency's determination to strengthen "E-Verify's ability to combat identity fraud," describing the development as, "yet another significant safeguard for E-Verify users [that] could assist employees who have had their Social Security numbers stolen or compromised."

When the new system detects the use of a locked SSN, a "Tentative Nonconfirmation" (TNC) notice is sent out, and the person who used the disputed number can contest the finding at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) field office. At that point, an SSA officer will review the case, and if the TNC is found to be in error it will be converted to "Employment Authorized" status.

Impact on immigration reform
This newest development could help push immigration reform legislation closer to passage, since the enforcement of illegal activities has been a major sticking point in the debate.

Congressional Republicans have made border security and the enforcement of existing immigration laws their top priorities in the reform process. So measures like this newest USCIS initiative could help sway them toward compromising on other aspects of comprehensive legislation.

Immigration rally takes place in Chicago

Thu, Nov 7 12:12 PM by Romona Paden

Chicago was the site of the latest major rally in support of immigration reform.

Chicago police issued more than 100 citations to protesters for blocking traffic at a Nov. 6 immigration reform rally downtown, according to the the Chicago Tribune.

The protest, which was dubbed the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights rally, drew hundreds of loud yet peaceful demonstrators to the area of Clark Street and Congress Parkway in Chicago's Loop, where the regional U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) building is located.

Blocking traffic to make a point
The demonstrators, many of whom were affiliated with labor unions and immigrant rights organizations, set up in a busy part of downtown during rush hour, blocking traffic in the area for about 45 minutes before they were removed by police.

The timing of the rally was intended to be disruptive, which led to increased public exposure, further highlighting the issues at hand. It also garnered the attention of several local politicians, including Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno (District 1).

"This is personal for me," Moreno, whose grandfather earned a Purple Heart in World War II but received a "non-citizen discharge" from the Army because he was born in Mexico, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's also a matter of just changing terrible policy," he added.

Immigration and deportation reform
Demonstrators made their point through speeches and by carrying signs. Many of the people at the rally told stories of family members who had been deported by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), breaking apart their families. Speeches and signs referenced the number 2 million, which is the number of people that will have been deported by the Obama administration by early next year, according to organizers of the event.

The police allowed the demonstration to go on for awhile before intervening, warning protesters to disperse several times. They did eventually clear the streets, writing 121 citations as they did so.

How to file a fee waiver request

Mon, Oct 28 6:00 PM by Romona Paden

How to file a fee waiver request

Filing various forms with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can be expensive, since most require a fee. USCIS is largely funded by immigration form fees. However, if you cannot afford to pay the fee, you may request a waiver. 

The waiver
If you are unable to afford the fees required to file various immigration forms, you may fill out the I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.  When you've determined that you are eligible, file the form and fill out the supporting documentation in English. This waiver has detailed instructions you need to follow, which can be found here. After you have completed the steps, send the form to a USCIS office. The fee waiver request cannot be sent online. 

Eligibility
Eligibility for the fee waiver depends on your income and how many people you have in your household. If you are living below the 150 percent poverty line – as specified by the Department of Homeland Security – you are eligible. The line takes into account your income in proportion to the size of your household. 

You are also eligible if you are going through a period of financial hardship. A prolonged medical illness that leaves you or a family member in the hospital is an example, as it is an unexpected expense. 

You can also qualify for a Request for Fee Waiver form if you are receiving a means-tested benefit. Like the 150 percent poverty line, the means-tested benefit is where a person's individual income or resources determines the amount of relief he or she receives. When filing the request, provide proof you have been receiving a means-tested benefit. 

Household
You can file the I-912 for other members in your family as well. However, the information included should pertain to them, and the form will require their signature. 

When determining the size of your household, you must include your spouse, any children under the age of 21, and any legal wards or parents who are living with you. If another person is staying in your home, and you provide 50 percent or more of the money he or she needs to live, you may include him or her in your count. 

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. 

How to change your nonimmigrant status

Tue, Oct 22 12:29 PM by Romona Paden

Change your nonimmigrant status to reflect your activity in the U.S.

You may have come to the U.S. with a Temporary Nonimmigrant status and want to change the purpose of your stay. For example, you may be visiting on a tourist visa and now wish to study in the states full-time. You can change your nonimmigrant status by filling out the proper forms before your visa expires.

Submit an application
As with any other petition for a visa, you have to fill out an application to change your status. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends that you file the application as soon as you determine you need to change your nonimmigrant status, and definitely before your current visa expires. The form you must file is the I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. You can find this application online. You cannot change your activity until USCIS approves the application. 

Requirements
You are eligible to change your nonimmigrant status if you were lawfully admitted into the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa that is still valid. You must also have met and maintained the conditions of the visa, and have not committed any crimes while in the country. If you do not meet these requirements, you are not eligible for a visa change. 

When not to apply
​If you came on a nonimmigrant visa for business reasons, and you want to stay for pleasure before your current visa expires, you do not need to apply.  Also, you don't need to apply if you want to attend school and you are the spouse or child of a person in the U.S. who has a nonimmigrant visa.

You cannot apply for a status change if you were admitted into the U.S. in one of these categories:

  • Visa Waiver Program· Crew member (D nonimmigrant visa)
  • In transit through the United States on a C nonimmigrant visa
  • In the U.S. without a visa
  • You are engaged to a U.S. citizen or a dependent of him or her (K nonimmigrant visa)
  • You are an informant (or accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime (S nonimmigrant visa)

How to change your nonimmigrant status

Tue, Oct 22 12:29 PM by Romona Paden

Change your nonimmigrant status to reflect your activity in the U.S.

You may have come to the U.S. with a Temporary Nonimmigrant status and want to change the purpose of your stay. For example, you may be visiting on a tourist visa and now wish to study in the states full-time. You can change your nonimmigrant status by filling out the proper forms before your visa expires.

Submit an application
As with any other petition for a visa, you have to fill out an application to change your status. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends that you file the application as soon as you determine you need to change your nonimmigrant status, and definitely before your current visa expires. The form you must file is the I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. You can find this application online. You cannot change your activity until USCIS approves the application. 

Requirements
You are eligible to change your nonimmigrant status if you were lawfully admitted into the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa that is still valid. You must also have met and maintained the conditions of the visa, and have not committed any crimes while in the country. If you do not meet these requirements, you are not eligible for a visa change. 

When not to apply
​If you came on a nonimmigrant visa for business reasons, and you want to stay for pleasure before your current visa expires, you do not need to apply.  Also, you don't need to apply if you want to attend school and you are the spouse or child of a person in the U.S. who has a nonimmigrant visa.

You cannot apply for a status change if you were admitted into the U.S. in one of these categories:

  • Visa Waiver Program· Crew member (D nonimmigrant visa)
  • In transit through the United States on a C nonimmigrant visa
  • In the U.S. without a visa
  • You are engaged to a U.S. citizen or a dependent of him or her (K nonimmigrant visa)
  • You are an informant (or accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime (S nonimmigrant visa)

Protection for abused immigrant spouses, parents and children

Mon, Oct 21 4:03 PM by Romona Paden

Stop domestic violence

Being in an abusive relationship is frightening. Getting out of one can be terrifying. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, be sure you know your rights as an immigrant in case you need to get out of an abusive situation. 

The facts of abuse
Domestic violence doesn't only refer to physical harm, it is a general behavior pattern developed to exhibit power over another person in a relationship. This could be something as small as the abuser telling you you can't talk to another guy. He will use tactics like shame, guilt and ridicule to lower your self-esteem. Frequently, when you are feeling guilty, he then lifts you up and makes you feel like he is there for you. 

If you feel that your spouse or partner is abusive, it is important to get out of the situation as soon as possible. 

Immigration protection
A battered parent, spouse or child may file an immigrant visa petition under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This means that if you are the parent, spouse or child of a person with U.S. citizenship who is abusive, you can file for a visa without the knowledge of the abuser. You don't have to worry about being alone without documentation. You're safety and security is protected. 

How to file
If you meet the requirements that are listed on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, you must file Form I-360, the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant status and all supporting documents. The form must be filed with the Vermont Service Center. If your petition is approved and you are not a legal resident of the U.S., you may be placed under a deferred action, which will allow you to remain in the country. The bottom line is, you do not have to worry about deportation if you are fleeing an abusive relationship. 

Protection for abused immigrant spouses, parents and children

Mon, Oct 21 4:03 PM by Romona Paden

Stop domestic violence

Being in an abusive relationship is frightening. Getting out of one can be terrifying. With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, be sure you know your rights as an immigrant in case you need to get out of an abusive situation. 

The facts of abuse
Domestic violence doesn't only refer to physical harm, it is a general behavior pattern developed to exhibit power over another person in a relationship. This could be something as small as the abuser telling you you can't talk to another guy. He will use tactics like shame, guilt and ridicule to lower your self-esteem. Frequently, when you are feeling guilty, he then lifts you up and makes you feel like he is there for you. 

If you feel that your spouse or partner is abusive, it is important to get out of the situation as soon as possible. 

Immigration protection
A battered parent, spouse or child may file an immigrant visa petition under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This means that if you are the parent, spouse or child of a person with U.S. citizenship who is abusive, you can file for a visa without the knowledge of the abuser. You don't have to worry about being alone without documentation. You're safety and security is protected. 

How to file
If you meet the requirements that are listed on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, you must file Form I-360, the Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant status and all supporting documents. The form must be filed with the Vermont Service Center. If your petition is approved and you are not a legal resident of the U.S., you may be placed under a deferred action, which will allow you to remain in the country. The bottom line is, you do not have to worry about deportation if you are fleeing an abusive relationship. 

Obtaining a temporary worker visa

Fri, Oct 18 3:53 PM by Romona Paden

Obtain a visa to work temporarily in the U.S.

The U.S. offers temporary visas for those looking to work in the country for a short period of time. All sorts of categories are available to foreign workers, including artist, researcher, cultural exchange participant, information technology specialist, religious worker, investor, scientist, athlete, nurse, agriculture and more. Those hoping to find employment in the U.S. must obtain legal permission by filing a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) form.

Worker categories
If you want to apply to work in the U.S. without moving toward citizenship, you must file for a visa under the correct category. Here are the categories for individuals staying temporarily: 

Temporary (nonimmigrant) working: You fit this category if you seek to enter the country for a specific purpose for a short period of time. You will be restricted to the activity for which you applied for a visa. All workers under this category will file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129). 

Students and exchange visitors: Students and exchange visitors are entering the country specifically to continue their program of study. If you want to go to college in the U.S., you must apply at a school approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). Once accepted into the school, you must fill out  an online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160. 

Temporary visitors for business: If your company would like to send you to the U.S. for an important merger or other business purpose, this is the category you fall under. You will need to apply for a B-1 visa. 

Interviews
Once you've applied in your proper category, and the application has been approved, you must schedule an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate where you live. Hold on to the receipt number that is printed on your approved Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, or Notice of Action, Form I-797, as you will need it to schedule an interview.

Documents
You will need to provide a passport valid for travel to the U. S., your application confirmation page, the application fee payment receipt, a photo and your receipt number. 

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. 

Taking a look at the Department of Homeland Security

Tue, Oct 8 3:27 PM by Romona Paden

DHS to select new chief

Anyone familiar with immigration knows about the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). However, you may not know exactly what it does or how the department was started. As the DHS prepares to nominate a new department secretary, it's a good time to get to know this important part of the U.S. government, and consider how a new leader might affect current proceedings. 

What is the DHS? 
Established in 2002, the DHS combined 22 government agencies into one cabinet department. The goal of the DHS is to keep America secure, be it from terrorist attacks or natural disasters. After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Office of Homeland Security needed more resources to keep the country safe. In November 2002, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act, establishing the DHS as a cabinet-level agency.

What does the DHS do?
With 22 different departments, the DHS is a large operation. Some of the responsibilities within that network include protecting the nation from foreign threats, researching new technology, gathering intelligence, monitoring U.S. security, training federal law enforcement officers, detecting nuclear missiles, and protecting and improving the nation's transportation infrastructure.  You are probably familiar with the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Secret Services, both of which fall under DHS jurisdiction.

The DHS also runs U.S. Customs and Border Control (CBP), United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS​) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If you are an immigrant or in the States on a visa, you are probably very familiar with one of these three agencies.

Changes
According to The Washington Post, the DHS is currently in the process of nominating a department secretary. So far, no one has been nominated, and rumor has it that those that White House picked have been turned down by other legislators. Many officials would like to fill the position with a minority or a woman to boost cabinet diversity. A bipartisan group of former security officials devised a letter praising Alejandro Mayorkas, current USCIS director, suggesting him as a nominee. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Steps for international students toward studying in the U.S.

Wed, Sep 18 4:48 PM by Romona Paden

Study in the US with a student visa

Spending any extended period of time in the U.S. can be tricky and there seems to be a visa for everything. Here is a breakdown of what students should do to apply for a visa, according to the U.S. Department of State. 

Select the right school: Not all schools are supported under the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), so it is important to gain acceptance at one that is. A list of approved schools is available at the Department of State Education USA website. Once accepted, you will automatically be enrolled in the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You will also be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. Fortunately, if your spouse or children are staying with you during your studies, they do not have to pay the fee, though they do need to fill out a Form I-20. You will receive the Form I-20 during your visa interview from the school that accepted you.

Talk to your embassy: The embassy or consult where you apply for your visa will have different requirements regarding which steps to take in which order. Be sure to check your local embassy's website to make sure you have the information straight. 

Interviews: Students between the ages of 14 and 79 will be required to attend an interview. Students applying for their first visa should interview at least 120 days prior to their school start date. 

Documents: There are several documents you should gather before applying for a visa, including a passport valid for travel to the U.S., a Nonimmigrant Visa Application – essentially stating your primary purpose for traveling to the U.S. is to study – Form DS-160 and a photo. 

Working during school: According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you cannot work off-campus during the first school year. However, you are allowed to take on-campus employment with some restrictions. 

Though this is all a lot of work, it does not ensure that you will obtain a visa. This is why it is so important to complete the necessary steps as soon as possible. 

Steps for international students toward studying in the U.S.

Wed, Sep 18 4:48 PM by Romona Paden

Study in the US with a student visa

Spending any extended period of time in the U.S. can be tricky and there seems to be a visa for everything. Here is a breakdown of what students should do to apply for a visa, according to the U.S. Department of State. 

Select the right school: Not all schools are supported under the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), so it is important to gain acceptance at one that is. A list of approved schools is available at the Department of State Education USA website. Once accepted, you will automatically be enrolled in the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You will also be required to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. Fortunately, if your spouse or children are staying with you during your studies, they do not have to pay the fee, though they do need to fill out a Form I-20. You will receive the Form I-20 during your visa interview from the school that accepted you.

Talk to your embassy: The embassy or consult where you apply for your visa will have different requirements regarding which steps to take in which order. Be sure to check your local embassy's website to make sure you have the information straight. 

Interviews: Students between the ages of 14 and 79 will be required to attend an interview. Students applying for their first visa should interview at least 120 days prior to their school start date. 

Documents: There are several documents you should gather before applying for a visa, including a passport valid for travel to the U.S., a Nonimmigrant Visa Application – essentially stating your primary purpose for traveling to the U.S. is to study – Form DS-160 and a photo. 

Working during school: According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you cannot work off-campus during the first school year. However, you are allowed to take on-campus employment with some restrictions. 

Though this is all a lot of work, it does not ensure that you will obtain a visa. This is why it is so important to complete the necessary steps as soon as possible. 

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." 

USCIS Releases First Volume of Policy Manual

Tue, Jan 8 10:06 PM by Romona Paden

The USCIS released a new manual for individuals to get information more quickly.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the transition to a new online, centralized manual of immigration policies on January 7. The Citizenship and Naturalization volume is the first of the USCIS Policy Manuals to be changed and there are 11 other volumes to be released. This comes after an unprecedented, agency-wide review of USCIS policies based on feedback from customers, stakeholders and employees.

The USCIS Policy Manual features up-to-the-minute updates, the Code of Federal Regulations, public use forms, links related to the Immigration and Naturalization Act and an expanded table of contents. The organization has arranged the content in an easy-to-understand manner so immigrants and nonimmigrants can look up information quickly and efficiently. The manual will also include tables and charts to relate the information in a simple, clear way and ensure understanding of challenging and complex topics.

"With the introduction of the Policy Manual, we take a further step to provide our customers, stakeholders and workforce with an efficient and effective adjudication process that provides a high level of quality and consistency," said Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS.

USCIS will begin implementing the policies outlined in the Citizenship and Naturalization volume on January 22, 2013, and the rest of the centralized policy manual will follow. Before completion, USCIS received approximately 8,000 survey responses regarding the previous policies and operational service. This manual will ultimately replace the Adjudicator's Field Manual, the USCIS Immigration Policy Memoranda site and other policy repositories.

Other volumes in the USCIS Policy Manual pertain to different areas of immigration benefits, including general policies, refugees, adjustment of status, consent to reapply, nonimmigrants, asylees, immigrants and waivers protection, as well as travel, employment and identity documents.

USCIS Seeks Support Services for Additional Work

Wed, Dec 12 2:49 PM by Romona Paden

USCIS is seeking additional support as more young immigrants are seeking temporary citizenship. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services released a draft on December 10 seeking support for the organization’s field offices. This is one step in the re-completion of the Field Office Support Services contract, which supports 68 field offices and 10 asylum offices.

USCIS is seeking administrative records support to 68 of 86 USCIS field office locations throughout the United States to support adjudication efforts of immigration service officers in order to affect the performance of naturalization and citizenship ceremonies nationwide, the issuance of naturalization and citizenship certificates, and in person interviews for immigration benefits,” the notice stated according to Homeland Security Today.

The publication noted that the USCIS plans to hold a conference once the comments regarding future solicitation has been submitted. Questions about the solicitation should be submitted by December 21.

This information comes after the USCIS released data finding that the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals slowed work in other agency programs. The negative impact of the added workload was released by an analysis, and did not come from the agency itself. Due to the high number of illegal immigrants who came primarily from Mexico under the age of 16 who are now seeking short-term American citizenship, the agency does not have a large enough staff to handle this additional work.

The USCIS also recently announced the expansion of its e-Request system services, which allows individuals to inquire about applications and petitions. This new system enables people to create requests or to notify the organization of administration errors in documents or notices. It also allows for accessibility to those with disabilities to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

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 Launches New Website for Foreign Entrepreneurs

Fri, Nov 30 10:04 AM by Romona Paden

USCIS launched a new website with immigration resources for foreign-born entrepreneurs.U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently launched a new website that will help make it easier for foreign-born entrepreneurs to work and start their own businesses in the United States. USCIS and other immigration officials worked with entrepreneurs to create one concise website that will provide a link between the entrepreneurial community and the federal government.

The site, called Entrepreneur Pathways, is broken into three different sections. Section one provides basic information about the U.S. immigration process that applicants should understand before moving forward. Section two includes a guide that notes the differences between each U.S. visa, and section three offers a forum for foreign-born entrepreneurs to discuss issues pertinent to their shared status and community.

"We know that there is a tremendous need for more accessible pathways for entrepreneurial talent to come here and remain here in the United States," Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS, said. "One of the goals of the immigration is family unity, humanitarian relief and economic prosperity. And it is in the context of economic prosperity that we are really speaking today."

Many entrepreneurs are frustrated by the U.S. immigration system, as they receive inconsistent information from adjudicators in their quest for a visa. To eradicate this problem, USCIS integrated an "Entrepreneurs in Residence" program into the effort. The agency recruited five foreign-born entrepreneurs to test the new system and comment on where they would like to see changes. Their feedback will help USCIS make it easier for people to communicate with officials and understand their different immigration options.

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.

Iranian Athlete Denied “Extraordinary Ability” Visa

Fri, Nov 16 5:09 PM by Romona Paden

The Immigration Act of 1990 created a category of work visas for individuals who show "extraordinary ability" in the field of science, arts, education, athletics or business, and receiving such a visa requires a high level of prestige, like winning a Nobel Prize. However, when Afshin Noroozi, Iran's first table tennis Olympian, applied for an extraordinary ability visa, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services denied his case, according to Jere Longman's recent article in The New York Times.

Noroozi sought the visa based on his status as a top international player, which is usually sufficient for preferential entry of this kind. While Noroozi is the best table tennis player in Iran, he finished 65th at the 2008 Olympic games and is ranked No. 284 in the world. The court's decision has experts questioning what credentials an athlete must hold to be granted a visa.

"Hopefully the government will change its stance and be more liberal in attracting talent," John Assadi, Noroozi's lawyer, told the source. "Even if he is not first or second in the world, he would be able to contribute in the United States. Why they want to keep him out, I don't know."

USCIS cited many reasons for denying Noroozi's application. Officials claim he did not establish himself as a singular talent or demonstrate his leading or critical role in Iranian table tennis, and his achievements were not sufficiently reported by major news publications. In his application, Noroozi was unable to prove how his presence would potentially benefit the United States, the source reported.

If the court does not repeal the decision, Noroozi and Assadi will consider filing an appeal.

This article is brought 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.

Canadian Citizens May Now Use Form I-129 To Apply For Trade NAFTA Status

Tue, Oct 9 1:58 PM by Romona Paden

Canadian residents can now use Form I-129 to apply for TN status in the United States.United States Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced that Canadian citizens who apply for Trade NAFTA (TN) status may use Form I-129 even if they reside outside of the United States.

The North American Free Trade Agreement created a special economic relationship between the United States, Canada and Mexico which extended from trade to the workplace. The TN status allows Canadian and Mexican non-immigrants to temporarily work in the professional business setting in the United States.

Before the change, USCIS would only accept TN applications from Canadian and Mexican citizens who were already in the United States and wished to change or extend their TN status. Individuals who were not in the United States needed to present an application to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to gain entry, but this former system was found to be inefficient and disruptive. Applicants can now file paperwork in advance and make travel arrangements knowing that the application will be approved at the border.

Form I-129 is an employment-based petition for a nonimmigrant worker, and having it filled out will be helpful when CBP officers question an individual’s TN eligibility at a port of entry.

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.

USCIS Releases Clarification of Deferred Action Documentation Expectations

Thu, Sep 27 8:37 AM by Romona Paden

USCIS released updated clarifications on what paperwork is acceptable for deferred action documentation.Due to the strict U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services regulations on deferred action criteria, schools in the United States have been flooded with requests for legal documents. While applicants want to send in their paperwork as quickly as possible, many find themselves having to wait a few weeks longer than anticipated.

The Mexican consulate in Los Angeles issued more than 17,400 passports in August 2012, which marks a 63 percent increase over the past year. The average wait time for processing increased from one or two days to more than 40 days because of the increased workload. Schools and organizations all across the country are experiencing the same demand.

Accordingly, USCIS has recently clarified expectations telling applicants that they need proof, but not exhaustive proof, of their physical whereabouts to qualify for the program.

The new guidelines issued on September 14, 2012, say that applicants should provide as much evidence as possible that they’ve spent the required time in the United States, but they don’t have to account for every day of the last five years, which may ease some of the anxiety many undocumented youth are feeling.

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 Enhances E-Verify Program

Mon, Sep 24 3:23 PM by Romona Paden

USCIS released new enhancements for the internet-based E-Verify Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification Program.The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released new enhancements for the E-Verify Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification Program that went into effect on September 16, 2012.

E-Verify is an internet-based system that allows companies to compare information on a prospective employee’s I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form to U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration data to confirm that an individual can legally work in the United States.

The program was created after the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it illegal for an employer to hire, recruit or refer an unauthorized alien for employment in the United States.

According to USCIS statistics, more than 387,000 employers use E-Verify and approximately 1,200 new businesses sign up each week. The program will now be accessible to even more businesses with the following new features:

– E-Verify will support Internet Explorer 6.0, Firefox 3.0, Chrome 7.0 and Safari 4.0.
– A Quick Audit Report will allow companies to easily report their E-Verify activity when required by local, state or federal government entities.
– New fields to help reduce the occurrences of tentative non-confirmations for employees who give a foreign passport. Employers can now record the passport number and issuing country on the I-9 form and enter the information in an E-Verify case.
–  A web-based tutorial to replace the live webinar training required for new Corporate Administrators that also serves as a resource for existing administrators.
– An E-Verify User Manual for Corporate Administrators to help assist with program use.
– A “Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record” work authorization, which is a document that shows that a person can legally work in the United States.

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 Sued By Foreign Investors For Violating EB-5 Visa

Fri, Sep 21 9:48 AM by Romona Paden

Foreign investors are suing USCIS, stating that the United States denied them residency after they spent millions of dollars in investments under the EB-5 program.The U.S. Customs and Immigration Services recently rejected a number of petitions filed by foreign investors in the EB-5 program. As a result, 23 investors have sued USCIS in federal court, stating that the United States denied them residency after they spent $11.5 million in investments.

The EB-5 visa allows foreign aliens, who would otherwise be ineligible, to obtain green cards for themselves and their families by investing in government-approved business programs. An investment of $500,000 is expected to create 10 jobs in the U.S. workforce.

The investors have already put money into a warehouse conversion deal in Riverside, California, but jobs associated with the warehouse have yet to be created.

“It is not appropriate to take credit for the employment impacts created by unrelated business ventures of future tenants,” USCIS declared.

Many of the official documents are sealed in federal court, and thus many of the details are still unknown.

“What is clear is that the aliens are investing in the purchase of, and, to a lesser extent, the renovation of a warehouse, and that they are claiming that the jobs that need to be created to activate the visas will come from firms moving into the new development,” David North wrote in a Center for Immigration Studies article. “This process, called 'tenant occupancy' is a controversial one, and many critics say that it is wrong to give an investor credit for creating jobs when all the investor has done is to house – not fund – the new jobs.”

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.

Students Question Deferred Action Help

Fri, Aug 17 3:09 PM by Romona Paden

With deferred action now accepting applications, many undocumented students are still questioning if the program will be able to help them receive a college degree in the United States.President Obama’s deferred action program, which began earlier this week, already has thousands of undocumented immigrants lining up around the country to file their paperwork. What some see as a tremendous opportunity, others see as merely a step in the right direction.

The program offers illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as youth a chance to obtain a two-year work permit that will legally allow them to remain in the country. College graduates will be able to look for paid positions in their fields, whereas before, they were only able to work in unpaid internships.

While deferred action will allow many undocumented youth to find lawful employment, there are still numerous obstacles to overcome before being able to receive a U.S. college education. One of the largest barriers to many students is cost – without proper identification, students cannot apply for financial aid.

Federal requirements mandate that applicants must have a green card or U.S. citizenship to be deemed eligible to receive loans and grants, but President Obama has made it clear that deferred action is not a road to either of these legal statuses.

Because of the financial constraints of accredited four-year universities, most undocumented immigrants end up enrolling in community colleges, where they will be able to take one or two classes a semester while also working full time, according to Fox News.

Many critics are also concerned with what will happen to undocumented youth once these two-year permits expire.

“Applying for deferred action could mean the answer to their financial headaches and career conundrums, but it could backfire on the students two years down the line when they would have to reapply,” said EGP News. “There is no guarantee their permits would be renewed, the government would have their information, and with a presidential election around the corner, there is no telling what the political climate will be like around the subject of immigration reform.”

This article 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.

Deferred Action Already Well Underway

Thu, Aug 16 1:36 PM by Romona Paden

Undocumented immigrants who plan to apply for deferred action are urged to do so quickly and ensure that all information is entered correctly. With President Obama’s deferred action plan going into effect this week, undocumented immigrants are being urged to take advantage of the program as quickly as possible.

“If you qualify for what U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services calls Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, get to work on your application. Don’t miss out on getting two years legal status and employment authorization," wrote the New York Daily News.

As the largest immigration initiative in decades, more than 1.7 million individuals are expected to be eligible to apply.
Though many people are still hesitant to come out and identify themselves as being undocumented with fear of the consequences, immigration officials believe that once people begin getting accepted by the program, the apprehension will diminish.

“A lot of clients came to us shortly after the announcement, and they will be at the front of the application line,” said Isabel Cueva, an immigration expert in Orange County. “I expect interests to swell even more once others see friends and family members benefiting from the policy. The more applicants, the bigger the backlog, so you want to make sure you don’t delay in starting the process.”

Even with the threat of applications being backlogged in the future, officials still stress that filing correctly is more important than filing early.

“The people who say undocumented immigrants don’t really want to be part of this country will have to rethink that when they see hundreds of thousands or maybe a million young people come forward to sign up in the coming weeks and months,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez told NBC News.

Long lines of people ready to file their papers formed in cities all over the country, with many believing that this is a day to celebrate the undocumented individuals who strive to legally be part of the United States.

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.

Immigration Direct Offers Helpful Online Features for Deferred Action

Wed, Aug 15 1:43 PM by Romona Paden

ImmigrationDirect.com features new online resources to help applicants through the deferred action application process.Immigration Direct's new online feature can help individuals navigate through the complicated deferred action application process.

The deferred action initiative, which started accepting applications on August 15, 2012, includes an expensive application fee and detailed paperwork that must be completed correctly in order to be considered. Any mistakes, such as forgetting to include a signature, failing to provide proper documentation as evidence, or falsifying information, can result in an individual’s paperwork not being accepted by U.S. Customs and Immigration Services.

As applicants will only be able to apply for deferred action once, the Immigration Direct service helps reduce the occurrence of application mistakes that could lead to a rejection. To make the feature accessible and hopefully increase the number of individuals who take advantage of the help, Immigration Direct offers the service both in English and Spanish.

Immigration Direct has developed an online service for prospective applicants, where they can first take the Free Deferred Action Eligibility Quiz to determine if they are eligible for the program. If an individual determines that he or she meets the criteria for consideration, they can choose to pay $99 for step-by-step guidance and instructions in completing the self-directed online application.

ImmigrationDirect.com also offers detailed filing instructions for the I-821D deferred action form and step-by-step instructions to help individuals complete the I-765 work authorization form and I-765WS form that are required to complete a deferred action application.

This article 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.

I-821D Form For Deferred Action Now Available Through USCIS

Tue, Aug 14 2:50 PM by Romona Paden

The I-821D form for deferred action is now available on the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services website. USCIS will begin accepting applications on August 15, 2012.The U.S. Customs and Immigration Services has released new information regarding the deferred action program, which will begin accepting applications on August 15, 2012.

A nine-page instruction manual is now available on the USCIS website to help applicants through the deferred action process. It includes general application guidelines and detailed information on what constitutes proper documentation to prove identity, entry date into the United States, unlawful status in the United States, presence in the United States on June 15, 2012, school or army records and continuous residence in the United States for the past five years.

The I-821D form for consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals is also available on the USCIS website, and applicants can either type in their information and print out a completed form or print the form and fill it out by hand.

Individuals who fill out an I-821D must also file the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and Form I-765WS Worksheet, both available on the USCIS website with the I-821D form. A G-1145 form is also available for applicants who wish to receive an e-notification when their paperwork has been accepted.

Application costs total $465, including a $380 form fee to process the I-765 paperwork and an $85 fee for required biometric services.

Applicants are also being urged to read the USCIS Lockbox Filing Tips to understand what exactly will happen to their forms after they are mailed to the appropriate USCIS facility.

To ensure that applications will be able to be processed properly, applicants are reminded to sign the forms in the appropriate locations, submit the required fees, include proper documentation and complete all required fields on the forms including family name, address and date of birth.

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.

DHS Draft Shows Deferred Action Preparations

Fri, Aug 10 11:34 AM by Romona Paden

Beginning on August 15, 2012, individuals will be able to submit a request for consideration of deferred action. Fox News has obtained a 92-page draft of the Department of Homeland Security’s extensive, detailed deferred action plan, which sheds light on how the Obama administration may plan to implement the policy. 

Although the program is not set to begin receiving applications until August 15, an estimated 1,200 individuals who were already being reviewed for prosecutorial discretion have already received approval for deferred action, according to Fox News.

DHS officials expect more than 1 million applicants when the program begins, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials are hard at work fleshing out the necessary details.

Information in the draft insinuates that no application will be outright rejected, citing that if the case is to be processed for a denial, it will be sent to the Background Check Unit where it will be reviewed before an official denial is given.

“DHS uses prosecutorial discretion to focus vigorously on the removal of individuals who pose any threat to public safety or national security,” said Peter Boogaard, DHS deputy press secretary. “No such individuals will receive deferred action under this policy. Any suggestion to the contrary is false and is completely contradicted by our enforcement record,” reported the source.

Critics of deferred action raise concerns about how the program could affect the status of individuals who have already been issued deportation orders, or those in deportation proceedings. According to the news source, the draft said the majority of these individuals – 99 percent – are living in detention centers, which nullifies the rest of the qualifications.

People who are detained or currently incarcerated are not eligible for deferred action. This is because they will not be able to submit an application or pay the accompanying fee as a result of not being able to leave their holding places to complete the necessary biometric testing, Fox News reported. 

Updated Guidelines Increase Projected Number of Individuals Qualifying for Deferred Action

Thu, Aug 9 1:24 PM by Romona Paden

President Obama's deferred action program will begin accepting requests for consideration on August 15, 2012.As the implementation date looms closer, clarifications are being made about the classifications of individuals who will be eligible for consideration under deferred action.

Regarding the criterion that a person must be younger than 31 years old, the updated guidelines released earlier this month specify that the individual needed to be younger than 31 as of the June 15, 2012, announcement date.

Regarding the criterion that a person must have graduated from high school or received a GED, the updated guidelines indicate that an individual who is currently enrolled in high school or a GED program will also be eligible for consideration.

With these changes, immigration experts have begun to wonder how the numbers of qualified individuals would change.

“So with that additional guidance from the Department of Homeland Security, that means that our estimates have increased by 350,000 unauthorized immigrants,” said Michelle Mittelstadt, communications director for the Migration Policy Instutute.

The new estimate indicates that up to 1.26 million immigrants may be currently eligible to remain in the United States under the deferred action initiative, with as many as 500,000 more individuals becoming eligible in the future, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The MPI report also indicates that roughly half of the individuals who could benefit from deferred action live in the southwestern area of the United States.

Many prospective applicants were also wondering what will happen if their request for consideration for deferred action was denied. The new DHS guidelines specify that information will remain confidential in most cases.

USCIS will not use the information contained in the request for Immigration Enforcement purposes unless the individual has been convicted of a criminal offense, has engaged in fraud in this process, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, director of USCIS.

Ohio May Make E-Verify Mandatory

Tue, Aug 7 1:49 PM by Romona Paden

Ohio may require employers to use E-Verify, an online computer system, to check whether their new hires are legally allowed to work in the United States. 

Businesses in Ohio may soon be required to use E-Verify to check the legal status of their new hires, according to the Dalton Daily News.

E-Verify is an online system that allows employers to check whether their new employees are legally allowed to work in the United States – as United States citizens or individuals with proper work authorization – by comparing the information given on I-9 forms to a government database of Social Security numbers, immigration records and passport records.

The system is available to businesses free of charge, yet the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act mandates that employers are not allowed to use it to screen job applicants before offering them a job.

“It gives employers a high level of confidence that the people they have hired are actually authorized to work,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies with the Center for Immigration Studies. “It’s just another way to ensure that your employees are who you think they are.”

Although the E-Verify program is currently voluntary in the state, businesses may soon be obligated to use the program. Rep. Courtney Combs has co-sponsored a bill that would require all employers in Ohio to use E-Verify. He said he believes that many Americans are in desperate need of jobs, and the bill will ensure that the jobs available are going to legal applicants, reported the source.

“I don’t have anything at all against immigration or immigrants if they come here legally,” Combs told the source. “It’s a straightforward bill that says if you are here legally, then fine, you can work here, but if you are here illegally, you can’t.”

About 5,466 employers in Ohio have already adopted the system voluntarily. Current stats demonstrate an 80 percent increase in use of the program over the past three years.

Deferred Action to Begin August 15, 2012

Fri, Aug 3 3:33 PM by Romona Paden

Individuals who are in the United States illegally, and meet certain criteria, will be able to request consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals starting on August 15, 2012.The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that the implementation date for deferred action will be August, 15, 2012, at which time the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin reviewing requests by applicants.

The announcement comes after Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, introduced the program on June 15, 2012, stating that individuals who entered the United States illegally as children and meet other strict criteria may be eligible to receive deferred action. USCIS will be reviewing requests on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to the date, in a national media call on August 3, 2012, DHS shared the following new information about requesting consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals:

1. Requestors who have already been issued removal proceedings, received final orders, or who have never been in removal proceedings, will all be able to request consideration with USCIS.

2.  Requestors will fill out a form specifically developed for this purpose.

3. Requestors will send their deferred action request, an application for an employment authorization document, and all necessary payments together in the mail to the appropriate USCIS lockbox.

4. All requestors will provide biometrics and submit themselves for background checks.

5. Requestors will not request a fee waiver for the application for employment authorization and biometric collection. Fee exemptions will be available to select requestors in limited circumstances.

6. All four USCIS Service Centers will review requests.

Individuals should not start requesting consideration of deferred action prior to the August 15 start date, as all requests submitted early will be immediately rejected.

USCIS is still finalizing the process that will allow potentially eligible individuals to request consideration, and plans to release additional relevant information on August 15, 2012.  

Several Communities Profit off Illegal Immigration

Wed, Mar 14 6:04 PM by Romona Paden

Several private United States prisons have advocated for more stringent immigration laws because they will accrue larger profits from them. Many states have instituted their strict immigration laws because they believe that undocumented residents are living at the expense of the taxes paid by those with U.S. citizenship. However, it seems that many neighborhoods and businesses in the United States have actually made large profits from their illegal immigrant population.

According to Fox News, Escondido, California, law enforcement has recently been accused of utilizing its highway checkpoint operations to profit from illegal immigrants. The city, which sits about approximately 72 miles north of the Mexico border, originally installed these checkpoints to better catch drunk drivers and drivers who don't have proper licenses.

However, a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union, "Wrong Turn: Escondido's Checkpoints and Impound Practices Examined," uncovered information that points to these checkpoints' more sinister usage. Data collected from documentary journalist John Carlos Frey found that the city will often target Hispanic-looking drivers and will then check them for their proper identification and immigration forms. Individuals who cannot show this type of documentation will then often have their car impounded and towed away. Although California laws state that no city can charge tow companies more than the actual costs of the city's expenses for the tow, Frey's uncovered data showing that this may be occurring in Escondido.

Sadly, this type of profiteering operation isn't the first of its kind. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, many private jails have been making large profits off of illegal immigrants for several years. Private prisons, which are by nature for-profit businesses, currently hold 10 percent of inmates nationwide. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency pays these private prisons approximately $90 per day, per prisoner.

One of the largest, the Corrections Corporation of America, has been accused of pushing for policies that will make it more money, including but not limited to more stringent immigration detainer policies, according to Bloomberg.

Lawsuit Challenges Asylum EAD Clock Procedures

Thu, Dec 22 6:24 PM by Romona Paden

The American Immigration Council's Legal Action Center recently filed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, the Executive Office for Immigration Review and top immigration authorities, including Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. The suit was filed on behalf of a group of asylum seekers alleging they have been improperly denied the right to work due to flawed bureaucratic processes.

At issue is a mechanism known as the asylum EAD clock. Under U.S. law, immigration authorities have six months to review and render a decision on asylum applications. If the application has not been accepted or denied at the end of this 180-day period, the asylum seeker has the right to an Employment Authorization Document in order to secure work and support him or herself while the application is pending. According to the AIC lawsuit, the defendants have instituted unconstitutional policies regarding when that 180-day waiting period begins and ends – in effect stopping and starting the asylum EAD clock improperly.

According to the lawsuit, immigration agencies have no uniform system for notifying asylum applicants when their asylum EAD clock has started or been stopped, or for informing them as to the reasons for these stoppages. In addition, some members of the class are suing the defendants for the practice of starting the 180-day countdown after the first immigration court hearing and not after the filing of the complete asylum application. Other plaintiffs are suing the defendants for not restarting the clock after it had been stopped for legal reasons that were subsequently resolved.

As a result of the improper administration of the asylum EAD clock, the plaintiffs allege they have been denied the chance to work, in some cases for years. One plaintiff is a Chinese immigrant who filed his asylum application in 2003.

According to the USCIS website, EADs are automatically granted upon approval of asylum applications, and asylees can also begin the process of obtaining a Social Security card by filling out immigration form I-94.

USCIS Event to Raise Awareness of Immigration Scams

Wed, Nov 30 7:48 PM by Romona Paden

A USCIS-organized event in Newark will draw attention to ways immigrants can get help with immigration forms and avoid scams.The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency will host an event in Newark on December 1, bringing together some of the state's immigration advocates to address the issue of scams perpetrated against immigrants.

The event will address such issues as internet fraud aimed at immigrants, common scams to watch out for and ways to avoid being defrauded, the Bergen Record reported. Representatives from groups such as the Federal Trade Commission, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Metchuen will be in attendance.

Legal complaints have recently been filed against a number of New Jersey companies that officials say falsely advertised they had legal authorization to prepare U.S. immigration forms for clients, according to the Record. In June, complaints were filed against three companies, and four more complaints were lodged in September.

"This is not a new problem, but it's a different way for us to fight it," Katie Tichacek Kaplan, a USCIS public affairs officer, told the Record. "The big part of the issue is to bring awareness, and find ways to reach out to these different immigrant communities, who are the people most affected."

The Newark event is part of The Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law Initiative launched by the USCIS in conjunction with other federal agencies. The initiative's webpage on the USCIS site lists several common scams to watch out for, and warns immigrants in need of help with document preparation to avoid businesses advertising themselves as "notarios." While "publico notario" is a term used to denote skilled legal professionals in many Spanish-speaking countries, the term is often used by scammers to dupe victims in the United States.

Gustavo Ramirez, executive director of the Immigration & American Citizenship Organization, said he often works with immigrants who have been victimized by "notarios," and told the Record he is glad the December 1 event will shine a light on this and other forms of fraud. 

Husband of Minnesota Woman Dies While Waiting for Immigration Waiver

Tue, Nov 29 4:59 PM by Romona Paden

A man was killed while waiting in El Salvador for a waiver to join his American wife and baby daughter in Minnesota.Prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, illegal immigrants who married a U.S. citizen could pay a fine to obtain legal residency status, but this provision of visa law expired; now, illegal immigrants who marry a citizen often must return to their home country in order to obtain documentation to legally live and work in the States. Alyssa Garcia, a 26-year-old woman from Hibbing, Minnesota, believes this requirement led to the death of her husband.

Alyssa married Charlie Garcia, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, in 2009, according to Minnesota Public Radio. Garcia told Alyssa that he had entered the country without the proper documentation in 2000, when he was 19. At the time he and Alyssa married, he was facing deportation.

Because he had originally entered the country illegally, Garcia was told he would have to return to El Salvador and apply for a waiver stating his absence created a hardship on his American spouse, MPR reported. If granted, the waiver would allow him to return to the United States. Garcia did not want to go back to El Salvador, fearing the pervasive gang violence there, but he left his wife and newborn daughter and returned to his country of birth.

The news source reported many illegal immigrants who marry U.S. citizens expect it will be easy to obtain a green card, and are surprised upon learning they are required to first leave the country. A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency spokesman told MPR it can take between a few weeks to over a year for spousal waivers to be processed.

While waiting for his waiver to go through, Garcia was killed in gang-related violence in El Salvador, MPR reported.

Melissa Sundvall, Alyssa Garcia's mother, blames her son-in-law's death on U.S. immigration law and the agencies that enforce it, telling MPR he was made to stay in El Salvador too long.

Clay Riggsbee and his wife, Cam Giang Tran Thi, blame the vagaries of the visa application process for the death of their child, according to South Carolina ABC affiliate WPDE. While Thi was in Vietnam struggling to obtain a K-1 fiancee visa, the couples' daughter contracted hand, foot and mouth disease and, unable to travel to the United States for medical care, the girl died. 

USCIS Raising Awareness of Immigration Scams

Fri, Nov 11 6:26 PM by Romona Paden

USCIS has stepped up a campaign to fight scams defrauding immigrants of money.The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency has stepped up its efforts to fight immigration scams through the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law initiative.

Under this program, USCIS partnered with other federal agencies to raise public awareness regarding immigration scams. The USCIS website includes a list of common scams, including a scheme in which a local business will "guarantee" it can obtain a green card, visa or employment authorization document and charge an exorbitant fee for filing U.S. immigration forms that USCIS will process free of charge. The website also cautions immigrants to distrust businesses that reference the Immigration and Naturalization Services agency, which no longer exists, and to be skeptical about businesses or individuals advertising themselves as "notarios."

Reporting recently on the USCIS initiative, western Massachusetts NBC affiliate WWLP spoke to Monica Vaca of the Federal Trade Commission about the issue of notarios.

"In Spanish, a notario publico is somebody who has a high degree of specialization in law," Vaca told WWLP. "Sometimes people exploit the term notario to make people believe that they are in fact lawyers when in fact they are not lawyers at all."

USCIS and other state and federal agencies are also encouraging immigrants who have been defrauded to report the crime. A U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson told WWLP that those who report immigration scams should not fear deportation.

The USCIS website includes a list of places in each state where victims can report scams. According to the site, many states facilitate anonymous tips.

In September, the Des Moines Register reported on a scam being perpetrated in Iowa. The scheme involved legal assistants who went door-to-door offering work permits for $500. The fraudsters obtained the permits by getting victims to file asylum claims, since asylum applicants receive work permits while they wait for rulings on their petition. However, if asylum requests are denied, the applicants face potential deportation. 

Alabama Law Generates New Paperwork for Businesses

Mon, Nov 7 6:38 PM by Romona Paden

Alabama's immigration law has created extra paperwork for business owners.Many U.S. immigrants are all too familiar with the sometimes complicated paperwork needed renew green cards, obtain permanent residency status or start the naturalization process. Under a new law in Alabama, some U.S. business owners are now encountering the same sorts of difficulties when it comes to filling out and reviewing immigration forms.

After attending a teleconference in which an attorney explained Alabama's immigration law, HB 56, office manager Paige Gray told The Associated Press she will go through all the forms submitted by her company's immigrant workers to make sure they are legally authorized for employment. Other area businesspeople also told the source the law has created a burden of paperwork. Steve Turkokski, a project manager with a local chamber of commerce, told the AP he has been taken aback by how complicated the law is.

In an effort to clarify what Alabama businesses need to do to comply with HB 56, organizations like the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama have been hosting information sessions and other educational events around the state. Not only does the law include many different provisions that impact businesses, but parts of the law have been put on hold by federal courts, adding to uncertainty about compliance, according to the AP.

One of the finer points of the law: Businesses that work with government agencies need to start using the E-Verify database to confirm the citizenship status of new employees starting in January, while other businesses have until April. This and other measures have some business owners frustrated and anxious, but the stakes are high, given that the state can revoke business licenses of enterprises not in compliance.

The law's paperwork requirements have already impacted residents. Shortly after HB 56 took effect, long lines developed at Alabama's department of motor vehicles offices, which are now required to establish the immigration status of every car tag renewal applicant. The September tag renewal deadline had to be extended.
 

Des Moines Conference to Empower Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Thu, Nov 3 5:27 PM by Romona Paden

A November 12 conference in Des Moines, Iowa, will focus on entrepreneurial opportunities for immigrants.Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad will be the keynote speaker at the Immigrant Entrepreneurs Summit scheduled to take place on the Drake University campus in Des Moines on November 12.

The fourth annual summit is expected to attract about 700 participants from 40 countries, who will attend speeches and seminars on 15 topics related to starting and growing a business in the United States, the Des Moines Register reported.

Summit founder Ying Sa, owner of a Des Moines-based accounting firm, told the paper that equipping immigrants with the knowledge needed to start businesses can help spur economic growth. She pointed out that the conference's seminars, such as "How to Turn a Business Idea into a Green Card," address practical issues, including how to fill out immigration forms related to business matters.

Sa told the Register the young conference already seems to have made a positive contribution to the state's economy, as 125 Iowa businesses were started by first-generation immigrants in the year after the first conference in 2008.

At this year's conference, speakers and panelists will address a variety of topics, including the EB-5 foreign investor green card program, L-1 intra-company transfer visas and E-2 non-immigrant investor visas.

Another Iowa community is also taking steps to improve its services to immigrant residents. In September, the city council of Iowa City reviewed Human Rights Commission recommendations for how to make the city friendlier to immigrants. Iowa City is poised to enact these recommendations, including improving immigrant access to municipal services and clarifying what identification law enforcement officers can ask residents to furnish in various situations, such as during a traffic stop.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, 2,198 immigrants were naturalized in Iowa in 2009, up from 1, 465 in 2002. 

USCIS Awards $9.1 Million in Grants

Mon, Sep 26 9:56 AM by Romona Paden

USCIS has awarded more than $9 million in grants to organizations helping people become U.S. citizens.The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency recently awarded $9.1 million in grants to 42 organizations that provide preparation services for permanent residents seeking naturalization.

This was the third year of the USCIS Citizenship and Integration grant program. In 2009, USCIS awarded $1.2 million to 13 organizations. Last year, the agency awarded $8.1 million to 56 organizations. The program is competitive, and the 2011 grant recipients were chosen from more than 300 applicants.

Three national organizations – the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and the International Rescue Committee – were given money to increase their long-term capacity to provide citizenship instruction and naturalization application services. Twenty-eight locally based organizations were given grants for the same purpose, and 11 locally based organizations that provide citizenship instruction only were awarded money.

The grant recipients provide services to about 20,000 permanent residents, according to USCIS. The awarded organizations are located in 27 states, including the 10 states USCIS identifies as having the largest permanent resident populations and the 19 states with the most naturalizations annually.

Kansas is not among those states with the most yearly naturalizations, but nonetheless, 99 people from 44 countries recently became citizens in a ceremony at the University of Kansas, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.

Immigration Forms Will Soon Look Different

Mon, Aug 29 4:06 PM by Romona Paden

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently announced it will make changes to immigration and citizenship forms to pave the way for electronic filing.

The affected documents include citizenship and naturalization forms, employment authorizations, asylum requests, permanent resident documents and others, according to a 43-page entry in the Federal Register. As of November 28, 2002, these documents will no longer be labeled with form numbers, to enable electronic filing procedures. However, DHS says it will continue to refer to these forms by number on its website.

Some immigration forms currently include descriptions of how the form is processed or instructions for filing, and these will also be removed. DHS says it will institute “more flexible methods of conveying instructions.” Certain documents will be revised for clarity or to correct out-of-date information.

In the Federal Register, DHS reiterated its commitment to an electronic filing system for immigration-related matters. The department said  its objectives are to enhance security by streamlining file sharing among agencies, make the system more user-friendly and improve efficiency. A recent GovernmentExecutive.com report said the e-filing project’s initial $535 million budget has already run to $630 million, while the completion date has been rolled back from 2013 to 2022.

Immigration Agency Denies Gay Couple's Petition

Tue, Aug 9 5:24 PM by Romona Paden

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently denied permanent residency to an Australian man, Anthony Makk, whose same-sex spouse, Bradford Wells, is a U.S. citizen.

Makk and Wells have lived together for nearly two decades and were married seven years ago in Massachusetts. However, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act denies immigration benefits to same-sex couples. USCIS cited this law in rendering a decision against Makk’s application for an I-130 visa, which would grant him permanent residency as the spouse of a U.S. national. Unless the decision is reversed, Makk must leave the country by August 25.

Wells told the San Francisco Chronicle that as an AIDS patient, he relies on extensive medical insurance and essential care he receives in this country, making a move to Australia with Makk impossible.

Earlier this year, the White House declared it will no longer defend DOMA in court, though the U.S. Justice Department would continue to enforce the law.

A spokeman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, told The Chronicle the congresswoman will work to overturn the USCIS ruling.

Last March, same-sex couples cheered when USCIS announced a suspension of deportation cases involving gay citizens with immigrant spouses. However, shortly after its announcement, USCIS clarified the suspension would only last a few weeks, until a specific legal matter was settled. 

California Unions Speak Out Against I-9 Audits

Fri, Jul 22 8:51 AM by Romona Paden

Bay area labor unions in California are demanding that the Obama administration cease its increased practice of auditing business payroll systems in order to find workers who may be illegal immigrants, according to The Oakland Tribune.

Leaders from several unions claim that Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials are damaging immigrant families and local economies by demanding that employers share their workers' citizenship information. The newspaper said investigators are finding the legal status of employees via Social Security numbers and green cards supplied to businesses during the hiring process. In the case of illegal immigrants, those documents are usually forged, allowing immigration officials to use I-9 audits to determine which employees are legal US residents.

ICE has drastically increased its use of I-9 audits. A New York Times investigation found that the agency audited 1,444 businesses in 2009, almost triple the number audited in 2008. In 2010, the agency audited 2,196 businesses.

"These are silent raids," said Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente. "We know that this country was built by immigrants. These workers should have some rights."

While the media outlet reports that audits do not usually lead to deportation for illegal workers, it usually ends with them being terminated from their position.

There are approximately 11 million illegal immigrants living and working in the US, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Government to Fund Ad Campaign for US Citizenship

Wed, Jun 1 2:35 PM by Romona Paden

The federal government plans on running a national advertising campaign aimed at encouraging more immigrants to apply for US citizenship, according to The Associated Press.

The multilingual campaign will run in print, radio and digital mediums between May 30 and Labor Day. The news source said the advertisements will run primarily in states with large immigrant populations such as Florida, Texas, New York and California.

"You've got to create that sense of urgency, and until they've reached that sense of urgency, they'll just coast," said Nathan Stiefel, the division chief of policy and programs for the Office of Citizenship at US Citizenship and Immigration Services, told the source.

There are approximately 7.9 million legal immigrants in the US who are eligible to apply for naturalization but haven't done so. Steifel told the source that about 64 percent of immigrants eventually naturalize, although it usually takes them almost 10 years to do so.

Permanent residents who would like to apply for citizenship must submit a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to the agency's website.

USCIS Creates I-9 Central

Tue, May 24 4:59 PM by Romona Paden

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it has launched a new online resource center where users can access the most frequently used form on the agency's website.

The page, which is called I-9 Central , is dedicated to explaining the I-9, Employee Eligibility Verification form. It also provides both employees and their employers with simple tips and guidance to help the efficiency of the Form I-9 process.

"I-9 Central is the latest in our ongoing efforts to better serve the 7.5 million employers who use Form I-9 every time they hire an employee," said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas.

The website includes sections about employer and employee rights and responsibilities, information on documents needed to establish employment authorization and comprehensive instructions on how to fill out the form. It will also discuss common mistakes that applicants should avoid and instructions on how to fix any errors.

To complete an I-9 form, those who are not US citizens must possess documents such as a Permanent Resident Card, a foreign passport that contains a temporary I-551 stamp on an immigrant visa, or an Employment Authorization Document that contains a photo, according to the USCIS website.

USCIS changes immigration document mailing set up

Tue, May 3 5:10 PM by Romona Paden

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it has completely implemented a change to the way it mails out important immigration documents.

The federal agency said that the Secure Mail Initiative (SMI) has been implemented and it will utilize US Postal Service (USPS) Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation. This change will ensure that immigration documents are not only delivered in a secure fashion but also that they arrive in a timely manner, according to the USCIS.

SMI will allow those waiting for important immigration documents – such as permanent residence cards and employment authorizations – to track their packages using the Post Office's tracking system. It will also get these US green cards and other documents to their intended recipients. According to a release from the USCIS, post sent as USPS Priority Mail usually arrives two to four days sooner than first-class mail.

The USCIS said in its release that those waiting for immigration documents should wait at least two weeks after they get their approval notices to contact the agency for further information.

USCIS makes interim documentation rule for Form I-9 permanent

Mon, Apr 25 5:14 PM by Romona Paden

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced that it would adopt an interim rule as a final rule that affects the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process.

According to a release from the federal agency, the rule will help improve the integrity of the Form I-9 process. The interim rule has been in effect since April 3, 2009, and included a number of provisions designed to improve the process.

Specifically, the changes made by the rule include barring employers from accepting expired documentation and updating the list of documents that can be accepted. This latter provision was accomplished by making technical changes and by removing outdated documents from the list.

There are three sections of documents that can be provided to an employer and these are List A documents, showing identity and employment authorization; List B documents, which only concern identity; and List C documentation, showing only employment authorization, according to the USCIS.

In addition, the new rule added documents that can be used by certain citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Island and the Federated States of Micronesia.

There was an extended period of public comment for the interim rule and it produced 75 responses, according to the USCIS release.

Filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker

Fri, Mar 25 4:00 PM by Romona Paden

Program launched to help workers check employment eligibility

Tue, Mar 22 3:27 PM by Romona Paden

The federal government recently announced the creation of E-Verify Self Check, which seeks to allow people to check their work eligibility themselves.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas announced the creation of the program, which will also allow workers to submit corrected data to both the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

"E-Verify is a smart, simple, and effective tool that allows us to work with employers to help them maintain a legal workforce," Napolitano said. "The E-Verify Self Check service will help protect workers and streamline the E-Verify process for businesses."

Worker eligibility has been an important subject in recent months as a number of businesses, including restaurant chain Chipotle, have had to fire hundreds of employees after immigration audits found that the workers were not eligible to work in the US.

The E-Verify Self Check will consist of a four-part process: users enter identity information, users confirm their identity by answering financial and demographic questions, users enter work eligibility information such as an Alien Registration number and then the program checks the information against DHS and SSA records to determine work eligibility status.

Renewing a green card

Thu, Mar 10 4:49 PM by Romona Paden

Green cards grant permanent resident status to individuals but even if one follows all the responsibilities that come with this status, the card must typically be renewed every 10 years.

Those who should renew are usually green card holders with a Form I-551, which is valid for a decade. After 10 years, or within six months of the 10-year period, individuals should file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card either online or via mail.

Once this form is filed, applicants can check their status either at the website of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or by calling the USCIS National Customer Service Center.

Those who are abroad when their green card will expire but have not applied for a renewal prior to their departure should contact the closest USCIS office, American port of entry or US Consulate before filing Form I-90.

Those who are not permanent residents and have conditional resident status should not follow these instructions and should instead file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence, to attempt to have their status changed.

USCIS to close Vietnam office

Wed, Mar 9 5:08 PM by Romona Paden

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced that its office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, will close permanently at the end of March.

The office will officially close its doors on March 31, 2011, but it will stop accepting petitions and applications on March 25, according to a release. After that date, such documents may be submitted to the US Department of State Consular Section at 4 Le Duan Street, District 1.

This office will then forward all applications and petitions to the USCIS Field Office in Bangkok, Thailand.

According to the American Immigration Law Foundation, immigration from Vietnam began to take off in earnest following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. A number of these immigrants came to America as refugees. From 1981 to 2000, the US took in more than 531,310 refugees from Vietnam, according to the foundation.

The 2000 Census found that there were 1,223,736 Vietnamese Americans and some analyses estimated that by 2010, such people would be the second largest Asian group in the US behind the Chinese. Current figures have Vietnam as the fifth largest such population.
 

USCIS proposes new rule for H-1B visa petitions

Fri, Mar 4 5:50 PM by Romona Paden

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced a proposed new rule that affects employers hoping to file H-1B visa petitions for foreign employees in specialty occupations.

The federal agency hopes to accomplish this by establishing an advanced registration process for the petitions. It hopes that the move will save American businesses $23 million over the next 10 years.

The rule would hope to save this money by making the petition process more efficient, in part by making it electronic.

"The proposed rule would create a more efficient and cost-effective process for businesses interested in bringing workers in specialty occupations to the United States," USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas said. "Improving the H-1B petition process is part of USCIS’s ongoing efforts to leverage new ideas and innovation to streamline our operations and enhance customer service."

Mayorkas said that there will be a 60-day comment period for the public and businesses to give input on the proposal.

The USCIS estimates that the new process will only take about 30 minutes for businesses to complete.

The naturalization process for spouses of US citizens

Thu, Mar 3 6:16 PM by Romona Paden

There are a number of ways for people to embark on the naturalization process with one of the most common being by being married to a US citizen.

Section 319(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) states that those who have been a permanent resident of the US for three years and have been married to the same American citizen during that period may be eligible for naturalization.

There are some general eligibility requirements that one must meet in order to qualify for the naturalization process and they include: being at least 18 years old, living in the same state or administrative district for three months prior to filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, being able to speak, read and write English and having a good understanding of US civics and the constitution.

In addition, people applying for naturalization must be of "good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law," according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Getting a replacement green card

Thu, Feb 24 4:26 PM by Romona Paden

Losing any type of important document can be a pain but for legal residents of the US, losing one’s green card can be especially hard.

However, the process for replacing a green card is relatively simple. One need only to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card either electronically or by mail.

The most typical reason for having to replace one’s green card is that the permanent resident document has been lost, stolen or accidentally destroyed. However, there are a number of other reasons why one might need a replacement green card.

One reason for this would be if the green card was issued before one was 14 years old, he or she must get a new green card after they turn 14 if the card does not expire before their 16th birthday. Another reason would be if one was a commuter and is now taking up permanent residence in the US, or vice-versa.

Other common reasons why one might need to file Form I-90 would be if his or her green card has incorrect information or if one’s circumstances have changed and the information on their current green card is now incorrect.

Applying for a green card as a refugee

Tue, Feb 15 12:41 PM by Romona Paden

There are many routes to obtaining a US green card such as through a job offer or through family but permanent resident status can also be obtained if one is a refugee.

Those who are admitted to America as refugees must apply for a green card one year after they are admitted into the country. To be eligible for such a green card applicants must have lived in the US for one year and have not have had their refugee status terminated.

Then refugees seeking permanent residency in the US must file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Two photos should accompany the form per its instructions.

In addition, Form G-325A, Biographic Information and I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record might have to be filed. The latter only need be filed in full, if at the time of admission as a refugee medical grounds for admissibility were noted or if the applicant was admitted using Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition.

Evidence of refugee status and any information regarding a name change must also be submitted by refugees seeking a US green card.

Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative may also need to be filed.

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