Immigration Lawyer Portland

On July 17th, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration must accept new applications for DACA, a program started by former President Obama to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. A month ago, the Trump administration attempted to completely end the DACA program, but this order was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court on the basis that the administration did not provide sufficient justification for ending the DACA program.

The DACA program applies to undocumented immigrants who were younger than 16 years old when they came to the country and who were 30 years old or younger as of June 2012. Under the program, immigrants would receive a renewable, two-year work permit. USCIS has been renewing the DACA status for about 650,000 immigrants, but rejecting all new applicants since Trump took office.

In his 4-page order, U.S. District Court Judge Paul Grimm announced that the DACA program will return to its “pre-September 5, 2017 status,” which refers to the pre-Trump era when any eligible immigrant had the opportunity to apply to the program.

Judge Paul Grimm wrote, “Defendants [including the Department of Homeland Security] and their agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and all persons in active concert or participation with any of them, are ENJOINED from implementing or enforcing the DACA rescission and from taking any other action to rescind DACA.”

It is uncertain whether many will apply for the DACA program, as this requires releasing identifying information to officials who are serving an administration that has been increasingly hostile towards immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland and Security (DHS) is currently reviewing the ruling. Amidst uncertainty, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, Ali Noorani, noted: “Ignoring this decision puts the administration directly at odds with the rule of law, and leaves DREAMers steeped in even more uncertainty about their futures.”

From the Supreme Court down, the courts have supported the decision for the DACA program to remain and to open for new applicants. The decision to restore DACA to a pre-Trump era will allow around 300,000 young and eligible immigrants to apply.

Immigration Lawyer Portland Oregon Marriage Green Card

Can I still sponsor my Spouse, Parent, or Child for a Green Card during Covid-19?

As COVID-19 disrupts immigration services and proceedings in the U.S., many citizens wonder if they can still petition their relatives. Yes!—if you are a U.S. citizen of at least 21 years of age, you can still sponsor your spouse, parent, or child for a Green Card during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Steps to take to sponsor an alien immediate relative

U.S. Green Cards allow foreign nationals to permanently reside and work in the United States.

While all USCIS in-person activities, including in-person interviews, have been temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic until June 4th, measures U.S. citizens must take to sponsor a relative for a Green Card are not be impacted by the USCIS office closures. While green card applicants and petitioners can wait until the response to COVID-19 is over, this is certainly not necessary and does not mean that the processing time will be any quicker.

First, the petitioner (the U.S. citizen sponsoring the foreign immediate relative) must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This form establishes the family relationship between the petitioner(s) and the applicant relative (the beneficiary).

Once Form I-130 is approved, an immigrant visa will be immediately available for the beneficiary. If the immediate relative is already in the United States, he or she can submit an Adjustment of Status applications to obtain permanent legal residency if he or she successfully passed an interview with a local USCIS field office. Note that these USCIS interviews thus far have been canceled and rescheduled. USCIS offices will send notices with instructions to applicants and petitioners with scheduled interview appointments impacted by this closure. Once normal operations are able to be resumed, they will automatically be rescheduled. Through this process, the beneficiary will not need to return to his or her home country.

If the immediate relative is abroad, the beneficiary will have an immigrant visa interview overseas at a U.S. Department of State consulate or embassy through Consular Processing. Again, if a beneficiary’s home country is impacted by COVID-19 closures, he or she must wait for their local interviews to be rescheduled.

While some marriage-based green card applicants have also been approved without interviews in the previous weeks, it is most likely that the interview process will not be waived, as it is important to screen cases for fraud.

Sometimes, a petitioner can file the I-130 with an application for permanent residence (Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) if they are sponsoring a spouse, an immediate relative parent, or an unmarried child under 21 years of age. After the I-485 is filed, beneficiaries may also apply for an I-765 work permit or a I-131 travel permit.

Note that non-immediate family relationships that qualify for sponsorship may also include Unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, spouses and children (F1), and Unmarried sons and daughters of permanent residents, Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents (F2A), Unmarried Sons and Daughters (21 years of age or older) of Permanent Residents (F2B), Married Sons and Daughters of U.S. Citizens (F3), and Brothers and Sisters of Adult U.S. Citizens (F4).

In these family cases, an immigrant visa will not be immediately available upon approval of form I-130, and depends upon the Visa Bulletin issued monthly by the Department of State. The Visa Bulletin indicates which green card applications can move forward based upon when Form I-130 was originally filed. The bulletin also offers an estimate for how long it will take to obtain a green card, based on how quickly “line” is moving at that time.

General Documents Needed for Sponsorship

The following documents are needed for a U.S. citizen to foreign national sponsor a spouse, child, or parent:

  • Proof of U.S. Citizenship (Certificate of Naturalization, the Biographic page of an American passport, or a copy of a green card).
  • Birth Certificate,
  • I-94 arrival-departure record (this can now be obtained online)
  • A marriage certificate for marriage-based green cards

Financial Sponsorship 

Petitioners who have filed the form I-130 must be financial sponsors to the beneficiary, meaning that they accept financial responsibility for the beneficiary. This also means that the petitioner must reimburse, or be reimbursed by, the government if the green card holder applies for certain public benefits. For the petitioner to qualify as a financial sponsor, he or she must submit a Form I-864 and list: the past three years of income, current income, proof of tax returns from the previous 3 years, W-2 statements, current pay-stubs, and an employment verification letter. The sponsor’s household size will be taken into account in light of his or her income, to ensure that they earn above the minimum income requirements.

Impacts of Covid-19 on Public Charge Rule for Green Cards

The Public Charge Rule continues to apply for Green Card applications. This rule has discouraged green card applicants from accessing healthcare in the past, but USCIS emphasizes that treatment or preventive services for the COVID-19 will not negatively affect any alien as part of a future Public Charge analysis. The USCIS stresses that it encourages all aliens with symptoms that resemble COVID-19’s to seek necessary medical attention. Here is a list of government benefits that are considered during the Public Charge assessment.

Important things to keep in mind for Green Card applications during COVID-19…

  • While many facilities are still closed, the State Department has this tool to crop a photograph of yourself that will satisfy the passport photo requirement. There are many websites online (such as this one) that also mail your photographs to your home address.
  • While normally, work and travel permits cannot be processed without a biometrics notice, USCIS has been reusing biometrics (i.e. the required submission of fingerprints and a digital photo) collected during previous applications.
  • USCIS has announced that it will temporarily accept filings with electronically-reproduced copies of original signatures instead of normally required “wet” signatures for all benefit forms and documents dated March 21 and beyond from both attorneys and applicants. So long as an original document contains an original handwritten signature, it can be scanned, faxed, photocopied or similarly reproduced.

Impact of Travel Proclamations on Immediate Relative Applicants Abroad? 

Keep in mind President Trump’s four COVID-19 Travel Proclamations (China Travel Proclamation; Iran Travel Proclamation; European Schengen Area Proclamation; Ireland and United Kingdom Proclamation). However, these do not apply to spouses of U.S. citizens, parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizens, and the children of U.S. citizens.

 

Immigration Lawyer Portland

USCIS Relaxed Immigration Policies during Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic

On March 18th, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services temporarily suspended in-person services in h­opes to slow the spread of COVID-19. USCIS plans to reopen offices on or after June 4th, 2020, unless there is an extension in public closures. USCIS continues to process green cards, work permits, asylum applications, and other paper-based requests. To adapt to new limited circumstances informed by COVID-19, USCIS has recently been flexible in certain immigration policies in order to avoid service delays and disruptions for the benefit of applicants and petitioners. Listed below are new relaxed policies and immigration flexibilities implemented by USCIS to accommodate for constraints caused by the pandemic.

Waiving Green Card Interviews
While family and employment-based green card applicants typically attend in-person interviews at USCIS field offices before their green cards are approved, these interviews have been canceled until at least June 3rd. However, there are wide reports that USCIS has relaxed this green card interview requirement for employment-based green card applicants during this pandemic as a means of avoiding dense delays in the future.

Note that no formal policy has been released by USCIS confirming that the interview requirement will be waived, but this appears to have been occurring as many employment-based green card applicants with canceled interviews have had their green card statuses approved. Because no formal statement has been released yet by USCIS, as of May 7th, there is no guarantee that this will be the case for all employment-based green card applicants, however, it seems that as long as all other documentation is present, USCIS will adjudicate permanent residence applications.

While some marriage-based green card applicants have also been approved without interviews, it is likely that the interview process will not be waived, because of the importance in screening cases for fraud. Note that this waiving of appointments does not apply to citizenship applications.

Reusing Previous Biometrics 

For extensions of benefits like work permits, USCIS will reuse biometrics (that is, required submission of fingerprints and a digital photo) collected during previous applications. Often, however, USCIS will issue original work permits without any new collection of biometrics, reusing previously-collected biometrics collected on other occasions, such as upon entry to the United States.

EAD Renewal Application Flexibilities 

In resonance with other biometric-related measures taken by USCIS to reduce delays in adjudication, USCIS announced flexibility for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) renewal applications by reusing prior biometrics for renewal applicants.

Relaxed “Wet” Signature Requirement  

USCIS has announced that it will temporarily accept filings with electronically-reproduced copies of original signatures instead of normally required “wet” signatures for all benefit forms and documents dated March 21 and beyond from both attorneys and applicants. USCIS has stated that it is safer for clients and attorneys to avoid in-person meetings. So long as an original document contains an original handwritten signature, it can be scanned, faxed, photocopied or similarly reproduced. USCIS may request copies of such original documents in the future, so employers are advised to retain copies. Note that USCIS does not allow any electronic signatures on its forms or petitions, so the petitioner or applicant must have access to a printer and a scanner to reproduce a signed paper form for USCIS filing. USCIS forms are protected from alteration, so even if the petitioner or applicant attempts to do so, they cannot be electronically signed.

Extensions of Certain Deadlines

USCIS has also extended the time by which applicants are able to respond to an RFE, NOID, NOIR, and NOIT if the notice was issued between March 1st and May 1st by a period of 60 days following the date of issuance.

Flexibility in the Visa Waiver Program
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many foreign nationals who were in the U.S. have been stranded and unable to leave. Normally, most individuals can visit the U.S. for a 90-day period without a visa according to the Visa Waiver Program. However, many of these foreign national travelers in the U.S. have overstayed their 90-day stays due to flight cancellations and the recent Presidential Proclamations that restrict entry from the Schengen Area countries, the U.K, and Ireland. CBP and USCIS are assisting travelers to obtain a supplementary 30-day extension called “Satisfactory Departure.” These foreign national individuals may request this extension from the USCIS by contacting the USCIS Contact Center.

Otherwise, such foreign nationals may request “Satisfactory Departure” by contacting the Deferred Inspection unit of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the international airport where they entered the country or the international airport closest to their current location. These extension processes are crucial for visitors who have overstayed their 90-day periods, because an overstay of this period completely will prevent visitors from utilizing the Visa Waiver Program in the future.

Immigration is constantly in the news lately, and the USCIS is constantly making changes that will impact legal immigration, for better or for worse.

What USCIS Changes are Being Made in 2020?

There are a number of changes in the books for 2020, some of which are designed to slow immigration and others to streamline the process:

  1. An increase in the forms which can be filed online.
  2. The introduction of an electronic registration system for the H-1B lottery in April, which will likely increase the number of petitions and thus decrease the percentage accepted.
  3. The USCIS is also tightening the rules for L-1 visas (used by multinational companies doing internal transfers). One company has already said that their refusal rate varies from 80% to 90%.
  4. Fees are going to increase significantly for certain key procedures. For example, the cost of a naturalization application will go up from $640 to $1,170.
  5. The naturalization test is under review and will be updated..
  6. The rules for what constitutes a “public charge” have been tightened when it comes to obtaining a green card or immigrant visa.
  7. The rules have also for asylum seekers requesting work permits, including increasing the waiting period.

How Will These Changes Impact Legal Immigrants?

Most of these changes will be a net negative for legal immigrants. The across-the-board increase in fees, some of which are significant, is likely the biggest deal. (Even asylum applications now have a $50 fee). In some cases, a hardship waiver can be requested; an immigration lawyer can often assist with this, especially for naturalization fees.

The tightened rules on employment visas are definitely going to make it harder both for immigrants and for companies seeking to hire them.

One major concern is the changes to the rules for what constitutes a “public charge.” In the past, most non-monetary benefits were excluded. The new rule defines public charge as somebody who receives one or more public benefits for more than 12 months in a 36 month period, including SNAP, most forms of Medicaid, Section 8. However, no less than thirteen states are challenging the new rules in court and they’re currently on hold pending the outcome of those suits. Again, this is definitely an area in which an immigration lawyer can be useful, especially for people with disabilities.

Asylum seekers are also hit hard. In addition to the fee, the work permit changes appear to be intended to discourage asylum seekers: The waiting period will be increased, applicants who entered illegally before seeking asylum will be denied, the permit will end immediately if the asylum application is denied and the 30-day deadline to rule on permit applications will be removed.

However, the ability to file most immigration forms online will make things a lot easier for many immigrants, especially those filing from outside the country (where postage can be expensive and wait times long).

How do These Changes Impact our Country?

It’s hard to predict. While it is definitely the case that tighter rules on work-based visas may improve the chances of a U.S. citizen getting work, in most cases these visas are granted either to people who are already doing the job or people with specialist skills after a legitimate attempt has been made to find a candidate who does not need to be relocated.

The current administration’s limits on refugees and asylum seekers are making the United States, to be blunt, look bad overseas, whilst pleasing those who worry about the cost of taking them in.

Why Call Immigration Law Group?

If you are a legal immigrant or attempting to immigrate legally, then navigating the rules is only becoming more complex with these changes. An immigration lawyer can help you with everything from getting high fees waived to proving you are financially self-sufficient in dealing with complex situations involving family connections.

With Immigration Law Group you can feel confident that you have the help you need to navigate the complex waters of U.S. immigration. Contact us today for an initial consultation.

Immigration laws are constantly changing and evolving. And these changes are making it increasingly difficult for individuals to understand the immigration process and what steps they need to take in order to apply for particular Visa’s, Green Cards, and U.S. Citizenship.  These new immigration policies have also made it extremely crucial for individuals to stay up to date on these latest trends and policy adjustments, as they can have a significant impact on immigrants’ access to public assistance programs. One of these new immigration developments has been the implementation of the “public charge” rule. To further understand what this rule is and how it affects those applying for a Green Card, continue to read below or contact our team at Immigration Law Group. We understand how critical it is to interpret these new policies, and we are here to help you. Our Portland-based attorneys are up to date on all the latest immigration changes and have helped hundreds of individuals going through the immigration process. Whether you are looking for information on how to obtain your Adjustment of Status, discuss your different Visa options, or need some answers regarding the latest immigration legal changes, contact our office today for more information.

What is the “Public Charge” Rule, and How Does it Affect those Applying for Green Cards?

Under the new “public charge” rule, green card applicants have to show that they will not become a public charge, which means that they won’t need any federal assistance to live in the United States. This rule includes those that are dependent on the government for their subsistence, those that use cash assistance programs, and those that need long-term care at the government’s expense.  Under this new provision, individuals that are applying for a Green Card in the United States could be denied if they become a public charge. This new rule will include two public charge provisions:
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will penalize those individuals that get certain federal benefits.
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will use the “totality of circumstances” test to determine who is a public charge. This test will review “heavily weighted negative factors” versus “heavily weighted positive factors.”
    • Heavily Weighted Negative Factors: This would include an application that is unemployed even though they may have employment authorization.
    • Heavily Weighted Positive Factors: This would include those applicants that have a household income at 250% of the federal poverty guidelines.

The “Public Charge” Rule’s Impact On Our Country

The “public charge” rule will come into effect on February 24, 2020, yet it has already created a lot of fear amongst immigrant communities. Many immigrant families in anticipation of this new provision have already begun disenrolling or refusing specific public programs that are necessary for them to thrive and survive. What’s more, the confusion that has resulted from this rule has had a chilling effect on all immigrant families, even those whose immigration status is not affected by this new provision. As this “public charge” rule becomes effective, the potential impacts on immigrants will be severe.  Not only will it prevent many immigrants from seeking Medicaid or other public benefits, which can have disastrous consequences on their family’s well-being, health, and financial security. But by limiting these benefits, it will prevent immigrants from getting and keeping their job, finishing their education, and taking care of their families. As these ramifications continue to grow, they will not only hurt the individual immigrant families and their communities but eventually, this policy will end up hurting our country as a whole.

Why Call Immigration Law Group?

As the precise impact of this policy is still relatively unknown, it comes as no surprise that this new rule brings with it a lot of uncertainty and questions.  With Immigration Law Group, we are here to guide you and help you understand not only how this new policy affects your Green Card status, but we are here to also assist you with any immigration question that you may have. If you would like further information on the “public charge” rule or need to discuss your individual immigration case, contact us today to set up an appointment.

New Public Charge Rule: What Documents do Green Card Applicants need now?

Since 1996, federal laws have stated that aliens must demonstrate self-sufficiency to be granted permanent legal status. The Supreme Court’s Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule, implemented on February 24th, 2020, revised the guidelines of determining whether an alien individual is admissible to the U.S. or eligible to obtain permanent legal status, based upon the likelihood of becoming a public charge. Consequently, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have the discretionary power to deny green cards to migrants with histories of using benefits. To decide whether an individual merits legal permanent resident status, USCIS will consider an alien applicant’s income, employment status, health, age, education, family circumstances, prospective immigration status, and prospective period of admission.

Applications for visas and lawful permanent residency processed at U.S. embassies and consular offices outside of the U.S. will operate under the February 24th regulations. All applicants who are not exempt from a public charge assessment must submit Form 5540 (Public Charge Questionnaire). USCIS officers have been directed to take Form DS-5540 into consideration before denying an alien’s application.

Green card applications, as of February 24th, 2020, must include:

1. Proof of Income of Applicant: this includes the most recent year’s IRS Tax Transcripts of the applicant’s Federal income tax returns (if applicable). If the green card applicant was outside the United States during the most recent tax year, he or she must provide the most recent year’s Foreign Tax Transcripts for income taxes filed with the government of the overseas country. If the green card applicant is not required to file federal taxes, he or she must file a W-2 statement or a Social Security Statement.

If the applicant has any additional non-taxable income (such as child support, unemployment benefits, etc…) not included in tax return, he or she must provide: statements or letters of proof of having received nontaxable income.

2. Proof of Income of Household Members (IF APPLICABLE): if the applicant currently lives with other household members (including a spouse, children, any individual receiving at least 50% of their support from the applicant or on whom an applicant relies for at least 50% support, etc…), then the applicant must provide all of his or her household members’ most recent year’s IRS Tax Transcripts of their Federal income tax returns, or the household members’ most recent year’s Foreign Tax Transcripts for income taxes filed outside the U.S.

Finally, if household members are not required to file federal taxes, the applicant must provide these members’ W-2 Statement or Social Security Statement.

The applicant must also provide evidence of his or her relationship with each household member, such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or a signed statement.

3. Evidence of Asset of Household (IF APPLICABLE): Assets include checking and savings account statements, stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, educational accounts, net cash value of real estate holdings, and other substantial assets that can be converted into cash within 12 months.

If the applicant or any of their household members own any assets, proof of the applicant’s or households’ assets must be provided, including: the name of the asset holder, description of the asset, proof of ownership, and basis for owner’s claim of its net cash value.

4. Proof of Liabilities/Debt (IF APPLICABLE): IF the applicant has liabilities or debt, he or she must provide documentation (letters or statements) for each liability and debt :
a. Such examples include Mortgages, Car Loans, Credit Card Debt, Education Related Losses, Tax Debts, Liens, Personal Loans, Unpaid Child or Spousal Support, Other Debts

5. Credit Score and Report (IF APPLICABLE): IF the applicant has a Credit Report or Credit Score in the U.S., he or she must provide a Credit Report from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion (go to: https://www.usa.gov/credit reports ). If the applicant has no Credit Report or Credit Score, he or she must provide evidence of continued payment of bills and provide documentation that he or she has no credit report with a U.S. credit bureau.

If the applicant has Negative History in his or her Credit Report (such as delinquent accounts, debt collections, tax liens, bankruptcy, etc…), he or she must provide a written explanation regarding each negative history item.

If the applicant has filed for bankruptcy, he or she must provide documentation to show every instance, type, place of filing, and date of the bankruptcy. The evidence of the resolution of each bankruptcy must also be filed if applicable.

6. Proof of Health Care Insurance (IF APPLICABLE): IF the applicant has health care insurance, he or she must provide a copy of the Insurance’s Policy Page that articulates the terms and type of coverage OR the applicant must provide a letter on the company letterhead/ evidence from the health insurance and provide the terms and type of coverage OR the applicant must provide the latest Form 1095-B (Health Coverage) and Form 1095-C (Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage) if available, with evidence of renewal of coverage for the current year.

If relevant, the applicant must also provide proof of Premium Tax Credit or Advanced Premium Tax Credit, with a transcript copy of the IRS Form 8963 Report of Health Insurance Provider Information, Form 8962 Premium Tax Credit (PTC), and a copy of Form 1095A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement.

If relevant, the applicant must also provide proof of the deductible or premium amount, with documentation.

If relevant, the applicant must also show documentation of the date of insurance termination or date of renewal.

If the applicant has enrolled in health insurance that has yet to start, he or she must provide proof of enrollment, such as a letter that includes the terms, type of coverage, name of the individual covered, and the date when the coverage begins.

If the applicant has a medical condition that will affect his or her circumstances of work, he or she must provide documentation that can outweigh negative factors related to the medical condition (this includes information provided by a civil surgeon or a panel physician on a medical examination, attestation from your treating physician regarding the prognosis of any medical condition and whether it impacts your ability to work or go to school, or evidence of sufficient assets and resources to pay the costs of any reasonably anticipated medical treatment).

7. Public Benefits Received (IF APPLICABLE): IF the applicant has received any Public Benefits, he or she must include evidence of that public benefit (such as a letter, notice, certification) that include the applicant’s name, the public benefit-granting agency’s name and contact information, type of benefit, date of authorization to receive the benefit, and the date benefit or coverage ended or expires. Such Public Benefits include: any local, state, federal, or tribal cash assistance for income maintenance; Supplemental Security Income; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Public Housing under the Housing Act of 1937; Federally funded Medicaid.

If the applicant has applied for a Public Benefit but been denied or rejected, he or she must provide documentation of denial or rejection.

If the applicant has disenrolled from a Public Benefit, he or she must
provide evidence of disenrollment or request to disenroll.

If the applicant has withdrawn from a Public Benefit, he or she must provide evidence demonstrating that the public benefit granting agency received your request to withdraw the application. The applicant may also provide evidence from a federal, state, local, or tribal agency administering a public benefit that shows that he or she does not qualify or would not qualify for such public benefit based on his or her annual gross household income or prospective immigration status.

8. Immigration Fee Waivers (IF APPLICABLE): IF the applicant has ever applied or received a fee waiver when applying for an immigration benefit AND the circumstances that caused an applicant to apply have changed, he or she must provide documentation to support any explanation of changed circumstances.

9. Education and Skills of the Applicant: IF an applicant is unemployed because he or she is the primary caretaker of a child/disabled individual/elderly, he or she must provide documentation showing that he or she is the primary caretaker (such as a legal guardianship court order), that the individual resides in the applicant’s household, and proof of the individual’s age/medical condition (if relevant).

If the applicant has graduated high school or obtained a tertiary level degree, he or she must provide transcripts, diplomas, degrees, certificates, or written explanation/letter issued from the institution as to why these documents are unavailable. Note that all foreign education should include an evaluation of equivalency to education or degrees acquired at U.S. educational institutions.

If the applicant has any occupational skills, he or she must provide a list of licenses for specific occupations/professions AND certificates documenting mastery or apprenticeships in skilled professions and trades.

If licenses/certificates are unavailable, the applicant must provide a written explanation and letter from the issuing institution to explain why these documents are unavailable.

If the applicant has completed courses and/or received any certifications in English or other languages, he or she must provide proof of language or literacy classes taken or currently being taken, or other proof of proficiency.

If the applicant is a speaker of English or another language, he or she must provide documentation of language proficiency including language certifications (such as high school diplomas and college degrees showing that the native language was studied for credit).

10. Proof of Retirement (IF APPLICABLE): IF an applicant is currently retired, he or she must provide documentation or statements of income from pensions, social security, and other retirement benefits.

New Public Charge Rule’s Impact on Green Card Applicants

Since February 24th, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has implemented the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds Final Rule nationwide. This public charge rule expands the grounds on which immigration enforcement officials can deny the acquisition of a green card or other legal status to noncitizen applicants, to ensure that individuals will not rely upon government benefits and services. Until February 24th, the use of most public benefits did not impede legal status in the United States. The new rules allow USCIS officials to penalize noncitizen recipients of housing, health, and nutrition welfare programs that are applying to change their legal status. However, because few benefit programs are open to noncitizens without legal permanent residence, few green card applicants are likely to be denied based on their benefit use. Notably, certain classes of individuals, such as refugees and asylum seekers, are exempt from the public charge ground of inadmissibility.

Note that Public Benefits that will not be considered by officers in determining an alien applicant’s inadmissibility on grounds of public charge are: emergency medical assistance, disaster relief, national school lunch programs, energy assistance, food pantries and homeless shelters, Head Start, government-subsidized student and mortgage loans, subsidies for foster care and adoption, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

This final rule applies to applicants for admission, aliens seeking to adjust their legal status from within the U.S., and aliens within the U.S. who have a nonimmigrant visa and would like to extend their stay in the same or different legal classification. This rule indicates that the Department of Homeland and Security (DHS) will not consider the receipt of public benefits received by an alien who is enlisted in the U.S. armed forces or is serving in active duty. Furthermore, DHS will not consider the public benefits received by children. Likewise, DHS will not consider Medicaid benefits received for the treatment of an emergency medical condition, services provided in connection to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, schools-based benefits provided to individuals who are below or at the oldest age eligible for secondary education, aliens under 21 years of age, and pregnant individuals or individuals within the 60-day period beginning on the last day of the pregnancy.

Significance for Green Card applicants:

The State Department’s revised public charge guidelines increase the difficulty in securing a green card or other form of visa. If a green card applicant is filing immigration paperwork from abroad he or she should expect significant scrutiny of past and present financial circumstances. While receiving cash benefits in the past can be a factor in the government’s decision, no single factor will dictate whether USCIS deems an individual a “public charge”. Immigration enforcement officers use their discretion to decide whether an applicant can receive legal permanent residence, using the following factors to determine whether an individual is likely to rely on public funds:

– Age: The final Supreme Court rule indicates that USCIS will consider whether an applicant’s age impacts his or her ability to physically work, and is therefore relevant to determining self-sufficiency. USCS has indicated that it is important that the applicant is between 18 and 62 years of age. This age range is based on the age at which individuals are generally able to begin working full-time and the age at which individuals typically retire with social security retirement benefits under federal law. Moreover, minors under 18 years of age are more likely to qualify for public benefits, and thus may be relevant to public charge inadmissibility. The regulation also acknowledges that applicants under 18 years of age or over 61 years of age may work or have other means of support. For minors under 18 years of age, USCIS will consider the availability of outside support form a parent and other resources and assets available to the minor applicant. USCIS says that it will be heavily negatively weighted if the applicant is authorized to work, not a full-time student, and does not demonstrate current employment, recent employment history, or any prospect of future employment.

– Health: USCIS will consider whether an applicant has a medical condition that will require extensive future treatment that will likely impede the applicant’s ability to work and provide for himself or herself. However, the presence of a medical condition does not automatically render an alien applicant inadmissible. USCIS officials will likely defer to Form 1-693 (civil surgeon’s medical report) that must be filed as a part of the application process. Officials will consider the medical condition through the lens of whether the medical condition will impede an alien’s ability to attend school and work. Applicants with a health condition should have evidence that they have or will obtain private health insurance to cover all associated foreseeable medical costs.

– Family Status: The final Supreme Court’s rule indicates that the larger the family’s size, the more income an applicant needs to establish. Thus, it is considered whether an alien applicant has a household to support, or whether the applicant is supported by another household, in order to determine whether the alien would be more or less of a public charge. Certainly, household size does not automatically dictate the outcome of a public charge admissibility determination, and officers look at other factors such as financial status.

– Financial status (including income, employment, assets, and resources): Perceived negative factors such as unemployment may contribute to additional questioning. Applicants must submit Form 1-944 (Declaration of Self-Sufficiency) to provide evidence of an annual gross income at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If an applicant cannot provide adequate evidence of sufficient income, his or her assets can be considered. These assets may pertain to the applicant or to any family member in the household. USCIS officers will also consider an applicant’s credit history and civil liabilities, including mortgages, spousal support, unpaid taxes, etc… The final rule provides that a household income, assets, and resources of at least 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines is a heavily weighed positive factor.

– Education and Skills: USCIS will consider whether an applicant has sufficient education and skills to obtain and maintain a lawful employment. Skills include English proficiency. Generally, aliens with educational credentials, certificates, and skills are more employable and thus less likely to become a public charge. Considering market demand, DHS may regard an applicant’s proficiency in other languages, along with English, when reviewing the education and skills factor.

– Affidavit of Support: Because an affidavit of support does not guarantee that an alien applicant will receive public benefits in the future, officers only consider the affidavit of support as one factor among all others. However, an applicant’s failure to submit a required affidavit of support will result in a determination of inadmissibility without review of other factors. USCIS considers whether a sponsor will genuinely provide the required amount of financial support to the alien applicant.

DHS notes that the following are positively weighed by USCIS: significant income, resources, and assets; or an annual income of at least 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Furthermore, DHS lists some heavily weighed negative factors that indicate an alien applicant’s likelihood of being a future public charge, which include: lack of employment, lack of financial means to pay for medical costs, current receipt of one or more public benefits, receipt of public benefits within 36 months of filing an application for legal permanent residency, and previous determination of inadmissibility or deportability based on public charge.

No-match letters

In the past, “no-match letters” created a lot of stress for employers, employees, and immigrants. After a lot of push back and lawsuits from immigration groups, businesses, and labor unions, the “no-match letters” were stopped. However, in recent months they have returned. With them came a lot of concerns about compliance issues and fears that they would once again indicate work authorization problems. However, their reinstatement came with specific policy changes that are important for employers and immigrants to know and understand.

What are “No-Match Letters”?

In 2019, the Social Security Administration again implemented the “no-match letters” also referred to as “employer correction requests.” These “no-match letters” are sent out by the Social Security Administration (SSA) when the Social Security number or the name on the employers Form W-2 does not match Social Security Administration records. 

How do “No-Match Letters” Impact the Social Security Administration?

The SSA began implanting these “no-match letters” to notify the employers and their workers of the discrepancy in terms of certain information. These letters also alerted specific employees that they were not getting the proper credit in terms of their earnings. This could affect their disability benefits and future retirement benefits. When employers receive “no-match letters,” they are advised to follow specific steps to address them and prevent future issues. These include:

  • The employer should register online through the agency’s system to discover which worker has the discrepancy.
  • Discuss issues with the indicated worker. Have them confirm the name and Social Security Number reflected in the employment records.
  • Give the worker a reasonable amount of time to contact the Social Security Administration and correct their records.
  • Discuss with the employee their efforts to address and resolve the issue.
  • Go over the employee’s specific documents that show that the discrepancy has been resolved.
  • Finally, submit any employer corrections to the Social Security Administration.

How Do They Affect Immigrants, the People, and the Country?

Previously, employers were able to use the “no-match letters” as constructive knowledge that employees were not authorized to work in the U.S. Therefore, they could fire them. However, with the policy changes, these actions are no longer allowed. According to the SSA, no adverse action should be taken on any employee indicated in the “no-match letter.” These adverse actions include firing, suspending, laying-off, or any discrimination against the individual. Further, the guidance provided by the agency states that the inclusion of an employee’s name on the “no-match letter” does not indicate the employee’s immigration status. All the “no-match letter” does is inform the employer and employee of a discrepancy in the files.

However, with the comeback of these “no-match letters,” it is imperative that employers implement a written policy and specific procedures on how they respond to the “no-match letters” they receive to prevent any unfair practices or any discrimination issues. They also need to apply the procedures consistently to all their workers and maintain specific records of their responses. 

Why Call Immigration Law Group?

With the country’s immigration policies continually evolving, it’s imperative to have a knowledgeable team that understands the immigration laws. With Immigration Law Group, you will have professionals that understand this evolving political climate. They will also walk you through any immigration problem or question that you have. If you would like to schedule a meeting to discuss an immigration issue or need an immigration question answered, contact the Immigration Law Group today.

good moral character

The path to U.S. naturalization is increasingly complex and filled with pitfalls; and many of them seem hopelessly murky as well. One recent change has been to the imposingly and confusingly named Title 8 Chapter 1 Subchapter C Part 316 section 316.10 “Good Moral Character.” It states that an applicant for naturalization must be a person of “good moral character”. But what is that?

8 CFR 316.10 is a legal document, and hard for lay readers to understand, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has provided a more readable format, available online.

What Is “Moral Character?” How Do They Know?

When USCIS speaks of “moral character”, they are not speaking of an individual being a generally good or nice person. “Moral character” actually means “law-abiding”. The burden of proof that an immigrant is and has been “law-abiding” rests on the immigrant. There are several categories of laws that will permanently bar someone from entering the U.S.

  • An individual who has been convicted of murder in another country is permanently barred from establishing “good moral character” necessary for immigration.
  • Torture, genocide, Nazi persecutions, violations of religious freedoms. These violations of the Hague Conventions, Geneva Conventions, and other international human rights conventions, will permanently bar an individual from entry into the U.S.
  • Aggravated Felonies. This last category is the most expansive, and the one with the largest number of changes as of January, 2020. Any individual charged with an aggravated felony after November 29, 1990 cannot establish “good moral character.”

What About Other Crimes?

The USCIS acknowledges that there are lesser offenses that many people may commit; and these are not absolute bars to admission to the U.S. Some of these are:

  • Crimes of “moral turpitude”. According to the USCIS manual, “moral turpitude “refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in general.” These crimes usually involve wanton recklessness or fraud.
  • Prostitution, controlled substance violations, polygamy, adultery. These may be bars to establishing good moral character, unless extenuating circumstances can be established.
  • Habitual drunkenness, multiple DUIs.

But What If It Wasn’t My Fault?

Most people relocate to America because conditions are better here than in their home country. The conditional bars to establishing good moral character acknowledge this with an exception for “purely political” arrests or incarcerations. An applicant must be able to show that political, religious, or racial motivations on the part of the government lay behind their arrests and convictions, and the exemptions are limited to:

  • Crimes of moral turpitude;
  • Conviction of two or more offenses with a combined sentence of five or more years;
  • Incarceration for a period of over 180 days.

For instance, an individual arrested in a sweep of religious minorities under a repressive regime, on trumped-up charges of sleeping with a political rival’s wife, or for demonstrating against the mistreatment of ethnic minorities in a nation that lacks protections for demonstrators, might be able to have this bar exempted.

But What Should I Do?

The burden is on the immigrant to show he or she was never arrested or convicted; an admittedly difficult bar, as it requires the individual to prove a negative. Modernly, immigrants should be aware that social media can be seen by everyone, and a casual comment, misunderstood statement, or similar name can lead to questions that cannot be answered.

Just as important, anyone who has an uncertain background must be prepared to answer any questions. If they are seeking permanent residence, they should seek legal advice early, and determine what is and is not likely to be an issue with USCIS.

Although the goal of the “good moral character” requirement is to ensure the new citizen measures up to the standards of their American community, they are weighed against the standards of the community of the nation they have left. Therefore, although adultery is a late-night comedian’s joke in the U.S., it can be a capital offense in some countries; and it is those judicial systems that the immigrant will be held to when answering the questions of the Immigration official.

Call Our Team!

Immigration Law Group will review your past history, locate any trouble spots, and help you determine the best way to negotiate the labyrinth of “good moral character” and come safely out the other side. Give us a call today!

non citizens and social media

Social media is ubiquitous these days, and while it can be a great way to communicate with family and friends, it’s important to keep in mind that it is largely public. Even with the use of privacy settings, DHS has used social media monitoring and vetting as a justification to approve or deny visas. They have even used social media vetting in order make determinations about citizenship. DHS now uses what they call a “shared social media screening service” to analyze data on non-citizens, and according to the Brennan Center they had prepared to screen approximately 15 million visitors’ social media accounts in 2019.

While many human rights groups are warning against the implications of curtailing free speech with such monitoring, and taking steps to advocate for better policies, it’s still important to take some precautions on social media. If you’re a non-citizen who is  active on social media, there are steps you can take to ensure that you’re better protected.

Social Media: Don’t Share Everything.

While many social media platforms will try to gather as much information on you as possible, you don’t need to answer every question. Certain fields are necessary for verification. You’re under no obligation to share the name of your middle school or other personal information you don’t want to disclose. It’s recommended to treat the “about me” section on social media as “optional”. If there is information that you don’t feel comfortable putting into a public space, don’t include it.

Don’t Rely on Privacy Settings.

Absolutely do use your privacy settings. But, assuming that because your profile is set to “friends only” that it’s impossible for DHS to monitor you is inaccurate. While the ACLU has been demanding more transparency around how the government collects and monitors social media, there is still not enough openness about how and when this information is used. Therefore, caution is important.

Social media monitoring from DHS does not mean that they need to be your social media “friend” so what you consider private is relative. Activate your privacy settings but remain cautious about what information you put out there. Remember, you’re sharing with other people, even if many of them are your friends in real life. If there’s information you wouldn’t share with a stranger it’s a good idea to keep it off social media.

Be Aware of What You Say on Social Media.

Social media is a great way to share ideas, and there’s nothing wrong with being opinionated. Many advocacy groups are working hard to ensure that freedom of speech is protected, and that protection extends to social media. However, using a little caution is important. Anything that can be interpreted as a threat should obviously be avoided, but unfortunately it can be more complicated. Sometimes even jokes can be taken the wrong way. So even if you’re sure your tone is sarcastic, it’s wise not to give anyone any possibility of misunderstanding.

DHS doesn’t necessarily have a person sorting through data. They often rely on algorithms that can make mistakes, especially when interpreting tone and intent. These algorithms have programs to pick up on certain words and phrases. This means that many individuals who are posting perfectly common and appropriate things can be flagged unnecessarily. So always exercise caution, and know when to contact a lawyer.

Call Immigration Law Group!

It’s important that you know your rights and protect yourself when it comes to your social media information. With immigration law group, we can help you familiarize yourself with your rights, and we’ll advocate on your behalf. Our top rated lawyers are here to assist you and guide you on the path to citizenship. For more information, contact us today!